Training Diary: 18th to 24th August

Strength training is one of the most important, and regularly overlooked, aspects of training for long distance running. When you start training for distances of marathon length and beyond, strength training really helps in terms of muscular endurance and in prevention of injury. For my ultra marathon training, I've also found that it really improves how I feel running uphill. The trouble is that I just find it really difficult to fit the additional training sessions into my week.

If you've been following my training diary, you'll know that a typical training week involves running on 6 days. I typically aim for two quality sessions a week: one tempo / short interval and one long run. I aim to have a day of complete rest each week. My "ideal" training plan would involve adding in three more conditioning sessions. These extra three would be a mix of heavy weight lifting (focused on legs), core strength training, and a stability & stretching session. Note that this is only ideal from a performance perspective. It's certainly not ideal from a balanced life perspective. It's hard to add this extra training time without detracting from family time, work and other things I'd like to do.

My recent attempts to add in extra training have been to make use of our gym space at work. I can use this to do core strength work with a medicine ball. I can also use floor space and mats for stability and stretching sessions. We don't have any free weights or a multi-gym, so I can't do any heavy weight lifting. I need to try to fit this in at home. In my garage, I've got about 90 kg of weights, a barbell, a set of dumbbells and a squatting rack. This is just right for a decent set of squats, deadlifts, lunges and other leg strength exercises. I then add a couple of other compound upper body lifts, for example bench press or shoulder press.

But the problem is that I can't find a good spot in the day to easily fit in weight training. I don't like doing strength training first thing in the morning. I just feel that my body isn't ready and I risk injury. I'm usually at work during the day, so I can only do weights in the evening. As I ramp up my training, I'm already regularly using one evening a week to do a longer tempo run. On a normal day, where I'm not travelling with work or training in the evening, my evening routine looks something like this:
1745 - 1830 home from work, change, spend time with the boys.
1830 - 1930 Boys' bedtimes or cook dinner
1930 - 2000 Dinner with H
2000 - 2100 Free time
2100 - 2130 Prepare lunch, tidy the house, etc
2130 - 2200 Get ready for bed, read in bed
2200 Sleep [it's worth noting that even with this schedule I don't really get enough sleep, considering I normally wake up at about 0530]

It's hard to fit weights in this schedule. I don't feel comfortable eating immediately after exercise. With H being pregnant, it's not fair to ask her to wait for dinner any later. It's nice to eat together, but that's the thing that usually has to get sacrificed if I want to fit in weights. It's just difficult to get all the important bits of my life to fit together.

So, last week was another good example of trying to compromise between a normal life and fitting in an abnormal volume of training. It went OK, even though I didn't really hit "ideal performance" levels of training. You can kind of tell that I've been busy given that I'm only just getting around to posting this now.

At the weekend, I went on a friend's stag do. This involved three rounds of golf and some drinking. I was hoping I might sneak in two long runs around Dartmoor. In the end, I managed a 6.25 mi run and a 21 mi run. Obviously, the stag came first. I carry my clubs for golf and the courses were fairly hilly, so I think that the four hours of walking on Friday and Saturday (we had a buggy on the Sunday morning) counted for something in terms of background fatigue before my long run on Sunday afternoon.

That was the week that was: 18th to 24th August

Monday - Lunchtime: 5 mi easy
Tuesday - Lunchtime: Core Strength Training - medicine ball circuit 30 mins; Evening: Tempo Run 12 mi with 8 mi at 6:45 min/mi
Wednesday - Morning: 4.5 mi easy to work; Lunchtime: Core Stability & Stretching 30 mins; Evening: 6.5 mi easy run home
Thursday - Rest
Friday - Morning: 5 mi easy trail
Saturday - Afternoon: 6.25 mi easy trail
Sunday - Afternoon: 21 mi long hilly run on Dartmoor

Totals: 60.6 mi, 8:44 min/mi average pace, 1,370 m elevation gain, 9:49:32 total training time (including strength sessions)

Looking ahead

Next week (well, this week) is the final week of this three week training cycle and I have a lot on. I have more weekend plans and travel with work. Fitting everything in will, again, be a challenge. I'm going to need the rest week after this.


