Tag Archives: ultra running

Building the base

I haven’t updated here in ages, I wasn’t sure whether to let the blog go, as I am currently in the process of setting up a site for my nutritional therapy business and planning on a much more nutrition focused blog over there. I haven’t felt like writing here for a while, I think perhaps I’ll keep this blog and just focus on my training (when there is any), without any pressure to blog to a schedule or hammer out a certain amount of content per week.

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I haven’t run a race since the SDW50 last April, which feels kind of insane to me. I’ve been through a few years of  signing up for and running a lot of races, so last year was definitely on the sparse side. I have a few dates in the diary for some ‘training’ races in Feb/March so I’m looking forward to being part of that race environment again. I do miss the feeling of race day, and even pre-race day excitement, and I’m going to be properly nervous come end of Feb when it’s time for my first race in around 10 months.

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I worked pretty hard through December on my running. I completed my third Advent Running challenge and fourth Marcothon, and achieved my goal of starting Jan with a solid base of training behind me. I started December running wise at somewhat of a low ebb, I had spent the previous 8 months falling in love with strength training again and running just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I think the love waned and as my cardiovascular fitness also took a nosedive, it became really difficult for me to want to get out and run. It was hard, so I wasn’t enjoying it, and I wasn’t willing to put the work in at the time to improve the situation. I felt like a beginner again, and it’s easy when you are regularly running higher mileage and longer runs to forget exactly how hard it can be to get out the door sometimes.

December streaking has been amazing for me for rediscovering my running love and improving my fitness. I ended December having run more miles than the previous 3 months combined, I felt fitness and running strength come back and day by day running became easier, breathing became easier, and just putting my trainers on and getting out the door became easier, I had found my running mojo again, I just had to put some work in to locate it.

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January has seen me following a training plan (currently on week 3) for the first time since April, it’s nice to add some loose structure to my running and it does force you to get out there whatever the weather may be. I still have motivation highs and lows, but I know that every session I put in, I’m getting stronger, I’m building the foundations for the next few months and I’m going to be increasing likely to want to get out there next time. It’s all about keeping on with routine and keeping the momentum going.

I’m still trying to maintain some strength work, and trying to get to the gym for 3 sessions a week (has dropped to two lately though), as well as following Kinetic Revolutions 30 day program which I just completed and will be repeating for some pre-hab.

2017 so far: The mileage is increasing, the hill-work is increasing, the endurance is increasing and most importantly the running love is increasing. Time to continue building the base.

 

My First DNF

Yesterday, I lined up to start the Endurancelife CTS Sussex ultra, I started the race, but I did not finish, I had to drop out at half way due to toe problems, my feet hurt a lot, but quitting hurt a lot more.

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I was a little nervous about the hills and trails as I just hadn’t been able to do as much trail running as I would have liked during my training, hence why I signed up for the event to use it as my last long training run before SDW50 in 3 weeks time.

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I felt decent at the start, and good for the first few miles despite the undulations. However by the time I got to 10 miles I knew something wasn’t right. I had chosen to wear Salomon Speedcross which I had only used a few times in training. Every step downhill, my toes were slamming into the end of the shoe, and in the end the trauma of this became too much for my feet. I couldn’t run downhill at all from about 10 miles on, and by the time I reached 16 miles I couldn’t run on the flat or uphill either- in fact I could barely walk. I was having a really tough time of it and just wanted to be at home with my other half and my puppy- it was my birthday too!

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I had thought for the previous few miles I would drop down to marathon distance, but as the pain became greater and the finish point came into view (I did not know we would be passing it at this point), I decided to call it a day at 17.5 miles- I called my other half to talk through it, and knew I was making the right decision. I had a cry- not because of the dropping out, but because I was in a lot of pain. The course intersected with the 10k here, and a lot of people passed me with words of encouragement “come on”, “you can do it”, I wanted the ground to swallow me up, I was embarrassed and just wanted to get out of there.

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I made the rather painful walk back to the race HQ, where people had finished the ultra, half, 10k. I just grabbed my stuff, and had to get out of there. The course and the finish are a lonely place to be, when you haven’t achieved what you set out to do. Thanks to everyone who stopped to ask if I was OK on the course. I was gutted to have to drop out, but knew it was the right decision with SDW50 in 3 weeks, and as I can’t walk this morning perhaps I should have stopped even sooner.I don’t know what’s going on with my feet, I’ve never had issues before, and now I have a shoe issue going into SDW50 as I have no idea what to wear.

I’ve got 3 weeks to sort my feet, and my head out too- this was a big dent in my confidence, and not the way I wanted to go into my goal race. I need to do a lot of thinking and pick myself up for the next one, but my head is full of doubts right now. I feel under-prepared due to my lack of trail prep, and I feel a bit foolish that I haven’t even been doing the basics like running in the gear I intended to wear.

