Monday 16 April 2018

Ultra training plans #10 Pacing for ultras

#10 The final topic! PACING
You can do everything right in your training, fuel properly, plan the race out, get the kit you need and then screw it all up by racing off too fast at the start trying to keep up with others (who are possibly going too fast also)
It's a painful way to run.... Exhaust yourself early on then struggle it in for the second half. Grim. We've all done it. Us blokes tend to be worse... Ladies are sometimes guilty too though.
In my eyes the ideal pacing is that where you are just beginning to fade at the end but can just about hold it together. IF you do a massive 'negative split' eg run the second half loads faster than the first, you probably weren't running hard enough initially. If you get to halfway or 80% through then crash and burn, enjoy the rest 

A couple of examples.... first from myself.... I ran 47 miles in 6 hours 6 mins back in 2012 on a trail. The 10km was 42 mins pretty much dead on.... My final 10km was about 55 mins
My eventual average was 7 min 51 mile.
I was psyched up and flying early on it felt easy, relatively comfortable for 4 hours but... Battling a bit of a head wind and just generally running a bit too hard the final 2 hours was very tough. Looking back I probably needed more fuel too and should have had a more detailed look at the route towards the end.
I can think of plenty of examples of others too, I don't like to use positions as a measure of a good performance because you just don't know who is going to turn up, if you go and 'win' an LDWA event it might not be as good of a performance as coming 30th in a competitive race.
In a 40 mile race I did a couple of years ago, the 2nd place runner was sticking with me up until about 18 miles then in the final 22 miles lost over 1 hour on me and barely hung on to 2nd position. You have to run your own race. There's an element of mental games and psyching out opponents in the later stages or in shorter races but when we're talking longer races especially ultras.
Let's suppose we're battling for the 1st and 2nd positions in a race, we're neck and neck for the first half of the race but you are pushing at an unsustainable pace, where as I am just keeping it steady and matching your pace, when we get to the final climb and a few miles to go, I've not been working as hard and can therefore push the pace and keep the intensity whereas you've burnt out and just can't answer to the injection of pace at the end.
Play to your strengths by all means, just to start with, be sensible with your pacing, your overall time will be better and usually that means your position will be higher too! After you've won a few races it might not feel the same, but that feeling you get when you run your hardest and achieve more than you ever thought possible.... That never gets old 
Hope you have loved the last 10 articles! Stay tuned for a bonus one tomorrow

Happy trail slaying folks 

Ultra Running training plans #9 Speed training for ultras

#9 Speed Training for Ultras
Following on from earlier in the series of articles we talked about specificity and training planning along with mileage. Let's jump straight to it....
Initially, your ultra running performance will probably NOT be limited by your speed, you'll be busy making mistakes with nutrition and getting lost along with having a picnic at each checkpoint like I did. There are a couple of factors that come in to play, your running economy, your conditioning, your stamina, mental toughness etc.
Once you've built a bit of experience making some mistakes and practicing different strategies (or learned from someone else's mistakes) you'll be able to keep your body fueled and you'll be finishing some ultras mid pack perhaps in the top half. You'll eventually hit a plateau from just running more. To really make a difference in your ultra running times let's consider this
What are the chances of running at your 10k pb pace for a 30 mile ultra? Much less 50 mile or 100! Exactly....Nobody in an ultra race is 'sprinting' EVEN the 'fast ones'. Every runner is running this at a relatively low intensity compared to their 10k pb pace.
So you do get some variances, some people can maintain a higher % of their maximum effort or heart rate for longer than others but, if someone can run flat out for 10k and it takes them 60 mins they are going to be going a lot slower than this when they run 30 miles.
If this runner improves their speed though, so that they can run 10k now in 50 mins instead of 1 hour then slowing down to run a 60 min 10km pace (or 10 min mile roughly) is going to be much more comfortable and therefore be able to go much further at this pace.
When I started running I couldn't run 10k but I built up to it and then eventually I managed to run quicker than 1 hour. So that was a 10 min mile pace.... Now I can run 10km at about 5.30 min mile pace sooooooo..... Slowing down to 7 minute miles for me feels fairly comfortable. With a proper training plan I'm now able to run under 7 min miles for 50 miles. If I never improved my speed much from starting running this would be impossible as I couldn't even run 1 mile this quick when I first started.
A post shared by Charlie Sharpe (@charliethatruns) on

If we take someone who can run a 30 min 10k which is about 5 minute mile.... a 6 minute mile is going to feel fairly comfortable, a 10 minute mile is going to feel like an uncomfortable shuffle.
Bottom line, speed is still a factor in ultra running and shouldn't be neglected, it might not be a prime focus year round every single week but it should certainly feature during some of your training phases.

