Tag Archives: ultra running

Ultra blog 5

27 Mar

Motivation

I am 9 weeks into a 24 week training schedule.  Without seeming too smug I haven’t missed a run in my schedule and am still enjoying the training.  I am embracing that because I know there will come a time when I am de-motivated and crying out for a rest.  Until then I will keep on running.  I am constantly hungry, constantly tired and constantly aching.  I am becoming a little obsessive – obsessive about runs, obsessive about my kit, obsessive about illness and injury avoidance.  I breathe a sigh of relief on completion of every run; I am one step closer to my goal.  Having a goal gives purpose to my obsession.

Key motivators

Friends and family: However, my social life is taking a big hit.  I have had to turn down a number of holidays, birthday events and nights out this year because they are in the middle of my schedule and I simply cannot fit them in.  I did warn all my friends and family that this would happen but I don’t think they quite realised I would be turning down invitations outright, just to run.  To them it seems nonsensical, selfish even.  Perhaps.  But equally, they are in awe of my challenge and despite my neglect they are very supportive.  Like you would be when faced with a self-obsessed hypochondriac eating machine.

IMG_4830

Schedule: Here is my schedule if you’re interested.  It’s a hybrid of one I found in Runners’ World and one from the sponsors of Race to the Stones, plus my own intuition and experience.  But here’s the thing – I tweak it every week.  It’s a remarkably moveable feast as I judge how I feel against what I have to do and those unavoidable commitments.  Nothing in this game is set in stone.  Keep it flexible to stay motivated and to keep your friends (and your job).

WEEK MONDAY TUESDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY SATURDAY SUNDAY
               
1 5K REST 5K REST 6K REST 8K
2 REST 7K SWIM 5K REST PARKRUN 10K
3 REST 7K 4 HILLS 7K 11K REST REST
4 REST 6K 7K REST 8K 13K REST
5 REST 8K (Mitch) REST 6K SWIM 15K 6K
6 REST 5K REST 5K REST REST 17K
7 REST 6K REST 7K SWIM 17K 7k
8 REST 6K 7K 8K REST 18K REST
9 REST 6K SWIM 7K REST 19k 10K
10 REST 5K Mitch 5K REST 10K REST
11 REST 9K REST 10K REST 20K 6K
12 REST 10K Mitch 10K REST 22K 8K
13 REST 6K SWIM 16K REST 24K 6K
14 REST 7K Mitch 10K REST 10K REST
15 REST 8K 6 HILLS 9K SWIM 25K 7K
16 REST 9K 6 HILLS (Mitch) 12K 5K Rest 28K
17 Rest 10K 5K 10K SWIM 30K 10K
18 REST 8K Mitch 16K REST 16K REST
19 REST 7K 7K 8K Mitch 32K 16K
20 REST 8K 10K (hills) 10K REST 12K 35K
21 REST 10K 6K 10K Mitch 42K 12K
22 SWIM 8K REST 10K REST 21K 10K
23 REST 5K Mitch 8K SWIM PARKRUN REST
24 REST 10K REST REST 5K 50K RACE 50K RACE

Nature: The reason I enjoy running anyway is because it is an excuse to go outside on my own and be amongst the natural world.  I love nature anyway, but, call me paranoid, there is something slightly weird about a person wandering around on their own unless they are doing something purposeful like walking a dog, running or cycling.  Being outside in the open, breathing fresh air, looking at the birds, the plants, the wildlife calms me, makes me smile and is liberating.  Even routes I have driven round seem different when I see them on two feet.  I connect with and appreciate my patch so much more having witnessed it during all the seasons.  Running brings me solitude in nature which is my ultimate motivation.

IMG_3474

Headspace: I know this will sound pretentious, but I practice mindfulness.  Or meditation, call it what you will and the reason is because it works.  I use the Headspace app which includes episodes on sport including motivation, focus and competition, as well as other principles.  Somehow, and I would love to know how, it has stopped me reacting to pain like I used to.  I no longer get post-run neck pain and headaches which is a marvellous result.  It may also be helping me get out the front door every day to run.  I have no idea, but I am happy with the results.  Other apps are available.

