Sunday, 20 January 2013

Carbo depletion run

Like Sir Dave Brailsford, I am keen in looking for some marginal gains. I neither want to or have the time to (or the body to!) make dramatic changes to my training and racing. The bottom line is; if it aint broke, don't fix it. I am, however, keen to make some tweeks to my training to see if I can lift my ultra performances to the next level, whatever that level may be.

Having done some reading around, I am keen to add a few more ultra training runs to my schedule (rather than the one per month I did last year), I also want to do a few back to back big days out, just to simulate the latter stages of a long race.

I think I have become a little bit more streetwise (trailwise) with regard to nutrition during long races and particularly the recognition that I am mostly burning fats, not carbohydrates. I have read of a number of ultra runners who include carbohydrate starvation (carbo bleed) sessions in their training so I thought I would give it a go.

The basics are that you miss breakfast and do not take any food on during a run of somewhere between 2 and 3 hours. After the 2 hour point, once you have used up your muscle glycogen stores, your body has no choice other than to start metabolising fats, as you would in an ultra race. Your body hopefully becomes more economical at doing this. It is often tough going during the final stages of a bleed run, but I thought the time had come to give it a go.

This has been a medium week of training (5 sessions for about 50 miles) and I took yesterday off so I was ready to give this a proper go. Not having breakfast is tough; a mug of black coffee just doesn't hit the mark, but I headed out the door at about 9am, looking to do about 2:30 hours just to dip my toes in the water of a bleed run.

I headed round Derwentwater, down to Grange, along to Rossthwaite and made the climb over into Watendlath. It was surprisingly warm, certainly above zero and I felt quite good, without ever really pushing the pace. I was very concious of the thought that after 2 hours this might get tough and it seemed I was just killing time until this point.

It was somewhere after Watendlath Tarn that I started to get a bit tired, certainly not knackered or in any distress, but more tired than I would expect after just 2 hours of running. I kept the pace going but had to work harder, so I felt that it was a good workout.

I did find it nice to not have to worry about getting gels/food in at the correct times; I just ran and had a drink of water/electrolyte when I felt like it. Simples!

I was absolutely Hank Marvin when I got back to the house, but pleased to come through my first carbo starved run and will give it another go in a months time.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Bigger week

Well, I said I was going to try and up my mileage a little this winter so I thought I would make the most of the final week of the Christmas holidays and spend a bit more time out on the trails. During December and January I have a rule that I do not run faster than 8 mins/mile, though I think I may have broken that rule a few times during the Tour de Helvellyn race. This principle allows me to build up a good solid base for the rest of the year, reduces the chance of getting injured or fatigued and means that I am chomping at the bit come Febuary, ready to start upping the tempo.

For the first time in a number of years I have run on 7 consecutive days (the "Daveathon"?) and managed to cope without too much distress. This week I have clocked up 71 miles in 11:24 hours which, for those that know me will realise, is a VERY big week. I rounded the week off today with a long trail round Blencathra, nice and steady, out and about for just under 4 hours.

Clouds rolling over The Dodds

On Latrigg

Above Glenderaterra
After a week like that, I know it is vital that I allow some recovery time, so I will drop down to a nice easy week once back at work next week, probably only 4 or 5 sessions and then go up through the gears over the next few weeks heading towards my second race of the season (if I call the Tour de Helvellyn my first?!) which is this little beauty - The Dark Mountains overnight mountain marathon. This is the sort of race you commit to as you are sitting in a pub having a pint of Guinness - will I ever learn? Should be interesting and a really good challenge with all the usual mountain marathon possibilities/eventualities plus the added bonus of doing it in the dark, in January.

Guinness has a lot to answer for!!!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Review of 2012

Forgive me if this rambles but I have never put my thoughts down for others to read when reviewing the previous year so I am not sure how this will pan-out.

This time 12 months ago, I was just about in a position to call what I did "training". I was past the point where my rehabilitation was taking me towards being able to run, but I did not really have great confidence and was constantly worried I might be doing some damage.