You can tell that it's nearly the end of a training cycle

The last week or so has been busy. I've been away for a friend's stag do. Helena has been working. I've got a lot on at work. We have another busy weekend ahead and then I'm flying out to Germany on Monday with work.

Fitting in running has been even more difficult than usual. I did manage to get a good long run on the stag do. If I can, I'll do a write up on that at some point. I'll also try to do the training diary update for the week.

Today, I thought I'd do a quick post noting how I can always tell when I'm coming to the end of a hard training cycle. My motivation does start to dip slightly, my body begins to feel more fatigued and everything about my training just feels harder. Combine this with my busy work and home life and it's a recipe for not enjoying my running.

Today was one of those days. I had a really busy day at work. I didn't have time to go to the gym at lunchtime and I've been trying to work out how to fit in the necessary miles in my schedule. Eventually I arrived at a strategy of running home from work (plus some detours) tonight and then running in tomorrow. This plan is OK, but definitely far from perfect. Not least because I need to be ready at my office to leave with some colleagues by 7am. So it's going to be an early start.

Today was the first time in a long time that I have felt that my running was something I had to do, rather than something I really wanted to do. Hopefully, that just reflects how busy I've been and the phase in my training cycle. I have a rest week ahead and I will make sure I take it easy. I hope that an easier week, some good sleep (if I'm lucky) and a reasonable diet will get me back to loving the freedom that I get when I run.

Today just felt like a slog and not something I was looking forward to. I still managed to complete a run of just over 9 miles. My legs feel fine and it doesn't feel like a particularly long distance any more. That's kind of good, because I've got to run 5 times that distance in a couple of months.


The confessions of a wannabe ultra runner

I've been awake since about 2am this morning. There was no particular reason I could find for my insomnia. I was just awake. I just couldn't get back to sleep. It gave me plenty of time to think.

Amongst the many things I pondered, I began to think around the question "Why do I want to run an ultra marathon?"

I have always imagined and told myself that the answer was something noble. I love being outdoors. I love running on trails more than roads. I enjoy feeling fit and healthy. I want to prove that I can meet the challenge of running 46 miles. I want to find out what I'm capable of achieving.

I know that some of the reasons are less noble. I aspire to a healthy physique. I want to look good with my shirt off. I prefer a lean body to a fat one or a bulky muscle physique. So, part of my running is for vanity.

But, given the thinking time afforded by the night, I realised that one of the major reasons for wanting to run an ultra marathon is that fewer people run them. That means I have a better chance of finishing in a higher position.

The truth is that I'm not interested in "just finishing" an ultra marathon. That holds limited appeal to me. There are lots of runners' race reports from 100 mile races that involve descriptions of desperation and suffering through the last stretches of the race. When I read them, I admire the person and I find their courage and determination inspiring. But I don't want to do one in that way. I don't feel any need to be the person that struggles through to the end of a painful experience. I don't think I'm scared of the pain or the suffering. I just don't think that it would be enough for me. It wouldn't satisfy me. I've always been driven to do more than "just get by". Even though completing a 100 mile run is a huge achievement, it's clear that there are plenty of runners in each event that do more than "just survive". So, relatively, just surviving wouldn't be good enough for me. And, I know that in terms of physical fitness, I'm probably above average fitness and so I should be capable of doing more than that.

Whenever I talk to people about my running, I am usually left with the sense that most people can't really empathise with these feelings. Obviously, the reverse is also true, I don't really understand what they think about my running. I just get the impression that people can't understand why I wouldn't be satisfied just to finish an ultra marathon.

In a way, I think that the example that helps me explain this best is when you discuss diets and training with non-runners / non-athletes. In the last year I've lost around 10 kg. A lot of people initially commented that they thought I looked too thin and other such comments (incidentally, these comments seem to have stopped because I think people have just got used to the new normal). When I explain that I still want to lose a couple of kilos to reach my ideal racing weight and that I pay close attention to my diet and calorie intake, I commonly get a response along the lines of "but you don't need to lose any more weight."