Podcasts: I love listening to interesting podcasts while I run.  I usually pick comedians or other social commentators or just subjects that I like and so it provides a light-hearted and entertaining means of escapism to drown out the pain and tediousness of long distance running, after having listened to all my music playlists a hundred times.  Yawn.  I might even learn something along the way.

Treats: After all this challenge and achievement, I have to treat myself.  After a very long weekend run I find a nice gin and tonic does the trick.  Quite simply, it’s a miracle cure and no excuses.  Sports massage is also something I look forward to, so it’s a treat as well as being physically beneficial.  Clocking up all those kilometres means constant hunger and so I generally eat whatever I want whenever I want.  I try to keep a good balance of protein, carbs and good fats just like they tell me but I eat a lot of chocolate too and I don’t care.  I’ve booked a dream holiday next year and somewhere hot for Christmas.  That’s always a good motivator.  I look forward to and enjoy my rest days and recovery weeks, and I love an afternoon nap.  These tiny things in the overall scheme of madness really help me carry on.

Besides, now that spring is here it’s simply much easier to get out there and run….

IMG_3334

The long road ahead

Ultra blog 4

25 Mar

The next instalment – some more basics

Injury

Every runner, indeed every human, suffers from wear and tear. Touch wood I have never been so injured that I have missed races, but I inevitably get sprains, strains and niggles caused by over-training.  Usually, rest and recovery over a few days makes it all right again.  During ultra training there is no room for too much rest and recovery and that is why it helps to build in a contingency plan by preparing as long a training schedule as possible in the build up to a race just in case you do have to take a week off to recover and still be on track.

However, if you can’t do that, you can get help. I see a fantastic sports massage specialist called Mitchell Phillips at Studio 57 in Hove.  He and his wife, Elle and brother, Matt are directors of this great practice that offers all kinds of treatment and advice for sportspeople.  Good sports therapy does hurt!  But it’s a good hurt because an hour in a room with Mitch and my legs feel lighter than air.  It is well worth finding professional support like this and worth the cost.

They also give good on-going advice such as a sequence of stretches you can do at home, advice on self-medication like ice or heat. I always get confused as to which is best.  Plus they are great motivators as most of them are sportsmen and women themselves and are knowledgeable about their subject.

So keep on running folks.

IMG_4654

Ultra blog 3

24 Mar

Kit bag

The other reason for this challenge is the excuse to buy more stuff. My new obsession is browsing and shopping for running kit.  It’s my porn.  There are so many items you can persuade yourself you need to sustain you during an endurance event and all the training beforehand.  My current favourite new item is the race pack.  It is basically a backpack or glorified vest with  tonnes of pockets  and places to store litres of water in bladders with tubes that have “blister valves” (the geek in me loves all the terminology) maps, a whistle (for real!), gels, phone, whatever you many want while you’re out there running.

I have also discovered the difference between a trail shoe, as opposed to a road shoe, gaiters, buffs, compression clothing, Garmin. It’s all so exciting.  I want it all but it costs a bomb so just like the training, I have to pace myself.  Luckily, Race to the Stones is well-organised and I don’t have to lug around a sleeping bag and overnight kit, but one day I probably will and it will just mean more shopping!

Shoes, shoes, shoes

By far the most important item has to be your running shoes. Duh! I have gone through a manic buying spree of trainers after my faithful old Ravenna 7s had to be put out to grass at the beginning of this year.

IMG_3062

They were essentially a road shoe as I do a lot of road running.  Mainly because in winter when I’m running in the morning or evening around work hours it’s dark and wet so I have to stick to well-lit tarmac.  Also, roads are even and not pitted with ankle-busting divots and holes so I find I can run a lot easier and lighter.

Now that spring is here and my race is off-road in summer and I will be able to train over the fields and on the Downs, I decided to invest in some trail shoes (that can also transition to road use if needed).

Cue feminist rant – Women’s shoes have been designed by manufacturers who assume we all have tiny, narrow feet and don’t run more than a mile or so.  In reality, women’s feet come in all shapes and sizes (amazingly) and we can run vast distances so our feet swell and we need wider bigger shoes.  But none of the manufacturers, in the UK at least, will supply a wider fitting women’s shoe.  The answer for me is to buy from the men’s range, that starts at size 7, width D.  I am a 6.  At least it means my feet get more room overall.  The next trick is to tie the laces to secure the shoe but allow the toes plenty of freedom, and there is a whole world of lace-tying technique out there.  Thank you internet.

