What next?

A week after completing my first ultra it is time to think about the future.

I am looking forward to running another 50 miler soon, but in the mean time I will run some local half marathons and marathons.

I’ll start in June with the June Richmond Half, then I will go back to the North Downs way to run the North Downs Way Marathon and then a week later (end of July) I will do another half, the Wimbledon Common Half, which I really enjoyed last year.

After the summer holidays I would like to run another ultra, maybe just a 50k. Nothing planned yet.

To prepare for the next half marathon I need to get some speed back. Lately, preparing for the NDW50, I slowed down quite a bit and in the last weeks I have not done any speed training as I was afraid I would get injured.

I recovered well from the ultra, so I started running almost straight away.

On Wednesday I did 10k at 4:50. I really felt a lot better than expected.

On Thursday I did 15.5k. I accelerated a bit at the end, but in general I kept it easy, average of 4:47 min/km.

On Friday I decided to rest as I did not want to overdo it after the NDW50 effort, bmu1Zt5woi5ZnxXh9wBfa9pUDwISNNJxhBNuwUv8A7x4-576x768ut on Saturday I felt so good I went out for a relatively fast run. I was wearing the NDW50 finisher t-shirt, the sun was shining and I felt pretty cool. At the end I alternated fast and less fast kms and went back to running faster than 4 min/km which I had not done in ages.

Sunday I felt the legs a bit tired so I took it easier. I ran 18.5k at 4:44 min/km and then got home and finished the day with 2 extra kms with my daughters. It’s always a pleasure to run with them. I wish we could do it more often.

Next week is going to be all about speed, interval training, tempo runs and maybe a Parkrun on Saturday.

I am not sure I will update this blog on a weekly basis as I did before as the journey from half to ultra has been completed. I am pretty sure I will find more challenges to talk about.

Have fun!

101%

Here we are. A few days before the big race. The one that changed my life’s routine for the last 9 months. The one I started this blog for. The North Downs Way 50. Soon I will know if I have what it takes to run an ultramarathon. I will find out if I trained enough to run 50 miles. I though about this blog posts for months and now I am not sure what I should write.

It has definitely been an amazing journey. Last year I was racing a half marathon a month. A couple of races were a bit longer, 16 miles, but not much more. Then I decided to try something new. To test myself and I became addicted to the whole ultra and trails running idea.  I went from running less than 40k a week to running 120k.

I did it scientifically. I read books. I listened to old and new friends who knew better. I think I did well. I never got seriously injured. I almost improved my diet too. I definitely feel stronger. I feel ready, physically at least. Is my head ready? I will find out Saturday.

Since last summer I have been running 6 times a week all of the weeks except a couple, either because I was not home or I was not well, but I did stick to my training plans virtually all the time. I am proud of the effort I put in.

But this journey did not just start last summer. I think this is the culmination of a longer journey. I have started running roughly seven years ago, when my dad passed away. The idea was to try and do something to keep my head from thinking too much. I needed something to fight that horrible time. It did not work. Running gives you too much time to think. You spend too much time alone and you cannot run away from such a loss. Even seven years later the pain is still there, with the same strength.

What did change was the fact that I realised running was fun. After the first weeks where I could not run more than 2k I started improving and a new world opened up and I got addicted.

I think I needed it. You can have a fantastic family (like I do), a career you are happy with (like I do most of the time :)), but you need an addiction in your life. You need something that is all yours. Something that keeps your mind busy when you need it busy. You need a passion and I believe passions should be almost unhealthy, otherwise they are not a passion.

When I was young I had two passions. Video games and skateboarding. Video games are so important in my life that I made a career out of them so that’s a passion I feed daily. Skateboarding was all my life for ten years. Everything else was less important (as my school results can attest). I was skating every day. I was good at it. I had people giving me free stuff. I won some contests (small ones) and could not think of anything else. I was not the only one. All my friends had burning passions. Some were skating like crazy like me. Some were into music and we knew all the most obscure bands, we played rough music, we went to gigs. I learnt from my friends that passions are worth feeding. All my friends are still crazy about something. Someone runs more than me, others snowboard like pros, others were into art and keep on creating. I don’t know if I was lucky or what, but my friends and my family always made it possible to do things 101%.