I think it's this last thought that maybe helps to explain how my thoughts work. No-one I've ever met limits their life to only doing what the "need" to do. Because what would our lives be if we only did what we truly need to do? We only really need limited food, warmth and shelter. Almost everything else is really optional. Maslow expressed this concept as a "hierarchy of needs" (see picture below).

Life is about doing things that you want to do. I want to be fit and healthy. I want a healthy physique. And I'm really competitive, so I want to have an objectively measurable performance and I want that objective measure to be better than average.

So, I am driven to train hard and long to meet these goals. I could be fit and healthy and happy with less training. But I couldn't be competitive and that's the difference between my 60+ mile training weeks and a "normal" 40 mile week.

I guess I'm running an ultra marathon for less noble reasons that I like to imagine. But I'm still doing it. And training hard for it. And it is still selfish. So please think about sponsoring me to help offset that selfishness!


Training Diary: 11th to 17th August

In just under three months I will be starting my first ultra marathon at the 46 mile Brecon Beacons Ultra. At the risk of tempting fate, my training seems to continue to progress fairly solidly. Occasionally I worry that I'm basically just doing an extended marathon training plan. However, the reality is that I don't have that much choice. There really isn't enough time in my life to regularly schedule 30 mile runs or long back-to-backs. Fortunately, I think that the fact that my first ultra is going to be over 46 miles rather than something in the 62+ mile (100+ km) distance bracket will help. I've already explored the course. It was a tough run, but I definitely felt I had more in the tank at the end.

This week's training was my first in my next four week cycle. I did two key workouts. The first was a race pace run around a regular 4.25 mile lunchtime running route. It's a route that a lot of runners at work have used as a pacing route. I set out aiming for a personal best and to complete it in under 26 minutes. I did it in 26:08 at an average pace of 6:07 min/mi. When I finished I was a bit frustrated to not break the 26 min mark. But then I realised that I'd beaten my previous best by over 30 seconds and it didn't seem so bad. The main thing that I use this run for is to get a better understanding of my training paces for tempo running. There are two good training pace calculators that I use: Runners World and a chart at The RunZone (you have to log in to download it though).

My second key workout was a long, hilly trail run. As I've done a couple of times in the past, I did the local Slaughterford 9 route a couple of times. It's a great run with a variety of scenery, some really steep hills and it's quiet and peaceful. The run went reasonably well. I pushed the pace a little harder than usual and towards the end I was definitely feeling sore. In fact, I started to feel some early warning signs of cramp on my legs. It would be interesting to see if this was because I was using a different electrolyte drink (Science in Sport Go Hydro) rather than my usual High5 Zero tablets. It could also be that I was experimenting with eating more real food rather than just sticking to energy gels. I'll be trying different combinations of food and hydration in longer runs in future training. I'm keen to try to make sure I find out what works for me. Fuel and hydration are critical for any successful ultra.

That was the week that was: 11th to 17th August

Monday - Morning: 4.5 mi easy to work; Lunchtime: Core strength training; Evening: 5.3 mi easy run home
Tuesday - Lunchtime: 5.8 mi run including 4.25 mi at race pace (6:07 min/mi)
Wednesday - Lunchtime: Core Stability & Stretching
Thursday - Morning: 5.1 mi easy trail run
Friday - Afternoon: 19.6 mi Long hilly trail run
Saturday - Evening: 5.0 mi easy trail run
Sunday - Evening: 5.2 mi easy road run

Totals: 50.6 mi, 8:22 min/mi average pace, 1,108 m elevation gain, 8:18:44 total training time (including strength sessions)

Looking ahead

Next week I have a bit of travel with work and a friend's stag do at the weekend. The logistics of fitting in enough long running could be interesting. It's going to be more restrained than some stags. It features three rounds of golf. So, my legs will get some form of exercise no matter what. Hopefully I'll be able to fit a couple of long runs in around the stag weekend activities. Especially because we'll be on the northern edge of Dartmoor and I'd love to go out and explore some of that.