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Oh the irony.

This is all a bit negative, so I should point out that the course is beautiful, and it’s a stunning part of the country. It is a hilly beast though, and I found it tough going. It has as much elevation gain across 34 miles as SDW50 does across 50 miles. If I can take any positives, at least I got some hills in, and found that I can’t wear those shoes in future. Silver lining.

I think when you regularly sign up for long distances, there is a point that will come when you have to drop out of an event, I had just been lucky in that it hadn’t come until yesterday. I need to use this as a learning experience, and pick myself up and move on, there is always another race. The challenge that lies ahead is to get back on my feet and forget about the failure.

Ultra Recovery

I can’t believe it’s been 3 weeks since Race to the Stones. Yesterday I went for my first run (or any sort of activity) since race day, as I took a long break to let everything recover properly. I’ve solidly trained this year from my run streak in Dec/Jan, to marathon training until March and then RTTS from April onwards, with just the odd week off here and there, I knew (and I felt) I was in need of some time out.

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Credit to Rhianon

The first 7-10 days after the race I was still in such a happy bubble, the endorphins were still there, I was feeling pretty good, I could of probably even attempted a run, but I knew it was a false state of feeling good, and so decided to just rest. After the initial amazing high, I had a few days where I just absolutely crashed, I felt extremely drained, and a little bit of the ultra blues set in. I then came down with the flu which has been doing the rounds in my work, so that laid me up for a bit longer- not a bad thing as it ensured I would be adequately rested before attempting to get back to running.

Post race, I’ve kept an eye on my resting heart rate, for the last few weeks of training and first week or two post race, it was very high for me (mid 50’s-60) which reflected the impact the race had had on my body and perhaps that I was on the verge of burn out. I’ve been waiting for it to drop back to my normal range (low 40’s), before starting back to any kind of activity.

I think it’s important to remember that while your legs may feel good enough to run again post race, there are many other bodily systems that are effected which may be easy to forget about or ignore-things like endocrine system, adrenal health, thyroid- these things can take months to recover from such an event, so for me personally I didn’t feel comfortable jumping straight back into running although I felt like I could have done so . I like to think I am now pretty in tune with my body, and I know it’s not been happy with me for the last few months, the signs have been there that I needed this break, and I’m hoping it will have really helped to reset a lot of bodily systems that were put under immense strain during training and the race.

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I haven’t really missed running all that much over the last few weeks, so a break was definitely needed. Usually I’m getting antsy and climbing the walls when I can’t run, but I think I’ve put things in perspective this time and realised that it’s only 3 weeks, out of hopefully a long future of opportunities to run. I also got a puppy last weekend, so I have had absolutely no opportunity to run at all over the last week, I’ve barely had time to cook/eat/work to be honest! We’ve been sharing the puppy load, but it puts everything in it’s place, and things become perhaps less vitally important than they once were.

Not that running is no longer important to me, it’s just it’s no longer the be all and end all of my day, and not going for a run no longer affects my mood, and day which is not a healthy relationship to have anyway. I’ve been training solidly for a few years, and actually as much as I love it, it’s nice to loosen the grip every once in a while, relax and have time to do everything I haven’t been able to do for months on end.

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I’m hoping to return recovered, refreshed and ready to run. I’ve got nothing on the agenda to train for-I actually turned down a Berlin marathon bib, who am I?!-so I’m just going to head out when I want, to run as far as I want, wherever I want. Listening to my body, enjoying my running again, and enjoying being back outside, but also remembering to keep everything in balance.

How I trained to run 100km

I delved into the world of ultra running last year, with the 56km half distance of London to Brighton, I thoroughly enjoyed it other than the torrential rain for 31 miles! Ultra running is becoming more and more popular, it’s a hugely growing sector and one of the sports/fitness trends to really look out for over the next few years, as more people take up the challenge and see how far they can push themselves. This year I really stepped up my training, and headed into uncharted territory as I prepared to run my first 100km race.

Why did I want to run 100km?

I still can’t really put this into words, but I just got an instinct in my gut, that it was exactly what I needed to do. As soon as I first heard about Wmnrun100, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was a challenge, a step up, but it was so much more than that, that I can’t even explain. It was about testing yourself, pushing to your limits and further, and actually seeing what the human body is truly capable of. Life is fleeting, I don’t want to go through the motions and not actually use my body to it’s full potential. During the race I just felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to be doing.

Training

I followed a training plan, although I was flexible about it, changing weeks around, missing the odd session, or took the week off due to niggles, but mostly I hit the long runs, I did hill sessions (other than the last 4-6 weeks to protect my ITB), I did the long slow back to backs, I did a little bit of tempo. I’m quite determined-read stubborn-which I think is a good quality to have, when you have to get a lot of miles in on a consistent basis. Mostly all my running was done at a slow, comfortable pace, getting used to spending a lot of time on my feet, speed work was firmly out the window!

