Ultra training: week 5

St Martha’s nearly broke me this week. I’ve challenged myself to run the whole thing next time ๐Ÿ˜

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 ๐Ÿ˜… 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 ๐Ÿ˜‚) 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 3

Farnham – Guildford on the North Downs Way. The prettiest bit was right at the end (of course) ๐Ÿ˜€

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 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…

Let’s be friends! Follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more ๐Ÿ™‚

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!