I vinter har jeg trent mye med crosstrainer på grunn av akillesskaden jeg pådro meg i høst. Det gikk en stund før jeg klarte å knekke koden for hvordan jeg skulle få disse øktene til å bli skikkelig effektive, men til slutt klarte jeg å finne den rette kombinasjonen av motstand, stigning, og stegfrekvens som ga ca samme puls på intervalløkter som jeg pleier å oppnå på tredemølla. Mens jeg fint klarer å løpe en halvmaraton med en puls på 150-160 føltes tre minutter lange intervaller på denne pulsen ut som en evighet på crosstraineren, jeg pustet og peste så man hørte meg på lang avstand, og det brant i lårene. Når treningsplanen sa 15 min rolig, 15 min steady og 15 min terskel konkluderte jeg med at denne økta var umulig å gjøre på crosstrainer. Er en treningsøkt på en bestemt puls på crosstrainer mye hardere enn den samme økta på tredemølle, eller bare kjennes det slik ut fordi jeg er mer vant til å bruke tredemølle?
In 2015 I took part in a couple of races in the French Pyrenées. The organiser of these races were puzzled that I did not have any sponsors, considering my results that year, and were of the opinion that any French runner with such results would at least get free shoes from the local running shop. During lunch at a café we did a very quick, unscientific review of Norwegian female non-elite athletes who are sponsored, and came up with three criteria that seem to increase chances of sponsorship a lot: blog, blond hair and boobs. At that time I only had one of the three, blog, and now I have also achieved the blonde hair, but I will never have boobs, despite my love of soya milk*. Luckily, HokaOneOne does not use these criteria to pick runners to support, and I am now one of 13 runners in Norway who are ambassadors for this brand. Les videre →
I 2015 var jeg med på et par løp i de franske Pyrenéene. Arrangøren av disse løpene var veldig forundret over at jeg ikke hadde noen sponsorer, og mente at enhver fransk løper med mine resultater i det minste ville fått gratis sko av den lokale sportsbutikken. På et kafébesøk prøvde vi å finne nøkkelkriteriene for å bli sponset her i Norge, og kom fram til at tre faktorer så ut til å øke sjansene for å bli sponset betraktelig: blogg, blondt hår og bryster*. Den gangen oppfylte jeg kun det ene kriteriet: blogg. Nå er også det blonde håret på plass, men bryster får jeg nok aldri, til tross for mine forkjærlighet for soyamelk**. Heldigvis bruker ikke HokaOneOne de tre overnevnte kriteriene når de velger ut løpere til å representere seg- jeg er nå en av 13 løpere i Norge som er ambassadør for HokaOneOne sko.
I don’t know if I should tag this blog post as advertising or not. Usually I always specify that I have paid for any gear that I mention or praise here, altough not always full price, I sometimes get a «special price for you my friend» discount. I kind of paid for these socks too, with vouchers that I got from Centurion Running. My success in last year’s 100 mile grand slam netted me a total of £170 to be spent on either Injinji socks or UD gear. Since you can never have too many running socks, whereas 6-7 running packs probably will suffice for a while, I ended up getting socks. Lots of socks, including a pair of Injinji knee high compression socks that I probably would have considered too pricey if I had to pay for them with real money. Until I tried them on, that is…
Back in November I declared here that my goal for 2018 was to repeat the Centurion 100 mile grand slam. On December 2nd I signed up for the last race in this series, and posted on Facebook that my running calender for 2018 was now all set. Bring on the grand slam again! As it turned out, I made these statements a little prematurely.
The same day as the registration for the Autumn 100 opened up the lottery draw for the Western States Endurance Race, the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile race in the world, took place. To get a spot in this race you first have to qualify, then enter a lottery. You accumulate tickets for each year you are unsuccessful in the lottery, meaning that most runners try to enter this race for 5,6 or 7 years before they are finally selected . (You can find full details of how the lottery system operates here.) In 2016 I was qualified, but did not enter the lottery as I was so set on running the Centurion Grand Slam. A friend of mine, upon hearing this, more or less called me an idiot, telling me to enter the lottery each year no matter what in order to accumulate lottery tickets for the future. So I entered the lottery back in November, thinking there was a chance I might want to run this race in 2022 or thereabouts, and then forgot about it. Until a few hours after I had signed up for the grand slam, when a friend suddenly messaged me.