100 mile ultra training plan #8 Recovery Tips for Runners


Often overlooked but as we talked about in the previous article you have different phases of training and there is no magic number of miles per week or training method.
After you goal race where you've trained hard and tapered down before pushing yourself to your limit for hours (and hours and hours in a long ultra) your body is probably going to need a bit of a rest. I've heard all kinds of wild ideas, from having a day of rest per mile you raced (I could basically never run again if that had any truth to it) to saying you should only do 1 race per year or per month or whatever. The real answer.... It depends...
If you have trained well and ran with good form and have finished the race simply with fatigued muscles then you might need a day or two to a week or two before you can get back to easy running or at least some cross training.
A post shared by Charlie Sharpe (@charliethatruns) on

If you've finished the race and were hobbling a bit because your legs were dead before half way then everything stiffened up and you got a blister and were running 'funny' you might have been straining one of those knees more than the other and also got an achey calf or Achilles or whatever on one side more than the other... In this case you might have caused a bit of damage that's in excess of the usual fatigue. Similar to if you're running with poor movement like tightness in the hip flexors and rounded shoulders from hunching over a desk and a smart phone too much. If you've actually got an injury then you'll need to go and see a relevant professional and wait for it to heal before beginning some rehab work.
If you're dragging yourself out the day after a race and your legs are hurting simply for the sake of continuing a run streak etc then it's risky... Would you be better doing something with less impact like an easy spin on the bike if anything?
Honestly I feel better having done some light activity than done nothing at all. I wouldn't run if my legs felt bad or injured, I'd do something more gentle like I just mentioned. To me recovery is active and takes me the way I want to go not the opposite... How many people consider recovery to be going to the pub and eating junk food for 2 weeks? Going off Facebook newsfeed, quite a few. Whilst that's fine if that's what they want to do, it depends on your goals and what you want to achieve. Whilst I don't think sharing inspirational quotes on Instagram helps ones fitness much, remember that you get what others don't by doing what others wont.
I get a few questions about how frequently I race and get back into training after a long ultra. It depends how hard you're running also.... I run my legs off in a couple of races per year not every weekend, I do a lot of events purely for my training as it's easier when there's checkpoints and a nice route and nice to meet new people and bump into old friends too. To meas I write I've a marathon pb of 2hr 41 which isn't anything special but I can happily run sub 3 on the flat without much effort, I maintain a good mileage year round, consistently. Based on that, in something like a 2 marathons in 2 day weekend, my body isn't going to be so worn out compared to someone who has just smashed themselves to hit 3 hours on the first day and begins the 2nd day with legs that are in bits. 
After my first marathon and a 6 hour drive home my legs weren't good for much, a couple of years ago I ran the Berghaus Dragon's Back Race 200 miles in the Welsh mountains before heading over to Spain for Al Andalus Ultimate Trail another 5 days and 140 miles the week later. For me it was more like my summer holiday and a good block of training than my goal events for the year, it just depends on how you train, all those daily choices you make are either helping you with your fitness or they're hindering you.
Key points listen to your body and keep safe so you can enjoy more days out on the trails and less days at the physio 

100 mile ultra plan #7 Training plans

HOW many miles should I run each week?
Everyone has wondered this at some point.... It's not a simple answer again. There's no magic amount and it's going to depend on how long you have been training/running for and what your goal is.
A lot of people say the elites are running 100 miles per week, you've got to be doing that if you're serious...
Is your body really going to know the difference between 90 miles and 100 miles per week? Maybe... Maybe not... It's difficult to prove it with a scientific study what the optimal mileage is for anyone, there are so many variables, and then is that optimal for marathon runners or 100 mile runners or what?
Whatever position you're in at the moment, you will likely benefit from different 'phases' of training, briefly you might have a block say 8 weeks where you are running higher mileage before having a block of shorter but faster running say another 8 weeks before a taper and then a recovery period. In each of these phases your mileage will be different.

