Sessions 19 and 20, and some other stuff!

Since my last post, I have been resting more; this is a good thing, as I have been showing some classic signs of being over-trained: general fatigue, waking in the night, and continuous aches and pains! This means I have skipped sessions on my plan, and focussed on some faster stuff (as well as distance).

Continuing with the theme of making myself do stuff I don’t want to, this week I ran a steady 5K around Thetford with Sophie (a superb work colleague and even better runner), very early the morning after a heavy Christmas works do! I have little to say about this other than I wish I had more opportunities to run with Sophie, and 5K is a superb hangover cure!

Thursday’s club run composed of pretty straightforward loops around Ely; but this week, a beginners’ course graduate turned up for a taster session, and seemed a little apprehensive. I decided to go for the open-level option (four laps), having offered to run lap one with the beginner lady. I enjoyed the steady loop one, and once the beginner lady and I exchanged farewells, I decided to speed things up for the lonely three loops. As per previous club sessions, my thinking was to do the fourth loop: even though I didn’t want to. I am realising more and more that when preparing for an ultra, you are training the mind as well as the body.

Each December, Ely Runners lay on a coach to ferry us to Woodditton (Suffolk), so that we can enjoy the gorgeous trail back to Ely. I went for the full 18.5 mile option, which takes in Devil’s Dyke, mud, and parts of the Fen Rivers Way. I LOVE this run, which happened today! Arranging to run with Charlotte, Nick and Andrew was all quite last-minute (and I wanted run with each of them for different reasons). Although the pace of this small group was a tad faster than I should have run, I enjoyed every minute. I actually managed to eat, as well as drink all of the water (with Tailwind) in my collapsible bottles.

Superb trail and excellent training.

At one point during the run, fellow Ely Runners, Claire and Emily had laid on a mini-bar! The Rolo Vodka, although in no way recommended as an aid to ultra training, was sublime! Claire and Emily are bloody heroes!

Ely Runners, about to set off on their Christmas run from Woodditton to Ely.

I have been eating non-stop since today’s Christmas run! More soon!

Sessions 17 and 18 (run to and from Parkrun, and a muddy half marathon).

After the marathon training run at the weekend, I have not run at all during the week: this is almost unheard of for me, but a combination of work, and just needing to rest led me to this course of action. I was due to marshal at Littleport Parkrun on the 8th December 2018, and my superb running buddy, Lauren, agreed to trot along the river bank to Littleport with me. Lauren is one of the very best people to run with, as she always sets a steady pace, she is so encouraging, and always funny! Lauren’s blog is well worth following; she covers all aspects of her own running.

Lauren’s superb blog.

Five whole days of no running had clearly done me no harm, and it felt like we had got to Littleport pretty swiftly, and I felt great! Maybe the break had done me some good? After Parkrun, I ran back along the old Ely Road. The wind was in my face the whole way, and it was nowhere near as much fun as the run in! I’ll call this session 17 as it is close to what was expected in my plan, and I was playing catch up after those few days off.

Session 18. The plan said I had to run a half marathon and push the pace a bit. I took this to mean a bit faster than ultra pace, and given I have been struggling to slow down, it almost felt a relief to not have to as much for this run.

It feels crazy to be running in a shirt in December!

I decided on a run through Ely, along the river and then up towards Barway (and back). The trail heading towards Barway was more challenging than I thought it would be. At times, the muddy puddles tried to suck my trail shows off. I nearly fell several times. Once I was through the quagmire, I headed through Barway to the main road that leads into Ely, I turned around to head back the way I came. Despite the conditions, the trail bit was huge fun, and the Marino wool socks once again worked wonders: the feet felt damp, but warm!

Fun heading towards Barway!

I am still struggling with nutrition: I won’t get into it this time, but needless to say, it’s not an issue for the half marathon distance. I managed on a bowl of porridge and pack of Love Hearts today; as I popped the first into my mouth on the trail, I could have sworn it had ‘IDIOT’ written on it: I must have imagined it.

More soon!

Session 16. Trail marathon.

Yesterday was my long run, and thoroughly enjoyable it was too, but it was not without its problems afterwards!

On the Saturday, I tried Haverhill Parkrun with two fellow Ely Runners. I decided not to flog myself to death as I had the planned long run the next day. Haverhill turned out to be wet and muddy: just my kind of thing.

