Ultra training: week 1 (sort of)

Lost on the Greensand Ridge – at least the weather was nice!

Techncially, I’m following a 16-week ultra training plan, which doesn’t start until March – I’ve actually got about 21 weeks until race day. But I’ve added a few extra weeks in for base-building, as I haven’t consistently run more than twice a week for nearly a year! (Ooops). Plus, I’ve been avoiding hills and trails like the plague until recently, so I didn’t want to jump straight into a high-mileage, high-intensity plan from where I am now. For the next few weeks I’m aiming to run 4x/week, possibly building up to 5 (as the plan suggests) but I might swap the 5th one for a cross-training session if my legs kick up too much of a fuss. Which they probably will. Cross your fingers for me.

Tuesday: 5 miles on the plan. I finished work early (very rare treat) so I actually managed to get out and run in the daylight! I planned a route in advance – a 5 mile out-and-back along the Greensand Ridge, starting from Ampthill park. This is a 40-mile-long, fairly major trail, so I figured it would be pretty straight forward. Erm, it wasn’t. I ended up losing the trail within a mile or so, ran through some fields and some (very steep) woodland, and ended up at the main road by Woburn Safari Park. Faced with closed gates every direction I went, I headed back to Ampthill Park and made up the last mile or so by looping back round towards the car. It was sunny, quiet, and beautiful – there are definitely worse places to get lost!
5 miles, 9:30 average

Wednesday: This was a 3-miler, and luckily our work PT session was intervals (I say luckily – it hurt and I wanted to vom). 4x 1km (approx) repeats round a hilly loop. I managed each loop around the 5-minute mark (4:51-5:06).ย 
2.5 miles, ~8:00 average

Thursday: I was meant to do 1.5m, but my friend invited me to a spin session she was leading, so I did that instead. 45 sweaty, quad-burning minutes of hill climbs and sprints and my legs were absolutely done. At least the music was good…

Saturday: I switched my runs around this weekend and did the longer one first, as the weather was forecast to be abysmal on the Sunday. 8 comfortable miles total; 5 miles solo, and then a cheeky parkrun to finish. Not sure I’ll be able to handle parkrun at the end of my long runs once I’m into double digits, but for now it’s a good motivator and helps me to pick up some speed in the last couple miles.ย 
8 miles, 9:17 average

Sunday: I used this run to stretch out my legs. It was grey and damp and I stuck to main roads, but the run felt ok and I managed a faster pace than I expected after Saturday’s hills!
5 miles, 9:10 average

Total mileage: ~21m

Honestly, I’m surprised I managed to run 4 times in a week. When marathon training previously, I’ve never done more than 3, so adding a 4th (and potentially a 5th) is quite a jump. But I’m focusing on cross training and strength work, and from next week I’ll be setting target paces for each session – I definitely need to run the shorter efforts faster and the longer ones slower.

But hey, it’s all a learning curve – and getting miles in the legs (whilst avoiding injury!) is my main goal for now.ย I can see a LOT of foam rolling in my future…

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2020: Year of the ultra marathon!?

Exmoor Perambulation 2019 – the mountains hills are worth it for the views!

After a crazy busy 2019, which was a bit of a write-off as far as marathons and other running events were concerned (thanks to changing my career, and moving to a new flat, amongst other things…), I’ve got big and exciting plans for 2020. At the top of my list is the Exmoor Perambulation. Now I’ve done this event a few times in the past – the full 31-mile, self-navigated, self-supported hike across Exmoor – but last year, the event organisers introduced a new ultra run option. And a crazy, impossible idea worked its way into my brain.

Could I run 31 miles across Exmoor? Self supported? For my first ever ultra?

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not a trail runner. All of my races have been on the road, except for the Denbies half marathon – but given that they offered wine at every aid stop, fancy dress was mandatory and it took me over 3 hours, I don’t really count it as a ‘proper’ trail race. (It was bloomin’ awesome, though!)

But to be fair, I know the Perambulation route and I love the event. There were a handful of finishers for last year’s inaugural run option (and the overall winner was a woman – REPRESENT), and as the runners passed us hikers a few miles in, I couldn’t help but want to be where they were instead. And since last June, that little niggle – that ‘what if?…’ just won’t go away. So I entered! And now I’m committed. And I’m putting together an ultra marathon training plan, with lots and LOTS of hills. And crossing my fingers.

Oh boy.

Any experienced ultra runners out there? I’m going to need all the help I can get for this one!