Introductory Note : This blog was written whilst the website was still under development. I think every point in it is still very relevant…apart from the fact that I know the results of the ballot to enter CCC! I’m going to post this as it was written, and then will follow it up at the beginning of next week with news on my luck…and also with my first race report of the year. Currently I’m crossing all my fingers that the snow I’m experiencing here doesn’t move further south, and that the forecasted wind changes direction!
Welcome to 2015 everyone, only 5 months until the Festival, hopefully there weren’t too many indulgences over Christmas, and training stayed on track? For me personally it wasn’t too hard to keep to my schedule, I work from 8am to 5pm during the week, meaning that the majority of my winter training is done in the dark (and the cold, and often the wet!). The Christmas break was a wonderful opportunity to remind myself just what the views were like in daylight. Sometimes it’s something as simple as training at a different time of day that helps to keep the interest up when the weather is “challenging”, and you’d much rather be inside tucking into that third turkey sandwich.
Personally I’m not a big fan of stopping training over the holidays, we all know we’re going to eat and drink more than normal, both in quantity and richness, so stopping at the same time just means a nasty shock come the 1st of January, and that dreaded moment when you step on the scales. At least if you continue training you’re helping keep the weight gain to a minimum, as well as getting some fresh air, and some very quiet trails. Last year I had a short race planned for mid-January to give me a focus, this year I have the Peddars Way Ultra (all 47mi of it) at the end of the month making sure I don’t eat that second bar of chocolate (I’ll admit to eating the first one though!).
That’s not to say I don’t take a break during the year, last year I had two, one enforced by moving house (and not just down the road, but relocating from Hertfordshire to Derbyshire), and the other at the end of the season, taking ten days off after my last race at the beginning of November. I find a short break means I can stop thinking about training schedules, race
entries, kit and the like, and just enjoy a little down time. It also means that I come back mentally refreshed as well as physically, and raring to start running again (although I’m rarely as eager to start back on my strength and conditioning training…). Obviously everyone’s schedule of races will vary, and therefore the break may fall at a different time, but it’s definitely something I’d recommend.
So, training for my first ultra of the year. I work to a schedule composed by my coach Stuart Mills, arrived at through discussions on feel, planned races etc. The schedule itself is very flexible, with between one and three key sessions that have to be completed each week (one of those is always ‘The Long Run’), the rest of the time I just run, distance and time to
suit myself, although I rarely push too hard. I’ve just finished reading 80:20 by Matt Fitzgerald, which goes into great detail (complete with evidence) regarding how too many amateur athletes train too little and too hard – their easy runs are too hard and their hard runs are too easy, leading to stagnation and injury. I can highly recommend the book to any endurance athlete.
The two holiday weeks went almost to plan, we had the first heavy snowfall of the year on Boxing Day. This meant two wonderful days running in fresh snow on the trails, then three days of no running as a mixture of sunshine and dampness during the day, and hard frosts at night, had turned everywhere into sheet ice. Much as I wanted to run I didn’t think breaking a bone or three would help long term aims. Instead my fiancée and I headed out with some basic walking crampons and enjoyed exploring the local area, a slower pace admittedly, but it was still better than sitting indoors moaning! I think that’s an important thing to consider – if you’re training plans hit a snag (and for me it can often be a 12 hour plus day on the road, or staying overnight miles away) then don’t panic, just look for something you can do instead, whether it be a walk, a gym visit – even just ten minutes of stretching and basic strength and conditioning work will help.
Talking of long term aims, whilst I’m definitely not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions with their vague aims and lack of thought or planning (“I want to lose weight this year” – okay, how? What are you going to do? Or “I want to get fitter” – in what way, why, how?) I do think it’s a good idea to think about the year ahead, to plan something (and put it in writing). This has
a number of advantages – firstly, it enables you to organise places to stay, time off work etc well in advance. It gives you a focus for your training schedule, periods of heavy training, races, periods of recovery will all fall into place. Also, it can help you prioritise races, as more and more are added to the calendar it’s very easy to get carried away with entries, then suddenly realise that you’ve double booked yourself. Also, as endurance racing becomes more popular it gives you a chance to be ready for entries to open – you only have to look at how quickly some events sell out to realise that you need to have a plan in mind. I tend to find that my planning starts just after my last race of the year, as that often ties in with the bigger races opening their doors ready for the following year.
As I write this I have some of next year planned and entered, although the second half is still not fixed. Due to some family commitments I’ve unfortunately had to drop out of the Centurion South Downs Way 50 in April, a real shame as it’s a course I love, but sometimes you just have to accept that things don’t always go to plan. My current schedule is as
January : Peddars Way Ultra (47 miles)
May : KMF Ultra (50km)
June : Ultimate Trails Lakeland Ultra (110km)
Then, hopefully, in August I’ll be in CCC, one of the sister races to the epic UTMB event – the ballot results are published 16th January, and I have my fingers crossed! There’s now a big gap at the beginning of April, but I intend to fill that with a week of camping in the Lake District, covering lots of miles as I recce the courses for the two races I have entered.
In my next blog I’ll look at the different events that I have planned, why I chose them, how I’m hoping they’ll go etc. I should also have news as to whether I’m off to Chamonix in August!