My one and only ticket had been pulled out of the around 15 000 tickets in the hat for the 16th spot on the wait list. Last year 29 runners made it into the race from the wait list, so my chances are very good, but since the WSER takes place in June this would mean missing out on the SDW100. OK, so now my race calendar for 2018 was TP100, WSER, NDW100 and A100, meaning I would get to do kind of a 100 mile grand slam next year, but receive no big buckle to show for it. Or maybe not…
After Bislett 24 I got some messages congratulating me on making the qualifying standard for the national team, and some messages saying «Shame you missed the qualifying standard by just a mile, but I’m sure you’ll be successful next time». The reason for this was that at present the qualifying standard for international 24 hour championships is 210 km for women, but from 2019 it will be 220km. Since no major championships was planned for 2018 it seemed I would have to requalify for future international competitions. Then, just two days after signing up for the Centurion grand slam and getting a spot on the wait list for the WSER it was announced that Romania will host the 2018 European 24 hour championships, and I got an email saying I was one of five women selected to represent Norway. A Norwegian sports website even made my debut in the national team the main focus of their article about it. I was of course very, very happy about this, except from one thing… The European Championships are scheduled for the end of May, only four weeks before the WSER, meaning that it will be nearly impossible for me to participate in them both, at least if I want to do well. Which I do, and am expected to if you believe irunfar.com.
Therefore it seems that I will have to choose between representing my country in an international championship, or run one of the most prestigious ultra marathons in the world. This is why I have not really banged my drum about being selected for the Norwegian team. First world problems, I know.
To those outside the ultra running community it might seem crazy that I even contemplate to choose a 100 mile race over representing my country, but every ultrarunner and coach I have discussed this with is telling me to choose WSER, as it both harder to get a place in this race than to qualify for a national team, and also a more prestigious event.
After Bislett 24 I have been doing mostly cross training, since I developed a severe case of Achilles tendinitis during that race, but the injury seems to have healed now and I will resume normal training tomorrow. I will follow more or less the same plan as I did last year, when preparing for the grand slam, as the training for 100 mile and 24 hour races are quite similar. The final decision with regards to the WSER vs the European championships will be made when I know whether I have a realistic chance of being offered a spot in the WSER or not. There has already been some movement in the wait list, resulting in my moving up from 16th to 12th.
So, to everyone who asks me what my next big race is, I simply do not know yet. It may be Thames Path 100 in May, then WSER in June, NDW100 in August and A100 in October. If this is the case will probably also sign up for some shorter hilly ultra races and marathons, such as Lysefjorden Inn and Suleskar Maraton, as preparation for the mountains in the WSER. This calendar also means that I will have to run another 24 hour race if I want to qualify for the 2019 World Championships, so maybe the NDW or A100 will have to be sacrificed. The other scenario is that the European Championships is my first big race this year, followed by the NDW and A100. Watch this space.
For now, I will just enjoy following a normal training plan again, and try and get some speed in my legs for the Brighton Marathon in April.
…is what I said many, many, many times, right up until the day before I signed up for this race. I had long wanted to try a 24 hour race, preferably in beautiful surroundings, during a time of the year or a place where the temperature would be pleasant, running on trails – but not very technical trails, I wanted a course where I could get a good distance. Problem was, I could not find such a race that would fit in with my schedule. So Bislett it was, an indoor track underneath Bislett Olympic Stadium, running on concrete, and surrounded by white walls.
