Monday, 26 July 2010

Lakeland 100 - Quick Update

Hi All

Just in case you haven't seen the results of the Lakeland 100 race last weekend Lakeland 100 results here is a quick update.  The race was an absolutely awesome event.  It was a great course, extremely well organised, and with a fantastic atmosphere the entire weekend, one couldn't ask for more.

Having recced the course I knew it was going to be tough, but with loads of recent rain, it made it even harder.  Luckily the rain held off during the race until I reached around Ambleside, so only around 16 miles to go.  I adopted my usual fast start and managed to stay in the lead the entire way to win in 24 hours and 10 minutes.  Second place was Andy Mouncey in 25 hours and 37 minutes, closely followed by Duncan Harris, 25:56.  First women was Britta Sendlhofer in 32:19. 

I am now enjoying a relaxing holiday with my family in the Lakes District for a few days, so I hope to put a few words together for a Lakeland 100 race report maybe this weekend.  Although with the race distance being 103 miles I have a funny feeling the race report may well be an equally tough ultra duration!

If you are looking for an ultra race to do next year, I would strongly recommend the Lakeland 100 or Lakeland 50 (won in record time by Andrew James, 7:46, from Jon Morgan 7:53 and Marcus Scotney 8:26.  first women was Sarah Rowell in 9:58).

All the best with your running as I take a few well earned days rest.


Saturday, 17 July 2010

Final Preparation for the Lakeland 100

Hi, welcome back.

Before I focus on the Lakeland 100 which takes place in exactly seven days time, I will just expand upon one or two aspects I raised in my post last week.  Thanks for the comments that have been left.  It is nice to know that my blog is being read and is getting people to think about their approach to ultra trail running.

With regards to what training is appropriate?  As mentioned last week it relates to the question "What is it that determines the pace I run at during an ultra race?"  I answered this with "I have concluded that it is my mental state during the race that largely determines the pace." With this making direct reference to my "What Determines Performance in Ultra Running? - Part Two" post where I listed those factors that may cause me to get into a negative state of mind.

Looking at these factors, getting the fueling and hydration correct is more trial and error, and gaining experience with what suits you in terms of how much and of what type of fuel/liquid works.  Reducing muscle damage I believe, with some support from the research literature, is related to running economy, rhythm and technique.  Hence why I put so much emphasis on easy paced training.  However, hopefully you took note that I only stated "For the vast majority of your runs, do not train hard!"  As stated within the comments left last week, there is a need to train hard sometimes, although I feel this need is more important for the mental state of mind reason, rather than the physiological fitness reason, as it is your state of mind that causes you to slow down during an ultra race!

In order to run well during an ultra, you must be able to 'handle' the effects of running beyond the usual demands you place on yourself.  These demands may originate as a physical demand, but it is the mental demand that causes you to slow down.  Therefore the need to train hard on occasions is to condition yourself to respond with a positive mental state to the extreme physical demands you are placing on yourself.  William, within the comments of my last post, refers to it as
" in ultras we have to learn to suffer, often for extended periods of time. Luckily for us the ability to suffer is trainable. To practice suffering in training you have to do some hard running and on a regular basis unless you are happy to just coast in races." 

I tend not to use words such as "suffer", as I find it creates a negative state of mind.  I would rather refer to it as "to perform well in ultras we have to learn to experience the pushing of both the body and mind beyond its usual demands.  To learn to experience the joy of running to one's mental and physical limits."  To practice this, it is therefore necessary on occasions to train hard, although, one if they chose to could simply use each race as opportunity to practice this.  After all, actual racing is the best form of training.  This joy of running to one's limits will usually last for a lengthy period of time during an ultra race, so is training hard for 2 minute or even 15 minute repetitions really that appropriate?  It is extended periods of 'joy' that are needed, which are therefore very physically demanding, hence why it is important to do this form of training, or racing, occasionally, in order to remain positive and to avoid over-training.

I think I will leave it there, as I feel like I am going around a bit in circles.  I think my mind is to pre-occupied thinking about next weeks race.

So, now less than seven days to go.  The key thing for me over these last seven days is for me to have total belief in that the preparation I have carried out will allow me to run at the pace I choose to run at.  As mentioned in my Performance Post - Part 2, this deep and inner belief is so important:

"Staying confident in that your preparation has been sufficient for the realistic goal you have set yourself, and feel assured that the fast, but comfortable pace you have started at, is correct. Listen to your own 'deep and inner beliefs', and ignore the comments, views and actions of others if they are in conflict with your well thought out and planned strategies."

