Well, here we are again – back in lockdown with all events cancelled and no idea when they can start up again. Obviously in the grand scheme of things there’s far more important stuff to deal with just now (like an ongoing global pandemic!) but for those of us who love running and racing it’s a sad time in some ways. Thankfully we can still have our daily outdoor exercise though, and I get the impression that’s keeping many people sane at the moment. Since my training plan for the (postponed) Hardmoors 30 finished I’ve been trying to carry on running four days a week and do two strength sessions a week to keep me ticking over, but not doing any really long distances.
I was supposed to be doing the Endurancelife Northumberland Ultra again at the end of February, but that has now understandably been postponed until the end of May. So I now have nothing in my diary until the Hardmoors 55 at the end of March. In my heart I know this probably won’t go ahead either, but I want to train for it anyway; there’s an outside chance it will happen, and a good block of training is never wasted. I ran the 55 last year (it was postponed from March to October) but the weather was so wet the course turned into a mudslide for about the last 20 miles and I’d love to have another go in better conditions. So I recently had a catch-up with Kim Cavill of Cavill Coaching and she’s created me another training plan for the next eight weeks to take me up to the event. The basic structure is the same as my previous Hardmoors 30 plan, but as the 55 is a much longer, harder event so there’s more mileage.
The major challenge I face during this cycle of training is that the 55 is a very hilly event and here in York we don’t really have any hills. Normally when training for an event like this I’d be heading out to the Cleveland Way or the Wolds Way for long, hilly Sunday runs, but with current restrictions in place I don’t feel that driving somewhere to run is the right thing to do. I know others think otherwise, but each to their own – I’ll be running from home until lockdown has ended. However, Kim has adapted my new plan to take account of this, with specific strength work and, from next week, a weekly session called tempo hills; this is to be done on pretty much the only decent hill I can run to from home and sounds a bit tough! But hopefully it will do the job.
I’m optimistic that trail races will be able to run again soon in the socially distanced way they did for a while last year, although I can’t see mass participation road races happening for a good while yet. Our Yorkshire summer 10K road race league has just been cancelled for the second year running, which is a shame as they are such fun inter-club events. I have a solo place in Endure 24 in July, deferred from last year, but will have to wait and see whether that will go ahead. As I write this I’m waiting to find out whether I have a place in the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc OCC race in France in August. I’ve entered the ballot for this twice unsuccessfully, so there’s a good chance, and if I get in that will determine my training schedule between now and then. In the meantime I’m just trying to stay positive and hoping to come out of all this madness a stronger runner.
Hope everyone is still managing to enjoy running despite these crazy times. At least there is now light at the end of the tunnel. Keep on keeping on folks!
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work with a running coach? I certainly have from time to time. I’ve thought it might be good for me to get a training plan tailored to my own requirements – especially as I’ve got older, as most plans don’t take account of age – but then I realised I’d actually have to be accountable to someone who might judge my cake and alcohol intake, so I didn’t take things any further. When I used to train for road marathons I’d follow my trusty Asics Sub 4 plan. Now that I’ve moved on to longer, off-road events I generally use the plan I took from the Race to the Stones website when I ran that in 2017. Both seem to work pretty well. But lately, at times such as when I’ve started to fade towards the end of an ultra, I’ve wondered “Is there a way I could do this better and finish stronger? And if so, what would I need to do?”.
The Hardmoors 55 is billed on its website as ‘one hell of a race’, and that’s no exaggeration! Following the Cleveland Way for 55 miles from Guisborough to Helmsley, it has over 2,000 metres of ascent (including some pretty brutal hills) and takes in the highest, most exposed section of the North York Moors. Because of this, and because it’s usually in March, the weather always plays its part in the proceedings. In 2018 the race took place as the Beast from the East swept the country and was officially stopped halfway through during a blizzard. Last year featured torrential rain, freezing gale force winds and horizontal hail, and many runners dropped out – including me! The wind was so strong we couldn’t even run on some flat sections. Soaked to the skin and dithering with cold, I’d had enough after a horrible 20 miles that took me six hours. It was the first time I’d ever DNF’d in a race, and afterwards I felt really annoyed about it, even though I know it was the right decision at the time.
Hello folks, it’s been a while! How are we all doing? I feel like we’ve all been in running limbo for the past few months. In my last blog post, at the end of April, I wondered if things would be back to some kind of normality by the summer, but as it turned out that was a tad optimistic! So many events have been cancelled or postponed until next year that my 2021 schedule is already looking pretty busy.
I last posted here in mid-March, and in the relatively short time since then the world has changed beyond recognition. At that time I’d just run the Golden Fleece Circuit as part of my preparation for the Highland Fling race, my main target for spring. Not long afterwards we were in lockdown and everything was cancelled. One by one the events I was planning to take part in over the spring and summer fell like dominos: the Daffodil Dash, the Helmsley 10K, the Vale of York 10, the York & District clubs summer 10K league, the Fling, the Windermere Marathon, Race to the Castle, Endure 24… right up until July. I don’t have anything in the diary until the Hardmoors Farndale Marathon in August now. But who knows whether life will be back to anything approaching normal even by then? It was all totally understandable, but so disappointing.
I love running ultras, but preparing for them properly does involve doing quite a few long training runs, which can sometimes be a bit boring. So I love it when I can find an event to enter that’s about the same length as the long run I need to do on that weekend. It’s far more interesting to run a new route with other people than to just go out and plug away by myself. Last weekend’s Golden Fleece Circuit was a great opportunity to combine some Highland Fling training with a good day out.
How’s your new running year going? I’ve had quite a hectic start to 2020 with house renovations continuing and a busy time at work, as well as fitting in training. First world problems, hey? I’m not complaining!
I’m not the sort of person who obsessively logs all the miles I run – I’m not on Strava and I hardly ever download stuff onto Garmin Connect – and that’s partly why I like to have a bit of a running review at the end of each year, thinking about how things went and how they might have been better. I’ve entered more running events this year than ever before, but a lot of them were just as training exercises.
One of the best decisions I’ve made this year was to join Tadcaster Harriers. It’s such a friendly and inclusive club, and everyone I’ve met from the chairman down has been lovely. As well as all the usual club training stuff there’s a brilliant Run and Talk for mental health session on the first Thursday of each month. Non-members are welcome to attend, there are running groups of different distances/abilities, and there’s cake and chat at the end! Years ago the Harriers used to organise a run in Tadcaster called the Tad 10 (miles). For some reason it stopped, but has recently been revived and is now organised by Racebest. My marathon training schedule for the day said twelve steady miles, so I thought ten miles at a slightly quicker pace would be a fair substitute, and it would be fun to be there with other Harriers.