Sunday, 20 March 2016

Mom bullied me into this one!

You know it's been a long time since you posted when your mother starts to complain about the lack of blogging updates.

Yes, it has been a ridiculous length of time since I posted, but I have got an excuse; I've been lazy. More seriously, I think the immediacy of Facebook and Twitter leaves blogging for a different purpose.

Anyhoo, to bring those three people who are interested back up to speed, I lost a bit of mojo after the Lakeland 100. I promised myself a couple of weeks recovery time but two became three..... well you know how it goes. Fortunately, I had a two week holiday out in Chamonix to re-ignite the fire and enjoy the atmosphere of the UTMB week. What a great time we had! We saw the winners of every race during the week and all this was with the backdrop of a two week heatwave. I didn't even have any pangs of jealousy as I never intended to race but I did make the decision that I want to go back this year and have a blast at the TDS.

Xavier Thevenard winning UTMB

Like a child in a candy shop, I went a bit crazy on the first day. A couple of hours doing some upness followed by a kamikaze drop left my quads trashed for the next few days. Eventually, I got back in the swing of things and even did some recceing of the last few hours of the TDS course.


I came back from Chamonix in pretty good shape and had the Lakes 3x3000 80k in October to look towards, unfortunately, I just seemed to hit a wall once the new term started. I managed to do some training at weekends but nothing really during the week. I just felt jaded during the week but then quite enjoyed my weekend adventures. It got to the point where I wouldn't have been bothered if the event had been cancelled.

In the end, I really enjoyed my day out at the race. It was good the get my competitive juices flowing again. I tried to be sensible and get to the top of Scafell Pike without using up too much energy. Once on the rough ground, I ran with Sarah Morwood who was leaving most of the field behind. I opened up a gap of a few minutes on the long and, at times, technical descent from Scafell Pike and it pretty much stayed at that distance for the remaining six hours of the race. I must admit, I did feel like I was being hunted for all that time but I was pleased that I managed to stay ahead, especially when I later found out just what a fantasic year Sarah had in the build up. I'll just say ..... Great Britain international and leave it at that!

Prize giving for 4th place

During the race, I stubbed a toe three times, continued racing for 60k and discovered, after an X-ray the next day, that I had in fact broken it - go adrenaline!

After the event I just felt that I wanted a really good break with no pressure of training, so for the next three months (yes, THREE months) I just went for a run if I fancied it and the weather was nice, if I couldn't be bothered I didn't bother. I did spend one day out acting as a guide on one of the Lakeland 100 recce events which was fantastic, running from Coniston to Buttermere.

So let's have a word on this new season. I put my name in the hat for the TDS in Chamonix at the end of August. Now, this race has never been over subscribed; you put in an entry and you get a place - simple. So Tracey and I booked our accommodation early, only to find that there would, for the first time ever, be a ballot for places. That meant a few nervous moments waiting for the draw but all came good; I got my place. The season is now built around a peak at the end of August.

There is a mantra that says something about training the same way will get the same results. Although I am getting on a bit, I still feel there is life in the old dog yet, so I'm still looking for ways to progress and, after some conversations with Lakeland 100 winner Paul Tierney, I knew what my focus was going to be - core strength and muscular endurance. What tends to limit my performance in the latter stages of an ultra is rarely cardio-vascular related, yet I spend most of my time training that system. What slows me down is failure or degredation of the muscular system.

To that end, I worked with Paul and his partner Sarah McCormack (check out both of their palmares) to bring their exercise class, Missing Link Fitness, to Keswick. To sum up the approach, I have copied this short paragraph from the website

We believe that the human body is designed for being active within its natural environment for most of its waking life. It expects to be used for a diverse range of movement patterns, such as climbing, balancing, jumping, running, crawling and manipulating objects.  Before the advent of modern civilisation, all humans were professional athletes, relying on their strength, skill, speed and endurance to survive in the wild.

I'll be honest here - I was crap! Over the weeks, I slowly started to improve and could see the benefits. Then, disaster! Storm Desmond not only trashed our beautiful town, but also decided to wash away the main road between Keswick and Ambleside, meaning Paul and Sarah couldn't get here. So, since December, I've been doing my own adapted version, trying to do one longer session of 45  to 60 mins and a shorter session of 15 to 30 mins each week. It is slowly getting easier and I think I can feel the difference already and, quite surprisingly, I'm enjoying it.

The TDS is at the end of August, so I'm trying to plan things carefully and build fitness through the year. To that end, I only started running training about six weeks ago and am limiting myself to four runs per week up to now, supplemented with a turbo bike session and the core strength/movement work. This adds up to a decent week of training but I don't feel like I'm pushing it yet - hopefully lots more to come.

I'm also tinkering around with some more nutrition variations with the help of the lads at Mountain Fuel, already thinking about what I might be able to do in the TDS.

Spring has sprung :-)

So that's kind of where we're at for now. First race of the year will be the Kielder 80k Ultra in three weeks time. I've had a look round most of the course and it looks very fast apart from a four hour loop on the fells, so it will be interesting to see where I'm at come race day, but I'm trying to remind myself of the bigger picture.