This is my first time closely following a training plan (supplied by a coach) as I prepare for an ultra. When I first started running it was with little knowledge and little research. I just ran a bit and increased my distance as I could – which wasn’t very much given my running fitness at the time! From there I downloaded and followed a couch to 21k program for my first half marathon. It actually went quite well. But from there I just ran with little purpose or consistency. I entered trail races as I liked and with little structure to training for them. Going into Coastal Classic (my 6FT qualifier) I ran only 40ks in the 4 weeks prior!! Really I should have been running 40ks a week for the 4 months prior! But I didn’t know then what I know now.
I remember training for 6FT and one of the runners asking me if I had a coach! I was dumbstruck to find out that people running at my kind of pace and level had coaches! What, why, how? I had so many questions. So when I was offered an intro coaching offer when I signed up for my first 50k I jumped on it. And so began my relationship with Squadrun. But injury from overtraining for 6FT had me pretty patchy on my training efforts in the lead up toTarawera 50k and I didn’t go into the race well trained. Luckily I got all of that sorted (well on track) with the help of Fix Physio – IMO the best physio in Sydney (and I’ve seen a few! I’ll do a separate post on these guys in the not too distant future). So now I’m training really well for UTA50 in May and following my Squadrun training plan pretty closely.
So what does that mean? Well today that meant doing a half marathon rhythm run before work!
Just 3 years ago I was training for my first half marathon, the thought of actually running that far terrified me! If my training goes to plan I’ll actually end up running three half marathons this week (2 more on trail this weekend). But this didn’t happen overnight. Each week I sit down and spend at least an hour mapping out my runs for the following two weeks (based on the suggested runs in the Squadrun program – you pick your runs from a suggested list of 7 based on how often you want to / can run). I have it all mapped out in Excel (I am a data nerd!) so that I can calculate my percentage increases each week – no more than 10% is the golden rule! Also the majority of my running is at a moderate pace – a lot slower than my 5k or 10k or even half marathon and marathon pace. For me my 5k race pace is around 4:35m/k and my estimated marathon pace around 5:10m/k but 90% of my training is around the 5:35-5:45m/k pace. This means my body isn’t getting smashed on every run and I’m actively recovering from the tougher sessions in the week (speed or hills usually).
Since following the program of less is more in terms of speed (for most of your sessions) but gradually more is better in terms of distance and introducing weekly speed sessions, I’ve not only been able to keep injury free (and a lot of this is thanks to Mike at Fix Physio for his awesome strengthening plan) but I’ve knocked minutes off of my 5k, 10k and half marathon time trials and races. I’ve PB’d consistently in my trail races so far this year. So whilst I was certainly able to complete 6FT on the back of general plodding through the week and massive long runs at weekend I ultimately burnt myself out by not monitoring my overall increases (I went from 10k runs to 20k runs within a week and built rapidly from there!). This resulted in over 9 months of injury that I couldn’t get sorted.
But coaching isn’t for everyone. Either it’s not affordable (though there is a range of prices out there based on what you get – high volume / low touch is cheaper versus individual one-on-one coaching) or it’s just not something you’re keen on. And whilst it really does help IMO it can of course be done without coaching. That’s the beauty of the internet and the massive amount of information that’s out there. Just make sure you’re reading information posted by reputable runners and not just googling “running program”. Find out who knows there stuff and listen to them – but most importantly listen to yourself and your body and find out what works for you 😀
Here are my top three recent blog posts on training for an ultra or just increasing your training load:
1. I Run Far – A guide to road running for trail runners! Some great tips on why it’s important for trail runners to also find time to train on the road.
2. Running Science – Load management. Love this post from a 100k a week runner on his top tips for staying injury free (major jealousy on his shoe collection).
3. Talk Ultra – my favourite podcast and my running companion on today’s long run. The interview with Anna Frost was fantastic. She talks about balance in life and making sure running is something you do for the love of it and not because it’s become some commitment that’s expected of you. A great interview in a previous episode with ultra coach Mario Fraioli who’s top tips included running for fun and not signing up for too many races! Whilst marathon runners will usually race no more than 3 marathons a year, ultra runners seem to be racing every race available. Which is understandable with the amount of amazing races available but can lead to wiping yourself out! Check out the podcasts before.