Bislett was perhaps at a perfect time, 5 weeks after the last race of the Centurion 100 mile grand slam, meaning I could probably coast on all the training I had done for the grand slam. It could also mean that my body would be broken or worn out from running four 100 mile races in six months, giving me a convenient excuse to pull out. However, my body held up well during the grand slam, so with no convenient excuses at hand I started preparing for my 24 hour debut. My preparations consisted of three stages:
Buying shoes. This took two days, two local running shops, and most of the staff employed there.
Lying on my sofa eating candy whilst stalking my competitors on facebook and instagram.
Reading blogs, hoping to pick up tips from more experienced 24 hour runners.
One of the blogs I turned to was the Centurion blog. After all, RD James Elson’s had provided me with the framework for my grand slam training, could he also tell me how to be successful at 24 hour racing? Alas, the answer was no. Debbie Martin-Consani, North Downs Way 100 course record holder and a very accomplished 24 hour runner, did have a lot of useful tips. However, it struck me that she does not seem to enjoy these races very much. I therefore posted in a facebook group for ultra runners, asking for race reports from runners with positive experiences from such races. What I got were tales of suffering and woe; blisters, vomiting and diarrhoea. If this was considered fun, what would constitute a bad experience?
In the last couple of days before an important race my focus is usually on resting and fuelling. Before Bislett 24 I did the opposite (not by choice) – working long days, skipping meals, and not getting enough sleep. This went on up untill and including the night before the race. I was staying with family and a misunderstanding, and an overdose of politeness on my part, meant that I did not eat any proper meals at all between lunch and bedtime. Which is why I ended up sitting in bed eating dry bread in an attempt to take the edge of the hunger pains and get to sleep.
With this kind of race preparation it was perhaps no wonder that I kept making silly mistakes on race day. At Bislett I got my start number, went to the dressing room to get changed, and then wandered off to the runners’ depot to grab a table and set up my personal buffet. Race day mistake number one – I should have done all this in reverse order. All the tables nearest the track had already been taken, so I had to make do with a table in the second row, meaning every time I needed something I had to leave the track and run through the depot, adding a few bonus metres each time. Race day mistake number two was only bringing one waterbottle, so I would have to refill it with electrolyte drink every hour, and since I didn’t have a crew (race day mistake number three?) I had to do this myself .
To pass the time the final hour before the start I checked out the nutrition strategies of the other runners, the guy next to me had simply brought 24 chocolate muffins, and chatted with people I knew. Which were lots, since most of the Norwegian ultra running community were running, crewing for runners, or marshalling. There were also many Swedes, some Germans, a couple of Mexicans, a sprinkling of other nationalities, and Craig Holgate, the course record holder for Thames Path 100, from Team Centurion Running.
I did not really have a race strategy, but wanted to stay close to Therese Falk, the current Norwegian record holder and reigning champion, Ninette Banoun, a former Norwegian record holder who has represented Norway internationally, and Guro Skjeggerud, who was best Norwegian female at the world championships in Belfast during the summer. I have met Therese and Ninette at several races before, Guro was one of the runners I had stalked on instagram. In addition there was Kirsti, who has beaten me regularly in local half marathons, but who had never run further than 65km prior to Bislett.
Ninette and Therese set off at a blistering pace from the start, both clearly wanting to win. Actually, I did not even see Therese until several hours into the race, even though by then she had lapped me several times. With 160 runners and just two lanes the track was quite crowded, which could be why I didn’t see her. Or maybe she just happened to lap me every time I was having a toilet break?
