Time for some serious training

Posted by Sam Harrison on March 27, 2015 at 11:59.

 Fell running

bob graham fell racing fell running glen coe skyline glencoe round training welsh 3000s

I've been relatively pleased with my performance in fell races over the past year or so; I've managed to place often within the top 10 and even won a trial race. Even more so when I contemplate how little specific training I actually do. In fact, over the past few months it's been embarrasingly little, amounting to a grand frequency of one run per week, at most (and none of them particularly long either). When I think back to when I was training for my first road half-marathon and was putting in 40-50 mile weeks, this is quite shocking! In fairness to myself, it's partly because other things, such as practising for my upcoming Winter Mountain Leader (ML) assessment, have got in the way. But I can't use that as a sole excuse and a lack of structure and well-defined goals means I have little motivation to go out on those proper nitty-gritty training runs that are probably the least enjoyable but the most effective.

I'm not complaining; I think I'm pretty lucky that I can get away with so little training and still manage to be competitive. And I also don't think it's a bad thing, in general, as I enjoy a great balance of different activities and have fun doing everything that I do; surely that's what it's all about at the end of the day? Partly, yes, but partly, no: I have wistful hopes and dreams that have been with me for years, and unless I do something about it, they'll remain just that; hopes and dreams. I've decided, it's time for a change, it's time to sink my teeth into some serious training and turn fantasy into reality; it's time to become the runner I've often dreamed I'd be.

Okay, okay, I'm probably getting a bit ahead of myself there. Indeed, goodness knows why I'm picking this moment in time to up the training, as I'm rapidly approaching what's likely to be the busiest few months of my life; Winter ML assessment, a trip to Norway, a friend's wedding in the south of France and my own wedding a few weeks after, all whilst I'm starting to write up my thesis. But I have to start somewhere and if I can squeeze in some proper training between now and mid-June then (in theory) the sky's the limit from there on in!

The plan? To set myself definite goals and milestones; it's the only way to properly motivate myself. I've managed before (those 40-50 mile weeks got me my target time of sub-90 minutes in that first half marathon I did, and that was through a set training plan). The rest of the motivation comes in the form of, well, this blog post; telling people my goals and, importantly, telling people that I'll succeed in meeting them. I find it much easier telling myself that I'm going to fail than telling others I'm going to fail, so the motivation to not have to do so is high!

The plan

The nitty-gritty details, i.e. the week-on-week targets, I'll leave out of this post for brevity, and instead I'll list just my overarching milestones:
  • July 2015
    By July I aim to be back up to my long-distance fitness as of last year, that is, being able to comfortably run 20+ miles with 9000 ft of ascent. I'm not bothered about speed, that can come later (I've always been comparatively slower at long distance than short). A good target is the Wasdale fell race (21 miles / 9000 ft) on 11th July. It'd be nice to get under 5 hours (my time last year was about 5 hours 35 minutes), but that's asking quite a lot.
  • August 2015
    If my July target was a tough one, then this is even tougher. The inaugural running of the Glencoe Skyline race (approximately 28 miles with 15,000 ft of ascent) is set for 22nd August, and I'd love to take part. The caveat here is that, firstly, I manage to get an entry, and secondly, it isn't some silly price like the £70 that the (also inaugural) Lakes Sky Ultra race in September is. If that's the case, then plan B kicks into place; to complete a similar route, the Glencoe Round, on my own, within 12 hours. I've actually had my eyes on this for a number of years and it was purely coincidence that a similar route was chosen as a race for this year. Given this is such a daunting target for such a short space of time (and I've not a clue what our holiday plans are for this summer yet), I'll give myself flexibility with dates and say by the end of September is the overall goal.
  • Winter 2015/16
    My training always seems to take a hit over winter, probably due to the weather and shorter daylight hours, so to try and prevent this I'm setting myself a target of a winter Welsh 3000s round, with no specific goal other than summit-to-summit completion of under 12 hours (which I've already managed in summer). Not too daunting but it should keep me focussed.
  • Spring 2016
    Time for a bit more speed!
    • Edale Skyline (March): sub-3 hours 30 minutes. Current PB, 3:44:45 (2014).
    • Yorkshire 3 Peaks (April): sub-4 hours. Current PB, 4:16:26 (2014).
    • Jura fell race (May): sub-4 hours. Current PB, 4:40:20 (2014).
  • Summer 2016​
    Bob Graham round in under 24 hours. Watch this space...
So, there we have it. Now it's down on paper (kind of), I have no choice but to follow it, right? Well, we'll see! I'll make no promises as I know there are things that could get in the way. Managing this all whilst writing up my PhD will be difficult, and actually come hand-in time (hopefully next spring), I've not a clue what I'll be doing or indeed where we'll be based (one of the huge downsides to a career in academia is the great job uncertainty during the early stages of said career).

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