That problem solved, I have far fewer blisters and have not lost any toenails. During the last marathon training I lost three, but that was because I had my actual size 6 – always go larger.  It has also meant fewer leg niggles and therefore fewer visits to the expensive physio, which just goes to show.

I’m in men’s Brooks Pure Grit 5 and they now provide the perfect running machine.  I tried Brooks ASR 12 GTX (good support) and New Balance v610 (wonderfully waterproof) and they would have been fine if the assistant at Run and Become hadn’t suggested a neutral shoe would do, and recommended the ones she uses.  So remember, get advice from those in the industry.  They know their stuff.  And good shops allow you to return trainers even after a little use if they are not quite perfect.

Enough about shoes.

By the way, about five years ago I trained myself to fore-foot run and have since had no knee pain whatsoever. I do get calf strain and tight hamstrings and quads but they just need some good stretches, ice, foam rolling, intermittent sports massage and/or Rocktape to put them right.  No blinding pain or long term cartilage damage to deal with.

See you for the next one…

Ultra blog 2

23 Mar

The next instalment

What is an ultra-marathon?

That is the first question every non-runner asks when I tell them my plans for this year. It is any distance above traditional marathon distance.  So yes, you could run, say, 27 miles or 43 km and call yourself an ultra-runner.

After hearing my explanation with a look of horror, the next comment is, “You’re mad.”

I didn’t think so when I signed up but now I definitely do. That realisation dawned on me after the fifth run in a week where I had run a three-day run streak, had a rest day, then done a long run and a shorter one back-to-back.  That killed.  Now I am building on that pattern but with longer runs each week.

Why an ultra-marathon?

Good question. My first ultra will be Race to the Stones on 15 and 16 July 2017 – 100km (62 miles) over two days. That’s the distance from the surface of the earth to the edge of space!  It will be an adventure.  I enjoy running.  Eight weeks in and I am still enjoying the training although it is relentless.  It is very different to training for the marathon distance.  First, you do a lot more running on consecutive days and find I run naturally slower because I’m running on tired legs.  Secondly, marathon running is a competition to beat a specific time.  Ultra-running, for us amateurs, is just about eventually finishing.  And eating cakes at regular pit-stops.  And walking up the hills.  And camaraderie with fellow runners.  And getting a medal.  And the kudos.  What’s not to like?

Ultra blog

22 Mar

Constantly running, constantly hungry, constantly tired and constantly aching. Welcome to the world of ultra running.  I love it.

By way of introduction, I like running and it seems to like me, so this is one relationship I can sustain! I ran Brighton Marathon in 2015 and before that London in 2007 after starting out as a bit of a gym-bunny back in 2000. I hope to do New York in November.  In between all that I have run many shorter races, I Parkrun and now I have hopped on the latest bandwagon, the ultra-marathon.

To ultra-run one has to ultra train. Spending so much time on your feet with no distractions means a lot of thinking and a lot to get off your chest so I may be blogging profusely over the next few months.

Caveat: I really am not one of those people who “discovers” something as old as time itself, then builds a whole business and brand around their journey to enlightenment. I wish I was, I might be very rich, but to me it seems trite and a little bit boring.  I am just an ordinary woman, holding down a full-time job, who found out that she loves running in her spare time and it has become a passion.  But this is not my whole life and I am under no illusion that to many this is a well-trodden path (pun intended) and I am not expecting worldwide recognition.  I just feel the need to jot down my experiences, for myself, to remind myself where I came from and where I will go next.  I took inspiration from others like me. If someone gets encouragement from that, good, but it is not my objective.

Keep on running

During marathon training you go through a thorough process of finding out what your body is capable of and also learning to listen to it. During ultra training I can hear it pleading with me – to stop, rest, eat, drink, sleep.  So far I have found, if I can keep my body relatively happy with good nutrition, a constant supply of water, a good night’s sleep and perhaps driving to work instead of walking, it rewards me by sustaining the level of training needed and even belting up a hill on the last run of the week and that amazes me.  Another strange thing is that whilst I am in the actual physical act of running none of these niggles are apparent. It’s only when I stop that they manifest themselves.  The answer therefore must be – keep on running!

See you for the next installment…

IMG_1061