I was running with Guro and Kirsti for the first few laps, chatting a little bit and being entertained by speaker and DJ Henning. To get us in the right mood he was playing songs about shoes, pain and suffering, and the Swedish Eurovision classic «Främling» by Carola. This song seemed to have an invigorating effect the first time it was played, but after the 10th time, sometime in he middle of the night, vocal protests could be heard and all the Swedish runners threatened to quit the race. Henning had also given out his email adress so that family and friends could send greetings and messages to the runners, which Henning read out loud. Not all the runners got greetings, so the single, unloved, friendless runners was therefore encouraged to write an S on their calf so that they could meet another single, unloved, friendless runner during the race. At regular intervals thereafter we were entertained with stories of all the couples that had formed. We were also informed that all ultrarunners are divorced and/or single, followed by songs about heartache and breakups, so mixed messages…
After a couple of laps my calves and neck started feeling achy, it seemed like these muscle groups were absorbing most of the impact from the hard surface. I hoped these niggles would go away after a while, as often happens during ultra races. (Spoiler alert – they didn’t.) More worrying, my stomach also started cramping, and I felt like running to the toilet. I remembered Debbie M-C’s advice about waiting as long as possible between toilet breaks, so I waited, but after an hour or so it felt really urgent, and I gave in and dashed to a toilet. …where nothing happened. However, I did feel a little better when returning to the track. After a short while my stomach started cramping again, and for the next six hours my running was punctuated by futile toilet breaks at regular intervals.
We changed direction of running after six hours, and the second quarter of the race was much better for me. After about 7,5 hours of running the real cause of my stomach cramps revealed itself, and then the cramps and the related urge to go to the toilet seemed to go away. However, the stomach issues had taken my attention away from the need to eat and drink. I had eatn regularly, but after six hours I still had not refilled my waterbottle even once, and I was getting dehydrated. I am bad at drinking enough even during 100 mile races where I carry fluids with my at all times, when I had to stop every time I needed a drink I was absolutely terrible. So I carried my bottle with me for about an hour, until I had emptied it a couple of times, and also started drinking my calories in the form of soya chocolate milk and smoothies during pit stops. This seemed to work really well both for removing hunger, rehydrating and topping up on energy.
Every hour the speaker read out the women’s and men’s top 10. Since I did not have a crew this was more or less the only information I got during the race about how I was doing. There was a screen just after the timing mats that displayed the number of laps, lap time, distance etc, but so many runners crossed the mats at all times that it was difficult to pick out your own name as you ran past. Despite all my problems and mistakes in the first quarter I had been as high as second among the ladies, and then slipped to fourth or fifth as the toilet breaks became more frequent. When I felt better I was able to pick up my pace again and climbed back up to third.
One of the runners out on the track was the clown Melvin Tix (I can’t remember his real name), who was running in full costume and make up to raise money for charity. (We had been made aware of this before the start so that we would not think we were hallucinating when we saw him.) Another runner became a great grandmother during the race, her family sent her a greeting via the speaker to inform her. We were therefore reminded at regular intervals that if we quit now, we would be beaten by a clown and a great grandmother. Not many runners quit, however lots of runners availed themselves of the massages and treatments offered by a local clinic. I spotted Craig from Centurion on one of the benches, and his knee was heavily taped up when he finally reemerged onto the track. Lots of runners also seemed to be getting treatments on their necks and calves, so I was clearly not the only one getting grief from these muscles.
After the twelfth hour people hobbling away from the arena became a more frequent sight. I was still feeling good, and lapping Guro every now and then. Ninette and Therese was still ahead, taking turns being in the lead. Kirsti I had not seen for a long time, she had also been complaining of stomach issues, and then she had spent a long time being sick into one of the rubbish bins before disappearing. Suddenly, after 13,5 hours, my stomach problems returned as well, and this time the stomach cramps were not a false alarm. I decided to nip it in the bud and stopped by the first aiders to hear if they had something I could take. Their attitude was that stomach problems is part of the ultra running experience, MTFU! So I continued to the runners’ area where I stopped and asked Bjørn Tore Taranger’s crew for help. Bjørn Tore, who was in the top 5 in the men’s race all day, is one of Norway’s most accomplished ultra runners and also a really nice guy. Luckily, his crew was just as nice as him. (Maybe it also helped that one of them, Håvard, belongs to the same running club as me?) Of course they could help me. Unfortunately, the stuff they gave me did not help, or maybe it jut took a really long time to kick in, my stomach problems just kept getting worse for the next hour.
