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New training regime

It took me days and days of planning but I finally came up with a nice and challenging plan for 2017.
I am a big fan of excel tables and making plans and stick to them, but this year I went one step further. I am now using Training Peaks for all my planning and the amount of data that comes out of it is amazing and lovely.
Towards the end of 2016 I read the new book by Jason Koop and I liked everything he says so I decided to base my training on his ideas. I have always been a big fan of repeats and speed training but I tended to do it once, maybe twice a week and mix it with other sessions. The concept of periodisation was new to me and I am trying it now.img_8983
I am now almost at the end of the first block completely dedicated to quick speed interval sessions at above threshold and I have been doing sessions like those for 3 times a week!
Sometimes it’s been really hard, especially when done early in the morning like I do. Basically for 3 times a week for the past month or I have been doing 5k of warm up and then 5 times 3:00 at killer speed and 3:00 of rest. Then a cool down between 3 and 4k to get back home. Once you finish a session like this you are happy to be alive. I have also tried to do them uphill if I can. To add to the fun and get the heart rate go up faster.
It seems to be working well.

Races

I have also planned most of the races I will do this year. The main ones are going to be the four 50 milers organised by Centurion. Last year I wanted to do all of them and complete the Grand Slam but due to the injury, I have only done the last two. This time I will try to stay fit and do them all. Since I now have a bit more experience on that distance I want to try to push myself a bit more, hence this new training regime. I would love to do one under 9 hours (8:30 is actually my target, I say it here now so I have to do it!). Nine hours I think are feasible as I would need to “just” shave 22 minutes from last year CW50.
In July I will also try to do my first 100k. I entered the Race to the Stones as I love the Ridgeway.
In between those “A races” I entered other shorter ones, trying to match them to the training block I will be doing at the time. The first one was a 10-mile race on the North Downs Way I did last week, the Denbies 10 miler.

The Denbies 10

What attracted me to this race was the location and the length. Ten fast miles were perfect for the type of training I would be doing in that period and the race takes place in bits of the North Downs way which I love.

The morning was super cold. When I got into the car it was -4 degrees, but the sky was clear and the sun came out by the time we started running which made the temperature better the views stunning.

I started strong as I wanted to be towards the front by the time we hit the single track trail. The first couple of km were uphill on the tarmac. I managed to run at a decent pace and kept my eyes on the people in front. I wanted to try and stick to the top ten group. The first 3 guys disappeared pretty quickly and the fourth person was gaining terrain and it was clear it was going to be hard to catch up with.

By the time we reached the top of the hill I was in 8th position but really struggled to accelerate, partly due to the legs refusing to do so after the uphill start and also because we mostly ran on frozen mud, which was really a killer for my ankles. Luckily that was my favourite part of the trail as it goes through some very nice wooded land in the Ranmore Common.

At around the 5th km, I started accelerating and catching up with the group in front and when we go to the White Downs Descent, which is a 1km long steep descent I let myself go. I felt like one of those young Salomon runners, no braking, no fear. I overtook everyone in that descent and by the time we reached the bottom I was in 5th position and the others were back by a bit. I tried to keep running at a good pace for the next three km that were up and down, muddy and tiring. I almost tripped on a stile and was very close to disaster but I did not want to slow down. I was running strong, almost always under 4 min/km and I felt that all those repeats really made a difference.

Unfortunately, we then reached the bit of the race I was most afraid of. What goes down must come up at some point and the two km climb up back to Ranmore were really tough. By then the mud was not frozen anymore and my feet weighed a tonne each. I was overtaken at the top of the climb and could not stay with the guy.Events to Live Denbies 10, Jan 2017 by SussexSportPhotography.com  11:54:50We then reached the final tarmac descent and again I was overtaken there too even if I really bombed down that road, 2kms at around 3:20 min/km. It felt fast, but not enough to catch up with the guy that just overtook me.

I finished in 7th position. Dead, but very happy. I was so tired I even said “grazie” to the lady giving out drinks.

I only found out later in the evening that I was the first in my category (MV40), which is nice. I hope I have not missed anything by not staying there for the prize giving. I am very happy with the result, I was a couple of minutes faster than I expected and that gives me great confidence in the first part of my training.

Here is the Strava of the day.

A muddy emotional rollercoaster

What an epic week it has been.

I had to do a bit of tapering before my very first marathon on Saturday so I decided to only run 3 days of the week and not for longer than 10k each time. So Monday I did an easy 10k run and pushed a bit only the last 2k. Tuesday I was meant to go running but instead overslept, but bought a new pair of socks. Wednesday I did 9k to try the socks and then Thursday did another 7.5k easy with the Brooks Cascadia I was going to wear at the race, just to “prepare” them. Disaster struck! My left hip got stuck. It happens sometimes, I just kick in the air a bit and it goes “click” and everything is fine. It did not happen. Thursday afternoon I was limping and crying inside as I saw my race Saturday turning into a disaster or a no show. In the evening I did every possible stretching I could find in Bob Anderson’s book, copied tens of youtube videos to try everything possible to get the hip to click in place. Nothing. Friday I was limping even more. I tried running for the train in the evening and it seemed like running was less painful than walking so I decided to go to the race anyway. I tried to forget all the little niggles, the hip and how scared I was of running my first marathon and prepared everything for the day after and tried to go to bed early.