Brooks Cascadia 9 Trail Shoe - a first impressions review

Update 27th May 2015: This post is now hosted on Ordinary Superhuman.

My Inov-8 Roclite 295s have been starting to develop tears in the fabric around the front of the toe box. They've had a couple of holes in the fabric around the heel for a couple of months now. These mean that I have to tape a plaster over my heals to avoid developing nasty blisters running. I've run nearly 400 miles in the Roclites. They will be good for a few more, but I'll keep to shorter runs, just in case they fail catastrophically at some point.

I originally bought the 295s because I wanted a lightweight trail shoe with good grip on grassy and muddy surfaces. In that respect, they have been outstanding. I figure it's always worth looking around for alternatives. If nothing else, it keeps things fresh.

Before choosing the Brooks Cascadia 9, I did a lot of looking and reading. Not living in a major city, and with my work, family and training schedule, it's hard for me to get to see shoes in stores. Stuck with searching on the Internet, I found it difficult to see a shoe that had the right mix of grip and lightness to deal with the trails that I run on. I don't just run on woodland or rocky trails / semi-pathways. I regularly run trails with grassy and muddy sections. Typically, those grassy sections have steep slopes too. It's definitely important to me to have a shoe that I don't spend half my time worrying about my foot slipping when it touches the ground. Especially when climbing up a steep hill.

The Cascadia 9 seemed to have the right mix. I was also able to find them at a relatively good price of £64. Many trail running shoes are in the £80+ price range. So, I placed my order on www.directrunning.co.uk and started waiting for the Postman. This was the first time I'd used the DirectRunning website, so I was a little nervous. There were no problems. I got the usual automated emails. My shoes were dispatched within a couple of days of ordering and arrived two days after notification of dispatch. They were reasonably packaged. I got free delivery and a good price for the shoes, so overall I was happy.

Straight out of the box, I felt encouraged that I had probably made a good decision. On a first inspection, the shoes do look bulkier than my Roclites. Lifting them out of the box and handling them didn't leave me immediately feeling that they were significantly heavier.

I had a good look at the tread pattern and the size of the grip. The tread definitely appears to be less aggressive than the Roclites. On the Cascadia 9, there are more lugs and they are shallower than the Roclites. But there is an interesting pattern and it looks like a tread that should provide sound grip on a range of surfaces.

Next up was confirming the weight of the shoe. I broke out the kitchen scales for this. The Brooks Cascadia 9 weighed in at 330 g for a single shoe, UK size 9. This compares to 295 g (the clue's in the name!) for the Inov-8 Roclite 295s. For a bit of a further comparison, my Saucony Kinvara 4s are 220 g.

Trying the shoes on to wear around the house first. The fit felt very nice. The shoes felt snug and secure. There were no obvious pressure points or tight areas. My foot didn't move around, nor did it feel pinched.

One odd thing I noticed was that you can't tie the laces with an ankle-lock lacing pattern. They eyelets are there on the shoe, but the laces provided are too short.

Having checked out all the obvious aspects of the shoe to make sure I didn't need to return them, it was time to take them out for a trial run.

If you've read a lot of my blog, you'll probably know that I'm really lucky to have an excellent 5 mile trail that I can run from my front door. It covers pretty much all the main trail surface types and even includes a 50-100 m stretch of hill with a 25% gradient. It's a great little test run for any trail shoe. There are grassy fields, gnarly woodland trails with plenty of roots, rocky slopes where rain run-off has cleared the topsoil, firm bridleways, some very limited road / pavement running, and a couple of shaded dips where it's muddy almost all year round.

My immediate impressions of the Cascadia 9, after my first few steps, were that they definitely absorbed more impact than Roclites and felt bouncier. I was struck by the the thought, or maybe feeling, that that I'd probably feel more comfortable in these on a very long run like Beacons Ultra. Now, this isn't necessarily the most fair comparison, because the first quarter of a mile of my run involves pavements or lanes to get to my trail. Even so, the feeling did persist, especially when running along the rockier parts of the trail.

