Ultra training: week 5

St Martha’s nearly broke me this week. I’ve challenged myself to run the whole thing next time 😁

Well this week was a bit of a challenge! I was supposed to do my first run on Tuesday, but our local water supply was completely cut off for the day due to a couple of leaks so I wasn’t able to work out at all (or shower, or flush the toilet, or anything – nightmare!) But I got back on it on Wednesday. I skipped Thursday’s run though, as I didn’t fancy running on the treadmill 2 days in a row. If anyone has any good treadmill workouts I can try to mix things up a bit, please share!

Wednesday: As usual, it was into the gym for a treadmill run. I managed negative splits of 9:25, 9:18 and 9:16. It was pretty uneventful, but the treadmills either side stayed empty (YAY) and the pace felt pretty comfy. Maybe I’m finally getting used to running indoors?
3m, 9:20 average

Saturday: This was the long one, and I really struggled. I picked a really lovely scenic route along the Pilgrims Way, through the Chantries woods, up St Marthas and onto the North Downs Way across to Newlands Corner, where I added on a 3m out-and-back towards West Hanger to make it up to 12 miles. It was drizzly and windy (20mph) and for some reason I felt really low on energy for the first couple of miles; I couldn’t settle into a rhythm and it just felt like a much bigger effort than it should have done. It definitely wasn’t boring though 😅 First, one of the paths I wanted to use was flooded so I had to make an impromptu diversion; then I was beaten by St Martha’s hill (seriously, it’s a flipping mountain) so was walking by mile 3. Then I found myself wading through ankle-deep mud for the best part of that 3 mile out-and-back (to be fair, I knew it was bad when the mountain bikers coming from that direction laughed and wished me luck 😂) and in West Hanger I had to clamber over a big tree that had been blown down across the path (twice). By this point I just had to laugh, and it was quite funny passing other runners and sharing that look of ‘this mud is ridiculous but we’ll keep going anyway cos we haven’t lost our trainers in it yet…’. Then the rain and wind really picked up, and in mile 11 I had to deep-squat to get under another tree that had been blown across the path. All in all, it was a bit of a shambles – but despite feeling really demoralised at the start, I was genuinely enjoying myself by the end. I really don’t get how people can run up those hills though.
12m, 10:35 average

Sunday: I was back into my road shoes for this one. I’ve never really run the day after a long run before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. My quads were nackered from Saturday’s hills, but I picked a familiar route with a few lumpy bits to keep it interesting and the miles flew by. The sun even came out for a minute or two! Still windy though, but it’s all good training.
6m, 9:21 average

I was pleased with today’s 6 miler after the hilly, muddy adventure I had yesterday – but I’m starting to wonder whether I’m really fit enough to manage these hills as the distance picks up. I found the 12 miler really difficult, and I can’t imagine being able to run all of those inclines. I think I’m going to add another leg day to my week, and focus on building muscle – especially around the calves, ankles and glutes. I’m starting to realise just how hard you have to work to maintain stability on uneven ground! It’s a challenge, but it’s fun to learn a new sort of running technique and I really hope I start to see some progress over the next few weeks. Fingers crossed!

Ultra training: week 4 (cutback week)

What my run might’ve looked like, if I’d actually got out for one this weekend 😂

Oh man, I don’t know what happened this week. I had 5 runs on the plan: 3m, 4m, 3m, 5m and 10m. Intensity-wise it was a cutback week so I was going to mix up my routes a bit, take my time and just enjoy myself, with the option of cutting out 1 of the shorter sessions if life got in the way.

To be fair I managed run number one on Tuesday, and thought I was off to a well solid start by ticking it off so early in the week. It was a 3 miler on the treadmill, with negative splits of 9:55, 9:23, and 8:43 – slower than my max 5k effort, but really didn’t feel very comfortable. Still, it was a decent run.

Then I had a couple of gnarly strength workouts on Wednesday and Thursday and the DOMS kicked in hard, lasting well into the weekend (there were many burpees, lunges, squats and medicine balls involved…). Normally, a run would loosen my legs up a bit, but I just wasn’t feeling it. The following day I was invited out for dinner, and it really didn’t take much convincing (literally “cheeky carvery this eve?” and I was sold…) for me to scrap that evening’s treadmill run for a plate of food the size of my head (and then some).

I was full of good intentions for the weekend. I was going to head out early doors on Saturday for the 10 miler to beat the weather, and figured I could either nip out for my 5 miler during a lull in the wind on Sunday, or just gym it. But for the first weekend in over a month I had absolutely no motivation. None. And I didn’t even feel thaaat bad for bailing. I mean I feel guilty now, because what’s the point in writing a training plan if I’m just going to sack off the sessions? But I just couldn’t get my head in the game this week.

We all have these weeks, right!?

I’d forgotten how much of a mental game it is when you’re building towards an event for such a long time. 16+ weeks on paper doesn’t seem that long, but keeping the motivation going to get you out the door day after day is TOUGH. I’m not sure how I used to do it.

Fingers crossed for better weather next week, and a bit more mojo after a weekend of rest and carb loading (totally strategic, honest). I’m drawing a line under this week and putting it down to a bit of a winter blip. Onwards and upwards!

Ultra training: week 3

Farnham – Guildford on the North Downs Way. The prettiest bit was right at the end (of course) 😀

This week had a bit of a rocky start. I was meant to do my first run on Tuesday, but a gnarly strength workout nackered my legs and the DOMS were going strong well into Wednesday (highlights included 100 wall balls, 90 burpees and 90 kettle bell thrusters… With some other ‘fun’ bits thrown in).

