Go to my March Update.
Yet another month done and the daunting prospect of running a 100 mile race is getting ever closer.
The training this month really had a focus on true distance. Apart from Race To The Stones in 2019 my longest runs had only been around the 50Km mark – nothing too shabby but still a good bit shy of 100miles, that’s for sure. This month that changed, and it changed repeatedly.
Prior to this month distances had been creeping up but I had remained in a zone I knew I could run. Breaking beyond 31 miles/50Km, and doing it in training where I have limited time, was something I was unsure about. Would breaking 31 miles break me? Would reaching 40 miles be some sort of indicator that taking that to a 100 mile run was still unbelievably impossible to perceive?
Guess the only way to work that out is to try it!!
So, whilst on one side I was concerned about how I would cope with the distance, and the subsequent recovery required, it gave me a real opportunity to try out the kit and nutrition.
What I found out when running 34/40 and 45 miles on 3 successive weekends
Before I cover how it went, running the longer distances gave me a great excuse to plot some new routes. I’ve got some routes I love running up to around 30 miles (ish) and for 34 I adapted that to get the extra distance. For 40/45 miles I thought an opportunity to try somewhere new. I used the OS Maps website and app to plot a great little route out of town, up through Abingdon and then along the Thames Path through Oxford and out to the west, before dropping back off the path and returning through Abingdon. For the 45 miler I added a loop through the woodland in Bagley Wood just south west of Oxford – that worked well.
I ran in the Inov8 TerraUltra G270 shoes I have. They are now up to about 500 miles in total (after this month) and are holding up fairly well. As my only zero drop shoe I was a little apprehensive. They have only recently returned to my rotation since the trails began drying out a little, so I was concerned about the switch back to them after only a few, shorter runs this season.
In summary though they were brilliant. The extra roomy shoe is usually pretty good for avoiding squashed feet, even when they spread/swell a little over the long distances. The tread/grip is just perfect for the mixed terrain around the Thames path as well, mixing in road/gravel/grass and everything in between they never complain and always perform well.
Finally, they are comfortable. The extra cushion of the insole (which was new to this model I think) worked really well and my feet ended the run tired but not exhausted. I really believe that one of the reasons for managing the 3 successive big weekends was due to shoe choice and how well these look after your feet on the long haul.
The other main gear of note was my running bag. I recently swapped to the Salomon Active Set 4 and 8 models. I used on these runs the larger of the two bags and found it was absolutely fantastic.
These bags hug your body, they simply become part of you when you run. Not in a constrictive fashion either. Other bags sometimes you feel their presence around your chest and it can be a little distracting, and take a lot of work to get the fit as good as you can. These Salomon bags are just so easy to prepare and get ready. The fastening is quick and easy and great to adjust on the run. The front and side pockets are great for things you need to access on the run. I managed to stash my 2 500mL flasks, phone, food and my GoPro, on one of the runs, with ease.
Finally the bungee on the back of the bag allows an extra bit of gear to be strapped in (rain coat for example) and that essentially extends the capacity without the need to carry a bigger bag.
I aim to do a review soon, but needless to say, these bags are seriously great bits of kit!
Having done more research and investigating into nutrition I was aiming to consume a minimum 250 calories every hour. I packed my bag with ChiaCharge Flapjacks, Stroopwaffels, Tailwind, Kendal Mint Energy Bars and Snickers bars. Having estimated my time, I packed the right calories and a couple of ‘emergency’ items.
With the calories I have a bit of a routine now. I begin eating with the solid food stuff after no more than 30 minutes. I eat little and often, trying to get the calorie rate right. I try to avoid the idea of piling all the calories in quickly and then not eating for a while. That doesn’t sound ideal to me, and a lot of advice online suggests this ‘even’ consumption idea works best.
I will tend to not go to gels until at least 2 hours in. I’m not entirely sure of that’s beneficial as such, but I do find the refreshing nature of the Kendal Mint gels really provides not just the calories but also a cleansing sensation that I find feels great after a couple of hours running around.
The Tailwind is also something I tend to leave to the second half of long runs where I use it. This sort of nutrition source acts quicker than the solid food, in general, and so as the run is moving towards the final period, then intake I need at that point needs to give me a quick return so I try to keep Tailwind for that.
On the subject of Tailwind, I tend to take no more than around 1/3 or even 1/4 of my fluid in the form of Tailwind. The rest I take as isotonic drink – at the moment Precision Hydration is by far my preferred solution. This is to enable me to control the carbohydrate intake a little. Ingestion of carbohydrate in the gut needs the body to be working properly. Water is necessary to keep you hydrated and is essential in healthy gut operation. If your only liquid you have is a heavy carb containing drink, you essentially keep pouring carbs into your gut when drinking and this adds to the challenge your gut is facing. By having non-carb containing fluids as well you can intake water, to help with hydration and digestion, without adding to the carb intake and making the job harder. A good idea if you start facing gut issues in a run as well.
How it went
To be honest it was wonderful. When you are venturing into the unknown a little the apprehension can be overwhelming. I was genuinely concerned over this training block. If it had gone badly I would have been worried about my chances of making the 100.
Each of the three runs when well and were done in really good times. I ran the majority, taking some sensible decisions to manage some inclines appropriately.
My route selection was spot on with some good inclines and descents around the south east of Oxford which mixed it up nicely. The scenery was also stunning in many cases and that really made for an enjoyable time out on my feet.
I kept to the nutrition plan, ate what I had prepared and felt fuelled throughout.
I suffered with a single blister on my right foot which didn’t cause a problem on the first of the three runs. But that gave me the reminder of foot prep and so a bit of protective taping in place for the other two runs really helped to avoid falling into any pitfalls subsequently.
I carried some replacement caps/tops and absolutely endorse the idea of a kit swap in the second half of a run this long. I changed my top and hat once on each run and the refreshing nature of this is like taking a rest, it really does help!
Overall I learnt a lot about what I can do. I didn’t feel I had nothing left after each of the three. I could have gone on. The training has really developed my endurance and this provide it. I have enjoyed the training but this was the reward for all that hard work. Yes there is still a long way to go to make it to 100, but these long runs (my longest distance in training will be 45 miles) have really given me the confidence I needed to feel that the 100 really is achievable.