In September and October, I’ll be running two tough races, three weeks apart: the inaugural Ring of Steall Skyrace and the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon. Every week, I’ll be reflecting on my training – what worked, what didn’t, changes made, fueling, diet, sleep, etc.
Going into week 1, there were a few things I learned and therefore needed to incorporate into my training:
- Because The Ring of Steall has such a massive elevation gain, all of my runs need to have vertical: there needs to be substantial, preferably repetitive, massive hill climbing every session.
- I was still 18 weeks away from the marathon so I didn’t need to do a 4th run of the week, being the longer road run with some miles at tempo pace.
- After reading Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run – a definite must-read for running tips, persevering, and a few paleo-friendly recipes – I learned a new running technique for uphill: take smaller steps, to the point that it doesn’t feel as though you’re actually running, but you’re still moving efficiently and quickly uphill.
- Until the 9th of October, I’ll be working my ass off each week.
With that, my first week of training!
Monday: long hills
Distance: 8.63 miles
Elevation gain: 1,483 ft (452m)
In retrospect, I got a bit confused with this session: ‘long hills’ refers to longer stretches of hills done at a faster, harder pace. With this run, I did long hills, as per the above definition, however I also did a longer run for a weeknight. I anticipated this would be a longer run, but I still wanted to do it.
This run was done at South Drumtochty, climbing progressively higher into the forest along forestry tracks, and to the start of Strathfinella Hill, sight of the Finella Hill Race. The hill starts as a single track, rocky mud trail, which climbs higher and higher through dense forest. The trail then levels off a bit as you approach a clearing of forest, with views into the Grampian Mountains beyond. The trail continues to climb as you pass trails cutting perpendicularly into the forest, and then turns into a forestry track again, going flat through the woods. You then make a huge, steep, slightly rocky descent, past a forest clearing joining the main landrover track that snakes its way all over South Drumtochty forest. I’ve never been able to run up this initial climb entirely, and mainly walked, and I knew it would be the same, but I was going to at least do a combination of run-walking. I also was going to apply Scott Jurek’s advice for uphill running.
Boy, did his advice work! Not only was I able to run almost all the way up Strathfinella Hill, but it didn’t actually feel difficult. Usually, prolonged hill climbs always feel difficult, my legs feeling progressively more tired the higher I climb. But not Monday night, not that run. Part of me was wanting to stop and walk, but I kept chanting to myself “10 to 20 feet ahead, re-evaluate instead” over and over again. I also chose landmarks up ahead – that tree, that bush, the fence – for which to gauge how I felt and therefore decide when and if I was going to stop and walk. Most of the time, I didn’t.
Although this was a longer weeknight run, it was a very satisfying one. My legs sure felt it too.
Tuesday: rest day, late night at school for Parent’s Night
Wednesday: body weight exercises
I follow Sally McRae, also known as yellowrunner, on Instagram. She is a Nike-sponsored, American, ultra trail runner who is quickly becoming my woman crush, behind my main woman crush Emelie Forsberg. Sally McRae posts all sorts of challenging body weight exercises to do at home, that she does in her training; I use her account to influence my body weight sessions.
First, I did core, starting with this:
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Grab your foam roller. Let's work your arms, shoulders, abs, lower back , AND get a good stretch in. The key here is to engage your core, nice and tight; keep your hips rolled under and focus on controlled movements. The stretch at the end is my favorite: the foam roller massages my legs and then I get a good, long stretch in my back and shoulders. Try: 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps. 1 rep is 3 curls with 1 stretch. Take your time and enjoy this total body stretch and strengthener. #wholovesya #coachsallymcrae #betterathleteseries #niketrail #coreworkout #betterbodybetterathlete
Then super-setting with this:
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We're NOT foam rolling. But here's a powerful exercise "using" your foam roller to work those hips! Many running injuries are linked back to weak/unstable hips- so avoid injury and strengthen your stride with this combo hip exercise: Dip and Drive! Get into a side plank. Prop lower legs on a foam roller/bosu ball. Elbow directly under shoulder. Dip hip toward floor. Press back up. Drive knee up- think "running position". Engage your core- strong, straight torso, slow and steady. Try 2 sets of 8 reps. Increase to 3 sets of 15-20 each side. Don't be intimidated by the foam roller- this further challenges your core to engage and balance- BUT this can be done without the roller – and as you get stronger add the roller to the exercise. If you only have time for one exercise today, do this one. Be good to your body- be strong- be consistent! It's all in the hips baby! #wholovesya #coachsallymcrae #thebetterrunnerworkout #hipexercise #niketrail
I did 3 sets of 8 for these.
