January 2017: A Good Start

So the first month of 2017 has come and gone and my training is going well. I’m uninjured, I’m getting in some good miles, and things are basically settled down now in terms of nutrition. I’m using this post as a review of the month gone by and a way to reflect on what I’ve done, what I’ve achieved, where I need to improve, and whether I think I am on track for the races that are edging closer with each passing day.

January Mileage

I’ve achieved good mileage for the month with more than 450km banked for the first month of the year. Last year I managed only 230km in the same opening month so I’m running around twice the amount of mileage as I was then. I’m not carrying an injury this year, of course, and that helps a lot in getting to the higher monthly total. What’s more, though, the January total comes on the back of an end-of-December week where I banked an additional 140km in just five days leading up to New Years Eve. In essence, while the January total is good, the running total for the base building block for the 2017 season is actually 140km higher, meaning I have nearly 600km in my legs right now.

All of this mileage means I am starting 2017 in good shape. Assuming I can get another 400km or so out of February and the same out of March, I’ll be approaching the Saint Fons 12 Hour race with about 1500km in my legs. That’s a solid base, particularly when there is a lot of quality in those miles, too.

In short: January has been a great month for mileage and I’m very happy with what I have managed in terms of getting miles into my legs.

January Climbing

I’m a big guy so hills are not my strong suit. It takes a lot more effort to get my body up a hill and, until recently, I haven’t been all that good at getting myself down the other side. This year, though, I am making an effort to add hills to my workouts and runs, and to get better at going uphill. After all, there is a limit to interesting running flat routes is going to be and what’s more, if ultrarunning is about problem solving, there are plenty more problems to consider once the road starts rolling than when it stays nice and even.

So far this month I have climbed around 3500 meters in vertical gain. Last year I only had three months where I broke 3000 meters of vertical gain in a month:

  • May, where I ran more than 2100 meters uphill during the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra
  • August, where I did two marathon-length runs in the Mont D’Or
  • December, where I ran the Saintelyon and picked up another 1900 meters of vertical gain in a night

Thus, for someone who runs mostly flat or rolling ultramarathons, getting 3000 meters or more of vertical gain in during a base building month is a fair effort. I’m happy with the climbing I am doing, I am enjoying the hill work that I have added to my weekly program, and I hope to be able to continue this sort of climbing into February and March. In the month after Saint Fons, though, I’ll switch it up a little again and add more hills in anticipation of the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra 24 Hour race in May. That’s going to be an epic day out and should see me set a personal best for climbing in a single month, let alone a single month.

In short: I’m happy with the climbing I have got in this month and I hope to keep it about this level.

January Cross Training

Now here’s an area where I have been doing very little.

Unlike previous years, I haven’t been hitting the bike much or doing a lot of walking or hiking. I’ve concentrated on getting time in on my feet and, between the running, the work, and the family, there are precious few moments for me to add additional sports or cross-training to my week. I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I have thought about buying a gym membership and adding some weights to my weekly fitness regime, but I haven’t yet identified exactly how I would make that work or how I could fit that sort of training into a week that is already very packed.

I’ve been reading various books about ultrarunning in my downtime, though, and all suggest working on the core of my body is going to help me in the longer ultras I have planned for this year. Certainly I can do some core work at home and so, from the start of February, I am going to add some core work to my daily routine. I figure I can try it for a month and then see how it is working out. Frankly, what I have planned is nothing too earth-shattering but it should be enough to allow me to assess whether it is working or not.

Here’s the plan:

  • 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

Simple, huh? I figure those are nice round numbers and should be useful enough to get started. It’ll also give me something to do at night (and something for Cécile to point and laugh at, I’m sure) before getting myself off to bed.

In short: I haven’t really done anything this month, but I am about to start some daily core work.

January Diet

After returning from Christmas in Picardie I started sorting out my diet again. Having got on the No Sugar, No Grain (NSNG) train after listening to Vinnie Tortorich on Ten Junk Miles, reading his book, and listening to his podcast, I spent the last week of December running with zero energy and a hell of a keto flu. Luckily, though, this horrible feeling only lasts during the first couple of weeks and, as my body adapted to burning fat instead of sugar, I started to get my fitness back and my speed back, too.

I’ve been very careful across the whole of the month and rarely slipped up. A couple of times I probably ate too much in terms of portion size, but I didn’t really get off the NSNG train and I’ve benefited from that. Along the way I have also avoided the artificial sweeteners, too, and I haven’t had soda of any sort since coming back to  Lyon from Christmas in Picardie. It’s been good, real food, and I am happy to keep pushing forward with it.

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

February is going to be an interesting month in terms of training. I’m still base building so I’m still focused on getting in the miles and getting in a lot of time on my feet. However, I also have the first couple of tests of my fitness, both in terms of climbing and distance.

The climbing test comes early with the Lurdunum run with the Lyon Ultra Club on Friday 3 February. There’ll be a little more than 1000 meters of vertical gain in the space of about 21 or 22 kilometers which is fairly substantial. Of course, being Lurdunum, it’s going to be low-key and there’ll be a lot of starting and stopping. This half marathon distance run is going to take about four hours or so all up, but even so the climbing will be fierce. A lot of stairs, a lot of narrow pathways, and a lot of rolling routes through the city of Lyon. I’m looking forward to it, but I also know it might take a little out of me.

The second test of my fitness in terms of distance comes a couple of days later on Sunday 5 February. Cécile is heading away to see her folks for a few days and I am going to take advantage of that to try a long, slow run on the Sunday. It’ll give me a chance to try out the hydration pack I got for Christmas and that I have used only a couple of times, including at the Saintelyon. I’ll experiment with NSNG food and drink, and see how I fare at lower speeds. I don’t think it will be a super long run, but I hope to be able to spend at least 50K on my feet that Sunday. After the Lurdunum hills on the Friday night and a shakeout session on the Saturday, I think that first weekend of February will give me a chance to see how I am faring in terms of ultra form.

The third test of my fitness is my fat ass Town and Tube on Saturday 18 February. It’s going to be 100K in a day, though without the stress of running non-stop in some corner of the countryside. Instead, I’ll be making 6.5 kilometer loops each hour on the hour between 5am and 8pm so that – by the time I finish that last loop before 9pm – I’ll have more than a 100K banked for the day. This is going to give me a good read on my form and a nice early season ultra – if a fat ass – to my name. Indeed, if things go to plan, I’ll even have a new 12 hour personal best of about 78km. Yes, this is because my current 12 hour best is barely better than my 6 hour personal best, but a new PB is a new PB and I’ll take it – and what’s more, it’ll give me a slightly higher number to chase at Saint Fons two months later!

Other than those events, however, February is still all about picking them up and putting them down. As I outlined in my race calendar post, February is still a base building month for me and the real racing doesn’t get started before the Easter weekend in April.

Stats for January

Goals for February

  • Distance: +400km
  • Elevation: +3000m
  • Cross Training: 100 crunches + 4 x 30 second planks daily, working up to 200 crunches, 4 x 1 minute planks daily
  • Diet: Stick to NSNG
  • Races: Lurdunum Fat Ass; Town and Tube 100K Fat Ass
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