My running week ending 19/7/15

So this week is the first in my training plan for the Sussex Trail Events Downslink Ultra in October. I’ve never attempted to go further than marathon distance before, and I’m not quite sure what’s possessed me to think its a good idea now. The Downslink is 38 miles from Guildford to Shoreham so I’m breaking it down into 3 half-marathon chunks. I’ve put a plan together based on a vague memory I have of someone telling me that a normal marathon plan would be sufficient to get me through this. And as its a relatively short Ultra (I keep telling myself) I think this advice should be good. I’m going to train as if I was going for a new marathon PB and then just slow it down come race day – now if anyone can tell me that this is a terrible idea, please do so now, don’t hold it in, don’t make me learn from my mistake, I’d rather hear it in advance…..anyone?

I’ll try and keep a training log up to date for anyone who’s interested, but mainly for myself so I can look back and see what worked and what didn’t. I’ll try and update it once a week, I’m sure we’ll see progress in my writing skills if not my running ability.

This weeks running started with a panic run on Tuesday morning, fearing that I was leaving training a bit late I thought I’d better start getting out there with some serious running, so 8 miles at 6:30am it was. This was pre-breakfast but I managed to average around 7.5 minute miles which was good as I’m not a happy crack of dawn runner.

 

Then it was down to the track on Wednesday evening where I coach sessions for Tuff Fitty Triathlon Club. This week we kicked off with our usual warm-ups, dynamic stretches and technique drills before launching into our main set. 2×1200 followed by 4×800 all with 2min rest intervals. I flew into the first rep at a pace I can only dream of running a 5k in and adjusted quickly after that, 5:40 min/mile for the first 1200 followed by a slightly more realistic 6:00 min/mile for the rest of the session. I had to sit in the pack for the last 3 800’s though as my body/mind were telling me to stop on every lap. Its amazing what a difference it makes to sit on someone’s heels rather than lead out. Matt and Ollie kept me true in what was the toughest track session I’d done for quite a while.

After a nice rest day it was time to hit the Long Run on Friday. Time constraints mean that Friday evenings are the best time of the week for me to fit these in. I headed up onto the Downs for 14 miles in beautiful conditions. My route took me through the golf course up to Cissbury Ring, then over to Chanctonbury Ring as a warm up for the really hard steep sections. When I’ve run up here before, I’ve worked up to it over a period of time, running shorter routes up and down Cissbury Ring. To say my legs were underprepared for this at this point in time would be an understatement.

 

My legs were on fire already and I still had a downhill mountain bike trail to run (The Lion Trail) and a brutal climb up Mouse Lane before returning back to Cissbury Ring. I did the sensible thing……I hammered the downhill with reckless abandon, arms windmilling like a child, leaping over logs, almost losing control at times but having the time of my life. I love this section as its not often you get to run like this, it gets a bit technical underfoot at some points and you’ve got to be careful over the tree roots, and there’s a couple of really steep bits that you need to be careful on but running a downhill like this puts you firmly in the moment, you can’t think ahead, you don’t have time to dwell on where you’ve just been, its just one foot in front of the other and plenty of hope and trust. Unfortunately the Mouse Lane climb was a write off after this and I walked the entire thing before picking my pace back up for the final 5 or 6 miles home.

 

I finished my week off with a social run with the Shorefit Run Club on Sunday morning. This is a lovely run as you can choose your pace and always have someone to run with, this week I ran with Lisa for about 6 miles along Worthing seafront and along the Pier.

 

And that wraps up my first week training. Next week I’ll be putting some bike miles in too as well as some strength and conditioning work.

Total for week: 36 miles

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New Shoes Alert – INOV-8 X-TALON 212’s

I’ve bought some new shoes for the race, Inov-8 X-Talon 212’s. After a lot of searching and reading through reviews it was between these and the 190’s. I decided these would be a bit more robust and as they’re quite expensive I’d like them to last a while.

I’ve tried them out on The Downs and they make short work of steep hills. I’m impressed.

I’m hoping to use these for XC after the Steeplechase but unless it starts to get really muddy up on the downs I can’t see myself using these more than 5 or 6 times a year. There’s always the West Sussex Fun Run League to enter come January, I might get some more races out of them yet!

Anyway, its good to have a choice of trail shoes!

Red Bull Steeplechase Training update

I’ve found some amazing trails up behind Chanctonbury Ring. Single track Mountain Bike trails that you can fling yourself down with childlike abandon. Jumping over logs and skipping over tree roots whilst barely maintaining control on the steep descents.

This is what running feels like in my dreams.

There’s also some damn steep climbs, I’ve found a long hard graft that I’m aiming to run all the way up one day (I’ve only managed halfway so far before walking) and I’ve gone off-track and found a long 49% climb. I can’t even stand on this let alone run, moving upwards involves a bear-crawl.

Unfortunately, my training for the Steeplechase took a huge setback (6 weeks out of action) after I picked up a stress fracture on my 4th metatarsal. A combination of too many hills and too many miles too quickly. I got over-excited and wanted to run the mountain bike trails all the time, which unfortunately involved a long run to get there. I stupidly thought I’d be OK doing that when I should have built up more slowly.