Then, I did two sets of a modified push-up/core exercise: straight arm plank with arms bent as though I’m about to do a push up – I do this for 20 seconds, then right into a straight arm plank for 20 seconds. This is continued for 2 minutes, altogether.
For legs, I went into my backyard and did 10 step ups, stepping up onto a chair, holding bricks in my hands (because we don’t have small weights and I’m too cheap to buy some). Then, still standing on the chair, I pump my arms 10 times as though I’m running. Then, I superset with 8 reps squats, holding an 8kg stone (again, I’m cheap!), then right into 8 shoulder presses. Finally, I did 10 reps of a side-to-side, one-legged squat I learned at metafit earlier this year. This series was repeated 3 times.
It was a good session. And yes, I always get DOMS from it.
Thursday: short hills
I had intentions of doing this run, but was feeling a bit nauseous, and considering there was a sickness bug going around my school, and that Tuesday night was a late one, I came home and chilled out. I was tempted to run, but I didn’t want to push it and make myself ill.
Friday: rest night
Saturday: long hill run
Distance: 13.21 miles
Elevation gain: 4,064ft (1238m)
Location: Glen Doll
The purpose of this run was altitude, altitude, altitude and time on our feet. Pat and I did this together, first running through the woods from the carpark to the Capel Mountn, making an out-and-back ascent and descent. Then we ran along the road to an unnamed hill, ascended that and turned around and ran down. Finally, we ran along the Kilbo Path towards Driesh, walked up the Shank of Drumfollow to where the trail flattens out and you can access both Driesh (#219) and Mayar (#253), then turned around and ran carefully back down. We would’ve gone for Driesh but the cloud cover was extremely low, visibility was poor and we would’ve needed a compass to navigate. No thanks.
Going up then down the Capel Mounth and the nameless hill was fine, but the last climb was tough! Part of this was due to degree of difficulty – steep and rocky terrain – but also to fatigue. This is just something I’ll have to keep working on and power through as the weeks progress.
Mid-run fuel: a larger packet of Nakd Salted Caramel bites, and dried pineapple. And plenty of water in my hydration pack. I ran out of food and was starving at the end of the run. I didn’t anticipate we’d be out so long. For subsequent runs, I’ll pack more food than I need.
Sunday: road run with some miles at tempo
Distance: 6 5 miles, with miles 3 and 4 at tempo
Elevation gain: 105ft (32m)
With very tired and stiff legs, I managed this run on the roads around my house. I was also tired in the head. The two tempo miles were tough going, but I managed. I did get periodic upset stomachs though, which resulted in cutting the run short by a mile. I was okay with this.
That night, I went to sleep at 9:30pm because I was so tired from the weekend. I slept straight thought until my alarm at 6:25am.
Total mileage for the week: 26.84 miles
Total time on my feet: 6 hours, 7 minutes, 45 seconds
Total elevation gained: 5,652 feet (1722m)
What I’ve learned: the earlier I go to sleep, the better quality sleep I have. I’ve been striving for lights out just before 10 each night, to awaken at 6:30 am, and my sleep has gotten much better. Being this active also helps knock me out 🙂
Week highlights: My Inov-8 Roclite 280’s are perfect and my confidence during descents is coming back.
My Paleo Rhubarb Crumble Cake, and the four slices I ate of it, was delicious.