Could you run an Ultra in 2019 ? Some confidence building tips

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In simple terms an ultra is a¬†distance run¬†that’s longer than a marathon. That said, I personally wouldn’t class the 27.2 miles I ran for the 3 Forts challenge or the 27.5 for the Purbeck marathon as these are trail running marathons¬†which do contain some flexibility in their race titles. “Generally speaking” 50K i.e. 31 miles would be considered an ultra race (in my humble opinion).

My background¬†isn’t extensive but two 50K’s,¬†one¬†33 mile, one¬†35 mile¬†and Race to the King (RTTK) 53 mile double marathon means I feel I’ve had enough experience to offer some thoughts on the topic.

The reason I entitled this blog as a confidence building read was so that once you’ve considered¬†the various aspects of running beyond a marathon then I guarantee you’ll¬†have a broader understanding of what you’re getting yourself into.

Whether you choose to continue or not is another matter but I’d definitely recommend it.

So, here are 5 trains of thought for you to consider…..

Are you committed ?

This may sound an obvious question but there’s a lot to consider before you take on your first ultra and commitment is probably the key.

It’s time consuming – the extra¬†running miles, the planning and¬†the extra kit washes !!

Are you ready to push your body beyond your comfort zone Рboth mentally and physically, and finally it can be anti-social with early long run starts and early nights to maximise your sleep recovery time.

When I say committed I’d say more specifically committed to “your” race plan. Don’t be swayed by other runners because they will have a separate agenda. My first ultra was the New Forest 50K which was three laps of just over ten miles and Steve Way lapped me on my second and his third lap. Yes he was ten miles ahead of me !! (England International).

Steve then proceeded to add another lap by running in the opposite direction and offering words of encouragement to the rest of the field. Ultra runners are very community based.

Absorb yourself in the challenge that you’ve set yourself but at the same time don’t become an “ultra bore” with no other conversation !! I may have been guilty of that in the past ha ha ūüôā

Conversely a sense of humour is absolutely essential, after all you are attempting something pretty crazy !!

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Are you prepared to rethink your training ?

I took a good look at how I trained for marathons and then partly through trial and error and partly through advice I incorporated a number of new strategies.

Getting used to running slower, walking uphill, eating on the go, foam rolling, double day running¬†and¬†increasing flexibility¬†all played a part in my preparation. However, one aspect that I¬†hadn’t originally considered was cross training.

I¬†used to commute to work on my bike with the sole intention of getting there as quickly as possible.¬†If I’m ultra training¬†I use the twenty minutes cycle time there and back to loosen up my legs, flush out the stiffness and¬†maximise the fact that my bike is supporting my weight rather than my stiff joints. Walking and swimming are equally useful for cross training¬†benefits.

Most ultras are through the countryside so if you are moving up from road marathons then there’s a whole new skill set to embrace. Trails, hills, gates, streams, cows, sheep etc etc.

The map below shows the 31 miles I ran December 2017, what it doesn’t show is the shingle. In many ways the shingle was just as energy sapping as hills. The route was flat but if you hadn’t been aware of the beach sections you’d have been cursing the race organiser !!

Train for the terrain.

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Research your Race

Study the profile of your race and, if¬†at all possible, train on the course or at least train on similar local profile, this¬†will mean that on race day there are¬†no surprises. Trust me after a number of hours you switch to automatic¬†pilot and that’s when you need to trust in your preparation.

I’d run probably 46 of the 53 RTTK miles previously so I was psychologically and physically ready for what awaited me around very corner. Conversely with The Ox ultra being 35 miles in Wiltshire, I’d never stepped foot on the course, but I’d trained for¬†both the number of hills and 90% of the elevation by analysing the profile.

Training with other runners who are also entered in your ultra is a great way to swop accumulated knowledge. They may well have spotted something you haven’t.

The distance between feed stations and what they offer is equally important. In short do your homework, it’s an investment in the day that will really pay off.

Even if¬†the race website doesn’t state what will be on offer it’s important to consider what you’ll carry and what you can pick up. The reality can also bite you, in that the further down the field you are, the greater the¬†potential for¬†limited¬†feed stations increases.

If in doubt email the race organiser.

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Practicalities

How will you get there and¬†how will you get back, you “will” be tired. I arrived at Winchester train station five minutes too late for the hourly¬†train back to Fareham after 12 hours of running¬†the RTTK. This meant I sat on the platform¬†for 55 minutes waiting for the next one !!

There are numerous articles on training mileage and food, both of which can vary depending on you as a person so¬†I’d just say try out a few before deciding on what suits you. Other bloggers are a great source for this as well as running magazines/ the internet.

