Ultra Training: Month 1, February 2021

Ultra training started properly this month. Although the race isn’t until the 4th September, there are a few reasons Hayley and I are starting to train so early:

  1. We haven’t run a marathon, so I thought doing a marathon plan first would be a good idea.
  2. I need time to factor in injury and my sometimes uncooperative body.
  3. It does me good to have a focus (and probably does Hayley good too).

Due to using a pretty standard marathon plan, this month’s mileage has actually been slightly lower than usual. I’ve used this time to increase my elevation because the ultra I’ve signed up for is extremely hilly. It’s on the Rhymney Ridgeway, and has 4252ft elevation (sign up here if you fancy it). This means I have to be used to running uphill and I need to be able to do it on tired legs, though that will come in a couple of months.

Above is the plan we had for February. Due to a gastroscopy on Saturday 13th, I had to switch up week two to fit the miles in. Friday’s three miles became 9, and Tuesday and Wednesday each had an extra mile added to ensure I got the week’s quota in. 

I’ve looked for at least one hill on every run – some larger than others. My first hill session was quite amusing because I went to a ‘hill’ that I remembered really struggling to get up last summer. It was a real eye-roll moment (or, more kindly, proof I’m fitter) because it was more like a gentle slope than a hill. I did a few hill sprints up it, but I’m still not convinced I can call it a hill session.

I do have a better hill for training on though, and I took Hayley there for hill repeats the week after my dubious attempt. The hill by the Dean’s Steps next to Llandaff Cathedral had always bested me in the past, and I really wanted to see if I was now fit enough to do repeats. Good news: I am! It was a huge confidence boost for both of us, and we had some really encouraging comments when I posted a reel of our attempts on Instagram. As you can see below, we were rather happy with our efforts.

I’ve started taking my GoPro out on most of my runs to get footage of mine and Hayley’s progress. One day I’ll share some of the hilarious faces I pull when doing my cringe-worthy narration. Needless to say they haven’t made it to social media, but quite a few action screen grabs have. 

What’s lovely is I can see that I do look like a runner. I may not have the most athletic physique, and I certainly don’t have the best form, but my impostor syndrome is reducing ever so slightly with each run I watch back, and my confidence is growing loads.

What’s more, I can see how much I’ve changed physically since starting to run. I knew I’d lost weight, but I hadn’t realised just how much until Myfanwy (one of the She Runs buddies) saw Hayley, Jonah, and I on a run. She took a photo of us from across the road, and posted it onto our group. It was then I saw just how big my She Runs t-shirt had become, which wasn’t just a confidence boost, but gave me a fantastic excuse to buy some more kit.

Due to my current trail shoes not being that great in thick mud, I recently haven’t done as much trail running as I’d like. I need to rectify it, not only because it’s better training for my goal, but because it’s kinder on the joints, and I’m starting to get more grumbles. I actually had to forego today’s run due to a bad back, and I just hope that it’s okay by Tuesday when I’m next due to go out. Fingers crossed a combination of walking, stretches, and the massage chair Claire lent me will sort me out.

The other bonus of trail running is the scenery. It’s far nicer to see water, trees, and trails than concrete, cars, and yet more concrete. Though to be fair, Cardiff does have some pretty parks, so even on road runs I get to see a bit of green at least once per run.

So with month one done, my ultra training stats are:

  • 79.3 miles this month, 79.3 miles in training to date
  • 15h 23m running time this month, 15h 23m running in training to date
  • 4,581 feet of elevation this month, 4,581 feet of elevation in training to date

I ran with Hayley, Jonah, and Katy this month, with a few solo runs too. I’m looking forward to being able to go further afield, but it’s not likely to be possible next month either. So for now, I’m going to study some maps to find hidden trails in Cardiff, and will run where I live.

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