I ate well the day before the long run, and made sure I was properly hydrated; I also ate a sizeable bowl of porridge the next morning. Both collapsible water bottles were filled with the right amount of Tailwind, and two pouches of baby food as well as some Haribo were packed into the ultra vest.


I decided to head out along the River Cam towards, and hopefully as far as Waterbeach. It was a gorgeous day for a run, and a shirt was plenty warm enough for the whole session. I stopped at just after mile 6 for a pouch of the baby food, which I really enjoyed despite it being cold. I might have imagined it, but the food seemed to give me a real boost, and I stomached it well. I kept well-hydrated on the run, even managing to drink whilst running (something I do not find at all easy). I spread out the Haribo along the whole run, and I had another pouch of food at around mile 15.

The route was particularly beautiful.

Stunning views of a Cathedral that never seems to get any nearer!

I need to use more gorgeous routes like this for the long runs, as I think it helps keep the mental battle more in favour of the positive voices in my head. I think I managed to slow things down, and I was forced to reduce the pace beyond mile 20 anyway. It was quite a technical and muddy run in places, and thinking about where I placed my feet with every step was necessary in order to avoid turning an ankle; so, in parts, quite a demanding run.

The interesting thing about today’s marathon distance is my reaction afterwards. I have run a few marathons as races, and once before as a training run, as well as a few 18 and 20 mile distances. My reaction after them is mixed, but I was pretty much fine after the last marathon distance training run. This time, once I got home, I drank a pint of squash and got in the bath, once out, I started to feel quite unwell, and went to bed for three hours: I slept solidly, and then got up and started the usual ‘eat everything that I could’ routine. I am puzzled by this reaction, as I had slept well the night before, I have ran this distance before and I was sure I had got the nutrition and hydration right. Perhaps I am a little over-trained? Maybe there is no real rhyme or reason and the next one will be fine? Maybe it was just a tough 26 miles due to the state of the trail? What I am reassured by is that, although a little bit stiff here and there, I feel pretty good today considering what I did yesterday!


Cycling, sports massage and session 15!

I told myself when I embarked on this crazy journey that I would replace a session a week from my ultra plan with a cycle. I love to cycle, and a few running colleagues reassured me that this is a sensible and reasonable adaption to my plan. I have only just got round to getting back on the bike for the first time since this year’s RideLondon 100. It was great to do this on Wednesday! I enjoyed catching up with a couple of cycling friends and I had a rest from running whilst still giving the heart a bit of a workout! The Fens are windy! It’s hard work!

My weekly sports massage with Becky. What can I say? Amazing! I have the odd problem due to an injury from my 20s (tibial plateau fracture). I have metalwork in my left leg, and although it is not a major problem, as I age it aches now and then – and these days more often. The left legs feels somewhat weaker than the right and it feels like a bit of a passenger at times. Becky said she would give this some thought and do some work comparing strength and mobility on both sides. It appears that the difference between each leg is pretty much negligible, and we agree that we would continue with the usual rolling program of stretching, massage and release work. This week Becky worked on the quads, hamstrings and glutes. I left feeling lighter and she was left with chocolate! What a star Becky is! See Becky’s Facebook page below.

Becky’s reflexology and sports massage.

It is well-established that I cannot eat whilst running. I have to stop and eat, and I have worked out the kinds of foods I can stomach eating and running right away on. Someone had the idea of baby food pouches. I will be trying this next week! I hope it works, as the pouches are so convenient to carry!

Great idea! Let’s see how it goes!

On Thursday of this week I mixed it up a bit for the club session. One of the most experienced club members we have (if not the most experienced) told me that when he ran ultras he did not spend excessive time on long runs, he just got himself ‘race fit’ and then rocked up at ultras and took it easy, enjoying the day out! I will be balancing things a bit now: slow slow stuff and faster fast stuff! Back to the club session: I ran two long loops steady with a full ultra vest on; the third lap I sped things up having ditched the vest, and I finished with a steady fourth lap (four laps being the open option for the session). It all went well, and to be honest, I enjoyed the varied company that came with varying my speed over a session training.

Steady, steady, a bit faster, steady.

Tomorrow should be Haverhill Parkrun. Long run on Sunday! More soon!

A run with my boys and session 14.

