April 2017: Delivery
The first big test of the year in terms of ultra racing came and went and I was happy with my performance. After months of training an preparation I arrived on the starting line in Saint Fons in as good shape as I’ve ever been for an ultra and I delivered. I hit all my goals save the ‘stretch’ goal to hit a qualifying mark for the Spartathlon. However, in the second half of the month, I ran into a couple of problems in the transition period to the next challenge, the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra in May.
April was always going to be a lower mileage month than the previous three, and especially so compared to March. For one thing, I had a couple of weeks of tapering before the Saint Fons 12 Hour race that would see me deliberately cutting mileage from my previous peak and, in the days before the race, not running at all. In addition, I also took a day off after the race, too, and eased back into things with shorter runs post-race, too.
More unexpectedly, though, the final week of April where I had hoped to pick up some additional miles while visiting San Francisco turned out to be the worst training week of the year so far. A combination of jet lag, stomach issues, and poor sleep combined to allow me to run only a couple of times and even then only for about an hour at a time. While I did manage to hit some hills, I didn’t win much in terms of mileage and so the total for the month was ‘just’ 353 kilometers. While this is still somewhat substantial, it should be noted that more than 116 of those 353 kilometers, or about one-third of the monthly mileage, was run during the Saint Fons 12 Hour race.
In short: April was a low mileage month compared to previous months this year due to a combination of tapering before and recovering after the Saint Fons 12 Hour race, and a poor week of training in San Francisco to close out the month.
I didn’t really have a goal for climbing in April. In last month’s review I set myself the target of hitting Strava’s monthly climbing challenge number which, for April, was 2000 meters. The reason I didn’t suggest anything more than that was because my focus was on the Saint Fons 12 Hour race which was entirely flat. In the weeks of tapering before the race I didn’t focus on hills at all, and I really only started running some rolling terrain in the week after the race when Jamie and I visited my parents in London.
That said, I did get a little bit of climbing in the week I spent in London. I managed 466 meters of vertical gain during the week I spent in England, added another 97 meters during my 36 hour stop in Lyon before I flew out to San Francisco where I banked another 868 meters in just four runs. It’s testament to the proximity and ubiquity of hills in San Francisco that even in a couple of short runs I can build up the elevation like that, and adding in a final short run on the last day of the month where I managed nearly 250 meters of elevation gain saw me win that Strava virtual climbing badge.
Of course, in the month ahead I’ll be hitting the hills fairly heavily in specific preparation for the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra. I’m aiming to hit hills in every run I do in the lead up to the race, including a couple of longer runs. While the distance I run will come down, the time I run should stay about the same while the elevation increases. I think I’ll look back at the 2021 meters I managed to climb this month as almost flat once May is done.
In short: I managed to climb 2000 meters but I’m preparing to run a lot more vertical in the month ahead.
April Cross Training
I kept up my walking, hiking, and some cycling, too, this month but didn’t concentrate all that much on my core exercises. With the Saint Fons 12 Hour race the focus and walking at least part of that race at speed a part of my strategy, I wanted to make sure I would be ready.
The time I spent practicing walking at speed helped and I was able to keep a strong pace during the race and time my kilometer-long loops almost to the minute based on my experience power walking in training. The cycling I did kept me moving and active even when I was not running in the taper period before the race. It’s a nice way to get to work and, in the weeks where Jamie is with us, it is an easy way to get into the office on time.
In the month ahead I think I will continue to focus on my walking as I know this will be a part of the 24 hour experience at the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra, and I’ll also keep the cycling to work up as Spring has sprung here in Lyon and it is a pleasant way to start the day.
In short: I’ll keep the walking and cycling that helped me along last month as they’ll undoubtedly help me for the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra, too.
I continued with the low-carbohydrate, NSNG, ketogenic approach throughout the month, with only a couple of days where I didn’t keep to the plan entirely.
One of those was in the aftermath of the Saint Fons 12 Hour race where, in an effort to get calories back into my system and having expended in excess of 10,000 calories over the course of a race, I feasted on some Belgian-style flatbread pizza. As well, while in the US and traveling back on the airplane, I ate more carbohydrates that I really would have liked, with some pretty nasty flow on effects in my belly (or so I self-diagnosed).
Back in Lyon at the end of the month, though, I’m back into the groove of buying, cooking, and eating my own food once again so I’m looking forward to returning to food I know works for me and for which I know the nutritional value. I’ve stocked up for the first week of May and I think I’ll be back into the groove of cooking and eating good, low-carbohydrate foods fast now that all the traveling is over.
In short: Staying low-carbohydrate/ketogenic when traveling long distances by airplane, when lunching with the boss, and when spending two weeks away from the familiar foods of home is difficult. However, for the month ahead, I’m looking forward to slipping back into my nutritional rhythm once again.
The Month Ahead
May is another month with a race at the center, namely the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra.
Preparing for this race won’t involve the long distance and high mileage that the Saint Fons 12 Hour race did because, frankly, I have the fitness level already to work from and the great difficulty of this upcoming race is the climbing and descending. As a result, the mileage I am shooting for this month is a little reduced from a ‘normal’ month – 350 kilometers seems about right to me – and the elevation I am shooting for is much increased instead.
Here’s how the math goes for elevation.
If I set out to run a minimum of 200 meters of elevation in each of the next fourteen training days (1 May to 14 May) then I’ll bank 2800 meters in elevation. During the runs of the final week before the race (15 May to 17 May) I’ll be sticking to the flats and might run another 100 meters of gain total. That takes the month-so-far total to 2900 meters. Then, come race day, I am aiming to add another 6000 meters of vertical gain in the 24 hours of the race. That will bring the month-so-far total to 8900 meters and, with a little more here or there in the week after the race or along the way, I should be able to hit 9000 meters of vertical gain during the month of May.
And, yes, I realize that is slightly higher than Mount Everest…
In terms of cross-training, I’ll keep up the walking and cycling, and for nutrition I be back to a strict low-carbohydrate, NSNG, and ketogenic approach that should have me on the line at the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra in good shape.
Goals for May
- Distance: 350km
- Elevation: 9000m
- Cross Training: Continue walking and cycling
- Diet: Stick to NSNG
- Races: Ultra Boucle de la Sarra