Doubts

I’ve started to bring speed work back into my training as per my plan – throughout March and April to fine tune my running after months of endurance and base fitness building – and in the one session I have completed so far I was surprised by the pace I managed in the 6 x 3 minute fast intervals (with 6 x 90 seconds jog recovery) within my 6 mile run. I was running at a fast pace and pushing myself but conscious not to go all out and struggle to maintain that pace for 6 reps. Reviewing my Garmin data later I was delighted to see that I averaged 7:30 min/mile pace in these 6 reps, with all under 7:50 min/mile and 2 of them under 7:15 min/mile.

I felt in control and this is the fastest I have run for a long, long time. I know this doesn’t mean I could hold a sub 8:00 min/mile pace for miles but it’s a start. My focus is and will remain endurance as the ultimate goal is completion of the South Downs Way 100 in 2015 – with NDW50 and Endure24 this Summer on the way – but it felt good to be able to run at a reasonable pace and not be on the verge of collapsing!

2 weeks ago I ran the Steyning Stinger marathon, a hilly off road course and the most enjoyable trail race I’ve done since the North Downs Way 50. The weather was perfect, the ground was still muddy (and strength sappingly boggy and ankle deep in places, particularly the last mile!) and the scenery was amazing. Total elevation was nearly 2,700 feet, with 4 big climbs. It was a good day, particularly as Phil (@BigPhil137) and I finished with an average pace of 12:46 min/mile and we need to average 13:12 min/mile to hit my target of a sub-11 hour finish at this year’s North Downs Way 50. Shame there was no mirror, what with me wearing my buff in an ill-advised Karate Kid style once the temperature began to rise…

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A week prior to the Steyning Stinger I had taken on Butser Hill on a solo training run, running 14 miles with nearly 2,500 feet of elevation gain. I wanted to challenge myself and found it tough going at times but the downhills were amazing. Tackling almost half of the elevation gain in the NDW50 (5,600 feet) in a third of the distance was a challenge but I enjoyed it.

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This time last year, in my training for the first #projectultra as I worked towards tackling the NDW50, I would not have considered myself capable or ready to do either of these runs. I certainly wouldn’t have tried to do the 21 mile Meon Valley Plod either, a race with over 2,300 feet of elevation gain which Phil and I completed in early February with an average pace of 13:39 min/mile. Even in the 3 weeks between the Meon Valley Plod and the Steyning Stinger I can see improvement in my fitness, which is great.

This week my wife was sick and spent 3 days in hospital being treated for an infection. Thankfully, she recovered quickly but as I had to look after our son on my own that put paid to Tuesday and Wednesday’s planned 5 and 6 mile runs. I also picked up a sore throat, had muscular aches and pains and a bit of a temperature as the week progressed and had to make a call we runners hate to make. I had planned to run the Pilgrims’ Trail, a 28 mile route from Winchester to Portsmouth, as part of my longest training run for NDW50. I and 3 others – Phil (BigPhil137), Simon (@funkysimmm) and Beth (@bfp2030) had all taken the day off or a day’s annual leave to run it together. The night before I had to admit to myself that I was not fit to run and if I did I would most likely end up more unwell and end up with an enforced lay off from running. They ran 30 miles out and back along the South Downs Way instead and had a glorious day for it. I went to work.

42 miles down on the week. Bugger. This doesn’t help the fact that lately I’ve been having a few doubts about my running and progress.

Will I be able to maintain sub-11 hour pace for 50 miles?

How am I going to fit in the long runs I have planned with all of the family and work commitments I have coming up?

My nutrition strategy doesn’t seem to be working in training so what should I do to improve my performance and reduce the likelihood of bonking on race day?

What did I do last year that got me through?

I maintain a positive attitude and know that I can run 50 miles. Am I putting too much pressure on myself by setting the sub-11 hour goal?

I think I need to revisit my approach to training, particularly the mental side and nutrition. The heart rate based training is working and helping build my endurance. I’m sticking with that, plus some speed work and hill reps. I just need to sort out my head and refocus.

Perhaps next month’s Tenerife holiday and a few runs up Mount Guaza near Los Christianos will help restore my self belief, mental fortitude and ultra running mojo! 879 feet of elevation gain, technical trails and stunning views!

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I know I’ll get there. It’s all about trial and error. That’s one reason why I love running, after all.

Learn. Adapt. Improve. Repeat.

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Momentum

It’s been a while since my last blog post.

Generally, things have been going very well:

Maffetone Method training

I continue to train with a focus on heart rate with the aim of building endurance. I have a target heart rate (based upon the Maffetone 180 formula) for all of my runs but no longer obsess about being a few points over for part of a run. This seems to be working. During my weekday runs, which are all on road, my average pace has increased over time and I now feel like I’m able to run and push on again. I can’t tell you how great it feels to be running at a decent pace again after months of slow running building an endurance base. I even find myself thinking that I need to push harder to achieve my target heart rate sometimes!

Embracing the hills

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I was conscious when training for the North Downs Way 50 last year that I had to train on hilly trail routes as much as possible. Reviewing my Garmin data from the first 6 weeks of 2013 and comparing this to the same period in 2014 I was pleasantly surprised. Given the Maffetone Method training I expected more time on my feet (hours training) due to the slower paced running. I expected an increase in mileage. I was surprised by the significant increase in elevation. I’ve grown to love running hilly routes, not just for the downhills (which I find great fun, especially if technical ones) but also for the challenge of the climbs. Last year I walked the vast majority of hills. This year I’ve made a conscious effort to run (slowly) up more of these to build my endurance. I’m finding this helpful. I’ve also incorporated hill repeats into my weekday road sessions and some steady runs with hills and look forward to these runs.

2 weeks ago, I ran the Meon Valley Plod, a demanding cross country race with lots of hills (over 2,000 feet of climbing), very muddy trails and some freezing cold, ankle deep puddles to run through. Today, I ran 14 miles to, up, down and around Butser Hill. My legs are screaming at me tonight after almost 2,500 feet of climbing but I did it and explored the surrounding area as well. I would never have contemplated doing either run last year, nor would I have been ready.

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Mojo

I am really, really enjoying the training this year. I know what’s to come. I know I can do it. I’m more confident. I’m exploring new trails.

I’ve even decided to run the Pilgrims’ Trail route – and add 2 miles to make it a round 31 miles – for my longest training run. I’ve even managed to talk 3 running buddies – Phil (@BigPhil137), Simon (@funkysimmm) and Beth (@bfp2030), all running the NDW50 for the first time this year – into joining me on it. We will get the train from Portsmouth to Winchester and then run back. I would never have had the confidence to do that last year.

Progress.