I wanted to start this monthly update by expressing that I feel so extremely lucky to have found running. I had a ‘moment’ during a recent run and I have to say that it’s great just to be able to head out for a training run and be with the natural elements and my own thoughts. Isn’t it great? There are so many things happening in our busy lives every day that it’s so easy to get completely overwhelmed by it all. Work, family, friends, politics …. brexit (yep, I wrote that word!). I feel so fortunate and thankful that I can run and feel like I can realign myself properly. On that note, month two is now done and dusted! It’s been a busy one for sure. Plenty of ……running, yep that’s right. I am now more than half way through my four month training ‘plan’. I’m documenting my journey each month leading up to the TP100 and and GUCR. I believe there is value in writing about these journeys, whether it’s for your own enjoyment to look back on one day, or whether it helps someone else with ideas and things to try for similar adventures. February was a harder month than January as the mileage has started to tax the body quite a bit. But it’s also been so freaking awesome too. So, where to start?
I regularly get asked about my training plan and go about preparing to run one hundred mile races. I’ve seen so many different training plans and methods over the years that I’ve now developed my own way of managing my training. Firstly I don’t document any hard plan beyond the current day I am on now. Not much gets written down beyond today. What good is that kind of plan? Well, I keep just an idea of the mileage I want during the current week (and overall month) but I do not write it down. I only write down what I’ve done each day – not what is to come tomorrow. I always feel better being able to look back at what I’ve achieved over the weeks, rather than worrying what is ahead of me tomorrow. It keeps me positive and in a better head space and I’m not constantly worrying. It can have some bad effects too though. I can end up doing too much. But I find that seeing the mountain ahead of me is harder than seeing it appear behind me. If I can be disciplined then for me it works a treat. Most previous plans I’ve tried in the more traditional approach normally get thwarted by life events anyhow. I love running so much it’s hard to keep me off of the roads and trails. I do still track my mileage and various workouts each day in a Google spreadsheet and for example use colours to highlight which have been HARD runs, EASY runs and which are LONG runs. I have a graph for each day through the month and I starting to see spikes and trends in the patterns when I look back. If I see too much RED then I know there are too many tempo or interval sessions. Too much green and I might need to lay into a speed session a bit. I’m always curious how everyone manages their training. Of course, I also track on Strava because I love me a bit of Strava. Strava though is more of a social tool than something I tend to use for training specifics. I do however also get great ideas on training from watching Strava as well though.
Earlier this month I was fortunate to get some words of wisdom from the current male record holder of the Grand Union Canal Race regarding what to expect from Grand Union. He gave me some very useful pointers and it was just nice to chat to someone who has completed the race and understands this strange desire that I have to run it. I’ve also been trying to gain knowledge through reading blogs and watching video journals people have posted on YouTube from previous years. These might just be short videos, or badly recorded or written posts, but they are so very useful. Real life accounts and stories you can read give you weapons you can use when you need them. If you go through a bad patch and you know what others have done to get through it, then you are better equipped to deal with it. February has also come with a week and a half of illness. I still managed three hundred miles for the month. Not huge, but big enough. I’m pleased because I’m still able to also run fast when needed (fast for me!). More significantly, individual runs have gone up from the 20 miles to around 40 mile ability, and mid week long runs have jumped into the twenty to thirty mile mark by running twice in the morning. It’s getting very real now. I need to focus more on strength and core work and stretching in March so will be aiming to log more of those activities. I’ll be easing a bit off the pace this month, with just a couple of speedy sessions a week to keep the leg turnover happening. Must keep my head in a good space too. Admittedly the early morning weekend starts and back to back runs are starting to peel away the positive a bit. Must stay focused! Seven good weeks of training left to go.
I’ve been writing down a mantra each month with something I feel is related to lessons learned. This month my mantra is something along the lines of “Discomfort now. Treats later”. When I got ill a couple of weeks ago I still managed to get out of bed at 5am and get out of the door for a four hour run. Stupid idea? Maybe, however those runs are valuable. Yes I could have recovered in bed for another day and yes it was terrible running like that, but I came away from it feeling confident that I can push through a lot of discomfort. I would have stopped if things were too bad, and would not recommend doing that. It’s risky. I got very ill after that for two days. It was probably was going to happen that way regardless. The one big thing I’ve learned in February and probably something I started back in January is the importance of sleep. This is something I’ve held in too low a regard over the past years. I’m now realising just how different I feel sleeping more and going to bed earlier. It’s incredible. It doesn’t make me faster but it makes the getting up and actually going out much easier. It’s true what I’ve been hearing on podcasts and reading about sleep – it could be best and easiest thing to fix to get such a huge gain. The only downside is I have less awake time to myself. I’m not watching as many films or playing as many late night video games. I have to be a bit more tidy with my time management. My wife tends to go to bed early on most nights and when she doesn’t she prefers to control the TV so it works box ways.
This week I am back at Eastney junior parkrun as run director. I absolutely love junior parkrun and I am proud to be a core team volunteer most weeks. Last year I accepted a role as a parkrun Event Support Ambassador which I was incredibly pleased to get involved with. I got to attend the parkun conference in 2018 and had a great time meeting so many runners. There are so many people with so much knowledge about starting, running and helping manage all the different parkrun events and teams around the world. It was a real eye opener hearing from many of the parkrun staff and understanding why things happen the way they do. Parkrun has become a big part of my week. I usually see the 5k Saturday parkrun as the end point of one of my long weekend runs which I start super early on. It’s a great way to end a big run when I’m ultra training, but also means I don’t get to run the 5k hard at the moment.
Away from the running side of things, I also saw a really good inspiring running film this month called ‘Race’. It’s about Jesse Owens in the 1939 Olympics in Berlin. A breathtaking film and just incredible. What that athlete went through to get where he did and even once he’d achieved his goals, his treatment afterwards was just shocking. Everyone should see that film. I’ve also starting putting together my playlist for Grand Union for when I fancy some tunes to keep my mind occupied. I’ve got a real mix of stuff on there so far – Whitney Houston’s 80’s stuff *don’t judge me*, some tracks from the Greatest Showman, Alphaville Big in Japan, some Queen and Bon Jovi. A proper real mix of stuff, including a song that captivated me when I first saw the music video a few years back called Witch Doctor by De Staat. Crazy ass tune. I should think there will be a few hours where I’ll want to hear some of the songs that inspires me. My last update for March is that I’m so very excited to be volunteering at this years South Downs Way 50. For those that read my SDW100 blog, one of the experiences I took away from the SDW100 last year was just how well treated we were by the volunteers. I wanted to get involved and give some of that love back to other runners. When I was recovering inside the Eastbourne sports center after the race I remember just going in and out of sleep in strange ways. I was confused a little bit and didn’t know where I was after each short lived few minute shut eye. Really weird. Ian, one of the volunteers kept bringing us coffee and food and he was like a guardian angel. Absolute legend. I was so taken back by the kindness of everyone that it’s now my turn to help. I hope I can be as useful and awesome. In the end, it’s people who help get you through these events, whether it’s volunteers and aid stations or buddy runners or crew. Even just other runners talking and helping each other through. This is why this sport is the number one.
Until next month when I hope everything is holding together. Happy running everyone!