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Training for an ultra: One week in

Written by Fiona

August 18 2018

I turned 50 in May and I set myself a goal to run a 50k ultra. That’s 30 miles on the imperial scale. (I might do a 50-mile ultra after that but let’s see.) I uhm-ed and ah-ed about what ultra to do and eventually chose the Ochil Ultra in Stirlingshire.

The Ochil Ultra launched just last year and I heard good reviews about it. There is also a 50 miler but I will do the 30 miles.

But by the time I had made my mind up I had only about eight weeks for training.

John Hampshire Coaching (JHC) bravely stepped in to offer me a training programme.

He figured that I am relatively fit anyway. I have been running fairly consistently for the past eight months to a year and I have been aiming to build up my training running to longer distances in the last four or five months.

In July, I ran my first Alps race, the Gran Trail Courmayeur, which was 30k with 2000m of ascent. It felt brutal at the time but I ended up doing well for my age. (Turning 50 doesn’t feel so bad when you podium in your age group!)

Just as I was about to start the programme with John, who is based in the French Pyrenees and offers training schedules via on-line plans and chat, I decided to do my own training run of 15 miles.

Favourite view on this section of the West Highland Way.

I did an out-and-back route on the West Highland Way. It was a fairly hilly route and I forced myself to run slow to go further. I felt ok except it is a bit boring to run a route you know well – and on your own.

Wasp stings.

I was stung by a wasp that got caught between my ankle and the tongue of my trainer about four miles into the run and I wondered if I should turn back because it was very sore but I decided not to give in to the pain. (The ankle later swelled up and stayed sore and swollen for four days.)

The first half of the run felt quite a bit duller than the second. The second half included a killer hill. I returned home feeling good about being able to achieve this distance.

More great views on the WHW.

First week on the ultra programme

The training sets include an intervals session, a hilly session and a long run each week. I also do a weekly weights-based circuits class with Hunter Fit UK and I aim to add in one yoga/stretching session at home.

I self-massage and attend a massage session with the fabbie Fiona Campbell once a month.

Week one of the JHC training session felt tough.

This is what a speed reps session looks like!

The speed reps are four minutes each. On the first rep I was sure I must have done at least 3.5 minutes of hard running. I looked at my watch and it said just two minutes!

By the last rep – just four reps! – I was having to work very hard and I felt sick.

The hill reps session was a long up rep followed by a recovery on the down. I had no idea that running down a hill path would take almost as long as running up. I ran out of time (I had friends coming over) and had to settle for doing only three-quarters of the session.

I felt frustrated and realised that hill reps up and down one section of hill are not for me. John had given me the option to run a hilly route for that session and I decided to do that next week. I need to feel I am going somewhere and seeing something interesting while I run. Or else I need company to make it seem less boring.

30km training run on John Muir Way

The long run was a 30k. I decided to run somewhere new and headed for the John Muir Way in East Lothian. I enjoyed the experience of running in a new place with different views.

John Muir Way out and back run of 30km from  Yellowcraigs almost to East Linton and back.

The JMW is waymarked so I didn’t need to worry about losing my way. I had planned an A to B and a return by train but the trains were not running in the direction that I needed them to on that afternoon so I settled for an out-and-back run.

Although it was five miles further than I had run in training in recent years and, actually, the furthest I have ever run in training I felt okay.

It is mentally tough when you set out, knowing you have so far to go but I tried not to look at my watch to check the distance until I was sure I must have run almost half way.

I checked at about eight miles and that meant only another two miles until I turned around. Those two miles were the toughest of the whole run. It must be a mental thing.

The final couple of miles were also hard but I felt happy that I had gone the full distance. Annoyingly, for the rest of the evening and half of the next day I was hit by bad nausea. I do sometimes suffer with this and it was a horrible bout.

I have no idea why I get this sometimes and not others and it could be that I simply pushed my body to far, although I felt mostly fine during the run. Perhaps I ate the wrong things, didn’t eat too much, did not hydrate property, drank the wrong fluids, ate too soon after the run etc etc?

Great views on the John Muir Way between Yellowcraigs and East Linton return.

I have a theory that it could be hormonal. I am mid-menopause/peri menopausal. I take HRT but the run came at the end of a week where I should normally have a period. I do not always have a period but I know that my hormones are on a downer. This makes me tired and moody and I wonder if it also affects my digestion/susceptibility to nausea/stomach upsets.

I felt emotionally dented by this nausea. Does this mean I am not going to be able to do an ultra? Is it a one-off? I really don’t want to feel like that again but I am going to have to risk it if I want to continue with the training.

At the end of week one I felt like I had a very long way to go to be able to finish a 50k ultra race. I am filled with doubts. I don’t think I have enough time to properly build up. I am out of touch with speed sessions. My hormones are playing havoc with my enthusiasm and physical ability. I felt horribly nauseous after the ling run.

While I suspect I could complete one out of sheer dogged determination, I’d like to finish feeling good about the run, rather than wretched.

To come: Training for an ultra: Two weeks down

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