We have established that family time is vital. When family want to run with you, it’s a bonus! Today was the 2018 Ely Festive 5K, which my twin boys and I were signed up for. I have run this a few times, and I have always fancied a pop at it in anger, but the boys have always wanted to run it, as much for medals as for any other reason. My ultra plan said that I had to run a steady 18 miles today, so, my thinking was to run this with the boys and then knock out another 15 miles elsewhere!

The boys did good!

In short, I loved running with my boys, and it was fabulous to see many people I know in the crowd, especially Ely Runners. Both lads got great times! The icing on the cake was seeing Lauren on the stage as we left, and knowing right away that she had got first lady!

Home, for soup and bread. Tinned chunky veg and chicken soup is really working for me: I can stomach the stuff, so I am sticking with what works. I packed the ultra vest and filled the water bottles along with a few snacks and I hopped in the car to get to the Burwell part of Devil’s Dyke. This is a favourite run of mine, and if I am getting bored, it works for me. I have always been absorbed by the beauty of this stretch: Burwell to Woodditton along Devil’s Dyke and back. In some parts of the run, the bank is around 30 feet high, and the sight of a buzzard swooping along the ditch below is incredible (this happened twice today). I have never ran this stretch without seeing something memorable. Some might find it strange that I don’t combine the sights with the sounds, but I have so many podcasts to catch up on, and this time I listened to a few episodes of Radio 4’s ‘In Our Time’: Pure joy.

I was able to slow the pace down a bit (at last), eat a little (at last) and drink enough: things are starting to work better on the longer runs, and I really must find more beautiful places to complete them – it seems to stop the mental battles! The Festive 5K and my Devil’s Dyke run equalled 18 miles. That’ll do.

One of the best parts of the Devil’s Dyke run to Woodditton.

I have longer runs ahead of me. I don’t care really, as my recovery from them is getting easier. I am enjoying the eating! Maybe this is just a particularly positive day!

More soon.

Ultra training is intrusive – session 13

Like marathon training, with ultra training comes guilt. It can be quite intrusive on family time. It is something I feel aware of most of the time, and it has made me a little selfish and disciplined! More on that in a moment.

There are some things I won’t stop for ultra training, and Parkrun is one of them. Parkrun doesn’t always fit in with my training programme, and often I should be doing a longer run, back to back with the same on Sundays. I get round this by doing another run after Parkruns. Some of The Ely Runners Beginners graduates took part at Littleport Parkrun today; this was a total joy for me as I am sure it was for some of the other coaches. It was brilliant to see such superb performances, and more importantly, people smiling, and clearly hooked!

When I got home I went straight out with the ultra vest, complete with the new collapsible water bottles with straws: these were recommended to me, and they are superb! On pulling the straw up a fraction, you bite the end and take a suck of water. Simple! This is why I look so happy in the pic out at Roswell Pits! Anything that makes the whole effort simple and efficient makes me feel more relaxed.

Roswell Pits. Happy and relaxed.

It is important not to allow the family to be casualty of ultra training: off we all went for a huge lunch together, which was superb, followed by a rest, to let things settle, and then a swim with the boys. Back to the training being intrusive on family life; this is negated somewhat by making every effort to do family stuff, no matter how tired you are, and not letting children know how tired you are. I have to become as disciplined and selfish around making sure I do family stuff as I do around training. It’s not easy. Ultra training and family life are not good bedfellows, but it can be made to work. We had a superb swim, and my lads surprised me with their progress in the pool: we all cracked out a good few lengths before heading home. Then I fell asleep on the sofa for two hours: very rare for me!

Tomorrow is the Ely Festive 5K, which I can treat as training and family time as the boys want to run it. I will have to head out on my own afterwards! More on that soon!

Family time!

Rest, eating, massage and session 12.

Since running the marathon distance on Sunday, I have rested: quite a bit! This is rare for me!

I am a coach on the Ely Runners Beginners’ course, and I ran with our amazing beginners graduates on Monday evening: their final 5K run. They were all amazing, but I want to focus on Lauren a bit! Lauren has been a huge source of support and inspiration. She is way up there when it comes to Ely Runners who are generous with encouragement (and it is full of members who encourage you), no matter what your goal or level of ability. Lauren is a superb and highly entertaining running buddy! I owe her.