Let me give you an example from my own training.
AUG 2016. 100 mile race then 2 weeks @ 30 mile per week easy running with some additional easy cross training
SEPT-FEB 16. Avg 75/85 mile per week few races, couple of faster sessions per week focus on speed rather than ascent
FEB - APR Avg 90-95 mile per week including 2 marathons on weekends, long speed sessions
MAY - 2 weeks @ 55 mpw taper
End of may 100 mile in 13 hour 58 mins.
Key thing... If you're trying to race everything every weekend you'll likely be limiting yourself, worth considering the ultimate goal and what you're working towards, by all means use other events in your training, just don't smash yourself to bits on long slogs all the time if you want to build your speed and improve your half marathon time. 
I'm surprised how often I have conversations like this
Runner 'Ohhh I wish I was faster'
me, 'Right I see, when did you last do a faster run/ speed session?'
Runner 'Ohhh I went to the track once last year, I don't like running fast' 
If the thoughts of pain/ suffering/effort etc a runner has associated with doing intervals are outweighing their desire to be a faster runner then they will probably never get faster until they decide to change.
Sure, if you are running at a challenging pace then it's going to feel challenging, maybe a bit uncomfortable at times. If you are struggling here, go back to #1 Mindset. And also focus...

For a bit more insight head to this webinar recording it's the bottom video on this page here
Webinar where I walk you through step by step how I build a plan from the ground up.
If you have any specific questions get in touch, I also include various tips in my Instagram stories which you  can see by following me @charliethatruns on Instagram

100 mile ultra run training #6 Specificity

100 mile ultra run training series #6 Specificity 

When it comes to your long runs, whilst in ultra training....
My top tip here is specificity...
Try to replicate the terrain and ascent that you plan to race on.
For an extreme example, say you enter one of the hilliest 100 milers going Andorra Ultra Trail with 13500m in the 100 mile route (about 45000ft) and your mountain running experience stretches as far as canal paths around London, it's going to be a shock to the system.

So first, find out a bit about the ultra in question, what's the maximum and minimum altitudes? What's the total ascent? Is it a few big climbs or a load of small climbs? What is the terrain like? Sandy, rocky, hard, soft, wet, dry? Find out these numbers, you could take the total ascent and divide it by the distance to give you a rough comparable figure.
Lakeland 100 mile has 6000m over 100 mile =600m per 10 mile
Andorra Ultra Trail has 13500m over 100 mile =1350m per 10 mile (more than twice as hilly based on this)
OR L2M Ultra 100 mile has about 650m = 65m per 10 mile! Aka flat

Equally, training specificity goes the other way around too...
When I was training for the 13 hr 58 min 100 mile in 2017 I did a lot (for me) of my long runs on fairly flat or slightly undulating trails and canal paths, cycle tracks etc Most of the previous year I spent in the mountains so initially these flat runs felt a bit strange on the legs. It doesn't mean you can't do a hilly run if you live somewhere flat, but just consider it and try to prepare as best as you can.
If you only have small hills to work with then you might need to do multiple reps during a longer run to build up some ascent, you might have to drive further afield. 

To clarify the flatter runs aren't pointless but you'll soon feel those quads after a nice 1000m long descent if you're not used to it. 

Specificity can extend further than just the terrain though, think about the time of day, weather conditions, whether or not you'll be carrying a lot of kit, is it multi day? Get clear on the goal and these questions are easily answered.

Monday 9 April 2018

L2M 50 Mile Ultra - Liverpool to Manchester 50 Mile GB Ultras

L2M 50 mile takes place in April and runs between Liverpool and Manchester, this year 2018 the start had moved to the Albert Dock in Liverpool and the finish at a slightly less famous, Didsbury Rugby Club. 237 new, soon to be and experienced ultra runners (and one wheel chair athlete, Steve) would begin on a wet morning at 6am

The L2M 50 mile ultra route begins with a couple of miles along the River Mersey, which if you have ever done Liverpool Half Marathon or Liverbird Double Marathon, you'll have run along this before. Then it diverts off through the depths of Liverpool following a national cycle trail (I think it is number 56?) to pick up the Trans Pennine Trail at Childwall and checkpoint 1 which is about 8 miles.