I think that’s top 30 well out the window. I’ll be happy to get to the 2nd checkpoint now.

New Balance MT110AK : Review

A few years ago I fell in love with trail running. Within 15 minutes of stepping out my front door I could be slogging it up Cissbury Ring or chasing deer through Angmering Park Estate. I started getting out onto the South Downs, exploring the paths and hills…..I was hooked.

Unfortunately, I was also ill-equipped. You see, I was in my road shoes. A pair of Asics GT1000’s. These were my marathon training, cushioned, chunky, well-stacked concrete creepers. Designed to take the impact out of running, reducing the effect of poor technique on the knees. NOT designed for mud, stones, uneven surfaces, tree roots, or even grass.

So as I was triumphantly returning from the top of Cissbury Ring, I turned my ankle on the chalky downhill path. I wasn’t running slowly either and I ended up sprawled out on the floor another 5 or 10 meters further down. I managed to get myself home almost delirious with pain, and after a trip to the hospital it turned out I’d broken my ankle (I’d also been chased by a badger and got myself lost down streets I knew like the back of my hand)

So after a full recovery, I eventually turned to getting back out on the trails again, but this time, I knew I wanted a proper trail shoe, something responsive, low to the ground, tough yet still cheap.

And that’s when I struck gold with these bad boys! New Balance MT110AK‘s. For any fans of Christopher McDougalls Born To Run, I believe the MT stands for Micah True, and to add further pedigree, they were designed for Anton Krupicka, the legendary ultra trail runner. He don’t wear much but he wears these shoes!

New Balance MT110AK
New Balance MT110AK

I’ve put about 300 miles on these so far and they’re still going strong, so I thought it was about time I put a few words up about them in case it helps anyone.

If you’re reading this then there’s a fair chance you’re in the market for some new shoes so I’m going to give you an idea of what I’ve put these through, and a few reasons why you should buy them. As well as a few reasons that might put you off.

Where I Run

I run on the South Downs, which means a lot of slippery chalky paths, very uneven where the water cuts into it on its way downhill. The paths are often littered with loose stones, big ones, small ones, sharp ones, smooth ones. I also run a lot in the forest at Angmering, the ground here during wet months is VERY muddy. We’re talking shin deep puddles that you can’t go round, and mud in places where you didn’t know you had places. Its the kind of place mountain bikers love. When its dry here, the ground hardens up and becomes quite uneven.

I deal with steep uphill & downhill sections and the occasional tarmac path or road. Although I try and stay off these as much as I can, sometimes I have to run along roads to get to my desired trail.

What are they good at?

On the trail they feel like an extension of my own foot. I’m confident and surefooted when I wear them, the rockplate underneath keeps the sharp stones and roots at bay whilst the little nobbles grip the hard surfaces brilliantly. The minimalist design also ensures your proprioceptors are firing (which in English means: the muscles around your ankle and foot are getting messages from the floor quickly) and I’ve never felt unstable or unbalanced in these.

I’m a firm believer that minimal shoes on the trails are the key to being a more robust runner. The less support in the shoe, the stronger your leg becomes, the stronger a runner you become. Its as simple as that. These shoes have got a 4mm heel to toe drop which keep you in touch with the trail, when it tries to jump up and bite you the shoes are responsive enough to let you know in an instant so you can readjust your position.

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I run sockless in the MT110’s and I’ve never suffered for it. The synthetic mesh upper feels soft on the inside, and the water that gets in drains out through holes in the sole. The mesh is also easy to clean and pretty tough.

So what aren’t they good at?

Mud. Specifically wet mud. The lugs aren’t big enough to bite into it and I found my whole foot sliding along at times. Its the price you pay for having a lower profile shoe though, a trade off.
Personally I’m happy with this as they feel so responsive on harder ground and on soft mud that I’ll happily slide about a bit on the wet stuff.

They’re also uncomfortable on tarmac. They’re a minimal trail shoe so as soon as you hit the road your legs know about it. I’m a forefoot striker and I can get away with it for short distances but heel strikers wouldn’t last 10 meters. You’ll also find the lugs wear down extremely quickly running on roads so you’ll want to avoid this.

I’ve also seen it mentioned elsewhere about a slight curve in the last of the shoe, this pushes the outside toes up, causing your arch to fall in a bit. This is not a problem as soon as your on the trails and your foot feels like its in the perfect position. But when you first slip them on and wander about on a hard surface you can really feel it.

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I’ve gone up a full size in these and they feel perfect, there’s loads of room in the toebox for your feet to spread out whilst the upper hugs the midfoot and heel quite snugly .

So it comes down to the one question that makes or breaks the review:

Would I buy the New Balance MT110AK again?

Yes.

I’ll do most of my trail running over the summer in these but I’m not sure yet if these will be the shoe for the Red Bull Steeplechase, I’m not convinced they’ll have the grip for it.