Total Warrior: Clare Smith’s endurance battle week 6

Clare Smith and the gang working hard.
Clare Smith and the gang working hard.
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Clare Smith is venturing where other 40-somethings fear to tread – the Total Warrior endurance race in North Berwick where the obstacles include fire, ice and mud. Could you accept the challenge?

This week I’ve received an avalanche of advice. In between times I’ve done some training, but for the most part, I’ve talked about it. A lot.

It started with a catch-up with David Gaffney, event director for Total Warrior. He had come back from a successful Warrior Leeds course where 7,000 trainee warriors had graduated.

I’ve not actually spent too much time studying what the course in North Berwick will put me through. I’m a great believer in not over-thinking things… However, I was keen to hear from David who had run the Leeds course to benefit from some nuggets of knowledge that might help me come September.

“Firstly, stick with the training routine but don’t try to do too much,” he says.“You’re already making gains and the fitter you are come race day, the more rewarding you’ll find the whole experience. Overdo it early on and the chances of injury are higher, which will be a false economy in the long run.

“Secondly, surround yourself with friends. Last year I ran with my brother. This time I ran with friends. It wouldn’t have been nearly so much fun and we wouldn’t have been nearly so motivated to keep going had we not shared those experiences together.

“Finally, cross the start line with a smile on your face and the determination to still be wearing that smile when you cross the finish line. It really doesn’t matter how much time has elapsed in between those points. The rest will take care of itself”.

He makes it sound so simple…

Kieron Ross, my trainer from Race Fitness, is imparting information to me all the time. Often I’m too exhausted to properly understand, but a key thing this week was his advice on food. He advises not to eat two hours before a training session because the blood goes to your tummy to help you digest, rather than to your muscles to help you perform. Makes sense, I always feel better running late morning.

Next, the guys in the office suggest I approach it like any other event I might attend. Wear the right shoes. Joking aside, there’s something in this. I note Kieron doesn’t wear “normal” running shoes. He’s got the Jeep version to my Golf. So, off I trot to Run4It on Lothian Road to get advice on shoes.

I’m met by Finlay McAndrew, one of the expert team there. Turns out he’s a triathlete – so knows his onions. He opens with asking if I’ve any injuries, sore bits or niggles. I confess to having pain in both Achilles but that “I’ll be fine”. He’s interested though, and suggests that I get it checked out, recommending Edinburgh Uni’s FASIC. Then he starts talking science. I confess to be baffled and fascinated in equal measure. Is it a sales pitch? No, it’s credible advice from someone who knows.

“Socks are almost as important as the shoes themselves. Your feet need to breathe and socks need to form a smooth layer with no ridges that can lead to blisters. Cotton is the worst material because cotton socks absorb moisture.”

So don’t wear towelling socks bulk bought from Tesco then?

“Instead of cotton, look for socks made out of synthetic fibres to help keep the feet dry while running. If the feet are dry, that will go a long way to avoiding the friction between your feet and shoes that leads to blisters,” he says.

Next the trainers. Now clearly up until now my trainer choice has been based on colour. Mainly. OK, entirely. However, I’m a trainee proper athlete now so resolve to be more grown-up about it. Finlay explains the merits of different types of shoe. There are trainers for those who “over pronate”, those with “low to normal arches”, those who are “biomechanically efficient runners” or “mid-foot strikers”… My head hurt.

Finlay advises Salomon Speedcross 3. He recommends these as they should support my foot enough to help with my Achilies and given the type of terrain that Total Warrior covers, they’ve got the right grip to help me on my way. I’m assured that these are the Nimbus 2000 of trail shoes. And they’re a lovely blue and green.

Finally I ask Finlay, kit aside, what gem of advice can he give me? Straight away he replies: “Make your hard sessions hard. And your easy sessions easy.”

OK. Roger that.