After 15 hours I was sitting in one of the toilets, crying with pain and frustration. I was having an argument with myself about whether or not to quit the race. I decided to go back to my table and take a timeout. So I stopped for about 10 minutes while weighing up the pros and cons of continuing. In the end I decided that it would be a huge shame to end such a great season with quitting a race, so I decided to keep going at least until I reached the 100 mile mark, which meant another 10 km. I changed shoes, putting on a pair with a greater heel-toe differential to give my calves some relief, and after downing some food and drink I hit the track again.
After a couple of slow rounds my legs started loosening up. Then a wave of nausea hit me and the food and drink I had just had ended up in a rubbish bin. Thank goodness there were lots of them around the track! I walked over to the food station hoping for some vegetable soup, but ended up with something even better, vegetable broth. This removed the nausea instantly, and after walking a lap I was able to refuel and then start running again.
Vomiting aside, the 10 km from 150 km to 100 miles went pretty smoothly, so I decided to continue until I had reached 200 km. I promised myself that when I hit that target I would leave the track. Or maybe stay on the track, but walk out the time on the clock. So I continued running, albeit at a slow pace, getting encouragement from the fact that I was still running, and greetings from my dad, sister, Lisa in the US, and from other runners, their crews, and the race marshalls.
Upper GI problems seemed to replace my lower GI ones, and I continued to throw up every few hours. I was OK with that, as I now had a strategy that was very effective for dealing with this: walk a lap, have a cup of salty broth followed by some water, then some high energy food (boiled rice, vanilla pudding, coke, energy drink), then run! The girls at the food station were great, after the first vomiting episode I just had to tell them as I ran/walked past if I was feeling sick again, and then they would have a cup of broth ready for me the next time I went past, at just the right temperature so I could drink it straight away. Or they would pull out a chair and bring me some rice.
I was not the only one with stomach issues. Didrik Hermansen, who has several podium finishes from the UTWT and who had been in the lead for quite a long while, pulled out after 16 or 17 hours due to severe vomiting. I spotted Ninette sitting at the food station a couple of times, looking rather ashen, and on the track she started walking more and more. Therese was nowhere to be seen on the track for a while, and rumours had it she was outside, vomiting. However Kirsti reappeared after a 4,5 hour break, determined not to quit until the final signal sounded. Tough lady! Guro was also struggling, but with painful blisters rather than the nearly endemic GI issues.
When I reached my goal of 200 km it was still over 2 hours left and the runners still on the track seemed to be speeding up rather than slowing down. Guys who I had lapped regularly throughout the day now started lapping me. I broke my promise to myself to stop and instead set myself a new goal of 211 km, why I chose that number I can no longer remember, and wondered if I could reach 400 laps. One lap was approximately 550 m, so how far would I have to run to reach 400? I had no chance at doing the maths at that point, but it kept me occupied for about 20 minutes or so.
As my legs did not seem to have much left in them I continued at a slow pace in the second last hour, hoping to become reenergised for a speed burst in the very last hour. With about 90 minutes to go I was lapped by another female, who at the last announcement of the top 10 had been one place and 4 laps behind me. Bjørn Tore’s team screamed at me to follow, but I could not maintain her speed. However I managed to speed up a little, swearing to myself that she would not lap me again. I had just had a greeting over the loudspeakers saying I was in silver medal position in the Norwegian Championships and encouraging me to keep going. I was sure the message was wrong, I was in third position in the race, and although Ninette was now behind me a runner called Anna had now climbed into second place. However, until then I had not given much thought to the fact that Bislett also was the national championships. Now that I had been reminded I was determined not to be pushed off the podium, so I did my best to keep up every time a speedier runner overtook me, and to overtake a many runners as possible.
With about 10 minutes to go I passed the timing mats where the speaker stood. He shouted at me that it was just three more laps to go. I thought «I can do that», and finally found that extra gear I had been looking for. I completed the three laps with about 20 seconds to spare, and sprinted all I could until the final signal finally sounded. Twentyfour hours of more or less continuous movement were followed by having to keep completely still while the final measurements were made. My 24 hour debut ended after 218,5 km, and I did indeed reach 400 laps. I was third in the women’s race, but second in the Norwegian Championships as it turned out Anna, who went on to win the entire race, was Swedish. Therese claimed gold and Ninette bronze. Bjørn Tore won the men’s race and claimed his fifth Norwegian Championship, while Craig Holgate ran the second furthest of all.
