• David Downs

10 Weeks to Hit the Wall - My Ultra Marathon Training

I should be writing this with my aching legs. Every inch of my body should be killing me. I should be feeling ecstatic from having run 70 miles around the Scottish island of Arran.

Due to Covid, lockdown and everything else going on globally, they cancelled my ultra marathon. The second-year on the trot. It was hard enough dealing with it last year. But for a second time, it was disheartening.

It is hard work getting into training mode. All the sacrificing, early nights, early morning runs, and then to have it taken away. Yes, I understand that during the time of covid, there are plenty of more important things to worry about.

Finding Positives

Some positives to take away from this last round of lockdown includes the fact I have dramatically cut down the amount I drink. This isn't just due to training. It's - mainly to the fact pubs have been shut! I've spent time focusing on heart rate training, and there will be more written on that another time. These training plans usually are forgotten about as we don't have four months spare to do them, but this lockdown seemed perfect.

My eating has improved on a large scale, and my weight has dropped by 1.5 stone. All the weight I gained in 2020 has finally gone, so I am back to base level. Yay!

The exciting thing about this weekend, ignoring the loss of Arran, is that pubs, salons, barbers, shops in general, have now all reopened. There might be a few restrictions, like sitting outside for your well-earnt pint, but think of all the weight we will lose when hair is chopped off!

So many exciting things are suddenly happening. Gyms are open again, races and events are back on, museums, zoos, socialising and much more. This is a whole new season, and we should be more excited about the things to come.

Hadrian's Wall

My next big event is running 70 miles along Hadrian's Wall, from Carlisle to Newcastle. It will be two years since my first painful attempt, and I am chomping at the bit to get it done. The same weekend that all restrictions are lifted, it's a huge thing coming. Ten weeks of training left, so you know where my writing focus will be from now on.

I mentioned the HR training. Well, I have reduced my resting heart rate from mid 50 beats per minute to mid-40 beats per minute. Even while running, my heart rate seems lower, so I use less energy, which means I can run for longer.

Weekends now consist of about 20-mile long runs on Saturdays, followed by 10-miles or longer on Sunday. There are still ten weeks to go, so this is pretty decent going so far. The Wall is mainly on the road, so it also means getting my feet toughened up to last a good 14-18 hours running on roads. This is going to hurt!

The Other Wall

When training for a marathon, we are constantly reminded that the marathon starts at mile 20 (of 26.2). It's when you reach the 20th mile of the actual race that things begin to hurt, energy starts to sap, and your state of mind falls apart.

I can confirm this is so, and there have been many times I've just wanted it to end. There have also been many times I've felt amazing at this point.

This wasn't the case this Saturday, as my training run was 20 miles about Waterloo Station. I wasn't feeling it and just wanted to go home. How can you hope to run 70 miles when 20 seems like hell?

An excellent question, but it does explain why there are a few months of training; to get you beyond that point.

Ensuring you have the right fuel, food, nutrition, whatever you want to call it, helps. I run with peanut butter and jam sandwiches, Haribo, coke, all to give me what I need. It's also important to rest before more extended runs. Your legs will thank you.

Do You Go Around The Wall?

If only that were the case. Like the bear hunt song says, we can't go under it, we can't go around it… We must go through it. Or best to find ways to avoid it altogether.

I've mentioned food along the run, but it's more than during. Make sure you feed yourself the night before. We like to go on about carb-loading, and the reason being, it's a thing! I can always tell if I've eaten enough the night before by how I feel in the first ten or so miles.

Find what works for you. It might be pizza, a good curry, a massive bowl of pasta. Take time in trying different meals and how your body responds to them.

Get a good breakfast the morning of the run, and again, find what works. It's probably best to avoid fibre, or you could keep spoiling your run with the need to find a loo.

Plenty (but not too much) of fluids, sugary stuff. I love coke and Lucozade. They do help.

And, of course, go at a decent pace. I've been doing low heart-rate training, which means I can run in a zone where my body relies more on body fat. This means I can go for more extended periods without focusing on eating. As I am losing body fat, I can only imagine this will soon be a different case come June…

Kick the Wall Down

But seriously, finding the way through the wall is the only way. And not just in the marathon or ultra training. In all aspects of life, when we smash walls that prevent success, we truly become Olympians. The issues resolve rather than keep coming back to bite us on the butt.

And the feeling of joy when we have defeated our walls has no comparison.

I'll let you know when I find my next wall.