On Monday night, Lauren rocked up to coach with the beginners having hammered a half marathon the day before, and she really hammered it: she was seconds from her PB. Fair to say, walking was challenge for Lauren on Monday, let alone any running. Despite this, and like a hero, she ran with the beginners, and in doing so, surprised no-one. Why do I mention this, and how is it relevant to my training? Well, I found Lauren’s post-race wobbly legs most amusing, and at regular intervals I made sure I let her know it! But, I had forgotten that I tend to find the second day after a major effort much harder than the immediate day after. On the Tuesday morning, when I had to get down the stairs backwards and hobble around all day, I was haunted by slight guilt at having lightheartedly mocked Lauren! Sorry! I now am reminded of my own wobbly leg thing, and when it kicks in!

Check out Lauren’s amazing, award-winning blog! Lauren’s blog!

Lauren. General all-round hero and she of the ‘regular both feet off the ground’ shot.

I have done some serious eating since Sunday! I mean Olympic eating! Let’s just leave that there!

On the Wednesday, I went to see Becky for my weekly sports massage: she is so good! We focussed on my new problem area: pins and needles in the lower calf/ upper Achilles area (both sides). Becky talked me through what she thought might be going on, and she applied a treatment based on her theory. She allowed me to boss Alexa around and I asked for The Cure! I had a superb sports massage and I gave Becky chocolate and hot chillies! Becky is ace!

Becky: she of the magic sports massage hands.

Thursday night (tonight), I ran the notorious and enjoyable Ely Hills route, two laps, one with a nice new club member lady, and the second with Cara and Andrew. I so wish I had turned up with my ultra vest/ pack on, as I have felt that I should wear it for all training sessions, but I was a little concerned that I might look a Charlie! Kyle rocked up with his pack on looking the business! Another lesson learned: do what you want, it doesn’t matter how you look. It is all about adapting your training to meet your needs! By the way, Becky, no pins and needles!

Not sure what I will do tomorrow, but Saturday is Parkrun, and Sunday is the Ely Festive 5K (with my sons). I know I will have to run on my own after it to make up the miles!

More soon!

Session 11 – Marathon.

It was up early today, coffee, two rounds of brown toast with Marmite; I popped the full bladder into the ultra pack and added some tailwind endurance fuel to it (superb stuff), a bit of chocolate, a spare shirt and some wipes – and I set off.

This run started out well, and I paced myself to be just a little slower than usual (probably still a bit on the fast side though). I headed through Queen Adelaide and along the top of the river bank into Littleport; the view was gorgeous as there was bright summer sun, and I slowed down a bit to watch some fallow deer grazing in the fields below me. Once I ran through Padnal, I decided to try to eat (despite not being remotely hungry): as usual this didn’t work out, and yet again I spent ages thinking (and worrying) about nutrition. My plan today was to run back home (at the half marathon point) and eat, possibly soup and bread. I turned around once I hit the Ely Road and went back through Padnal, along the river, back into Ely and home. As luck would have it, my family were finishing lunch, which was fantastic as I did not want to stop for long and I knew there would be left overs. All three sons left boiled potatoes, which had gravy on them. I ate what felt like a good plate full, washed down with Fanta; and once the bladder was topped up and more tailwind added, I set off again.

Quanea Drove.

For the second half of my run, which I had decided would be marathon distance, I decided not to stray as far as Littleport, but to stick to around and through Ely: all the same difference, what there was something a little intimidating to me about repeating the route from earlier. I headed down Kiln Lane, over the Iron Bridge and onto Quanea Drove (a club run route). Ely Runners will tell you that they can identify members from a distance by their running style. I spotted someone coming towards me from a long way off, and I knew it was Richard Hill. We exchanged greetings, and I moaned a fair old bit about my fuelling concerns. Richard’s advice was simple, if I struggle to snack on the go, physically stop and eat, and during the ultra, stop for a little longer and get something a bit more substantial onboard. This is a sound strategy actually, as I had done just that at home, and I had not suffered from having substantial food (not snacks) in my stomach. Note to self: take a few sweets on runs with me, rely on the tailwind, and stop fretting: I can stop and eat!

life saver!

The rest of the run got to me a bit. By the time I passed another fellow Ely Runner (Ben), I was feeling low, and I am glad he had not seen me at mile 21 as I had a bit of a blub! I am not at all sure what the odd tear is about: it happens sometimes on very long runs and I don’t think it is about being unhappy as such, but the emotions tend to be a bit of a rollercoaster for me at the marathon distance. I have read around it a bit and the reasons offered for blubbing are numerous!

Gorgeous views.