Double day training suited me i.e. a long Sunday run 18/19 miles and then 5/6 on a Sunday. Doing this on alternative weeks meant a steady run in-between too.

Then, most¬†importantly, once you’ve decided on your kit, food and drink, train with them as if it was the race, thus eliminating any issues ahead of the big day.

The very fact that you will be on the go for longer also means sun tan lotion and light weight jackets need to be considered. This all cumulated in me buying a proper pack so that I could easily carry whatever I wanted including soft flasks for my liquids (eco friendly and less bulky).

After all if a jobs worth doing its worth doing well. I got last years colours and the cost was considerably less so they don’t have to cost a fortune !!

One more thought, take your fully charged mobile with you. You might not even take it out of its case but if you go off course, injure yourself or just need some motivation then help is only a swipe away.

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On the day

Be the best you can be at¬†the start line. What I mean by this is hopefully you won’t be carrying any niggles. Pre physio and pre race massage may cost you financially but they’re worth their weight in gold when you hear people talking about their “issues” before you’ve even started running.

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Set a realistic time that compliments your training and not a time you are dreaming of. For your first ultra I’d simply concentrate on finishing. This may sound negative but seeing as you are entering uncharted territory it’s always best starting conservatively.

Use any uphill walking as an opportunity to take on fluids, go over your race plan in your head, eat and why not text your loved ones just to let them know you are surviving, (It can be a long day for them too !!)

I found counting down aid stations broke the race into a number of smaller races. Landmarks and distance markers can be points to concentrate on too. For example the first time I reached 30 miles it gave me a huge rush of adrenaline. Conversely, when I reached 40 in RTTK that was a signal there was a half marathon left to run.

Finally, prepare yourself for a range of emotions. You’ll have spent a lot of time training but life can throw up any number of twists and turns. Expect the unexpected !! Self doubt¬†can be managed but be prepared to “have a word with yourself” when everything doesn’t go quite to plan.

I walked for over a mile on flat terrain in the middle of the Imber Ultra on Salisbury Plain and I even stopped for a cut of tea. I stopped and drank it while I gathered my thoughts.

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Another runner stopped and walked with me for a while so that he could offer some motivational word which I thought was fantastic !! He didn’t need to stop, he just took it upon himself. The irony of this was that about ten miles later I caught him up which meant I could repeat the favour !!

Equally,¬†I’m not ashamed to say I’ve¬†shed a few tears of joy when 30 miles appeared in my first 50K and¬†50 miles appeared on my garmin in RTTK. A little embarrassing but totally understandable.

So,¬†listen to any advice given, be a sponge and soak it up because¬†distance¬†running isn’t an exact science its a learning experience and a bloody great experience at that.

In summary, if you run slower, eat¬†more and prepare there’s no knowing how far you can go !!

I’ve got my eye on Race to the King again this June, happy ultra running.

Roger

 

 

 

 

 

Maximise your Wellbeing, Go for a Run !!

 

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Ask yourself does this chap pictured above look stressed or¬†anxious,¬†is he thinking¬†about¬†an important meeting that’s looming at work, is he thinking about¬†the impact Brexit might make on the mortgage rate¬†…..¬†“NO”, he’s beaming with self¬†esteem.

That chap is me and I’ve just finished the Isle¬†of Wight marathon. My mood¬†has been uplifted, I’ve been living in the moment ever since I boarded the catamaran that crossed the Solent¬†and I’ve just spent 4 & 3/4 hours enjoying myself.

Maximise your wellbeing !!

Running helps me in so many different ways but I’ll cover the “BIG 5” below.

If it helps me …………. there’s no reason why it can’t help YOU.

  • Make a regular payment into the Bank of Me

We spent so much time governed by work timetables, family timetables and quite frankly life timetables that its really important to make some time for yourself. I’m not saying days or weeks just positive short bursts of “Me time” and that’s were my running comes in.

Plan this time around work and family but make sure it becomes a regular slot that everyone is aware of. This way ironically you have included it in your timetable.

I’m also convinced that I’m a better me on my return which benefits my family as well as me.

  • Get Outside

The timetables that dictate so much of our waking hours mean we stay in similar surroundings for long periods. The office, the house, commuting on the train etc etc these locations support why you are there and that’s why I find it so important to relocate outdoors.

Running along a riverbank with sheep to your left and a stream to your right just fills you with positivity and reminds you how valuable a change of scenery is.

  • Give yourself a Self Esteem target

Ok, when I say a target I don’t mean one that will add to your stress I mean one that makes you feel good about yourself.¬†This¬†might be a time for the distance you are running because that will reinforce you are getting fitter, which in turn, improves how you feel about yourself.