So how does one develop this confidence and inner belief?  This is a really difficult question.  Apart from stating that it is something that comes with one's experiences of running/racing, I don't have an answer.  Luckily for me, I have over 32 years of running/racing experiences to help me develop this important confidence/belief.

Much of my preparation consists of looking back at my racing, especially my races in marathons and ultras.  Next weeks race will be my FIFTIETH race of marathon or ultra distance!  Yes, from my first ever marathon at the age of 17, next week will be marthon/ultra race number FIFTY!!!  It is reflecting on these 49 races which I use as part of my pre-race preparation for the Lakeland 100 to develop this absolute total belief that my preparation is right for my well thought out and planned strategies.

Just incase some of you may be interested in my previous 49 marathon/ultra races, here is the complete list!

If you wish to view the list within an excel file click this link. Excel file for list of marathons/ultras

I don't think I will expand upon any of my comments for these races now, otherwise I will be here all night!

Time to sign off with another quote:

"The importance of reflecting upon previous race performances can not be over emphasised.  Reflection is essential in the development of a 'total belief' in ones preparation.  This 'total belief' will significantly enhance the level of performance during ultra running, as it helps tremendously to remain within a positive state of mind."  Stuart Mills, 2010.

Hope to meet many of you next week at the Lakeland 100/50.

To those of you racing next week, all the best with your final preparations,


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

What Training is Appropriate?


The other day I read John K's post on his six month training review, and along with presenting data on his training he made the following comment:

The big question I have as I look back over the mileage is whether I should do more or less or stay the same for next year?

I don't know many other ultra's runners mileage but in conversation with a few people I know some do a lot less than me and did better this year. Both Gavin (20:00:08) and Dave (20:20:59) did considerably less mileage than I did and yet ran really well on the day. I know Stuart Mills is also a fan of less mileage.

But there are others like Richie (whw winner), Marco (5th) and Thomas (6th) who do quite a bit more than me including a few back to back long runs. So should I be thinking of doing more mileage, expecially in January - March?

Maybe it's not just overall mileage but how you do it that matters.
What is the answer?  Is his monthly average of 202 miles per month, or 47 miles per week the optimal amount of mileage to run.  But what about the pace of the run, or the type of run e.g. intervals, hill work etc?

In my post titled  "What Determines Performance in Ultra Running? - Part Two" I concluded "In order to address what training is appropriate, one must first consider what limits performance!" and listed what I considered limits performance in ultra running. 

Before I expand upon some of the ideas introduced within that post I thought I would produce a 6 month training summary similar to John K's

Firstly, looking at my training this year compared to the previous three years.  Without really noticing it I have run significantly more miles this year.  With the main aim of the year being the Lakeland 100, I felt it important to recce the course, so in those three days I ran 114 miles. (I have never done anything like this before, i.e. three long runs in three consecutive days, but it was my only opportunity to recce the course, so it just had to be done!)  I also ran 44 miles along the Wealde Way to complete my running of the entire route.  This was something I had been wanting to do since I moved down to East Sussex eight years, as the Wealde Way passes right in front of my door.  With there being an eight week gap between racing the Hardmoors 55 and the Marlborouh 33, it just fitted in nicely.  Apart from these two long trail routes, I have carried out my physical training pretty well the same as the three previous years, but I guess with a focus of trying to only typically have one day off a week, rather than my usual two days rest per week.   The reason for the one less day rest?  Probably the main reason was to try to loose a bit of weight, as weight is such an important determinant of running economy, which is what I consider to be the key physiological factor that influences ultra running performance.  My weight has dropped a wee bit, but it just doesn't fall off me like it used to when I was younger!

How much mileage should one do, and at what pace etc?  To answer this, one has to look at what are the effects of the training, and how does this relate to ultra running performance.  Surprisingly there is pretty well ZERO research that will confirm what type of training is best to increase VO2 max, or to increase lactate/anaerobic threshold/breakpoint. (Refer to some of my earlier posts for explanations of these terms).  Logically you would think the harder you train, the more likely these two variables will increase.  I agree with this logic.  But whether to do long distance runs, short reps, threshold runs, hills etc., science wont provide you with the answer.  I guess this is why it is often said that "coaching is an art not a science".  The coach and the athlete will discovery the result by trial and error!