On top of that I’m a bit stuck during the week at the moment as it gets dark so early, so I’m still resorting to the dreaded treadmill Monday to Friday. It gets the job done but it’s really uninspiring and makes it difficult to find the motivation to run!

I’ve also been looking into heart-rate zones for running, and it turns out that I’m in the threshold/tempo bracket for pretty much every run. Ooops. Is this an issue? I didn’t think I was pushing that hard every time. Maybe I’m just really bad at judging my effort levels. Anyone out there run to heart-rate zones? I’d love some insight!

Thursday: 4 miles on the treadmill. I started at a steady pace and then increased it each mile; it felt tough towards the end but not too bad. My splits were 9:35, 9:16, 8:58 and 8:36, which I was happy with. The only downer was the guy that appeared 2 minutes into my run and out of 5 (FIVE!!!) free treadmills, picked the one right next to me. Why is this a thing!? Gym etiquette is to leave a gap, right? I’m not just being anti-social!?
4 miles, 9:06 average

Saturday: The long one. I set myself the challenge of navigating the first 11 miles of the North Downs Way, and got an early train to Farnham in order to run back to Guildford. The start was a bit bleak, next to a busy A road with a grey sky and chilly mist to really set the mood. But it soon led into the countryside, the mist cleared and the sky brightened up a little (it was still grey and cloudy right up until the end though). Loads of people said hi as they passed, and I even had a little chat with another runner who was out for a 17 miler (rather him than me). I walked a couple of the steeper hills, but the legs felt fairly good throughout. I’m mostly happy that I made it home in one piece and didn’t end up miles off course! Thank goodness for the OS maps app…
11 miles, 10:04 average

Sunday: This was meant to be a nice relaxed jaunt through local woodland, but the weather had other ideas – I chickened out when I saw the wind speeds (60mph, no thanks) and went to the gym instead. I really don’t want to rely too much on treadmills because they suck I need to make the most of the daylight at the weekend and get out on the trails, but it is what it is. I stuck to a relaxed pace (which felt like 6 minute miles, not going to lie) and managed to resist hitting the ‘stop’ button 23468735343233465 times.
5 miles, 9:42 average

The main goals for next week are to tick off all 4 runs, and to actually plan a goal pace for each – once I work out the difference between tempo, threshold and the rest. This ultra training is definitely a bit of a learning curve. I’ll get my head around it all eventually!

Ultra training: week 2

Drizzly, grey 10 miler. I need more sunshine and pretty views in my life!

And it’s into week 2! This one was a bit less scenic than week 1, and my legs are starting to feel the miles. I also really need to set specific paces for different runs, rather than muddling through at 09:XX regardless of the distance, but I’m such a newbie when it comes to tempo and speed sessions and different ‘effort’ levels. Trial and error is a legit strategy, right?… (Any help greatly appreciated from the veterans out there!)

Tuesday: I was stuck at work all week so I didn’t get the chance to run anywhere scenic. Instead, I hopped on the treadmill for an ‘easy’ 3 miler. Unfortunately I get quite competitive, so ended up in a bit of a race against the guy on the treadmill next to me! On the plus side, it led to some pretty impressive negative splits: 9:39 (the sort of pace I was supposed to stick to), 8:28 (erm…) and 8:15 😀 Well, the ‘easy’ part of ‘easy 3 miler’ definitely went out the window, and my legs were like jelly when I stepped off the machine. Sigh.
3 miles, 8:47 average

Wednesday: Technically I didn’t ‘train’ on Wednesday, but I did go paintballing which felt like a proper workout! Running around with a paintball gun, lunging and crouching and generally throwing ourselves around – it was ace, and I really felt it the next day. Especially the bruises…

Thursday: I had a 1.5 mile speed session on the plan, and ended up doing the bleep test for a bit of a change. I was aiming for level 9 but I set off too fast, and made it to level 8.6 before I had to stop. It was still a PB by a couple of shuttles, but I definitely need to work on my pacing. It’s so hard not to rush though!

Saturday: This week, I ticked off my 29th parkrun! (That 50 tshirt maaay just be mine this year…) It was bright and sunny but thanks to all the rain we’ve had, the ground was EXTREMELY muddy. Luckily I wore my trail shoes, so I didn’t faceplant on the way round (though there was some definite slipping and sliding).
3.1 miles, 9:02 average

Sunday: This was the first double-digit run I’ve done in nearly a year, and I felt it! The weather and route didn’t help – grey wet and windy, with an out-and-back along a main road that meant a headwind the whole way back. Plus my calves were super tight and I had to keep stopping to stretch them out in the second half. Honestly, I didn’t enjoy this run. But I got it done, and managed to average sub 9:30/mile which is a pretty big deal for me! Let’s hope next weekend is better. Sunshine and nice views please!?
10 miles, 9:23 average

The miles are starting to build, and I’ve finally replaced my nackered old trail shoes. The support had definitely gone in my old ones which made for some very uncomfortable runs recently! I think I’m going to need to add some leg exercises into my gym sessions, especially for the glutes and calves. Running off road is way harder work and I can tell my stabiliser muscles aren’t quite up to the job for big distances yet. It’s sort of into the unknown from here, as I’ll be increasing my mid-week miles and spending longer out on the trails for my weekend runs – fingers crossed my body cooperates!