Probably most importantly for me, the grip felt fine on all of the surfaces. The trail was in reasonable condition. We've had a few dry days recently and a very dry July. So even though we've had some recent heavy rain, it tends to translate into mostly dry firm surfaces, with the occasional boggy patch in shaded dips. It may not have been toughest test of a shoe's grip, but it still provides a good indication.

The fit of the shoe felt absolutely fine throughout the run. There were no noticeable hotspots to cause rubbing or irritation. My foot always felt secure and stable.

The shoes felt light and fairly agile. I didn't notice anything that made me feel that I had to change my running action to accommodate the shoes. I could run with the same cadence and foot strike pattern that I usually do.

Overall, my first impressions are really positive for the Brooks Cascadia 9. They are comfortable, light and grippy. I could definitely see myself running the Brecon Beacons Ultra in these in November. I'm a little surprised by this first impression, because I really thought that the only shoes I would contemplate for the race were the Inov-8 Roclite 295s.

I'll now be taking the Cascadia 9 out on increasingly longer runs over the next few weeks and I'll try to post another review after about 50 miles.


An example core stability and stretching route

So, today is supposed to be a rest day. Which it is. I'm not running or doing any form of cardio work today. However, I have been thinking that I need to include more stretching and core stability / strength work in my training routine.

So, today I did a gentle 40 minute training session at lunchtime in my work gym.

I came up with following routine. The routine was designed to focus on light core strengthening work and general stretching of back and legs.
  1. Warm up - 5 mins rowing machine (Level 8, approx 2:10 min/500m avg pace)
  2. Inchworm x 5
  3. Medicine ball hand walk x 12
  4. Plank - hold 60 seconds
  5. Swiss ball press-up to jack knife x 12
  6. Dirty Dog x 12 each leg
  7. Lying side hip abduction x 12 each leg
  8. Lying side hip adduction x 12 each leg
  9. Donkey Kick x 12 each leg
  10. Stretches - hold for 30 seconds
    • Head to knee
    • Camel pose
    • Spine Twister
    • Half Tortoise
    • Bow Pose
    • Modified hurdler hamstring stretch
    • Lying groin stretch
    • Knelling hip flexor stretch
    • Standing thighs stretch
It felt like a nice routine and I was comfortably done inside of an hour including changing and showering. The one change I'd make would be to mix up my abs exercises with my hip exercises. The combination of medicine ball hand walk, followed by plank, followed by Swiss ball jack knife was pretty hardcore (pun intended).

For an ideal training plan, each week I'd incorporate a core strength session, a session like this and a heavy weight lifting session on top of my running training. However, that's not hugely practical given all my other life responsibilities and commitments. Usually running wins over strength. Until I get injured.


Training Diary 4th to 10th August

Hmmmm …. rest weeks. In a troubling sign that I'm getting addicted to my running, I find rest weeks frustrating and unfulfilling. I know they are good for me. In fact this last one was definitely beneficial. And, yet, even knowing that I needed to rest, I found it hard. And I only rested for four days really, because I'd slightly extended my previous training cycle to fit around holidays and family.

After completing my back-to-back long runs on Tuesday and Wednesday, I took a break of four days complete rest from any form of cardio exercise. The only training I did in this time was a long overdue weight lifting session on Saturday night.

For the last few training weeks, I've begun to suspect early signs of overtraining. I've felt stiff and my body has felt lethargic. I've felt tired, I've been slightly less focused in daily life, and my mood has been lower. After the break of four days, I'm beginning to feel a lot better. 

As well as resting, I've been looking at other wellbeing areas to help avoid overtraining. 
I've been trying to improve the amount and quality of my sleep. I'm now aiming to switch out my bedside light at 2215 each night. I'm still waking at around 0530-0545 most days, but I give myself the option to go back to sleep. I've definitely noticed that making sure I'm not in front of a computer screen or TV screen for at least an hour before lights-out is beneficial. I've also found that reading a book for at least 15 minutes helps to ensure that I get to sleep straight away. I'm also limiting the amount I drink after 2000 to try to avoid waking in the night to use the toilet.
Another thing I'm experimenting with is that I've started a daily meditation routine. The first thing I do each morning is a simple meditation following my breath. This only lasts for five or six minutes and I'll slowly build up to 10 minutes. I can't always fit this in if I'm on an early run or travelling. I just aim to do this as often as I can.

