Wednesday 6 September 2017

100 mile training advice #5 Nutrition for ultra running

#5 Fuelling for ultras
It's usually only a matter of time before an ultra runner gets to learn about fuelling... One long march to the finish whilst being unable to stomach any fluids or sugars or anything at all for that matter, it can wipe out energy levels in no time and before you know it half the field has passed you and there's nothing you can do about it... I generally don't get many issues in this department as I stick to a couple of sources of calories and it works for me... I did manage to run the first 8 hours or so of Trans Grancanaria without taking in any calories, I was drinking 'Pepsi Max' on the checkpoints thinking it was the same as Coca Cola, loaded with sugars BUT it's actually the sugar free version! Doh! I suspected something was up whilst I was barely able to run or focus and kept going dizzy up hills. After investing some time in getting calories in me I ran the later stages totally fine.

I think the main risks with fuelling are
1 relying on one source of calories then getting sick of it, eg setting out with just gels for 24 hours worth of running and being unable to even look at a gel after 6 hours.
2 trying some food or powder or potion that you have never tried before and it throwing you off
3 not taking in enough calories or fluids early on and then being in a giant energy deficit and unable to maintain any kind of pace
4 perhaps not so drastic but worth noting, fuelling inconsistently and just having a bit of a roller coaster in terms of energy levels.

Which brings me to my top tips...
1 - Practice the foods or drinks you plan to race with, try them in a training run and see how you feel.
2 - When it's very hot (talking 30 -40 plus degrees C) I might consume about 1 l per hour of fluids, you might need more or less so listen to your body, depending on size and acclimatisation, try to practice in conditions similar to what you'll race in
3 - Always have a bit of a back up or emergency calories, if you run low on food or water, maybe a section takes you a long time between checkpoints or you get lost or something and miss a checkpoint, being tired and thirsty and not having anything is a grim feeling.
4 - There aren't any magic foods or diets or pills that will make up for a lack of training, sure eating a healthy balanced diet is going to put you in good stead, but going on a crash diet for 2 weeks to try and compensate for not getting the miles in will probably do more harm than good.
5 - Carbohydrate loading... Could almost be a section on its own, carb loading is where you increase the amount of carbs in your diet for 2-3 days leading up to a race to ensure your glycogen stores are topped up and you're ready for a long race. It doesn't involve gorging on junk food for 10 days before your next 10k and it definitely doesn't mean you need to eat your bodyweight in donuts every time you want to go for a run.

There are other considerations but these should definitely get you started. If you are having issues with your stomach in races or long runs, what you're eating might be playing a part. Worth looking into in more detail if that's you!

100 mile ultra run training #4 Kit

100 mile ultra training #4 kit

You can checkout my kit on the 'My Kit' Tab

#4 Kit!
Kit should be straight forwards... However, often the focus for kit is in the wrong direction... Rather than thinking can I get a jacket that's 50g lighter, should we instead be asking, 'Is this going to keep me warm and dry if I get stuck on a mountain?'
When you're out racing for a long time like in a 100 mile ultra, maybe even just a hilly trail marathon, you might experience some poor weather conditions. If your jacket is leaking and you've not slept all night and it's getting cold and your legs are tired but you've got all your kit on, it's very easy to get to a nice warm checkpoint and think 'Bugger it, I'm not going back out in that' as you begin to shiver at the thought of heading back into the cold night.

In reality you aren't injured or anything and physically could keep going but just the discomfort of plodding on in those conditions isn't a nice thought. You end up with a DNF because you took a poor quality jacket and skimped on kit. Perhaps the next people into the checkpoint are at least dry on the inside and heading back out into the rain they are at least shielded from the rain. An hour later the weather could brighten up and clear, maybe it will get worse, either way just having the right kit for the job can keep you in a race! It doesn't mean you need the most expensive fancy things, just something that is 'fit for purpose'

The other big point about kit is make sure you have practiced and are used to the kit you are going to use, don't turn up in new kit on the start line that you've never used. Eg I've met someone totally lost with a GPS in hand because they didn't know how to use it, I've seen some impressive cuts from a poorly fitting backpack grating at the skin all day and more posts online about foot problems than I could ever count.

After a while you should be able to dial down your kit and know exactly what you need so you can confidently turn up to the race knowing that you can handle what you're going to face without any panic or worry that everyone else is carrying something different to you.

See you on #5 for the next thing that'll go wrong on you one day, fuelling and nutrition for 100 mile ultras

100 mile ultra training #3 race plan

We've ticked off some of the basics already, next we need to think about the actual race plan. Now some people turn up and have no idea what they're in for and yes, do get to the end. My best performances and those of my clients have come from having a race plan. It might be as simple as just knowing a few basic things like the number of climbs in a race or which parts of the course you expect to do during the night.

I like a balance between simplicity and detail although it depends a little on the route... For flat races or routes that are lapped perhaps, this is easier as the terrain is consistent... For mountainous races which I like, you might have a couple of hills in the first half then 10 giant climbs during the second, either way good to know this and plan accordingly.

So you should have an idea of what sort of pace you can move from your training and warm up events. Eg my 3rd 100 mile race with about 4500-5000m ascent I had done a 56 mile race with about 2500m ascent and a 40 mile with 2000m at an intensity that was comfortable for me. I figured if I could do 56 mile in 12 hours relatively comfortable and with some navigational errors probably costing me 30 mins total I'd be able to finish the 100 mile about 24 hours all going well (In reality I did 18 hour 23 as I'd underestimated my fitness and pace and over estimated the course!!)