As soon as I tried to get up from the floor to reclaim my stuff and get to the medal ceremony I knew that at least one of my Achilles tendons were shot. However, I was still ecstatic to have finished the year and my 24 hour debut with such a great result, despite the shoddy preparations, no support, and all the problems I experienced on the day. Will I do it again? Well, I will definitely do another 24 hour race again, and if Bislett taught me anything it was to never say never. Besides, speaker Henning has promised me 50 % more Depeche Mode songs next year…
What revealed itself when I removed my shoes and clothes: a hematoma on my shin and a quite deep sore on my foot where the shoelaces had rubbed off the skin underneath.
Når en fotballklubb sier for hunderede gang at de har full tillit til treneren sin så betyr det at han veldig snart vil få sparken. Man finner et lignende fenomen blant løpere – når en løper sier mange nok ganger at «det løpet skal jeg aldri være med på» så kommer denne løperen til å stå på startstreken på akkurat dette løpet kort tid etter. Slik var det med meg og Bislett 24 timers. Les videre →
So how do you prepare for four 100 mile races within the space of six months? That was the question I asked myself in the summer of 2016, having decided that my big goal for 2017 was to complete the Centurion Running 100 mile grand slam: Thames Path in April, South Downs Way in June, North Downs Way in August, and finally the Autumn 100 in October. To find the answer I turned to the internet, as you do.
The first website I checked out was centurionrunning.com. You will not find a step by step guide to be a successful grand slammer here, but James Elson, race director and ultrarunner extraordinary, provides some really useful advice on how to train for 100 mile races. From this I got what became my golden rule when designing my training plan:
All training runs should have a specific purpose. No junk miles!
I.e. all runs should be either speedwork/intervals, hill work, recovery runs or long slow runs. You should not go for a run just to hit a specific weekly or monthly mileage. In other words, quality over quantity.
Ian Sharman, who is the record holder for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™ (WSER, Vermont, Wasatch and Leadville 100 mile races), also has some useful information on his blog. Before the first race of his record-setting grand slam in 2013 he wrote about how he had prepared (and judging by his results he got it pretty spot on). To summarize his advice:
If you are fit enough to run one 100 mile race then you are fit enough to run four, there is no need to train four times as much as you would for one race. Each 100 mile race serves as a long training run for the next. The main focus between each 100 miler is rest and recovery.
This means that you should include training specific to each race in the build up to the first. So even though the Thames Path 100 is as flat as they come you should still include hill work in your training, as the very hilly South Downs Way follows only 6 weeks after. With a couple of weeks needed for recovery and a couple of weeks to taper, that leaves you with a two week window for quality training – far too little for any meaningful fitness gains to be made. Between South and North Downs Way you have about a four week window for training, if you have managed to stay injury free, that is. Again, not enough if you have to start from scratch to prepare for the monster hills and steps on the North Downs Way.
Having picked the two underlying principles for my training I started to design my training plan.
Phase 1 in my grand slam training – rest (September)
In addition to one hill session, one speedwork session, 1-2 recovery runs, and back to back long runs at the weekends I wanted to include two strength training sessions per week. Systematic strength training was something I had neglected for a couple of years, and I believe my poor results in races in 2016 (except for being 2nd female in the Thames Path 100) and the injuries I had in 2015/2016 was at least partly due to this. I also wanted to have at least one complete rest day day a week. Therefore, with 6 runs and 2 strength training sessions per week, (in addition to the 3-4 weekly fitness classes I was teaching at work) I would have to do multiple workouts on some days of the week, meaning some days I would run before work and strength train after, meaning I would have to get up early. Since I work a lot of nights I tend to eat late and go to bed late, so my grand slam preparation kicked off as follows:
For the whole of September I practised going to bed by 11 pm and getting enough sleep.
