Hungry, tired, sick.
These are the feelings I associate with a good morning training session. My preference is to train on empty, before having breakfast. So, given the pre-amble of yoga, coffee and reading the news before heading out, this can lead to breakfast not occurring until a good 2-4 hours after getting up. Inevitably I’m often left feeling ravenous, in need of a good gulp of water, and often a little bit queasy.
It’s been a while since I last experienced these feelings, but they returned this week, and are now here to stay.
Lavaredo Ultra Trail - 15 weeks to go
Whilst I’ve maintained a good base of fitness through winter through a combination of running (3-4 hours per week), cycling (50-100 miles per week), hill walking and winter climbing, I haven’t been in a training mindset.
It’s all to easy to get into the habit of just going for a run, to go out and run 4-10 miles at a reasonably comfortable pace. If you’re like me and intrinsically find pleasure in the activity of running, it’s enjoyable, you still get fresh air and headspace and come back with the warm rush of endorphins. These runs shouldn’t be dismissed - they have an important role to play in ensuring daily life feels wholesome and well-balanced, and help to maintain a good base level of fitness.
After all, training is an end in its own right, not just a means to the end of a race.
But now with only 16 weeks to go before the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, a 120km trail race in the Dolomites, these types of easy runs can’t come at the cost of targeted training sessions.
Foundations of effective training
I ran my first marathon in 2012, and since then have run a fair few more, as well as a handful of ultras and the Bob Graham Round. I enjoy reading about training principles, and am always keen to hear from those better versed in the science that makes up an effective regime. That said, I try not to get too bogged down in the fine details of any training plan, in splitting hairs over the optimum length of intervals, hill gradient or heart rate zone each session is focusing on. At the level I (and the majority of most other runners) am at, I don’t believe obsessing over details pays off; this time would be better spent going out for a run or training in some other way.
With this in mind, I try to keep the foundations simple, and complement two to five ‘just going for a run’ type easier runs with these three ‘key sessions’:
Adapting for Lavaredo
This is the same as what I’d do for a road marathon, so how can it be adapted for the the 120km of trails in the Lavaredo Ultra?
Strength & Conditioning
If you’re like me and love running, it’s easy to neglect other physical activities that are not running. Even if we know that they complement our running, that they will make us less injury-prone, improve our form and, most importantly, mean that we look slightly less gimpy when photographed 100km into the race, we’ll probably still go for another run instead, if given the choice.
With this predisposition in mind, I’ll try to add at least 2 strength sessions per week to my training, consisting of:
In order to have the greatest possible chance of doing well in a race, I think it’s important to get all of the non-running bit sorted as early on as possible too, to allow you to focus on the running and so that you don’t have any last-minute worries. In practice, this means:
The Lavaredo Ultra Trail takes place on June 26th, starting in Cortina d’Ampezzo. The race sees approximately 1,800 runners attempt to cover 120km around the Dolomites, with over 5,800m of elevation gain. For more information, see here: https://ultratrail.it/en/
With a month of 2020 already in the bag, this post is a touch belated. It’s given me time to reflect more on 2019, and establish realistic objectives for this year.
Setting objectives is important to me. I believe it acts as a spur to do more, to push further, to hold yourself to account.I also firmly believe that telling others about your goals, and getting people on board to help you achieve them, acts like a commitment device, and makes you more likely to succeed.
