Training Diary: 15th to 21st September

Achievement unlocked: My first 70+ mile week.

Can I tell you a little secret? I'm finding my training quite hard at the moment. I'm not really getting the same thrill and excitement out of my running. At times, it's beginning to feel almost like a chore.

The irony is that I should be really excited about my running this week. I was, once again, travelling for work. I had a long drive to Birmingham on Monday and an overnight stay in London around a two day conference on Wednesday and Thursday. In spite of this travel, I still managed to cover 72.6 miles of total running.


Training Diary: 8th to 14th September

This week marked the start of probably my toughest three week cycle. I'm increasing my weekly mileage significantly. This week I covered a total of 67 miles. As the time running increases, it becomes harder and harder to fit in the strength and conditioning sessions that I know would really help me. It's a fine balance to strike, but I think that the overall strategy of focusing on longer miles is probably right.

Increasingly, I'm finding my life dominated by running, or thoughts and plans about running. I'm entering a busier phase with my job at work, because people are back from their summer holidays, so there are more meetings and conferences to attend. This week I was in Aberystwyth for a day and in Bristol for a day. This means a lot of time travelling in the car or on the train and so I find I'm really focusing on working out how to balance getting the right level of training without totally neglecting my family. It's tough.


Training Diary: 1st to 7th September

Ah, rest weeks, what an emotional roller coaster you are. Relief, guilt, withdrawal, anticipation. But, you are necessary. If I didn't have you, I'd get totally fatigued, probably injured and certainly wouldn't achieve my potential.

So, not much running to report this week. But an awful lot of other stuff kept me busy, so it probably worked out well that I had a rest week scheduled.


Training Diary: 25th to 31st August

Over the last year, I've been training to a plan based around a few key principles:
1) Run frequently - I aim to run six days a week.
2) Limit hard, also referred to as "quality", training to two sessions per week - these are typically a long run and some form of interval training.
3) Keep the pace easy between hard sessions - I typically aim to run around 1:15 - 1:30 min/mi slower than my Marathon Pace in easy running.

This programme has worked really well for me. This year I've achieved personal bests at 10k and Half Marathon. I've also completed my first Full Marathon and it was in a good time of 3:00:19.

As I build up my training for my first ultra marathon, I'm sticking to essentially the same training plan. One major difference is that I'm going to try to run some back-to-back long runs to get used to running with fatigue. Otherwise, I'm broadly sticking to the same strategy. My feeling is that interval training is still valuable even for an ultra marathon. I believe the interval training increases my physical fitness and that this helps with the greater overall endurance requirements. I'm also sure that it improves my mental toughness, running form and running economy. Of these, I think the mental toughness aspect is interesting. I'm hoping that being able to push myself to run a hard interval in a tough training session will help to give me the mental strength to push up a hill later in the ultra distance.

I am trying to keep my intervals relatively specific for the ultra distance, so my interval sessions are based around two patterns:
1) Long, steady-pace intervals - e.g. 2 miles warm up, 8 miles at marathon pace, 2 miles warm down.
2) Shorter, harder intervals - e.g. 2 miles warm up, 8 reps of 3 mins at 6:10 min/mi pace + 3 mins rest, 2 miles warm down.
The key for the second type of interval training is to really keep the rest phases easy. I often walk for the first minute to get my heart rate back down. The critical point is that you are doing the training work in the interval, so you really do need to use the rest periods to recover for a full effort.

The reason for talking about intervals is because last week I had to tweak my training plan to fit around work and social commitments. I couldn't find an appropriate time for a long (i.e. at least 3 hours) run. I wanted to still reach around 60 miles total for the week. So, I did several medium length runs of between 10 and 13 miles. To keep the quality up, I did two interval sessions.
Frustratingly, I didn't manage to include any strength or conditioning training. This is still the aspect of my training that I'm finding it most difficult to include. It's disappointing, because I feel that my running has definitely improved when I have managed to incorporate consistent strength training, especially heavy squats and deadlifts.

Last week included a bank holiday Monday, with typically wet English bank holiday weather. We had friends round and did an indoor "barbecue". Helena had to work an early shift on the Monday and then a late shift on the Tuesday. My parents visited Tuesday and Wednesday. I had a client meeting in Birmingham on Thursday. And we had a family weekend in Ellesmere, Shropshire, so we travelled up during the day on Friday to return Sunday evening.

Around all of this I managed to fit in a really pleasing long steady tempo run on the Tuesday evening, while my parents kindly looked after the boys. I did 8 miles at around 6:40 min/mi. With a warm up and warm down it was a bit under 13 miles of running. Although I was aware that I was pushing, it felt like a comfortable enough run.
My other interval session was the shorter interval session described above. I ran along the canal tow path in Ellesmere. This is a regular route for me when we have the family weekends in Ellesmere. I love running along the canal because it is generally really well surfaced and it passes through quite a variety of scenery. There are some wooded parts with my favourite type of gnarly, rooty woodland trail and then there are bits through more open fields. There are very few, if any, built-up areas, so it is very peaceful and scenic. It also has the advantage of being flat, so tempo runs are easier to judge.

The family weekend is a "working weekend" featuring various manual labour tasks in the grounds of a large manor house. There's usually plenty of digging, chopping, wheel-barrowing, bonfire tending, and lifting to do. If my rounds of golf last week counted as extra exercise, the working weekend definitely counted. I've certainly earned my forthcoming rest week with 60 miles of running and two hard days of physical work.

That was the week that was: 25th to 31st August

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Afternoon: Tempo Run 12.6 mi with 8 mi at roughly 6:40 min/mi pace
Wednesday - Afternoon: Easy run home from work + extra 9.6 mi
Thursday - Morning: Easy run to work 4.4 mi
Friday - Morning: Easy 10 mi
Saturday - Evening: Easy trail run 11.8 mi
Sunday - Morning: Short Intervals 12 mi with 8 x 3 min at 6:10 min/mi pace + 3 min rest

Totals: 60.3 mi, 7:55 min/mi average pace, 475 m elevation gain, 7:55:27 total training time