Phase 2 of my grand slam training – Aerobic base building (October-December)
In early July 2016 I participated in the Norwegian Ultra Trail Championships. Just 100m after the start I felt exhausted, and I crossed the finish line 14 hours later having battled fatigue and runner’s low all day. I thought a few days on the sofa would get my energy levels up again, but a few days turned into a few weeks. I only left my flat to go food shopping and run two ultras I had signed up for months before. (With the benefit of hindsight etc…)
At the end of the summer my fitness had plummeted and I still felt tired. I therefore decided to begin my training for the grand slam with a three month period of aerobic base building. That is three months without any hard workouts, all cardiovascular workouts were below threshold. This was something I had been taught to do on countless courses back when I was a Spinning® instructor, but never had bothered with before as I thought this would be boring. It turned out to be invigorating, and it did not mean I could not do any speedwork or interval sessions, I just had to do them at a lower intensity than normal. So I did progressive tempo runs from easy pace to marathon race pace, interval sessions at marathon pace, and hill repeats aiming to keep my heart rate as low as possible. Twice a week I did strength training, working with high reps and low weights, and also incorporated eccentric and plyometric leg exercises to prepare my legs for downhill running. (You will find more on this subject in Outdoor Fitness Magazine soon.)
At the beginning and end of this phase I took a body composition test (performed with InBody720). During the 10 weeks between the two tests I lost 3,5 kg of bodyfat, and gained 1,5 kg of muscles! However, I also made some mistakes during this period:
I live in a city, and therefore have to travel at least 45 min each way if I want to run on trails. Because I was still feeling tired (or maybe it was just laziness?) I did not want to spend several hours a week travelling on top of the time I spent working out. I therefore did most of my weekend long runs, as well as my midweek recovery runs, in the city for the first month. My speedwork, interval and hill sessions were done on a treadmill. Maybe it was because 2/3s of my mileage was on tarmac, maybe I increased the mileage too quickly? Whatever the reason, my left ankle started hurting after about three weeks. I had had a bout of tendinitis in this ankle 6 months previously, and recognised the signs and symptoms. My solution was to shorten the weekend runs and increase the mid week mileage to allow for greater recovery between runs, start hitting the trails at the weekends again, and every other week I simulated a long run by sandwiching squats and lunges between two short runs, so that my legs were really tired on the second run. These measures seemed to do the trick, the pains in my ankle went away and have not returned since.
Phase 3 of my grand slam training – Turning the heat up (January-April)
I already had the framework for my training in place, so now it was just a matter of increasing the intensity of the interval sessions, the length of the long runs, and lifting heavier weights and doing fewer reps in the strength workouts. A typical week would look like this:
Monday: HIIT training class, 45 min (teaching) + 5 mile recovery run
AM: Speedwork on treadmill, e.g. 2 miles easy, 2 miles fast, 2 miles steady x2
Lunch: 45 min step aerobics class (teaching)
PM: 45 min strength training
AM: Hill reps, e.g. 15 min easy, 7×3 min hill reps with 2 min recovery between, 15 min @ marathon pace, 15 min easy
Lunch: Functional strength training class, bodyweight only (teaching)
PM: 45 min strength training
Lunch: 45 min HIIT training class (teaching)
PM: 5mile recovery run
Saturday: 2,5 hour trail run.
Sunday: 4 hour trail run.
I used a training plan from Trail Running Magazine for guidance when plotting my long runs into my schedule. They adviced that one of the back to back long runs should be hilly while the other should be run on flat or easier terrain, which fitted nicely with the training for all four races at the same time approach. This plan was also quite conservative, which suited me. In my three previous 100 mile attempts I developed injuries before, during, and immediately after the races, so one of my major goals for the grand slam was to stay injury free. My mantra, stolen from ultraladies.com, therefore became:
It’s better to be undertrained than overinjured!
