Friday, 29 December 2017

TP100 Training Blog 3 - Winter Training

"I feel unhappy,  I feel so sad
I lost the best friend, That I ever had" - Glen Hughes

Hazy Shade of Winter 

Mile, after mile, after mile.  Watching the scenery change, the seasons merging from one to the next as the footpath becomes a trail, that leads to a track and closer to your finish.  Villages, farms and country houses become passing distractions from the countryside and startled animals heading for cover.  Forcing fears and worries of life out of your mind and replacing it with the exhilaration of freedom, even if it is only for a few hours, is some release.  Over-thinking complicates the exercise, keeping mind and body focused on the track while picking the path carefully, so when the mind and body tire the muscle memory and instinct take over.  Reaching for the head torch as the light diminishes and eyes can no longer be trusted in the shadows and outlines of the path.  The freezing water splashing over feet, shocking the mind and body back to here and now.

Sunset on the Ridgeway

Running upwards of 50 miles a week through the winter months hardens you to the rain, the cold and the dark.  No amount of juggling will allow you to run those miles during daylight and in good conditions, you learn to accept it and crack on.  It really is best to welcome the task and embrace it.  Learning to run on tired legs, tired body even, until it becomes normal takes a lot of mental and physical stamina.  Switching your mind off from pain, the pain that isn't relevant is just another Jedi mind trick you need to learn if you intend to keep going further than your body wants to go. Tiredness can become a near-permanent state if you allow it, ensuring your diet and fuelling is tweaked towards your goal becomes part of the ritual for all endurance runners.

Like trail marathons, ultra training is very different from road marathon training where the aim is to achieve the best possible time at a given pace over the 26.2 miles, trail running is more about endurance and sustainability.  The trail race maybe 26.2 miles or a 50k but the elevation and route normally ensures that there would be no way on earth you could maintain your road marathon pace, yes there are a few exceptions but you are unlikely to meet many of them outside the international races.  Training for a spring marathon will ensure plenty of wet roads, training for a spring ultra will also include hills, mud, flooding, more mud, more hills and some more mud and water - but hey, it's all fun!  Unlike many areas in the US and Europe, southern England sees little snow over the winter months, just lots of rain leading to saturated ground and sudden flooding on trails and countryside.  The idyllic Christmas scenes are rarely played out, however, some of the views are breathtaking.

Sunrise over Salisbury Plain 
We all have reasons to run, whatever it is focus on it, regardless if it's love or hate. Seriously, when you are tired and unable to think much beyond the next step, the rain has soaked through every piece of clothing, you're numb to the bone with cold and fatigue that reason may be the single thing that gets you through to the finish.  Don't lose hope, even if you DNF use that reason to rebuild and become stronger.


Aiming towards running the Thames Path 100 in May has almost been dwarfed by signing up for the Mt Snowdon Ultra 50, with 17919 ft of Ascent (5462m), I am attempting in September 2018, but I will push that to the back of my mind while I keep focused on TP100 and the massive amount of training it alone requires.  I am already 8 weeks into my programme that will see my long training runs ramp up to 30 miles, some followed by 20 miles the following day and totalling 75 miles during the week.  Some weeks will be longer as I have included a 12-hour endurance race, The Green Man (45 miles) and Vale of Glamorgan (32 miles) ultra races as "training run's" for the event.

Trying to find new 20+ mile trail routes that will stimulate the mind as well as the body means looking further and further afield.  I am forcing myself to run ever longer stretches of the Kennet and Avon Canal to emulate the long miles running beside the Thames.  In the winter and spring months running beside water can mean colder temperatures, especially at night, and so preparing the body (and mind) to run relentless miles at low temperatures and without much change in scenery is important.

Slightly muddy

Reading many blogs about the race it is unsurprising that so many people fail to finish the race.  One of the main issues being runners starting too fast and either burning too early or picking up an injury due to the repetitive nature of a flat 100-mile course.  The lack of hills and natural walk breaks mean, for me at least, enforced walk breaks using a Gymboss timer or something equivalent that alarms at the given times.  I'm still trying to decide between 10/2 (run 10 mins, walk 2) or 9/3 to get optimum recovery without losing too much time.

Fitting it In

Fitting in the runs around real life can be a task, it's so easy to read of the "professionals" who can spend hours, often days, trail running, but us mortals with real jobs and family life find it harder as the training miles ramp up.  Getting the balance right is not easy and each of us has to find the best yin/yang available.

The mid-week runs slowly increase, however, the Saturday long run's increase to 30 miles with the back-to-back Sunday run increasing to 20 miles.  These long runs can either fill your day or require early starts with some recovery time to be anywhere near useful for the rest of the day.  You can miss shorter runs, but those long runs, and back to back long runs, build your stamina and can't be missed.

Recent Equipment

Training in winter months is all about equipment.  A tapered seam waterproof jacket, waterproof trousers (more for the race checklist), suitable headgear, good gloves and possibly waterproof socks 

Over the past 6 months, I've purchased/upgraded a few bits of mandatory kit including head torch, waterproof trousers, gloves and hydration vest.  I've also invested in a set of Leki RCM runners poles, essentially for hills but also for mud and tired legs, and a Garmin eTrex handheld satnav as a primary navigational aid for unmarked courses.

Garmin eTrex 20x

Having watched a friend use an eTrex on a night run I was "taken" by its usefulness and size.  Powered by 2  AA batteries it can be used to guide you around a given course/route quickly and efficiently.  It takes a little time to understand it but once you do it's an excellent tool to keep in your hydration vest.

1 comment:

  1. Would the 10/2 or 9/3 start after the first few hours or straight away?