Course profile

Course profile
What lies in wait on 2nd July - The 110k course profile

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Know your course - running 'recces'

Every time I consider the upcoming race, I wonder if I will be able to complete the course. I just don't know, and won't know until the day. So I'm doing everything I possibly can to give myself the best chance. I have my 9 month training plan that I drew up and have stuck to every day since then. I've been wearing the clothes (including shoes and bag) that I'll use on the day.

The main thing I'm able to do is take advantage of the fact that the race is essentially on home turf for me, so I know most of the course already. Everything I've read recommends getting to know your course before an ultra marathon, so you're mentally prepared for what is coming. If I lived the other end of the country I guess I'd have to do this by lots of reading up and checking route plans, but I don't and now both the daylight hours and the time I need to be out running are getting longer I've been using my long weekend runs to check the further flung parts of the course I'm not so familiar with.
Looking forward now to running this bit - the trail along the side of Haweswater
I'm finding this is really working. Even running the bits I knew already has been useful, but adding them to the new bits is giving me a comforting feeling of preparedness. Of course, I still have to run it all regardless but knowing when there's a tough climb coming, or a good easy flowing downhill is going to help stop me worrying and let me concentrate purely on keeping going.

This'll be a chance to take it easy on the day - A lovely gradual, long descent towards Ullswater from Askham Moor
A flat bit of road running up Boredale towards the steep climb out at the end
There's a hidden benefit as well. We've had some good weather recently and all this recce'ing has got me out to new places in the Lakes I've not thought to explore before. It's also good job I'm finding these great new paths and tracks now as I don't know how much I'm going to remember of them on the day ....

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Doing the double!

No, I haven't entered another Ultra marathon (let's just get this one out of the way first). The title of this post refers to an ultra marathon training staple of two long runs back to back over two days. It's not recommended by anyone to run the full length of an ultra in training - although I'm sure there are plenty of experienced old hands who do this sort of thing all the time - but this 'double' is the next best thing. It gives you a proper experience of what it feels like to run on tired legs, but without such a danger of overdoing it or injuring yourself.

So it's something I've factored into my training plan the weekend before my '40% reduction week'. This is another training staple that has you reduce your distance/time by 40% for a week every four weeks, giving your body time to recover and absorb the training you've done. I love 40% reduction week ......

Anyway, the double. I've kept the two of these runs shorter than my individual long run on other weeks, but have made the total of them add up to more. As my maximum long run for a long time was only 3 hours, this meant 'the double' wasn't actually too hard but now I'm stepping my hours up I'm starting to feel it a bit.
Spot the difference - Ill Bell summit on Saturday .....

....and on Sunday. Still not much of a view!
A recent weekend felt like a bit of milestone for this, when I cracked the 3 hour barrier on both Saturday and Sunday. Being a bit short on imagination and not wanting to drive anywhere I did the same run twice, heading out from my house and running to the top of the mysteriously named 'Ill Bell', before turning round and running back down again. It was quite interesting to see the difference a day makes, with Saturday's miserable weather meaning I had the hills to myself and a slight upturn in the weather on Sunday bringing runners and hikers out in some numbers.

The trail leads on along the ridgeline ...

Finally! A view!
 An unforseen benefit to doing this was also that I could compare how I did on the two days - turns out I was actually a whole 2 minutes faster on the second day than the first. Didn't expect that, but I certainly felt quite pleased with myself for it. Another thing I was quite pleased with was how well my legs stood up to it, considering the route was around 16 miles with 3000 ft of ascent and descent.
Coming out of the clouds on the way back down on Sunday
Then I realised that over the two days I'd run almost half of the total distance of the race in 2 1/2 months and wasn't sure how I felt. On the one hand still quite pleased, but on the other suddenly sobered and daunted. As the race gets closer I'm finding I get this particular mix of emotions more and more regularly .....

Saturday, 2 April 2016

(Almost) a marathon on the oldest trail of all

Another week away to visit family saw me running on the Ridgeway again. The last time I was here was back at the end of October and I was looking forward to revisiting the path for what I thought would be a nice easy 5 hour run after my recent outings in the far hillier Lake District.

Described as Britains oldest road, the Ridgeway has been in use for at least 5000 years as a trading route. Running along the edge of high hills which afforded both easier, drier travelling and gave a view of potential attacks it travels for 87 miles from Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon. Luckily, in this modern age I don't have to worry about potential attacks, but I was kind of hoping for some easier and drier travelling. Sounds good!

That's one big field! 
Mostly, I got my wish. I say mostly, because I hadn't reckoned on the wind. I'm used to running in windy weather back home in the Lakes, but at least there the topography means that unless you're right on the tops there are lots of hills and valleys to break the wind up. No such luck on the Ridgeway. Not only does it stick resolutely to the escarpment edge, but the high side is largely made up of vast arable fields with only the occasional scraggy tree to get in the way. I really noticed the lack of drystone walls as well, a popular windbreak in the Lake District ...

So the beginnings of storm Katie continuously blasted my right had side for the first half of my run, only changing when I turned round for the return journey and the left got a go.

Definitely no excuse for walking here ...
I did get the wished for easier conditions underfoot, but even this had unexpected difficulties. When I run at home there are often steep hills to get up, or particularly rough areas of ground to get across. These provide a good excuse to walk for a while, giving me a break from running and an ideal time for a snack and a drink. With nothing like this on the Ridgeway I was left with no option but to keep plugging away for my whole time out, making special stops for food or drink which always felt like I needed to get going again.

Actually, it was quite good to practice this continuous movement. I've read of people who only train in hilly areas having difficulty just keeping going for long periods, but it was still surprisingly hard work.
The fantastically atmospheric entrance to Wayland's Smithy
Overall, I enjoyed the change of scenery along with the chance to revisit some of the neolithic sites dotted along the route such as Wayland's Smithy. It's this capacity of trail running to take you places on days when you wouldn't necessarily chose to go for a walk that can make it so addictive.

In the end, those easier conditions paid off and I was pleased to smash my personal furthest run by covering 24 miles - nigh on a marathon. With the return to the Lake District and those rough, hilly paths this is a distance record I expect to stand for while!