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I ran 530 miles over the 14 weeks of training for the race, I ran my longest ever training runs (28.5, 31 miles), I ran a marathon at Richmond Park, I ran 60 mile weeks, my recovery weeks were 30 miles, basically I ran more than I have ever run in my life. Before training for race to the stones 50 miles a week was about my limit in terms of staying fit and niggle free, but I managed to get to around 60 miles a week during training, any more than that and I felt niggles coming on and just felt too drained in general.

I tried to keep things interesting, by running in new places wherever possible- although I did a lot of running in Greenwich Park and on the Thames path-adding the odd tempo/hill session to mix things up, running with others, running to podcasts/music/nothing at all. It’s easy to get into a rut when you are training so much, and I did have weeks where I didn’t really want to go out the door. I just listened to my body, and if I didn’t think I was going to gain anything from pushing my body when it didn’t want to be pushed then I didn’t run.IMG_5394

Strength

This was key, I did 2 sessions a week, one upper and one lower body, and some core work in both sessions. Once my ITB really started to bother me, I stepped up my stretching, specific strength work, and foam rolling game. For the last month or so I was doing minimum 30 minutes a day of strength (in particular glutes), rolling, yoga/stretching- I was really struggling with my ITB, and just the daily commitment to doing this stuff, not only got me to the start, but saw me right through the race to the finish.

Nutrition

I believe my plant based diet helped me to recover incredibly quickly between sessions, I was able to do high mileage weeks and back to back long slow runs and feel pretty decent on the second day. Lots of fruit/veggies/whole grains/beans/nuts saw me through. I was hungry all of the time- and have been the complete opposite since! I also believe it enabled me to stay healthy throughout training, I haven’t been sick since February, despite the incredible strain I have been putting my body under, my immune system seems to be in good nick.

Supplements

I supported my training with a decent whack of supplementation, these are the main ones I was taking on a regular basis:

  • Pumpkin seed protein powder: Recovery
  • Cherry active: Anti-inflammatory
  • Glutamine: Recovery/Immune system,
  • Pukka Active: Anti-inflammatory
  • Beetroot juice: Vasodilator
  • Probiotic: Digestion/Immunity
  • Adaptogenic herbs: Stress Response

Rest

Probably something I didn’t do enough of, I had my final exam of the year and lots of deadlines in the run up to race day- which meant sleep was really sacrificed at times. I think I’m paying for it post-race with a bit of burn out, and I’m taking some time off to let my endocrine system recover, as I was getting a lot of symptoms during training-digestive issues, hormonal issues, weight gain which I think were related and I need to address post race. I’ve just looked back at my training diary, and there were about 2 weeks out of the whole period where I had put that I actually felt good, all the rest were either- felt tired, or legs felt like shit- I wasn’t aware of this at the time at all.

I’ve had no desire to run at all since the race, I’m still wrapped up in post-race nostalgia, and I don’t want to push or force my return to running, I’ll be back when I’m ready!

What’s next?

No idea, absolutely no idea. How can I top a day where everything went so perfectly. Anything else is going to pale in comparison. As I mentioned I’ll be taking some time off to let my body recover, and I’ll assess things in a few weeks, at the moment an Autumn marathon isn’t on the cards, and I think I’ll be focusing on some shorter stuff and getting back to weight training over the autumn/winter. I have no idea what 2016 holds, there are races that tempt me, but I need to be sensible with what I can truly commit to. Ultra running is no joke, and the commitment required, support of my nearest and dearest and the time drain as well as the effect on my body need to be considered.

Race day and the training as a whole has been a life changing experience, I can’t see how you could do something like this, and not come out the other side a different person. I’ve learnt more about myself during these last 4 months than I have in the previous 27 years, it’s been an incredible ride, and now I have to sit back and process it!

 

 

Disclaimer: This post is association with Simply Health and contains a link to their blog. I received no compensation for this post, although I will receive a gift in return.

16 things I learned during 100km

This was supposed to be a list of 10 things but I kept thinking of others, there are also probably things I have forgotten about, but these points stand out to me as things I’ve learnt over the training period and racing 100km!

1. Respect the distance: I worked my arse off to train for this race. I was already in pretty decent endurance nick having come off a marathon PB in March, so I just built up from there. I feel like my running over the last five years built up to this year, and each year I was laying more solid foundations that would see me through this race.

2. You need to have an iron stomach: I ate a lot of food during training, but nowhere near as much as during the race, and thankfully everything agreed with me. I even ate things I hadn’t trained with and wouldn’t normally eat/drink at all like squash, coke, and white pasta, but it all went down well. I find eating small bits at a time helps, I tend to drip feed and have a little bite of something frequently.