I had set out at just below 7 minute mile pace having recced this part of the route I knew where I was going but in addition the course had been marked with GB Ultras signage so it would have been difficult to get lost if you were paying attention. Just before Penny Lane the rain turned to snow which was actually nicer to run in although short lived and the rain resumed which stayed with me for almost 6 hours. Having run the race in 2017 (see the video here) on the slightly different course and in good conditions I ran 5 hours 58 minutes for the 50 mile route with little fuss so I had planned a similar time this year.

Things didn't turn out quite to plan as I'd been aware my stomach was feeling a bit strange, I think I'd just eaten a bit too late in the evening after registration on the Sunday night, this basically lead to having about 6 or 7 toilet stops between CP 1 and Widnes at CP3 where I could just see time slipping away. The early lead I'd built up was easily pulled back by a runner in a yellow jacket who caught and passed me just near the Runcorn bridge. Conditions over head weren't improving either although earlier on I'd grabbed myself a couple of empty crisp packets that were littered on the trail and used them over my hands to keep them toasty and warm despite the conditions

After leaving Widnes things were looking up on the stomach front, the only thing (other than the conditions - which were the same for us all anyway) that I was aware might affect me, was the fact I'd not eaten or drunk anything yet. Before arriving in Warrington for CP 4 at Sankey Bridges and the approximate half way point I had a gel as my stomach seemed to have settled over the last few miles. I also had caught up with the guy in the yellow jacket who'd passed me quite easily earlier on and as I passed by he didn't respond in terms of any change in pace. Between here and the  Latchford Locks checkpoint on Bradshaw Lane I swapped to my spare jacket and was now moving relatively well again. I didn't stop for food or drink at any checkpoints, literally ran through calling my number and shouting a few thank you's.

After CP5 there was a small diversion around Lymm which was off the trail but then the route is the same all the way to the finish as last year. It's a long straight section through there to the next cp and a passing walker informed me there was 'nobody behind'. I had another gel and a 3rd before the finish. The trail was becoming wetter under foot but the great thing about the TPT is that it's firm and well surfaced so even in the rain there wasn't really any mud or slippery areas (like the opposite to Chester 50 mile) just puddles.

I hadn't been on this part of the course since last year at the L2M 100 mile except for a bit around Chorlton Water Park on the trail marathon they had during the summer (not my favourite of courses, loops and loops around the area) so I was just thinking my way through the route ahead. By now I was aware that the pace I'd been struggling along at early on had hampered my time quite substantially and so I was just cruising along around 7.30 min per mile pace to get to the finish.

Nothing really eventful over the final miles as I watched 6 hours tick over on the watch and rolled in eventually in 6 hours and a few minutes. If I'd have run that time in good conditions minus the stomach issues I'd have been totally disappointed but I'm glad that everything happened in this race and not my main target for the moment (L2M 100 mile at the end of April). Last year I ran 13 hours 58 minutes for the 100 mile event and my half way split was about 6 hours 27 minutes. Looking at the results I'd been gaining about 1 minute per mile over the eventual 2nd place during the second half and the guy in the yellow jacket had blown up in what must have been a very tough 2nd half for him coming in about 80 minutes behind which was all lost during the 2nd half. Always think about your pacing, whilst everyone will slow down a little, being disciplined early on can really pay off later. A big well done to some of my clients running, one managing to bag 1st lady covering the 50 mile in 6 hours 55 minutes and also another client for knocking over 1 hour from the previous year coming in 9 hr 47 minutes. some huge improvements there!

Overall the race was well organised and the marshals were fantastic, must have been a tough day for them out there for so long waiting for all the runners. The finish venue was ideal, with lots of showers and easy access to transport to get home, The only issue with the A to B linear style of the race is getting back home and to the start. You'd either have to stay in Liverpool the night before the race and hope you finish early enough on the race to get home afterwards if using public transport, or drive super early to the start, park there and either stay near the finish or finish quick enough to get to the car that evening, unless you have any friends who you could persuade to shuttle you about. Other than that I do personally prefer the original start from near Aintree as it's straight on the trail and you get to pass some of the more exciting parts of the trail like the big sandstone walls that the trail is cut into and many tunnels and bridges from the old railway line.

It's a perfect first ultra but might also suit those more experienced who want to see how quickly they can cover the distance. You can watch the video version below

Results are HERE