I always wanted adventures and I think that, slowly, running has become my way to go for adventures, even short ones in the park behind my house. It slowly became my passion and something I wanted to do with 101% effort. That’s why I think it is not surprising that I finally got to the point of preparing for an ultra. I always knew one day I wanted to jump from half to full marathon. I did that in 4 months and now it is time to go for an ultra. A bit quick maybe, but passions make us crazy.

Whatever the result of  the race on Saturday I will be happy. I had the chance to make new friends. I broke my records. I made myself more disciplined. I feel better as a person as a whole. Some people might think I am silly and that there are more important things in life. Yes there are, a lot of them actually, but running is not making me lose sight of what’s important. On the contrary it gives clarity and purpose.

I’d like to thank all the people that supported me in this journey. All the people that gave me hints and all the people that have asked me questions. I hope my daughters will not think that they have a crazy dad, but will hopefully see that cultivating a passion is good. That doing things 101% is how things should be done. And you do not need to win to be happy. You do not need to run a marathon sub 2:30 to be a runner. You can be happy for your career even if you are not a CEO. What counts at the end of the day is that you have put in your effort and a bit more, if you do that something good will come.

Ok maybe I am over-thinking this. This post might be too much. It is just a run after all, but for me it’s been a long journey and it is just the beginning!

This week I have been mostly resting with only 2 short runs, so no usual post this time. The next post will be my race report. If you want to follow it in real time you can check out this page on Saturday.

I hope I have not bored you too much. See you out there, giving your 101%.

The waiting game

The last two weeks have not been too exciting, so they did not deserve an individual blog post each.
After the high of having finally run 50km I started taking it easy for a three week tapering before the North Downs Way 50.

On Monday I did an easy recovery run. I ran 10k at 4:58 min/km. I recovered quite well from the 50k run but felt pretty tired.

On Tuesday I tried to get some speed in. I ran 12km at an average of 4:24 min/km. The temperatures are finally improving and it is again time to run in shorts which is a boost.

On Wednesday I was too tired (I should not have accelerated the day before) so I did 12km at the easy 5:00 min/km pace.

On Thursday I did 15k at 4:43 min/km and felt a lot better. 15k is my new favourite training length. I now find 10k  being too short and I start enjoying running after the first 8k so 15 is perfect.

In the meantime I have also read Eat and Run by Jurek which I enjoyed very much. I am going crazy. If I am not working, I am running, thinking about running, reading running books or listening to running podcasts. I am surprised my family has not complained yet.

Friday I did another 15km run. This time I did it almost as a progressive run. The first k at 5:00, the last k at 4:00. I felt good.

We then left for a long weekend in Paris where I planned to rest and have some quality family time.

Overall in the week I ran 65km as planned for my tapering.

I came back from Paris rested but with a cold. Too much rain on the Eiffel Tower. On Tuesday I ran 12.5k at 4:47 min/km on heavy legs. I felt strangely tired even if I had rested for three days.

On Wednesday I woke up with a killer cold and flue which explained why I was not running well the day before. I decided to skip running for the day.

On Thursday I went out for 15km at 4:38 min/km and felt a lot better. Even if still with a heavy cold.

On Friday I rested again (it’s tapering time after all) and Saturday I did 15k again (I told you, 15k is my favourite length). I did them at 4:35 min/km. I tried to keep it easy, but accelerated a bit at the end. Then I did a 2k run with my daughter Elisa, which made me happy. She hates running but maybe in time she’ll change her mind.

On Sunday I did 13k at 4:30 min/km. Maybe I overdid it in the last kms, but me and a guy started racing each other in Bushy Park. I like winning these short impromptu competitions. I finished the week with a 1.5k run with my other daughter, Chiara. She seems to be more into running. We’ll see.

And this is it. It was a week of 60km. The next one is race week so I will take it very easy and will try to sleep more. The excitement is too much to handle!