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3. Respect the course: Race to the Stones was almost completely on trail, some of it was quite technical, and it places very different demands on your body to road running. I did not do enough trail running at all during training, so I was lucky to get away unscathed on the day, other than my fall.

4. Don’t carry too much weight: I packed an entire picnic as I was worried about vegan options on the way, but I needn’t have bothered, there was loads I could eat. I ended up carrying half of the stuff I brought with me for the entire 63 miles. I also didn’t use my long sleeve top, or headtorch but felt safer having them with me. I chose not to carry a waterproof as the forecast was fine.

5. Listen to your body not your mind: Your mind will want to quit long before your body, thankfully I never had to cross that bridge, but it’s important to focus on what your body is telling you, not your mind. If it’s telling you to run then run, if it’s telling you to walk then walk.

6. Have a buddy: I do a lot of my running alone, but I’ve really enjoyed training with WMNRUN100, and I enjoyed buddying up with Dave who asked if he could run with me at 40 miles. Honestly I believe this was the reason why I never suffered any dips or low points, as it was nice to have company, and distract yourself from the miles ahead. If you can’t buddy up-then chat to everyone you pass or who passes you anyway, it makes the miles fly by!

7. Break the race into smaller chunks: My aim was to get to the next checkpoint whether that was 12km away or 6km, each checkpoint marked a little way closer to the end goal. I was also aware of being halfway, having a marathon left, a half marathon left- these little milestones really propel you forward! Also when I was running, I would always try and run until I reached an incline (however small), or keep running until that bend in the trail, that sign, that bunch of wild flowers. It kinds your mind occupied too.

8. Slow your pace: I ran the entire race at an easy comfortable pace, I don’t ever remember being out of breath-other than trying to walk fast up hills! You have to realise that pace is out the window, the terrain and length of time you are out there for, means you just need to go at whatever feels comfortable to you at that point- you will have dips, so it’s making the most of the times when you feel good.

9. Do some walking in training: I do a lot of walking generally, but I didn’t do any specific walking training for this race and it really showed. I was so much slower than anyone else when I started walking as people who I was running with would drift off into the distance. I would recommend doing some power walking as training, and also doing some hill walking. You are going to save the most time if you can improve your walking as it’s ultimately what you are going to be spending a lot of time doing.

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10. Test your kit: I wore kit that I am very comfortable in, a Nike t-shirt, tempo shorts, x-socks, trusty Asics Kayanos, and my ultimate direction ultra vest and I was comfortable the entire time. No chafe, no sore spots, no stiffness or pain, and my feet don’t even look like they’ve run a half let alone 100km. Train in your race day kit, and go with comfort on the day.

11.Have a goal: I had a rough goal of finishing anywhere between 12-14 hours, I knew 14 was around where I wanted to finish as I wanted to get in before it got dark. Although I wasn’t strict about hitting paces or anything, I knew at half way if I carried on as I had done already I would make it. It was a very loose goal but I feel if I hadn’t had anything in mind I might have got adrift somewhere in the mid section.

12. Disappointing Runger: I was so looking forward to the insane runger that I thought would descend post race, but it never arrived. I have never been so disappointed. I completely lost my appetite for days, was off loads of foods, got full very quickly and I didn’t even have dinner one day- naughty! It was so unlike me, I’ve been hungrier after a routine 4 miles!

13. Ride the endorphin high: I’ve been in a happy endorphin bubble for the entire time since the race, I’ve yet to come down, so I can already imagine that I am going to crash hard when I do, but while it lasts I shall enjoy this dream like state.

14. Rest Hard: “When is your next race?” “February…” I am planning on taking a fairly decent chunk of time out away from running, to process everything that has happened and let my body heal. My legs are already feeling almost back to normal, but it can take months for the endocrine system to repair itself, and as I had a lot of issues during training that were endocrine related, I’m giving my body a chance to relax and my thyroid/adrenals and immune system the chance to recover. Yes there are a million and one races I want to sign up for, but if I want to continue running long term, I need to make a short term sacrifice and try to reset.

15. Capacity for boredom: I ran for 14 hours, with no stimulation, no music, and other than the last 23 miles that I ran with Dave and first 4 with Amelia, I was largely on my own, in my own head. I honestly think my daily meditation practice helped me massively here, as it just helped me to be in the moment, and once I got in a zone, time seemed to just pass by.

16. Look around you: I don’t get out of the city very often, and had never been to the Ridgeway, so often I was stopped in my tracks at the beauty on offer, some of the views were fantastic, and I took some time to soak them in, and appreciate, the sights/sounds/smells of the country!