February 2017: Continued Progress

The second month of 2017 has come and gone and my training is still going well. I completed the first ultra distance run of the year, I got back into training fast after I finished that run, and I hit all of the goals I had set myself at the start of the month. I tested myself on hills, in distance, and in cross-training, too; and I came out with satisfying results all round.

February Mileage

I banked good mileage for the month once again with more than 470km run in February. Last year I managed only 217km in the same month so this year is a doubling of that distance. The running is a lot less sporadic and I haven’t been injured, and there’s the not-small matter of running a 100K in the middle of the month to bump up the total, too. The good distance in the first couple of months of the year – plus that final post-Christmas week where the first training block began – have allowed me to finish February with nearly 1100km in my legs since getting back into training. That’s a great start to the season for me.

In short: The good start to 2017 in January continued in February and I managed to add even more miles than I did in the first month of the year. I’m shaping up well ahead of the first ultra race of the year in Saint Fons in about six weeks time.

February Climbing

As I said last month, I’m a big guy so hills are not my strong suit. However, I have been running them better since I’ve started making them a bigger part of my training – imagine that, right? – and I am happy with how I am progressing. In the last month, in fact, I managed more vertical gain that in January which, considering it is a shorter month, is not at all bad progression for a guy who is not made to be a mountain goat. In total this month I climbed 3640 meters, or 120 meters  more than in January.

A couple of the hill workouts I did this month were actually very enjoyable. The repeats on the long climbs of the Montee des Esses and the Montee de l’Observance were both fun, and the Lurdunum fat ass run was a good night out, too. I don’t think I’ll go for a Lurdunum-style ‘hit every staircase in the city you can in four hours’ style run very often, but it is good to know that I can make it up and down almost every staircase in town without blowing up a run entirely.

Though I am sticking to the flats and concentrating on pacing ahead of the Saint Fons 12 Hour in April, I think I’ll still include some hill work in the next month as it is a nice test of strength and of heart rate, too. Those repeats went well and are accessible in a morning before work, and some longer runs with hills thrown in to break up the distance could be a good idea, too. If I can win the Strava virtual badge for March by climbing the 2000 meters it demands I think I’ll be happy.

In short: I’m happy with the climbing and I am enjoying the change of pace that climbing hills and stairs offers. In the month ahead I’ll probably cut back on the climbing some but I still want to bank 2000 meters of vertical gain over the course of March.

February Cross Training

Now here’s an area where I had been doing very little but where, in the last month, I made an effort to do something specific every day.

The plan at the end of January was to commit to doing some core exercises every day for the entire month of February. The goals in specific terms were:

  • 100 crunches a day, working up to 200 crunches by the end of the month
  • 4 x 30 second planks, working up to 4 x 1 minute planks by the end of the month

I’m happy to say that, with the exception of the day I ran the 100K, I did complete my core exercises every day. How’s that for commitment?

As to whether they had any effect on my running, that remains to be seen. I do know that the exercises got easier during the course of the month and the 30 second planks that had me shaking in the first couple of days became 60 second planks I could complete without great issues by the end of the month. That suggests some adaptation and perhaps some core strength gains, but I am yet to notice anything in my running that is directly affected by these exercises.

Will I continue? I don’t think I’ll continue with the crunches. It’s not that they are difficult because they really aren’t. Instead, they seem boring and monotonous more than anything else. The planks, on the other hand, seem still to test me a little, even if I have a pretty good handle on them now. I think what I’ll continue to do is regular planks and perhaps add in some other upper body strength work, too, such as pushups. I have always found these difficult in the past but committing to doing some every day seems to be a good way to get better at them.

Hence, for the month ahead, I think I will continue with the 4 by 60-second planks each day, and add in some pushups, too, until I am able to do 20 per day without an issue.

In short: I am happy with the core work I have done, now I’ll keep it going and see if I can finally learn how to do a pushup.

February Diet

I did well on the NSNG diet this month and only wavered from the food groups once – though perhaps with good reason?

I have been staying strictly NSNG and ketogenic since returning from Christmas in Picardie and I’m well and truly fat-adapted now. I was happy to be able to run my first ever ultra distance run using nothing but NSNG foods (olives and cheese, for the most part) a couple of weeks ago and this has encouraged me ahead of the Saint Fons 12 Hour race coming up in six weeks or so. I didn’t feel overly tired, I didn’t hurt too much, and I bounced back into training soon afterwards, and I think that the diet I am eating had something to do with all of that.

I did fall off the wagon once, however, though to call it “falling off” is not entirely accurate. Instead, on the evening I closed out the 100K, I invited Cécile to a restaurant we both like which is NSNG friendly…but also has a bunch of sugary and battered food, too. On that evening I ate what I felt like eating instead of sticking to the NSNG food groups. I had some spring rolls, I had a slice of cake, and I even had a small bowl of ice cream for dessert. It felt like a reward for a job well done on my feet that day and I didn’t mind putting a little “life into living”, as Vinnie would say.

The next day, though, I was back on the NSNG train and eating the sorts of things that I should be eating if I am going to maintain my energy, my fitness, and my form. If I only ever celebrate with ice cream after successful ultra distance performances, then I think I’ll be fine.

The challenge I have set myself this month is to be rigorous about tracking what I am putting into my body and the impact it is having on me. Hence, instead of weekly updates about the core training I am doing, I am going to provide weekly updates of the food I am eating and any positive or negative impacts it is having on my running, life, and energy.

In short: I’ve adapted to NSNG, I’m feeling good, I have my energy levels back, and I am running as well as I’ve ever run now that I am over the keto flu.

The Month Ahead

According to the overall plan March is meant to be a ‘Big Block o’ Miles’ month. I have about 500km of running programmed for the 31 days in March including a couple of ultra distance training runs and almost daily running outside of that, with a weekly ‘double’ on a Wednesday. Not only am I aiming to have a lot of time on my feet and to get a lot of miles in my legs, I am aiming to get my pacing spot on so that I can start Saint Fons and run the best 12 hours I can run. Frankly, if I run every kilometer in March between 5:00 and 6:00 minutes, I’ll be happy, and the odd 4:30-4:45 paced training run will be proof I can still turn it on if I need to.

As I mentioned above, I think I’ll be cutting down on the hills a little compared to January and February, but not cutting them out altogether. Running flat 10K’s every day is not the most interesting thing in the world so breaking it up with some hill repeats or some ‘tests’ on hills I have run a few times before to check my fitness and progression are likely to be part of the plan.

When it comes to cross-training, I am going to continue with the planks and add in some pushups. I hope I can learn how to do these bloody things well as it is something I have never really had any success with. First as a cyclist and then as a runner, I’ve not had a lot of need for muscular or strong shoulders so they have always been a pain to get done, and anything more than 10 was near impssible. I hope to work on that this month.

Diet, too, is going to be a focus this month and I am committing to keeping a close eye on what I eat throughout the month, and its effect on me as a runner, as a worker, and as a person who is alive and has to live with others without being cranky. It’s not the first time I have tracked my nutrition closely but it will be the first time I am doing it publicly and perhaps there’ll be some lessons for other NSNG or ketogenic runners out there.

February Stats

Goals for March

  • Distance: +400km
  • Elevation: +2000m
  • Long Runs: At least two ultra distance training runs
  • Cross Training: 5 x 1-minute planks daily + 5/10/15/20 pushups
  • Diet: Stick to NSNG, track food on My Fitness Pal and report weekly
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