My first real target for the year was to complete a long run on the West Highland Way in mid-February, so the first 6 weeks of training were planned around building up (slowly) to that. I was really pleased with my discipline during those early weeks as I held back, listened to my body and made good progress. I completed the run (and became an ultra runner again), running from Balmaha to Tyndrum, getting a real boost of confidence.

Just a couple of weeks later, at the beginning of March, John and I had our first Lakeland 100 recce run. We had some interesting weather but a fantastic day out, starting our video record of the Lakeland 100 route which became a useful tool for many others as well as ourselves. I did not admit it at the time, but I really had to dig deep over the last hour of this run and knew I had a lot of work to do before the race if I was to do myself justice.

By the end of March, having had a consistent block of training for a couple of months, I fared far better on our next recce run, from Dalemain to Ambleside. This time the weather took a swing for the better and showed the Lake District in all her glory and I felt I was now starting to get back to some kind of position where I could cope with an ultra marathon race.

The Highland Fling at the end of April would be my first race for 14 months and I was more than a little excited!! A new PB by 40 minutes signalled my return and gave me another confidence boost ahead of my next block of training.

John and I met up again in both May and June to complete our recce runs. The outing in May was, I believe, the most significant of all our runs together, We ran from Ambleside to Coniston, continuing on to Wasdale and it was the first time we both struggled. Up until this point we had coped reasonably well with the route and, I for one, was possibly getting a little casual about the whole thing, starting to think I could breeze round the race. This recce run was just the sobering moment I needed, reminding me of just how tough an undertaking this race is.

At the end of June I had a couple of days out with my dad who was running/cycling the 90 miles of The Two Saints Way. This was perfect preparation for me as it gave lots of hours on my feet without trashing my legs and it was a nice distraction from the usual training.

Three weeks prior to the Lakeland 100, I competed in the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon, using it as my last long session before starting a three week taper. Of the six races I did last year, this was the only one where I was disappointed with the result. In the wider scheme of things, the result did not matter, time on my feet in rough terrain/hills was more important (along with not getting injured!) but I still felt I should have finished higher. The format meant that the first decision made at the start of the race would dictate your result and I made the wrong one!

The big race arrived at the end of July and I can honestly say I got myself to the start line in just about the best possible shape I could be and executed my game plan to the letter. I still get emotional when I read my report.

I intended to take some time to recover but after just a couple of weeks, I was back in training and starting to re-focus on some new targets for the remainder of the year. I started to introduce more tempo work into my training (which is something I will add again next year at the appropriate time) with an eye on a new PB at the Round Rotherham 50 mile trail race in mid-October.

Before that, I ran in the RAB Mountain Marathon on the Cheviot hills, having a super run, taking 2nd place on the Elite Class (=2nd actually) which set me up nicely for my last race of the season, the Round Rotherham Race. Having not done this race for a number of years and previously not really trained as an ultra runner, I was keen to see how much I could improve and try to finish off the season in style. As the race went on, I thought I might be able to dip under 8 hours and I pushed myself over the last couple of hours in the endeavour, but fell just short, still setting a new PB by 1:15 hours.

Sunrise during the Rotherham race

All-in-all, a very successful year but another year of learning how to play the ultra running game. I think this is one of the reasons why I enjoy ultra running so much - I have done many different running disciplines over the years but this is one where the preparation, understanding and knowledge play as important a role as pure running; there always seems to be something new to learn or understand.

As ever, I am thinking about how I might tweak things for this next season. I have already squeezed in one race; having a wet day out on the Tour de Helvellyn but have still not yet finalised all my race plans for next season, though my main goal is for a new PB on the West Highland Way Race in June - all roads lead to Milngavie!

A couple of things I am toying with are increasing my mileage slightly and also putting more back to back big days together. I have not generally been a big mileage trainer as you can see from the figures below but this does mean there is scope for increase without getting daft. I know this is going to take careful planning and I only intend to do this over the winter, but it will be interesting to see what I write this time next year!

Monthly Mileage
Jan 131
Feb 149
Mar 194
Apr 204
May 137
Jun 197
Jul 223
Aug 183
Sep 120
Oct 135
Nov 18
Dec 186

Happy runnings!!