Have fun!

Am I ready?

On Monday I rested and I really needed it.

On Tuesday I went for a short 13k run that was intended to be slow, but I did a couple of sprints and some fast kms here and there, so I will call it a fartlek training session. It was fun, but I should not have done it as my right hamstrings felt a bit too fatigued at the end.

That did not stop me doing some repeats on Wednesday. I did the usual warm up and then six by 600mt at 3:50 with 1’50” rest. Then finished with a 3k cool down. I really struggled to go fast. The legs were too tired and wooden. I tried the Fenix3 feature where you create a workout on the PC with all the crazy details you want and then upload it on the watch. It’s very well done but I guess it is made for people running on a track as it does not store GPS data from the run. That is not good for me. I like seeing a map at the end of my training. I’ll check to see if I did get some options wrong.

I was so tired that on Thursday I did 15k at 5:01 min/km. Nice recovery run. I did speed up a bit at the end but that’s just me being silly.

Friday I decided to rest as I wanted to be fresh to tackle my longest run ever.

The plan on Saturday was to run 50k and use it as a final test before the NDW50. I wanted to run it as if it was only the first part of the 50 miles race I’ll attempt in May. I left home very early equipped with all the mandatory kit for the NDW plus 5 gels, 6 shots and, for the first time, some salt sticks. I wanted to see if drinking pure water with no salts was going to make it easier to eat and keep down the gels so I was going to get the salts from the pills this time. It worked out pretty well. I have to stop to take the pills but that’s fine.

I kept running at a steady easy pace around 5:30 min/km and regularly ate every 30 minutes either the gels or the shots, alternating them. Every hour and a half or so I ate a salt stick. Everything went smoothly. I never had any moment of crisis or cramps (in the belly or legs). After 43k the legs started feeling a bit heavy but I guess that was also psychological as I was running towards unknown territories. I am sure that the hills of the NDW will make the legs feel totally different from the monotony of running on flat for hours. I am confident also that aid stations and meeting people will make time go by easier (the 2k I did with a guy preparing for a 100k in the Pyrenees went very fast for example).

I got home after exactly 50k in 4 hours and 40 minutes. I had a massive grin on my face. I was happy. Happy for achieving something six months ago I thought impossible. Happy for seeing that the hard work paid off and happy because I felt tired but not spent. I feel I can run more than 50k and at a pace I am happy with. I also did it with very tired legs while I plan to taper nicely in the next three weeks and arrive on race day charged like a bomb. I cannot wait for the NDW50 and even more I cannot wait to run it with my friends coming from all over Europe.

So, another solid week. I ran a total of 90k but most importantly I have beaten my distance record.

Have fun!

Heavy week of running

What a week!

It’s been another good one of intensive running and I also finally got my hands on a shiny new Garmin Fenix 3 which I had been waiting for for ages. The fact that the courier company failed to deliver it for 4 days in a row made it even more desirable. But now I have it, it’s a fantastic piece of kit and I cannot wait to record all my runs with it.

Here is what I did this week after I took the day off running on Monday to rest.

Tuesday I ran an easy recovery run of 15k at 4:34 min/km. I was very nice, foggy, Bushy Park was at its best with the low rising sun, the deer, very bucolic.

On Wednesday I went to Richmond Park for some hill training. I did 5 repeats of 400mt uphill and rested on the way down. I took the smallest trail on the right, just after Kingston gate, the one that is not very steep except of a couple of places where you have almost to run on the balls of you feet. I like it as it feels a bit wild, you have to jump a couple of fallen trees and lower you head to avoid branches. I ran a total of 11k including warm up and cool down.

On Thursday I did the same route I did on Tuesday, but slightly shorter. The weather was warmer and I ran with shorts! I did a 12k easy run. Finally in the afternoon the Fenix 3 was delivered and I spent hours tweaking the settings in the evening and went to bed very late.

On Friday I woke up very tired but very keen to try the Fenix 3. I did 11k at 4:27 but I mostly spent the time looking at the various reports and data on the watch.

