This September and October, I’ll be running two tough races, three weeks apart: the inaugural Ring of Steall Skyrace and then Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon. Every week, I’ll be reflecting on my training – what worked, what didn’t, changes made, fueling, diet, sleep.. everything.
What I learned this week:
- You can think outside of the box when it comes to mid-race fuel for long distance trail runs and ultras. It doesn’t have to be typical energy gels or chews – which for me, get sickening very quickly – it can be actual food that you can eat on the go and carry in your pack. This week, I bought a bunch of higher carb, paleo-ish, real food options to experiment with during long trail runs: dried mango, dried mixed fruit (mango, pineapple, coconut), Bounce protein energy balls (roasted almond), Kallo organic milk chocolate-covered rice cakes, gluten-free pretzels (super high carb and salty!), Nakd salted caramel bites.
- I could take an easy week because I had already had a few training weeks under my belt, (though not all have been blogged about), and because I have a huge hill run planned for week 3, so I needed to save my legs a bit.
- A hill running tip from my friend Dee, who is like a mountain goat when it comes to running up huge hills: she makes it straight to the top! She said to keep your torso straight up and down, pump the arms, small steps and just shut out the pain, the toll. I can do all of that, apart from the shutting out – I’m working on that.
Monday: rest day
Tuesday: club session – short warm up, 6 x 500m sprints, short cool down
Distance: 3.54 miles
Elevation gain: 181 feet
Our club sessions are always working towards the next club championship race; in this case, the next club championship race is a measured mile sprint around an actual running track. This session was about all out speed, which was a tiny bit beneficial to my training, but considering it was on a relative flat, tarmac surface, I felt perhaps my training would’ve been better off doing something else. No matter what, I hit some fast, low 7-minute paces without going completely all out, so I’m happy with that.
Wednesday: body weight exercises
Again, doing a series of Sally McRae’s body weight exercises designed for core strength, hip strength and individual leg strength, incredibly important for both the ascent and descent of uneven terrain. I did the same core work as last week (3 sets of 8 reps), and I also did this one (3 sets):
And my inner thighs burned!
I also included these two leg workouts into the mix:
Then, I concluded with step-ups on a chair, holding weights (bricks) in my hands. At the end of each set of 10 reps (per leg), I pumped my arms 10 times, as though I was running.
Yes, I was sweating by the end of this!
Thursday: short hills in the forest – 1 mile, uphill warm up, 11 x 1 minute hill sprints up Strathfinella Hill, with 1 minute recovery walk, uphill, between. 1 mile cool down.
Distance: 5.23 miles
Elevation gain: 965 feet
Another run in what’s becoming a happy place for me: South Drumtochty. It’s a great place to get huge elevation without having to drive to the mountains. It’s also a great place to be able to run alone and in solitude, but with the comfort of passing at least a few dog walkers and mountain bikers. This run was pretty straight forward and quick compared to my long hill runs here. Instead of going my usual up and down the other side, then back up and down to my car, I just did an out and back to the top of the hill instead.
Friday: rest day
Saturday: shorter long trail run up Clachnaben
Distance: 10.12 miles
Elevation gain: 2,034 feet
Location: Glen Dye
Mid-run fuel: dried mango, water
This run was done with my friend Dee, who can actually run up massive hills, including Clachnaben. We started from the Clachnaben carpark, ran uphill through the forest, then down into the glen towards the forest. We started climbing again in the forest and made our way past the tree line. This section of the run felt quite tough for me: it was difficult to get my breath, but thankfully my legs felt good. Once we cleared the forest and were out in the open hills covered in heather, Dee, who had been staying close to me, went ahead to run to the summit, while I employed my jog-as-much-as-you-can-but-mainly-power-walk uphill technique.
The usual ascent up to Clachnaben is all large stones, placed together as though you’re walking up one incredibly long, and at times, steep, stair case. I’ve done this ascent several times, always experiencing heavy breathing, tired legs and having to use the hands-on-knees technique to push my legs up the hill. I’ve also always felt the ascent takes a while to do. That day, however, the ascent was a completely different story. It was a breeze! I used the Scott Jurek small steps technique, and just kept going. It felt like it took no time at all to get to the top, and without much effort involved. The training is working!
Dee and I did some easy scrambling to get to the top of the rock pile at the summit, took in the view, ate our mid-run fuel (the dried mango did the trick!), then we continued on along the landrover tracks on the top, then the steep-ish descent to Char Bothy. There, we took a left and continued along the undulating landrover track, back to the glen and onwards back to the carpark.
I felt great throughout, a far cry from the last time Dee and I did this route together in preparation for the Balmoral trail race. My fitness has seriously improved since then, and my Roclite 280’s continue to perform well. A great little run on a beautiful day.
Sunday: tempo run – 1 mile warm up, miles 2 and 3 at tempo pace, mile 4 easy, mile 5 and 6 at tempo, mile 7 easy
Distance: 7 miles
Elevation gain: 558 feet
A very hilly out and back run on slightly tired legs. I’ve done this route a few times before and chose it for the hill climbing, not realising that all the climbing happens in the second and into third miles, precisely when I was running at tempo. This made it interesting but still doable, and I was grateful for the arrival of miles 4 and 7. I also felt this run went very quickly.
Total weekly mileage: 25.89 miles
Total time on my feet: 4:42:05
Total elevation gained: 3,738 feet (1139 m)
Highlights of the week:
Discovering Christine and the Queens via the Graham Norton show! Love the music, love the performance:
I had the album downloaded before the performance was finished!
This ‘flexi-paleo’ taco salad with corn tortilla and quark with Mexican spices (hence ‘flexi’):
I devoured it and wanted more, it was so good! I also experienced no adverse gut or skin reactions to the corn!