The last 4 miles were tough, and I noticed my pace drop. I was very pleased to get home and a little relived that everyone had gone out; this way they did not have to see the undignified ritual of me stripping sweaty gear off and chucking it in the washing machine and then hobbling to the bathroom. One long soak in a hot bath and it was time for one of the joys of distance running! Food! My wonderful wife left me a treat!

I have mixed feelings about having ran a marathon as a training run: in one way it is reassuring, as at the moment, if I am pushed and have not ran one the day before, I probably have a marathon in me most days. But on the day of the ultra, I have to find another 22 miles! Don’t go there!

More soon!


Sessions 9 and 10

How is a standard club run or Parkrun relevant to ultra training? Well, it’s time spent on my feet in the lead up, but more importantly, it is approaching things in a way that puts me out of my comfort zone. I have always felt that longer runs are much more about the mental struggle than the physical one, and attention to mental strength is vital. So, I am trying to make all runs, including the shorter ones, more difficult.

The club run on 15/11/18 was your bog standard loops around Ely. As hard as I am finding opting for the open level option, I am trying to force my self to do so. Four laps instead of three made my run just under 8 miles. I ran with different people than I usually do, and it was great to chat with club members, Cara and Serena, both of whom asked about me training and showed a genuine interest: support from club members is vital, and these ladies left me feeling more confident. I think chatting with them pushed me to go for that lonely final loop.

Friday was a day off, and it was very much-needed, the legs were and are hurting. It is interesting how the fatigue is moving around my body; only a few days ago it was the area near my upper Achilles; that has eased off, and now the quads really ache! Roll on the massage with Becky next week!

There are some very committed Parkrunners in the club, and few match the dedication and attention to detail of Andrew and Jon! Today we decided to drive to London and back in order to have a stab at Victoria Dock Parkrun, we needed a Parkrun beginning with V (let’s not go there).

Yours truly with Andrew and Jon at Victoria Dock Parkrun.

How is this relevant to ultra training? Well, although I very much wanted to join Andrew and Jon at this event, I did not want to get up as early as I had to, and I did not want to run hung-over, but I did! I must maintain my strategy of making myself do stuff I might edge out of.

As usual, Andrew set a crazy pace, and I am not sure how I kept on his heels throughout. I was chuffed to bits with a sub-22 minute run given the sore head and heavy, aching quads! Jon ran blindingly and look incredibly strong at the finish! Parkrun tourism is a joy! It is very beautiful around the Docks on a sunny winter morning!

This is all relevant!

Longer run tomorrow.

Screenshot 2018-11-17 at 22.49.26
Not bad for Mr Hung-over jelly legs!


Session 9. Multi-terrain half marathon.

Monday was spent coaching at the Ely Runners Beginners’ course: more about that another time. It is too brilliant to not get a proper mention soon.

Yesterday was just too busy work-wise to even think about any training; and this is probably a good thing, as I actually feel rested today! After work I ate and gave things a little time to settle before setting off for a training session: a half marathon distance multi-terrain run around Ely with a head torch and full back pack. Oh, and my new trail running smock. Who can hark back to their childhood and remember when they got something new and had to carry it around/ wear it all the time/ take it to bed? That’s me.

Screenshot 2018-11-14 at 21.37.00
Decent bit of kit.

I set off with a full back pack, the trainers I will run the ultra in, and the new jacket. The jacket is designed for the cold, as a shell against wind, and to be rain proof. Tonight is was mild, dry, and still! Hence I sweated like bast*&d! The jacket was soon packed away, and I carried on. I really enjoyed this run, and I knew I was going too quickly, but I decided, just this once, that I would not worry about it. This run took in some hills and some trail. I really enjoyed it and it actually felt good. I will slow it down next time!

A funny thing happened today, I decided to download some Ennio Morricone via Amazon Music: I selected random tracks and they came on through the headphones as I ran two meadows at the top Kiln Lane in Ely. Suddenly I was listening to a piece of music my Mother selected for my Grandfather’s funeral. I don’t always pay attention to things and have never known the title of the track (or looked it up). It hit me like a thunderbolt, and I had to slow right down as I was a bit tearful. It is called ‘Chi Mai’. Maybe the music my Grandfather liked is the route to me slowing down? Can blubbing help with ultra training.

I am eating like a man possessed! I like this side of ramping up the mileage!

More soon!

Screenshot 2018-11-14 at 22.19.45
Blubbing Morricone route.