IMG_5987On Saturday I went out for the first long run of the week end. The plan was to do anything over 40k and to do it in “ultramarathon race mode”, so going slowly, thinking about keeping enough energy to keep on running. I was also very careful to eat something every 30 minutes. I alternated jelly blocks and gels. Basically eating a gel every hour and twenty minutes and blocks in between. Drinking as much as I felt like it. I went all along the river towards Putney bridge and back. I ran at a pace between 5:00 and 5:30 min/km. I felt great. I never had a moment of crisis. Not even my usual pain at around 32k. It was a real confidence boost. I felt like I could run at that speed for a lot longer, but then when I was in Kingston I had to make a choice. Continue and try to do 50k or go home. I had been running the last 2km behind another guy who looked like it was training like me and when I caught up with him we chatted a bit. He was preparing for the Thames Path 100, he knew what he was doing. I was tempted to follow him and break 50k for the first time but I had not eaten a gel for a while as I thought I would go home soon so I was very weak and said goodbye.

I regretted it. I got home and I was not dead, I could have run more! Now I have to try and do the long 50k run next week end and it will probably rain, I will not have a guy to run with etc. Silly me. Anyway it was a very good run, 43k at 5:24 average. At the end I was going mostly at 5:40. That’s what I want to try and do at the North Downs Way. Keep above 5:30 for as much as I can, avoid doing the usual silly quick start, slow down uphill even more, speed up downhill and run until I cannot any more and get to the end.

To make the week end more useful for long distance training I went out again on Sunday. The legs were quite sore, especially the ankles, but after warming up a bit (it took a while as it was below 5 degrees) I was running ok. Not fast at all, but not crawling. I completed a run of 26.5k at 5:14. Not bad considering the run of the day before. I got home pretty proud of myself and it was not even 9:30am!

A very good week, 118km in total. Very happy with my training and the consistency I managed to put in in the last 5 weeks. I averaged more than 100k a week for 5 weeks in a row. That’s more than I could have asked for. One more long run next week end, 50k hopefully, and then I will start tapering a bit.

I cannot wait for the NDW50, it will be epic, whatever happens.

Two weeks of serious running

Intro

The last two weeks have been quite busy and I did not get a chance to update this blog for those 3 or 4 people that read it. So here is a quick update of my last two weeks.
I have been doing a lot of running. the closer I get to the North Downs Way 50 the more I need to run to feel less scared.
Here is a quick rundown of what I have been up to:

Week 1 (30th March-5th April)

Monday I rested. I needed to, after 60k ran over the weekend.

Tuesday I did an easy recovery run of 12.5k at 4:37. The wind was crazy. It felt like going against it whatever the direction I was running.

Wednesday was the speed training day. I did 3k of warm up and then 3 times two kms at 3:50 min/km with 2′ rest. Finished with 2.5k of cool down.

On Thursday we flew to Italy for the Easter week end. So no running. I took with me only the road shoes (my current love, the Saucony Zealot), so no trail running planned during the holidays.

On Friday I went running on the Liguria coast for 20k (at 4:37) on the sea side road, from Spotorno to Finale Ligure on the coast and back. Lovely stuff. If you are not scared of being run over by cars it is really nice to run on the cliffs over the sea.
I then ran with my youngest daughter for 1k and then my wife for another 5k. I am trying to build a running family, without too much success.

On Saturday I did the best run of the Easter week end. I went from Spotorno to Finale Ligure again, but this time all around the hills and not on the sea side. So I did a lot of climbing too (for me at least), 994 meters. I ended up doing a total of 30k. I really enjoyed it, taking it easy going up and bombing it going downhill. At one point I was so excited that I even started singing. I was all by myself anyway and the view of the sea from the top of the hills was amazing. I felt so good I even did the last km faster than 4 min/km on the flat.

spotorno

On Easter Sunday I took it easy and did 12k at 4:54 on the coast with a bit of climbing. Then it was time to eat as much focaccia as possible.

And with that it was the end of the week. 94k in total, with 2127 mt of ascent, which is more than I usually do.