Knowing approximately what to expect time wise, even a ball park, helps you decide on the kit choices (step #4) and fuelling strategies (#5) You might love detail and do everything down to the minute, You might decide that the 2nd half of your 100 mile is going to be about 2 hours slower than the first half, then when you get halfway you know what you're facing.Not having a plan is like setting off driving somewhere when you have no idea of the destination and can lead to complete confusion or overwhelm.

Sure you might hit a bump in the road and have to adjust your plan as you go but at least you can prepare mentally for this.If you are planning a 20 hour finish time and you hit half way in 12 hours, you can realise that you're 2 hours off the plan and decide an appropriate adjustment... Maybe you just massively under estimated the route and potentially could be out for 4 hours longer than you expected, now you can start fuelling additionally to cover it or pickup extra kit from your drop bag because of the cold night you're about to be running in unexpectedly...

Tuesday 5 September 2017

100 mile ultra run training and advice #2


There's no overnight shortcut, it does take some consistent practice to see improvements. You have to make a start NOW, from whatever your current position, you can't spend your life waiting for everything to fall into place so you can do the things you want, just start, start small and be consistent. I wasn't fat or particularly unhealthy when I started but I was basically adapted to climbing and doing bodyweight exercises with additional weight strapped to me.

So what was my 3rd time running 100 miles I went to Spain for Ultima Frontera 160km. By now I'd been running regularly for 9 months and sporadically for the same again before that.

Once I decided to take this running thing seriously I started to train 3-4 runs per week on top of the bodyweight training I was doing I was eating a colossal amount to keep my energy up and was still able to gain muscle mass despite running or cycling daily. I didn't try and run every day or set any goal that was too outlandish (maybe it depends who you ask) but I decided that running every other day was achievable and I kept at it.

Anyhow so October 2011 I'd done a handful of ultras quite a few marathons or similar training runs and trained well through the year, now it was time to travel to a different country to race in the heat of Spain and in some decent mountains. I had made a lot of the mistakes in smaller races but I'd kept my training up throughout all the challenges of everyday life, roughly I did the following in a typical month
weekend 1 - ultra
weekend 2 - long training run
weekend 3 - back to back long runs
weekend 4 - some cycling and a short race 10k/ half marathon

Through the week I'd do about 3 runs,
Run 1 around 90 mins to 2 hours might be 10 mile or 2 x 6 mile depending,
Run 2 faster session, either progressive or intervals or something with some speed
Run 3 - Easy effort could be hills or just local trails

Along with this I was cycling on the days I didn't run mainly to get around, no structured sessions on the bike and training in the gym with bodyweight and kettlebells or going climbing about 5 days per week (This is probably a little high but I was doing both and hadn't picked a main sport at this point)

So vaguely that's what I'd do.... I didn't always feel fresh and ready but I pushed myself and got it done.

When it came to the actual race... That's where I executed #3 ...

100 mile ultra lessons and advice #1

You've heard it before 'It's all in your head' and 'Mind over matter' well here's my number 1 lesson from this pile of 100 mile + medals (except for the Trans Grancanaria one actually that's only 80 mile)

I'm not going to take you on a magically journey of self discovery but stick with me a moment.
So my first 100 mile was going to be the Conti Thunder Run in 2011 but for some reason about 6 weeks before I decided to enter the UR 100 mile at the last minute in June.
Now I'd done a couple of back to back marathons a 50k then a 50 mile and a 12 hour race but then I got run over whilst cycling!!

I wasn't able to run without pain and I was told to do nothing for 6 weeks (which I interpreted to mean go out on the bike instead, I couldn't stand up and peddle but sat down and in easy gears I could roll along) I did a couple of easy runs after about a month then entered the 100 mile with the plan to basically walk with some odd bits of running slowly. Set out right at the back and pretty much was the back runner until the later stages, everyone I overtook was dropping out.

It wasn't exactly plain sailing... I had made no plan for the race at all and had no idea of the route or what was really involved, I lost my jacket and head torch somehow so literally did the whole night in the dark with no light, and it rained for most of the night, I had a spare poncho and just toughed it out.

About the only good news was that I made it to the finish and didn't have any injury issues apart from a dead mobile phone from all the rain. Anyhow..... What got me through this whilst everything around me went wrong was my mindset. I was determined to keep moving and therefore I would eventually reach the finish. How hard could it be?

Nowadays I am much stronger mentally but I also have solid race plans and good knowledge of my ability. The mind is focused on how hard to push myself when it gets tough.

I've put mindset first because no matter how fit you are, or how much fancy equipment you've got.... If your mind isn't in it your body can shut down and give up in no time

Foam Rolling For Runners - What do you actually do with that thing you bought?

Foam rolling for runners....

What you need to know and how to actually use a foam roller.

A LOT of people ask me why I don't get injured.... Now, nobody is invincible but since I started running I got myself one of these and learned what to do with it. To me it's a vital part of keeping your body mobile and allowing you to keep training consistently and therefore make some great progress and be able to love running! I might not love foam rolling but to me it's just a few small minutes invested that pays off.
So often I see people misusing rollers so... Even if you have been using one for a while... Worth 5 minutes of your time watching this. Clients in my coaching holidays have been able to manage really good weeks of training without their legs dying on them too with using some of these techniques....

So here's what's worked for me!