Training for an ultra: One week in
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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