Week 2 (6th April-12th April)

Monday was my last day on holidays in Italy and I finished my Italian running session with another 20k on the coast at 4:37 min/km. At one point I met a group of 30 or so runners and I could not help feeling like I was in a race and started overtaking everyone. To top it off I ran another 1k with my daughter (it’s time for her to set up a Strava account and do some FKT by 11 year olds!).

On Tuesday we flew back home, so no running.

On Wednesday I did 12k easy (at 4:48) and on Thursday I ran 15k at 4:27.

I felt so good that I decided to try and do a new PB on the 10k distance. So on Friday I did a 4k warm up and they did 10k as fast as I could. I was very happy to manage to beat my previous PB. I ended up doing the 10k in 38:53, a handful of seconds better than last year. I finished the session with a 1k cool down and a big smile on my face.

Saturday I went out for a long one (not too long as I was tired from the fast run of the day before). I went out with the Cascadia and the UD backpack and run on some trails on the river, Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common for a total of 30k. The weather was crazy, started sunny, poured down like crazy for half an hour, then windy as hell. It was fun.

Sunday I went for a 20k run to finish the week. I went very early, the sky was blue, the air was cold. I did not meet anyone for the first 12k, beautiful. I even found £10 on the ground. The legs felt dead at the beginning, but really good after the first 5k.

Another good week, I ran 114km in total, a new record.

The end

Basically a good, solid, 2 weeks. The last month I have run an average of more than 100k per week and I feel good!

Last week my friend @manuontrail ran the South Downs Way so I followed him and the other runners in real time via the power of the internet and realised how daunting the task of running a 50 miler is. Six months ago I was full of confidence, thinking of doing some crazy times, running like a beast from start to finish. The more I train, the more I read, the more I look at other people performances the more I feel scared. Only one month left and then I’ll know if I have what it takes to run for so many hours. If I keep on training like this for the next couple of weeks at least I can say that I have done all I could training-wise since September last year. I could hardly do more and I am happy with that.

A 100+ km week

This was going to be the first heavy week of training of my last 2 months before the North Downs Way 50 and I could not wait to start.

My plan was to run more than 100km by going for a run every day except Monday and do 2 long runs back to back during the week end.

Tuesday I started it easy with a 12k run at 4:40.Nothing to report.

Wednesday I went to Richmond Park armed with the Brooks Cascadia. I did 3.5k of warm up run to get there and then did 5 repeats of 400m each going uphill and then resting for the 400mt coming down. Quite a killer. Then 4k of cool down to get back home.

Thursday for various reasons I could not go and do the 15k I had planned. That meant I had to ass more kilometers to the other runs.
I started by doing 4k more than planned on Friday, the day that was set out to be a “tempo run” day. I ran 5k at an average/slow pace as a warm up and then did 5k at around 3:50 min/km average. The first 3 were quite tough, but once I got into the rhythm it felt good to run faster again. I finished the run off with 5 more km to get back home. Overall, 15k at 4:19, not bad.

Then the week end arrived and it was time to run for longer and try to run slower than usual. I am not really good at that but I tried very hard. I also took advantage of the slower pace to think more about my running form and to get used to drinking and eating gels even if I did not feel like it.
On Saturday I did 35km at an average pace of 5:06. I explored a new area along the river and saw some very interesting places around Sunbury, Walton-on-Thames and Weybridge. As soon as the hot weather arrives there are some very interesting pubs on the river where I have already planned to cycle to with the family. At the end of the run I was pretty dead with very stiff legs and I could not imagine running again the day after.

Contrary to that original feeling I woke up on Sunday full of energy and went out straight away for another run even if it was raining and very windy. I did 27km, but slightly faster than Saturday, at 4:48 min/km. I got home pretty happy about my performance and how quickly I seem to be able to recover after a long run.

I managed to make up for the kms I did not do on Thursday and ran a total of 101km (62k on the week end alone).
Good start for the final training push!

Next week will be big too! Especially for my special friend Manu who will be running the South Downs Way 50 on Saturday. Sorry I cannot come and support you!