In a guest post ultra trail runner and GB international Sophie Grant talks about the difficult, but wise, decision of registering a DNS (did not start).

Last week I made a decision that I’ve never made before, I didn’t line up on the start of the Snowdon Skyline.

Maybe I’m getting older (definitely) or maybe just a little wiser (probably not) but it is absolutely the right decision for my body, however my head and heart had a hard time letting go. Somehow I feel like I’ve let myself down when in reality it is the exact opposite.

Commitment to your health, as well as your races.

Growing up my family didn’t have loads of spare cash, as many families don’t and I wanted to do all the extra classes (unless I was bad at them my mother reminds me and then I wasn’t interested which feels very familiar and is why I won’t play pool with George) so my sister and I were allowed to pick one or two.

The rule in the house was if you committed to something then you were to show up to every practice and every game no exceptions. It is one of the many qualities that I am so grateful my parents instilled in me and has been the backbone of my running and hairdressing career. If I sign up I show up and get it done, no matter what.

In my running career which now spans more than a decade I only have two DNF’s to my name both in small local races which were down to injury  but never a DNS. Gutting it out is how I learnt my craft, it’s how I refined my racing strategies and built up experience.

Leading by example

Maybe it’s the fact I’m a coach now but I do want to lead by example and I’d never recommend an athlete do these races so close together. There are so many exciting races out there that you just can’t do them all, at least you can’t do them all well and keep running for years.

My problem is I like to race long but I also like to race technical and those calendars just don’t line up. Three weeks ago I raced the TDS [a 145km sister race in the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc series] and stepping over the finish line I knew it had been a hard race that I’d left a little extra out on that course.

I couldn’t even talk about racing Snowdon for a few days as it was just too daunting but I’d been here before, surely a few days of sleep and I’d start to get my head around it. There were heavy thoughts about keeping my UK Sky Running crown but to do that I’d have to place first or second in the final two races of the year and with Snowdon being the UK Champs my race game would need to be strong.

Photo: George Woods

Recovery is so important for a long career

How’s your recovery going? Are you recovered yet? As a runner I’m sure we’ve all had to field these questions. Recovery takes time, more time then I’d like it to, it’s more than just catching up on your sleep and refuelling your body.

Recovery is something you feel in your bones, it’s regaining that motivation to get running again. When you finish a big race you will be less fit then when you started but the temptation to race again soon is huge! Goodness knows I am certainly guilty of slapping on a smile and trying to fool my body and mind into thinking I’m ok to race again.

Learning from 2018

Last year I raced Lavaredo Ultra Trail and two weeks later the Lakes Sky Ultra, then went onto the UTMB, stupidly climbed Mont Buet three days afterwards and two weeks later was at the Glencoe Skyline. Unsurprisingly I felt rubbish but my desire to run that route outweighed the fatigue.

As soon as I started I knew it was going to be a battle and even though we were on the bad weather shortened course the finish couldn’t come quick enough. I simply don’t want to feel like that again. I don’t want to delay actual proper recovery by another month just to satisfy my desire to be out in the mountains and see my mates.

Making the smart decision

Even as I write this though a little voice is saying ‘would it be so bad? Maybe you should just do it, it would be so much fun!’ Don’t worry I’ll head out for a run soon and be swiftly reminded that 60 minutes is more than enough right now.

Ultimately it’s a case of FOMO and I was very jealous of others this weekend when I wasn’t shimmying across Crib Goch but it is never the wrong decision to be kind to yourself.

So I took my coach’s advice and did something fun that didn’t involve running and will look forward to feeling fresh again much sooner. I put my energy into my sport in a different way, going along to cheer on some of my athletes at the Centurion Chiltern Wonderland 50 miler.

Anyway there is always next year for Snowdon…

Sophie Grant is a UKA Athletics Coach, GB Trail international and part of the Centurion Running Coaching team. If anyone can convince you that #vanlife is a good idea, it’s Sophie. 

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