Course profile

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

Thursday, 21 January 2016

A question of pace

As I start to run further and for longer, my thoughts are turning more to pacing. This is something of an Achilles heel for me. My running in the past, mainly when I was a lot younger, consisted of nothing longer than 10 miles tackled with the tactic of 'go as fast as I can'.

This always used to work fine and I used to do quite well in races, but it just won't do if you're expecting to run 68 miles. I had a bit of a taste of what getting your pacing wrong can do to you when I took part in the 2010 Langdale Half marathon, setting off way too fast and struggling desperately in the last few miles.

If I get it wrong for the Ultra marathon though, there won't be just a last few miles to struggle through, I could potentially ruin my chances of finishing at all - the dreaded 'DNF' (did not finish) and the thing I fear most. So how do you keep going for hours on end? I'm up to 3 hours now so while I still don't really know the answer to this, I'm getting a few inklings .....

It's ok to walk

Time for a walk ....
I've always viewed walking up hills as a sign of weakness, but it's actually suprisingly common in trail running, especially for longer distances. Some people adopt a tactic of regular walking (say 5 minutes every half hour), some walk all the uphills. The most important thing is not to feel like you've failed if you do so. A long race is as much in the head as anything so having an acceptance of this beforehand makes it easier to give yourself a break. I'm not sure of my tactic yet, but I've already done plenty of walking ...

Keep eating and drinking

Should see me through for 3 hours ....
I've seen it suggested that you can only go for 10 miles before you need to replenish your energy reserves by eating something. I'm not sure it's that exact, but it's certainly important to keep taking food and liquids in. Apparently this is something that lots of runners find difficult, but I'm pleased to report I've not had any problems yet. I think I had good training working on an upland footpath team where every lunch break was follow by strenuous physical activity .... I'm also starting to take quite a lot of food out with me already, if it carries on like this I'll need a cool bag!

Enjoy it!

Time for a break to admire the view!
Seems obvious doesn't it? But it's a bit of a revelation to me with my road running background, where it was all about covering certain distances quicker than last time. Enjoyment wasn't really part of it. Now when I head out, I often don't know exactly where I'm going and this sense of anticipation and exploration gives quite a boost. I'm also not afraid to stop if I see something interesting or want to admire the view. It all goes towards making running about more than getting from A to B as quick as possible. We've got cars for that.

I'll need to keep remembering these simple lessons over the coming months. It'll become even more important by the end of February when I'll need to start ramping up my time on my feet ....

Sunday, 10 January 2016

The benefits of winter

Although the winter has been mostly wet and mild so far, there has been the occasional day where it's dropped below zero.Chilly stuff and something that makes it even harder to leave the nice warm house for a training run. It's especially tricky deciding how many clothes to wear. There's a running adage of 'be bold, start cold' to encourage you to not overdress and end up too hot and sweaty, but as I run with a small backpack (all part of the training) I can get away with a few extra layers and take some off as I go.

A winter landscape to draw you on - not seen this much though .....
But some proper cold winter weather can have some benefits. Scenically, I'm especially fortunate living in the Lake District where a cold clear day after some overnight snow can give a run a very pleasing alpine element and make everything feel just that bit more intrepid and adventurous. As long as that snow and ice doesn't come down too low that is - I'm quite happy looking at it from a distance but I don't fancy running on it too much.

A much more familiar sight this winter - wet feet ahoy!
Which sort of leads me on to an admission. I'm not a massive fan of winter so I can't really think of many other benefits, I'm mostly trying to convince myself here. But there is one more: Get out quickly for a good run on a cold morning and there's few things more pleasing than returning home with a good appetite and whipping up a good cooked breakfast/lunch. Or brunch if you will. There's still plenty of winter left yet so I'm looking forward to lots more of these - Well, I am in training ....

Well earned!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

End of year report!

Happy new year to everyone out there! Now it's 2016 I'm faced with the reality that the ultramarathon is this year, not next year any more. Scary.

So I've been in training now for 3 months, one third of the way through (also scary). With the start of the new year it seems a good time to take stock of how I'm doing. First things first:


Hard to say, but I think I'm holding up ok. I've been lucky enough to not suffer any injuries so far, except for a niggling pain in the bottom of my left foot. Reading up, it may or may not be related to Plantar fasciitis which is a well known, much dreaded and little understood problem. There's an almost endless amount of advice and doom and gloom about it on the internet, so I've decided to deal with it by listening to my body and taking it easy when necessary. Luckily, the time it's worse is if I'm running hard up a steep hill and as a common Ultra technique is to walk up the hills then going easy on my foot fits very nicely with my training. It's not got any worse since I first noticed it about 6 weeks ago, so this seems to be working.

The upper reaches of the Garburn Pass

Looking down into Kentmere, the trail visible ahead.
Apart from that, I've now built up to the stage where I need to maintain a level for a few months before building up again to the actual event. So I've reached my current maximum level of a 3 hour long run at the weekend, something I did for the first time today by running a chunk of the early part of the event's course over Garburn Pass and back. Being both the furthest distance and the longest time I've ever run it was nice to start the new year with this milestone although I'll admit to being quite knackered after it. I'm mainly trying to avoid thinking about how to complete the Ultra I'll need to do that about 5 times. Which leads onto:


My summary on this blog gives the main reason I'm doing this, which is a big incentive. Apart from that though I think the main thing I'm now struggling with is getting to grips with just how far 68 miles is. After this morning's exertions for 3 hours it's taking quite a lot of faith to convince myself that in 6 months time I'll be up to doing that another 5 times.

I've just read another American Ultra runner's book, Dean Karnazes, where he describes going stiff as a plank in absolute agony with cramps inside his car after his first 50 mile race and projectile vomiting all over the inside of it. I don't fancy that much and it's stories like that that can play on your mind a little.

Having said that, heading up towards the Nan Bield pass today felt exciting and adventurous and a bit like my first taste of what running for such a long time will be like. It was a feeling of freedom and ability that I've not experienced before and while it didn't last long it was something I'm looking forward to getting more of, which will get me through the coming months.

Tempting! The trail beckons, heading up the Kentmere valley towards Nan Bield 
Then there's:


Unexpectedly, the thing that's really got me out every day is a spreadsheet. When I signed up for this run, the first thing I did was work out an entire training schedule from that day to the race . I based it on a short 'you can run an ultra' article in Trail Running magazine and some internet research. I fill in what I've done every day against this and the longer I do it, the more difficult it becomes to not do it. It's an unexpectedly compelling trainer ...


Less to say about this really. I've still got the same gear I had when I posted about buying some new shoes, except I've now sold the new shoes as I didn't like them after all. I think they may have contributed towards the mysterious foot pain. Might buy more socks soon, but I have bought another pair of shoes - exactly the same as my first pair .....


Hmmm .... Not much to say here either. I probably need to start taking this sort of thing seriously, but so far have found that Christmas cake and Cadbury's Brunch bars go down well and I don't seem to be having any difficulty eating whilst running. Quite pleased about that.

Time to turn back! That's as far as I got up the valley today - further next week?

So, overall I think I'm progressing ok. Today was a bit of an eye opener for sure, but if I stick to my schedule, keep eating cake and try to avoid any more uncomfortable shoes I have to believe I'll be lining up on 1st July ....