Welcome to this blog where you can follow my progress as I prepare myself to compete in ultra trail races. The goal is to be able to register for the Ultra – Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) in 2020. The race I am targeting is the 101 Km CCC race (about 6,100 m height gain) which starts in Courmayeur, Italy, enters Switzerland and finishes in Chamonix, France.
These posts will outline my training, equipment choices and reports on the qualifying races. I intend to start the campaign with two trail marathons in the spring / summer to acclimatise myself and increase the distance to two 55 mile ultras during the autumn / winter. The first marathon is the Winchcome Cross Trail Marathon in Gloucestershire and this will be followed in July with the Snowdon Trail Marathon in Snowdonia. In September I head to Devon for the Inov8 Exmoor Ultra and finally the Brecon Beacons Ultra in November.
A little bit about myself. I am just your average guy in his mid-50s and a father of two daughters with the usual hectic work / lifestyle balance. I run a coaching business alongside managing a flock of sheep. I keep myself relatively fit and have competed in various longer distance endurance events over the years, so have a relatively good base layer of fitness.
I am a great believer in strength and conditioning and do 2 x 1 hour sessions a week. If I need to drop a training session due to work / family commitments, I will always prioritise my S&C sessions. Core strength is so important for injury prevention.
I complete two run sessions a week a short tempo run and a long endurance run. The distances slowly increase as the weeks go by and I try to keep to trails. The short tempo run I work hard but the long run is always aerobic and easy. The majority of my long runs are between 8 – 14 miles with a couple of longer ones in a 10 week period. The risk of injury increases as the mileage increases so I am careful not to hammer my legs. I try to replicate the terrain of the race so for the Snowdon Trail marathon my long training runs will take me to the Brecon Beacons to acclimatise to the long ascents and technical descents.
I try to swim twice a week (I am swimming the Dart 10 Km in September) and I sometimes change one of my run sessions and get on the bike instead, to save my legs.
Being consistent with your training with no down-time due to injury is so important and I spent time during the winter creating a good base fitness through strength and conditioning while slowly increasing the mileage of my training runs. The only setback I’ve had was when my lower back went into spasm but this was not due to running but spending a month lambing my flock of ewes! I managed to get the back treated quickly and only missed 5 days training.
I have at least one rest day per week and try to get 7 – 8 hours sleep a night. I listened to a podcast recently and it mentioned that muscles get stronger when at rest and recovering; they are weak when under stress during exercise…..so true.
I have been a fan of Hoka run shoes and they have served me well up to half marathon distance, however, beyond that distance the soles of my feet would become painful. I have a wide foot and been aware that the shoes were a snug fit and realised I would need to get a wider fitting shoe if my feet were going to be comfortable over longer distances. I am using Brooks trail shoes with their wider toe box and my feet are now fine.
I decided to invest in a running vest and after some research went for the Inov8 Race Ultra Pro 2-in-1. I’ve been really impressed with it. Very comfortable to wear, light, lots of pockets to store kit, does not move around and the position of the water bottles are perfect.
Nutrition and hydration is also important for long endurance races and over the years I have used many different brands of energy drinks and gels but have reservations about whether I could consume these over a long period of time like the CCC. Recently I was introduced to Tailwind, a non sticky, all-in-one race nutrition powder that you mix with water. It tastes delicious, is easy on the stomach and you can use it as your sole fuel source over distances such as ultras. I will report back after a couple of races but on my 20 mile training run the powder did the job and I felt comfortable and recovered well. I think I will still take something solid that I can eat every 4 hours as a treat but I believe this powder is all the you require.
The Winchcombe Cross marathon is a couple of weeks away and I will post a report shortly after the race.
If you have any questions or would like help with your training, contact firstname.lastname@example.org (www.inbalancecoaching.co.uk)