However, you could decide on making it to the top of a hill without walking, running for a certain amount of time or quite simply just breathing in the fresh air and feeling alive.

  • Your cumulative Feel Good factor

Once you’ve returned from your run you’ll feel energised, you’ll¬†feel a sense of accomplishment and you’re much more likely to¬†make healthier food choices. Instead of grabbing a chocolate biscuit¬†it’s much more likely¬†you’ll decide on an¬†apple instead.

With less stress and anxiety I find I don’t crave comfort food, in fact I’m making positive healthy choices to complement my running.¬†Why undo the good¬†work you’ve just achieved.

That cumulative effect will also take you through the night because you are physically tired which makes for a better nights sleep¬†with less pre sleep pondering on what’s happened through the day or what’s ahead of you tomorrow.

  • The¬†Most important¬†step of you run is the first one out of your Front Door

Running is part of my life and has been for thirty years. My mood changes from the minute I know I’m going out¬†and carries on¬†hours after I’ve got back. Running relaxes me mentally even if it challenges me physically.

Whether I’m running on my own or with others I take in my surroundings, I try to absorb the feeling of¬†running through the countryside. The sights and sounds of nature calm you and refresh you.

The time I spend running is quality time, it’s “My time”.

Why not make it “Your Time” or “Our Time” by including your partner or kids.

Happy Running

Roger

Unilite Head Torch Sport-H1 Review

Image-56As the nights draw in why restrict your running to poorly maintained and badly lit pavements. Running with a head torch means you can mix up your exercise by combining pavements and off road paths, it really is a whole new experience !!

Following a conversation with Unilite Lisa I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to receive and write about their popular neon coloured model. I was also delighted to receive a draw string bag and flask.

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In summary the Unilite Neon Sport-H1, has a 175 lumens¬†beam that’s¬†more than¬†sufficient for everyday use, it’s light, affordable, comfortable to wear and only needs one AA battery. The adjustable headband has plenty of scope for all sized heads and when the strong housing is combined with water resistance then you’ve just about got everything covered. Oh, and it comes in a choice of funky colours !!

When I say funky, that’s neon pink, green, blue and yellow ūüôā

The Sensible section

At this point I’d like to say that wearing a head torch for the first time can¬†take some getting used to,¬†so I’d recommend practising in semi lit environments first.

I’d also suggest running slower initially because both balance and self awareness are effected due to there being far fewer points of reference. That said, you soon adapt !!

Night lights come in all shapes and sizes so in many ways the right head torch for one person may not be the best one for someone else. Naturally brighter lights tend to be heavier and more costly but ask yourself, do you want to light up the path ahead of you or the valley the path runs through ?

A¬†link to the Unilite website description¬†is HERE but what I’d like to¬†offer are my observations on¬†my recent five mile run.

Head torch running really can be both safe and exciting.

The Fun section – Lets go for a run !!!

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My running commentary starts as I ran down Titchfield Hill under the bright streetlights and along the freshly tarmacked pavement (no head torch required).

I then took a 90 degree left hand turn along a completely unlit path that’s both quite narrow and has no lighting whatsoever.

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Now, at this point of the blog I dabbled with adding some photos but I decided this almost defeats the object as the flash would have given a false impression.

The head torch gave me a good spread¬†of light from right to left and a surprisingly long sight of around the seventy metres that’s claimed.¬†From previous experience you often have to adjust the¬†angle of your light, depending on your location and the terrain.

The 45 degree scope that this torch offers means you can concentrate on the immediate four metres in front of you. Being able to adjust your light to your surroundings gives you a real sense of being in control.

One point to note is that if you tilt it too much then all you’ll see is the first two meters, which, on the one hand doesn’t give you long to react and on the¬†other hand¬†your breath can¬†cloud your vision on a cold day, which can be quite off putting. That’s not Unilite’s fault, that’s head torches in general !!

It’s quite liberating running at largely the same pace as you would normally while passing through an area that would have otherwise been off limits.

Once I’d finished this section of my run I was then confronted with a mixture of car headlights and only occasional street lights. Being able to adjust the beam downwards makes it safer for you and the motorists in that you aren’t shining your light straight at them but you still have great vision.

The next obstacle that your head torch helps with¬†is the¬†combinations of a grass verge and the pavement. Yes you would probably see the grass and tarmac changing with the street lights but you’ll see it a lot earlier and in much more detail with your own personal light source.

Ultimately if you have confidence in where you are striding then you can maintain your pace and feel comfortable that you aren’t going to fall. Once back onto the main road I chose to switch my head torch off but that’s the flexibility you have. There’s no need to stop it’s just a flick of a switch¬†with this unit.