In other news, my Inov-8 Roclite 295s are beginning to show signs of tearing around the toe box. They've already developed a fairly nasty hole in the inner lining at the heel. I have to tape my heels to avoid developing serious blisters on anything longer than a 5 mile trail run. So, it's time to look into buying yet another new pair of running shoes. I have really enjoyed running in the Roclites. I might even find time to write a 300 mile review of them. But I'm not convinced by their durability, so I might look for another training shoe (and consider buying another pair of the 295s as a race and trail speedwork shoe). Current contenders are the Brooks Cascadia 9 and the Adidas Kanadia 6 (mainly because of its price). I've been looking at the Salomon range. The Fellraiser is a possibility, but I think the tread may be a little too aggressive for the Beacons Ultra. I want to buy a shoe that I could race in if my budget doesn't allow another pair of shoes or if I get on really well with the shoe. 

That was the week that was: 4th to 10th August 

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Evening: 24 mi carb-depletion long trail run
Wednesday - Morning: 15 mile easy road run
Thursday - Rest
Friday - Rest
Saturday - Evening: Weight Lifting
Sunday - Rest

Totals: 39.4 mi, 8:56 min/mi average pace, 1011 m elevation gain, 6:46:41 training time

OK - so from the stats this doesn't really look like a rest week, but I still feel that the four days complete break counts!

Looking ahead

It's back to full training next week. I'm planning a race pace run around my lunchtime short route from work. This is a 4.25 mile run and it's useful as a pacing run to help me work out my training paces. 
I'm going to try to fit in at least one weight lifting session. I realised that it was nearly a month since my last session and I really noticed the difference lifting on Saturday.
My long run this week is going to be a 20 mile trail run based on the local Slaughterford 9 race route.


Back-to-Back Long Runs

I did the second leg of my first set of back-to-back long runs. These seem to be one of the main recommended way of conditioning your body for the extra stresses of running beyond marathon distance.

I don't think I made it easy on myself by doing my first run as a carb-depletion run. I've also noticed that most people make the first run slightly shorter, so that you're starting the longer run slightly fatigued. I can see the sense in this.

Today's run was 15 miles on the local country lanes. I actually felt pretty good while running. I was aware that I was fatigued, but not excessively. I thought it might be more of a struggle, because last night was far from the greatest sleep I've had. I suspect I was still feeling the after effects of the long carb-depletion session. I slept fitfully and woke a few times drenched in sweat.
I just about managed to beat my alarm this morning and immediately tucked into a breakfast protein shake (MyProtein Total Breakfast has been my weapon of choice here). I popped my contact lenses in, filled a couple of 500 ml bottles with electrolyte drink and grabbed a few energy gels. I tucked them all into my lightweight waist pack, grabbed my shoes and Garmin and headed out.

It had been raining through the night, but this morning's weather was clear, nicely warm and I settled into a fairly comfortable rhythm. Once I'd warmed up through the first couple of miles, most of my running was just a little over 8 min/mi pace. I took on gels at 45 min, 65 min and 95 min. I could clearly feel the difference compared to yesterday's run. I felt pretty strong towards the end, so I pushed the pace a bit for the last few miles and picked up to around 7:50 min/mile.

All-in-all, a good run and a nice excuse to grab a big breakfast of Shredded Wheat + a bagel with Marmite. Happy Days!
Now for four days of rest before I start my next four week cycle (three weeks of training + one rest week). I'm probably going to try to do one weight training session at the weekend and maybe some light cycling.