So you may be asking the question then why did I conclude in my "What Determines Performance in Ultra Running? - Part Two" post with the following statement:

"To run faster in ultra trail races, train slower! Your training pace should enable your running to be relaxed, smooth, flowing, cruisey, and in total rhythm, with positivity and joy. For the vast majority of your runs, do not train hard!"

This is because ultra running performance is influenced substantially more by running economy, NOT lactate threshold or VO2 max, so why bother training these aspects.  Surely it is much wiser to train to improve your running economy, and to do this, DO NOT TRAIN HARD!!!

Although there isn't any strong scientific evidence, it is suggested that you are most efficient at the running speed at which you train the most often at.  So if you do most of your training at around 7:30 - 8:00 minute mile pace (which is probably the pace at which I do the majority of my runs at, although quite often slower, especially my semi-long Saturday morning runs with my training partner Kev), then I will become more efficient, more economical at this running speed.  Not only will I consume less oxygen at this speed, I will have a smoother style, be more relaxed and in rhythm, which will reduce the amount of muscle damage I will experience during racing.  And this muscle damage is an extremely important factor in ultra running.

Having given alot of thought to what physical factors influence ultra running performance, I am confident and comfortable with my conclusions.  When I ran trail marathons as my key focus, I used to do mile reps, threshold runs etc. as the intensity in a marathon is so much higher, right on the lactate threshold/turnpoint, so it was important to try to improve this physiological component, as well as VO2max.  But for ultra running, are they important?  I think not, so training these aspects one could conclude as a waste of time!  Although, it is important to recognise that while doing this form of training it is often really enjoyable, often carried out with fellow runners, maybe a club night, followed by a chat a drink.  So in this respect, it isn't a waste of time, in some ways the enjoyment from the training is more important than the enjoyment from racing, as you spend more time training.  But if we look at the training solely for the training benefit, then probably my 'waste of time' conclusion is appropriate.

Looking at the winning time in the recent Western States 100 miler.  Sure there are some hills which will slow the runners down, but the overall course drops many metres.  This year it has been reported that it was the strongest field of ultra trail runners ever assembled.  What was the winner's average mile pace, in a record time???  9 minutes and 04 seconds!  So why bother training at 6 minute mile pace, or even 7 minute mile pace, and that is for the winner!  Look at what average mile pace you are going to run at, 10 mins per mile, or 12 mins per mile, maybe 15 mins, or 18 mins per mile.  So is training at 8 minutes per mile that beneficial???

The question that I have asked myself is; what is it that determines the pace I run at during an ultra race?  And I have concluded that it is my mental state during the race that largely determines the pace.  The other advantage at not training at a hard intensity, is that it helps immensely in developing a positive mental state.  I am never in a state of over-trained.  I don't get that stale feeling.  I don't begin to think of running as 'homework', i.e. that same sort of feeling, something like when your parents and teachers told you that it is beneficial for you, but you don't really enjoy doing it!  You might do it first thing in the morning, so you can get it out of the way, and relax and enjoy the rest of the day.  As if running is like taking 'medicine'!  You believe it will be good for you, but you don't really like taking it!

The ONE MASSIVE factor in my philosophy on ultra running training is that I have TOTAL, absolute TOTAL belief it what I am doing is right for me.  This 'take it easy' training approach will only work if you believe 'deep inside' that it right!  If you don't have this total belief, then when you start getting tired during an ultra race, then it will become so easy to accept that you should be tired, and you must run slower because you haven't trained hard enough.  Pretty well everyone believes in the work hard, train hard and this will produce the results, bring you the rewards.  But hey, just because the majority of people believe in something, it doesn't mean it is true.  What is important is what you believe in!  And it is this belief, this mental approach which largely determines ultra performance.  Yes, physical performance does play quite a substantial role, therefore I have given my physical training some serious thought, in order to perform at my best. 

My conclusion probably differs to most other ultra runners.  Will it work for me for the Lakeland 100 miler?  Well only two and a half weeks to wait to find out.  I can't wait!!!

Time to sign off with another Millsy quote:  "Never assume the majority view is correct. Always question, consider the evidence, and come to your own conclusions.  Don't be afraid to differ!" Stuart Mills, 2010.

All the best with your training,