Compared to some other people I know who has completed the grand slam I kept my long runs fairly short. The longest was supposed to be 6 hours, but ended up being «only» 5,5 hours as I tried a new route route which was less demanding than anticipated. My longest distance in training was just short of 50k, done on sandy beaches. I also did not enter any other ultra marathons or marathons to use as training runs, unlike many other runners (and myself in the past). Looking back over my race results in previous years I realised that I had never finished more than 4 ultra races in one calendar year. I had sometimes started more, but that was when I had ended up injured. If I wanted to finish the grand slam I would therefore have to make those four races my priority. I also knew from previous experience that saying «but I’m only going to use this race as a training run, I will not be competitive» was no good, I always end up pushing myself. I made an exemption for a couple of half marathons put on by my running club, substituting these for the speedwork session the same week. However, despite this conservative approach, and despite having an easy, low mileage week every 4 weeks, my monthly mileage was the highest it has ever been during this phase of training.
I managed to be extremely disciplined during both phase 2 and 3. I think I missed less than 10 workouts during those 7 months, and most of those were due to having to work late or travelling for work. If I didn’t have the time or energy to travel to the trails on weekends I would go for a run in my neighbourhood instead, and instead of skipping a strength workout I would swap days if I could not complete it on the scheduled day. I have not had a social life for most of 2017, but visualising myself with the grand slam buckle made it all worth it.
Phase 4 of my grand slam training – Recovery between races
I had not planned what to do training-wise between the 100 milers beforehand. I was actually so sure I would end up injured, I nearly booked some post-race treatment sessions at my local sports injuries clinic long before the first race of the grand slam. Bwteen races I had expected to be mostly resting, hiking in stead of running, and doing rehab style exercises in stead of strength training. However, my body surprised me by staying healthy and injury free throughout the whole grand slam. A between race routine looking somewhat like this therefore developed:
Week 1 post race: Walking a lot the day after the race (shopping and getting round airports). Rest or short workouts on a cross trainer in the following days, and then an easy 10k run the weekend after the race.
Week 2 post race: Brick workouts of 30 min on cross trainer, 30 min on treadmill and 20-30 minutes on step machine. 1-2 strength workouts using body weight only for leg exercises. Teaching my normal fitness classes (thank goodness, the HIIT classes had been changed into circuit training by then, meaning I only had to supervise). Back to back long runs of 20k each on easy trails at the weekend.
Week 3 onwards: Resuming normal training. Taper for the next race started two weeks pre-race.
The main reason for resting more or less the whole week following a race was that I took 3-4 days off from work after each race, mostly so I could recover from the sleep deprivation, but also to ensure I could rest if I needed it. Since I work in a fitness club not all exercise I do is voluntary or can be tailored to my needs. Taking time off work thus also means being away from the gym, and I ended up resting more than I felt was needed (but it probably did no harm).
Between the NDW in August and the Autumn 100 in October there was enough time for about 7 weeks of proper training. Since the last 100 mile race in the series did not have a lot of elevation, and since I needed a fast finishing time to attempt to break Sally Ford’s overall grand slam record for females, I made the decision to follow an advanced marathon training plan here. This meant a higher emphasis on speedwork, less emphasis on hills, and a lower weekly mileage than before the preceding 3 races.
My biggest mistake:
…was not doing enough hill work for the SDW: The SDW was the route I was least familiar with, and I did not have the opportunity to go for any recces. The fast finishing times, and the SDW100’s reputation for being very runnable, probably made me underestimate the need for specific training for this course. Afterwards I wished I had included more elevation in my long runs, and that I had done som 2-3 hour long continuous hill workouts on the treadmill.
However, with 3 wins, 3 overall top 20 finishes, 4 sub-20 hour finishes, and no injuries or illness (except from a lot of vomiting during some of the races), the conclusion is that I did most things right. For my needs and fitness level, that is. Remember (to quote James Elson again):
Don’t take somebody else’s training plan and try to run it yourself.