Well, there was a bit of disappointment in not getting a place in the UTMB ballot but I see many people I know had similar bad news so that's life I suppose. It will seem strange missing out on the Chamonix party for the first time in seven years but I've opted not to transfer to the TDS and instead take my guaranteed UTMB place in 2013. I'm thinking about a Plan B and should have something sorted out in a week or two, but the hiatus has prompted me to think a bit about training. I don't normally post about this sort of stuff but I'm interested in what others do so here's my bit for the year.
Anyone who follows my ramblings will remember that I went for a performance assessment back in November, the result of which was that I was advised that I was good at running very slowly, but if I wanted to get better results I was going to have to put a bit of effort in on some faster-paced work. Well, I tried, really I did. I went out and did the tempos and the intervals and whatever, but I just didn't enjoy it. I was perpetually knackered and started to feel I didn't want to go out at all This isn't what running's all about, I told myself, we do it for fun not as a chore. So I went back to my old ways, a few runs here and there as I felt like it, and I turned up for my last two ultras of the year in the Brecons and the Lakes and enjoyed them. I convinced myself that running quickly wasn't really required, for ultras it's time on your feet that counts, that's what everyone says, right?
Then over the Christmas period, people started reviewing their year's efforts, and some of the details were interesting. A lot of runners who don't have my sort of free time to go out for two or three longish outings a week do a lot of shorter faster stuff - and get much better results than I do. Well, they may just be better runners (what do I mean "may"?) but it made me think again. A bit of guilt, maybe. Perhaps I hadn't given it a fair chance. So on the dot of Jan 1st, I started again. This time I was determined not to overdo it, but to make a sensible controlled effort. So for the past four weeks my schedule has been like this:
1. A steady run of 7-10 miles a shade faster than marathon pace (which for me is 8 minute miles)
2. A 40 minute tempo run. I'm averaging 7:15 minute miles now, trying to get this down to 7:00. I find this the hardest session of the week.
3. An interval session, combination of 4, 5, and 6 minute intervals totaling 24/25 minutes now, working up to 30 minutes, 2 minutes recovery between intervals. At present my pace is around 6:40, I'm trying to get this down to 6:30.
4. A steady 5 mile run but doing two sprints (50m and 100m) during each mile, while keeping the overall average pace just below 8:00. I enjoy this one, but it's harder than it sounds.
5. A steady run of 10-15 miles, around or just over marathon pace. Every two weeks I'm allowed to replace this with a longer trail run!
It's needed a bit of persistence, but this time I think I'm getting there. Every fourth week I'm planning to miss out one of the faster sessions to get a bit of a rest, but I'm intending to keep it going for at least twelve weeks to see what effect it has. I got the impression I was missing out a lot of miles so I did some comparisons with last year and found that this isn't necessarily the case. I compared the first four weeks of this year with the four weeks before last year's Highland Fling (excluding the taper week) and the four weeks before the Lakeland 100 (again, not the taper week):
Miles below Miles between Miles over Total Miles
8:00 pace 8:00 and 9:00 9:00 pace
April 2011 25 56 77 158
July 2011 7 27 130 164
Jan 2012 59 41 55 155
So similar miles, just shorter and faster. It should be interesting to see how it goes from here.
A couple of weeks ago I went for 20 miles along one of my local trails. Cold, clear air. Bright low sunlight over frozen ground. Woods, hills, lakes, steps and stiles, rocks and tree roots. Brilliant trip, made you feel great to be alive, I could do this all the time. But it took three and a half hours, average pace ten and a half minute miles, average heart rate 115. And that, I suppose, is the point.