Time has flown by, and there are now just over 15 weeks until I’ll be in St Bees, looking out to sea and awaiting the start of the Lakes Traverse. My excitement is gradually building, aided somewhat by the ‘dot-watching’ I’ve been doing over the last week. I've been tracking those inspirational people running the length of the Pennines in the Spine Race, knowing that before long, I’ll be one of the ‘dots’ being followed as I cross the Lakes on foot.
So how have the first few weeks of my focused training been since I last posted? Well, so far I am pretty pleased. I’m feeling fitter and stronger, both physically and mentally, and although I only measure it by the fit of my clothes, I have lost some weight too. Although I’ve a lot of experience in endurance events and in the mountains, these 60 miles will be the furthest I’ve ever run in one go. Therefore I’m applying my breadth of knowledge and experience to adapt my training plan as I go. Sometimes I’ll do a more traditional 3-weeks build, one-week recovery cycle of training, and at others I’m working on a harder week/easier week pattern. It’s all about listening to my body. I’ve a pretty good understanding of how much training (running and otherwise) my body can tolerate, at what intensity, and how much recovery I need, so have been able to gradually build up to the point where I’m averaging around 42 miles of running a week without any detrimental effects (touch wood!) with some Pilates and strength work a regular feature too.
My long runs / walks:
My priority has been getting the long, easy-paced miles in my legs. I want to maintain the strong foundation I’ve built over the past year or so. Long runs have become longer and longer, and I’ve started to supplement them with long, fast-paced (but easy effort – perceived and checked by heart rate) walks. I know I’ll be walking some (maybe quite a bit!) of the event, so I need to get my legs in shape for that now. Running fitness and walking fitness are not quite the same. Some of my most enjoyable training sessions so far have been the long walks, and they’ve provided a great opportunity to refine my nutrition on the go, eating and drinking without losing pace. I’ve yet to master the art of getting food out of a plastic bag when wearing sodden mittens in a snowstorm though!
The other addition to maintaining a strong base that I’m fortunate to have is that, as a running coach, I spend a lot of time on my feet, a lot. Sometimes I’ll join in with clients’ warm-ups and cool-downs, and all those miles add up. Leading guided trail runs adds quite a few fun, low-effort miles each week too. Sometimes it’s a juggling act to balance those miles with my own training miles, but overall it’s worked well.
In addition to the long, slow stuff, I’ve varied the rest of my training with sessions that will build leg strength and maintain speed too. Each week I’ve allowed myself just one harder-effort run, normally a parkrun or cross-country race. Wherever I can I’ve made these hilly too. The exceedingly muddy Notts cross-country championship race was the highlight so far, being the perfect combination of hard running and fun too.
Whilst I’m running more and more miles, and gaining some incidental speed as a bonus, the biggest progress I have made to date has been mentally. I’ve had some epic adventures in my time that have tested my mental resolve to its limits, but after each one I tend to put that mental strength to the back of my mind for a while. Thus the thought of running over mountains for what will be in the region of 20 hours or more was feeling somewhat scary and beyond my capabilities. A week of following the Spine Race though, being inspired by people digging very, very deep, gave me a lot to think about. On a 19-mile fast walk into a snowstorm, I occupied my mind by recalling a very bleak few days many years ago in Scotland, in winter, on my own. I realised that the ‘me’ that can and loves to persevere when the going gets tough is still alive and kicking inside. Bring on May and those Lakeland mountains – I’ll be coming to get you!