Chasing The Wall

Just done a 24 mile trail run in 3hr 46 min. It was a "fat burning adjusting" run. The idea is to teach your body to burn fat more efficiently when it needs to conserve carbs. I ate a low carb diet today and then didn't take on any extra fuel during the run. It hurt.
I'm not sure the pleasure of Ham & Spinach omelette for breakfast, and sweet chilli mackerel salad for lunch really offset. Nor the prospect of shoving my face full of chilli con carne shortly.
Bonus tip: moving your legs in an ice bath is a masochist's dream.


Training Diary 21st July to 3rd August

We've been on a family holiday with a group of good friends. There were 22 in the party. 12 adults and 10 children. 9 of the children were aged 6 or under. We're lucky that everyone in the group gets along well and helps each other out. Parents regularly look after other children, or help pick up a buggy, or deal with a minor problem. This meant that that it was surprisingly relaxing given the party composition.

We stayed in East Brent on the Somerset levels. I was lucky that I managed to keep up my running. Helena was good enough to help me to fit in a long run. I went out for about 2:45 and covered 17.5 ish miles. Running stats here are more "about" and "ish" than usual, because I made the mistake of pausing my watch at the top of one of my hill climbs while I took some photos. And then I forgot to restart it. I'm not sure how much running distance / time I lost as a result. It was a beautiful run. The weather was perfectly clear and warm. I managed to get up on to the Mendip hills. I had to stop to take photos, because the view out over the levels was fantastic. You could easily pick out Brent Knoll, because it stuck out from the flat countryside like a misplaced camel's hump.

The house we were staying in was at the foot of Brent Knoll. So one of my sessions was a set of hill repeats. It was a tough session. I ran up and down the Knoll 6 times in just under an hour. This came to 535 m of climbing (and the same descent) in 5.3 miles. About a third of the climb was too steep to run. In many ways, this is a much harder intensity than I'll actually need for the Brecon Beacons Ultra. My recce run of the route came up with 838 m of elevation gain in 23 miles.

Back home after the holiday, my weekend running was an easy trail run in the rain and another easy road run. The trail run was notable for being the first really wet run I've done in ages. It's hard to remember when I last got a soaking when I was running. It was nice to remember how much I enjoy running in the rain.

Although it has been good to mix up my training in the last couple of weeks, it has meant that my weekly mileage is a bit reduced. I've managed to 48 miles and 38 miles in the last two weeks. Ideally, I'd be building up to 55+ miles per week now. This last week's mileage is slightly anomalous, because I've tweaked my schedule a bit. This Tuesday, Helena is taking the boys to see her brother and his family. So, I'm planning to do my first back-to-back set of longer runs. I'm going to try to do a 25 mile / 4 hour run, followed by a 15 mile run the next day. If I'd been keeping my schedule to a weekly pattern, this week would be a rest week. I'll leave the rest of the week as total rest with no training at all. Then I'll pick it up again from next week. I think that this should be a good balance. The reduced mileage of the last couple of weeks should also help to minimise any overtraining risks.

That was the week that was: 21st July to 27th July

Monday - Evening: 5.2 mi easy with 3 x striders
Tuesday - Lunchtime: 5 mi easy with 2 x striders
Wednesday - Afternoon: 10.6 mi tempo with 2mi easy warm up, 8 x 0.5 mi @ 6 min/mi + 3 minutes rest, 2 mi easy warm down.
Thursday - Lunchtime: 5 mi easy
Friday - Morning: 5 mi easy trail
Saturday - Rest
Sunday - 17.3 mi hilly long

Totals: 48.3 mi, 8:24 min/mi average pace, 777 m elevation gain, 6:45:22 training time

That was the week that was: 28th July to 3rd August

Monday - Afternoon: 5.2 mi easy with 4 x striders
Tuesday - Evening: 5.2 mi easy
Wednesday - Evening: 8.1 mi hill repeats session with 1.4 mi easy warm up, 6 x 0.9 mi hill climb + descent, 1.4 mi easy warm down
Thursday - Rest
Friday - Morning: 5 mi easy trail
Saturday - Morning: 9.2 mi easy trail
Sunday - Morning: 5.2 mi easy

Totals: 38 mi, 8:34 min/mi average pace, 1012 m elevation gain, 5:24:48 training time