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Fast forward another mile or so and I turned off on the southerly section of the map above. This area is predominantly field tracks and a very rough farm road that has uneven concrete so it would be idea as a testing ground. Let the real Unilite fun commence !!

I know from experience that around the first corner of this lane there’s a large pothole. The Unilite beam gave me a reassuring illumination of this hazard and I’m sure that even if I didn’t know it was there I’d have picked up on it with plenty of time.

As I’ve said your senses do start to work overtime when you have limited light but it certainly makes for¬†quite a buzz as your anticipation levels, as well as adrenaline, are heightened. This was demonstrated a mere 500 metres further along the path.

I thought I could hear voices which can be a little unnerving when you can’t see where they’re coming from !! Yes, I jumped and made a¬†weird noise when two¬†other runners passed me, coming from the other direction, at quite a speed.

Now, whether they eat more carrots than your average person or they know this¬†farm road so well that they felt comfortable running in the dark, I don’t know, but they obviously saw me¬†because they’d already¬†moved onto the other side of the road.

That’s the beauty of a good head torch, people see you !!

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As I weaved my way along the farm road it struck me that I’d been wearing¬†my Unilite head torch¬†for nearly forty minutes and I’d hardly felt I had it on. The lightweight nature of this torch also lends itself to being carried and then used, as and when you need it.

With your eyesight focused on a particular beam of light it’s funny how small details become more noticeable. With the wind having picked up there was a swishing of the trees and as I approached the main road it almost looked like it was raining leaves.

Returning back to the roads near the house I tilted my Unilite torch down but it still picked up the dark green refuse bins and the dropped curves that lie in wait between the street lights on any road !!

Stay bright, be seen and experience a new way to run when you wear a Unilite head torch. I’ve run with mine three times now and love it.

4lightsOne final thought, if you haven’t come up with any “bright” ideas for Christmas presents or you’re still “in the dark” about what to get the runner in your family then look no further than this great accessory.

One final, final, thought, when you get back home and the front door opens, remember not to shine your light in their welcoming faces !!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this write up my blog can be voted for in the UK Blog Awards. Just follow this LINK , scroll down to iruoffroad and click the heart to vote.

Thanks for reading.

Roger

Naming your Blog

This post follows the process I went through when naming my blog. It took a lot longer than I anticipated but after three and a half years it still represents who and what I’m all about. Hopefully it will help other potential bloggers.

So, you’ve decided to go public with your passion, to tell the world how much you love your chosen subject.

How can you attract people to read your great content ? You’ll need a great name.

I considered both practical and emotional reasons but ultimately a simple solution emerged from an unexpected source.

Practicalities

  • Will your name work in terms of an email or a url address ? irunoffroad@hotmail.com¬†¬† etc etc
  • If you branch out into branding what will it look like on a t-shirt ? Too short ? Too long ? Just right ūüôā

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  • Has your newly thought up name already been thought up by someone else ? Consult namecheck , mine hadn’t and that was a great relief !!
  • Will your name have longevity ?¬†From my point of view my next name will be¬† iwalkoffroad¬†but that’s a few years off yet !!
  • Don’t limit your audience – the “i” can be read as me, Roger, or the person who embraces the whole concept and lifestyle that I’m writing about #irunoffroad
  • Look at other bloggers who write about your subject and see if any of their names spark a thought with you¬†?

Emotional

  • Will you still like this name in five years time ? It’s 3 1/2 years and I still love mine.
  • Don’t think small !! Shoot for the stars ūüôā¬†Choose a name that you could see above a shop door or on the side of a delivery van.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of being too current or too trendy, I considered a few options along these lines and did use the “i” to make it feel contemporary i.e. ipad, ipod even if that might not be apparent immediately.
  • Slightly off topic but take some time to choose the photo that complements your blog home page. Mine has a classic South Downs Way photo with a trail that wets your appetite (see the photo at the top of this post).
  • A memorable name is often a simple name, irunoffroad does what it says on the tin !! I run off road …. its as simple as that ūüôā¬†Having said that I did bump into a friend recently and he said what’s you blog called again ?? “I hate running” ho ho ho !!

So, after weeks of thought and with three blog posts written I had a chat with my teenage daughter.

She said, Dad, are you overthinking this ? , give me one phrase that sums up what you do ? ,¬†my reply …..

“i run off road”¬†, it fitted all of the criteria already mentioned. Genius.

Good luck with finding your perfect Blog name.

If¬† you’ve enjoyed reading this post I’ve been nominated in the UK Blog Awards Sports and Fitness category. The voting closes just before Christmas and the link is here, VOTE

Thanks for reading and maybe voting !!

Roger