“The best bits of advice you’ll ever get are often ones that aren’t easy to hear”
We all want to know the short cuts, ways to make big jumps in our running career, without having to put too much hard work in. We want value for our effort, but unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that.
In May 2015 we jumped over to the Alps, with a bucket load of shoes, some vests and a few good books. The idea was to spend the whole Summer dedicating training, lifestyle and anything else we could towards the UTMB. The whole 3 months in the mountains would make a huge difference and we’d rocket up to the top of the rankings…
In hindsight, three months isn’t very long. Especially when you compare it to the decades some have spent living, breathing and running in the mountains. Three months was not going to change a Londoner into a mountain runner.
“Three months was not going to change a Londoner into a mountain runner.”
Fast forward 12 months, add a winter of skiing uphill and cross country, and what has happened now. We’re a step closer to where we want to be, but just a step.
The key to improving is consistency and patience, neither of which can happen quickly. 12 months of consistent, yet patient, training and the hill running is going a bit quicker, the downhills involve less falling and the altitude doesn’t quite suck as much life out of me. It’s still only one year.
Last weekend, racing the 45km Trail de Velan in Switzerland, was a test to see how much further on the journey 12 months had brought me. Training in 2016 has gone well, with extra emphasis on the uphill sections, because you spend a lot more time running uphill in a race than you do descending.
Consistency had seen training uninterrupted by injury or fatigue for well over 2 years, each week or month another building block. This isn’t luck (not all of it) but a culmination of listening to my body, getting expert advice and easing off the gas when necessary. Patience.
Patience had made sure that I’d stayed sane whilst being beaten repeatedly in uphill mountain races this Spring, training with friend Ben Riddell and seeing him disappear uphill every time and watching contemporaries and peers win races or podium whilst I was “just training”.
“Training makes you stronger, whilst racing ultras will tire you out.”
Training makes you stronger, whilst racing ultras will tire you out. Adding shorter events into a training plan means you can recover in time to train again the next week, but an ultra requires proper rest and steady rebuilding into your peak workload. They hurt, a lot.
The race last weekend went well, being able to race strategically, sitting on the shoulder of whoever was leading for the first hour or so and then moving away uphill when the chance was there, but staying within oneself when those around were working really hard.
Crossing boulder fields, running most of the race above 2000m and seeing some fantastic sights along the way made it a great weekend, but best of all was leaving the last checkpoint knowing there was a ten minute lead and that the course record was within reach. The extra focus on ascending had paid off and now was the time to smash some downhill. I loved it.
It’s just a step on the journey though and one of the biggest joys of coming into ultra running is the potential for growth and improvement over many years to come, to see just how fast you can be. The CCC at the end of August and the World 24hr Champs in Belfast in July 2017 are just targets in my future that make sure I work hard today. What are yours?
There’s no easy way to improve, but be smart, work hard, stay patient and TrainAsONE.