This was the menu for the day, before, during and after the race:

menu
I got up at 5, had my usual pre-race breakfast of tea/toasts and made sure my belly was ready. I got into the car and drove to Ashurst, in Kent, even if most of the race was taking place in East Sussex, in the Winnie the Pooh forest.
I got there quite early, registered and waited drinking my water, had a banana and a power bar. The marathon was starting an hour or so earlier than the half marathon and 10k race, so there was not a lot of people around. Around 40 runners or so. After the briefing I hardly had time to get the GPS to lock and we were already running. No time for warm up! So I had no idea if the hip was fine or not, but completely forgot about it.
The very first thing that we all noticed was how much wet the terrain was. Mud everywhere, it was worth going off the beaten track most of the time to find some solid ground. After a couple of kms I was in the group of the top 5 and we ran together for a while. Nice guys, we chatted a bit and I started thinking, well if I do not do anything silly and stay with these guys at this pace the worst I can do is finish 5th (as no one else was behind us close enough to be seen). I kept on telling myself, try to stay behind the first guy, or lead for a bit but always stay with the group.

terrain

But then the silly novice in me made me do the opposite. After the first check point, around the 12th km there was a small climb and I felt good and did not slow down and found myself gaining terrain and I just kept on going. Big mistake. For the next 2 hours I ran alone, I kept on looking behind me and could not see anyone. I could not believe no one was catching up. I felt good at first. It started raining, I got to the steepest climb and power hiked in the mud and started telling myself how cool a guy I was etc. I was talking to myself aloud, like a crazy person. I felt heroic.

Things changed dramatically around the 30th km. I was supposed to get to the third checkpoint (which was the same as the second) but it never seemed to arrive. The trail was always the same mud with some bushes, mud, bushes, mud, bushes. I started to feel like I was lost and was going around in circles. The signs on the side of the track told me I was on course, but maybe I had been there before or was I going back? There were some dog walkers around and I was sure I had seen them before. I started panicking, I could not see anyone behind me either. Finally I got to the third checkpoint and the nice marshal lady there said something like “I was not expecting to see you here so early!” and I thought, well I am kicking ass here and got a bit of a boost. It did not last long. All of a sudden someone caught up with me and overtook me around the thirty-second km. That was a massive blow to my confidence. I ate my final gel and tried to stay with him but I could not, cramps were around the corner. As soon as I tried accelerating my legs stiffened. That was something I was not prepared for. I started seeing all the other runners behind me and all of a sudden I was 8th. I was so upset with myself. How could have I thought that I could just run at that pace all the time in that mud and be faster than all those more experienced guys? And now I still had 8 very hard km to do in the mud and I might lose even more positions. Running half marathons does not prepare you for psychological situations like that. In a way I was happy I had decided to do 3 marathons before the NDW50, I need these kind of lessons. These kicks in the teeth.

Luckily at the last checkpoint they had Jaffa Cakes! That really gave me a boost. I could not eat any more gels but the Jaffa Cakes were miraculous. I started running with a better pace and started catching up with some guys.
Then everything became confused. The half marathoners and 10k runners were finishing their race too and we all mixed. I did not know who I was supposed to try to catch up with or whether I was losing positions or not. I raced with a guy I then discovered was finishing his half marathon. Anyway it helped as I must have overtaken some marathoners too as I got to the end and I was 5th.

What a relief! At least I did not do worse than I had planned before the first check point. I still managed to finish with the 4 people I was running with at the start. I wonder if things would have been different. Probably not as they would have probably had more energy than me anyway at the end. You can see the final results here and how I managed to lose a 5 minutes advantage and finish 5 minutes after the first finisher.

So, I finished in the top 5, in 4:11 on a course I believe was quite tough. Not much ascending, but the mud was really relentless. Even running downhill was hard as it was so slippery. Good experience, next time I will be smarter.

shoes

The race was very well organised. The marshals were super friendly, the atmosphere was good and I cannot wait to taking part in the next race in the series.

Once I got over the fact I made it harder for me from the start and I realised I finally managed to run a marathon (and a trail one) I was very happy. I still am, I am a marathoner now! I’d like to thanks all the friends and family who sent me messages before and after the race. I like to feel people care about my adventure and you are all helpful.

I’ll wait a couple of days and they I’ll start preparing for the next one. More hills work and at least one run over 35km.

See you on the trails (in the mud maybe).