Reviewing my 2019 resolutions, whilst I’m happy that I achieved most of what I set out to do (6 out of 7- for the record, here they are: https://louiswaterman-evans.com/blog/blog/louis-waterman-evans-launch/ ), I’m disappointed that I didn’t come anywhere near to achieving my main running resolution, which was:
Run at least once per week with a club to nudge my marathon PB closer to 2:30
Here’s why I think it didn’t happen:
1. I was injured for most of the months I was in the city at the beginning of the year.
2. I had very little routine, and my time spent in the city was limited, reducing opportunities to train with a club.
3. I prioritised climbing and getting out into the mountains over road running.
Thinking about it deeper, I don’t think it was ever realistic to achieve this one. My chosen lifestyle over the past 18 months has been to work intensively during the summer months as a hiking guide, and have no fixed routine in the winter months. Improving road running performance seems to lend itself to routine, slotting in alongside work hours and city living. Commutes can be turned into base mileage, lunch breaks can become speed sessions, an evening can become hill reps, and weekends can revolve around long runs. This isn’t my lifestyle at all, and it won’t be for the foreseeable future. I therefore need to rethink how I approach running in the short term, and make objectives that fit for me, rather than setting myself up to fail with unrealistic goals.
With reflections on 2019 in mind, here are my new adventure resolutions for 2020:
1. Move to Norway.
This one is big, and something that Sofie and I have not entered into lightly. We are both determined to give it a shot out in Norway, and are sewing seeds to make it happen. This most certainly does not mean severing ties with Scotland though- I 100% intend on returning, for both work and personal adventures. There is still so much more to explore, see and do here, but we feel like we need to give Norway a good shot. Stating it here will hopefully make it more likely to happen.
2. Train for, race and compete to the best of my ability in the Lavaredo Ultra.
Running is an important part of my life, and this year I’m lucky enough to have got a place in the Lavaredo Ultra. It’s a 120km race with over 5800m of elevation gain in the Dolomites. It will be the longest I have ever run before, and I want to not only complete it, but enjoy it by feeling well trained and being able to compete to the best of my ability. I feel that it’s easy enough (so long as you’re resilient and don’t get injured) to get round ultra trail races, but to actually race and compete requires a significant amount of commitment and focus on training for many months preceding the race.
3. Explore more locally, in my case the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
So I’ve got a head start on this one, by currently being on the road exploring parts of the Highlands and Islands that I haven’t been too, such as Orkney and the Small Isles. This also ties in with resolution #7 on slower travel. It’s all too easy to jump on cheap flights to far flung parts of the world, but what about what’s on our doorstep? With the move to Norway has come a burning desire to explore Scotland more, to connect people and place, and broaden my understanding of the landscape, history and culture.
4. Improve my trad climbing. (to make it SMART - lead climb E1 AND/OR Log enough trad climbs to undertake my Rock Climbing Instructor Assessment.)
So this one has two potential measurable outputs. I’m currently working toward my Rock Climbing Instructor Assessment, so logging enough climbs for that would be one measure of improvement. Leading an E1 - graded climb would be awesome too, but I don’t want to get fixated by grades so am not massively fussed if this one doesn’t materialise.
5. Maintain road running fitness to run a sub-3 hour marathon.
I’ve learned from last year. Running anything quicker is unrealistic, so this year is about maintaining. I’m entered into the Bonn Marathon in April, so a sub-3 there is the goal. With impending nail surgery in February and a far-from-fixed lifestyle preceding it though, it might be tricky. I’ll give it a shot though!
6. Write more about adventures and find ways to inspire others to achieve their goals.
I used to write more about running and adventures, and had a few pieces published (see the Portfolio page for a few examples), but have recently not prioritised it. This year I’d like to reach out to more folk, to engage with others about their goals, and help them to realise their potential. Writing more is one way to do this, as is having good communication with the people I guide on hikes. I’ll try to be creative and find other ways too.
7. Adopt slower, more sustainable travel options for adventures.
This should arguably be #1. I firmly believe we in the outdoorsy community can and should do more to reduce our impact, to behave responsibly and refuse to jump on cheap flights when possible. It’s not always easy, especially if time and/or money is tight, but I want to explore alternative travel options to flying at each and every opportunity. This means looking specifically at:
Further to the lower impact, I much prefer these forms of slower travel. What they all share is a gradual transition from your start location to your end destination, rather than catapulting you from one place to another, a mental shock I’ve never found easy to deal with.