My 1st 100 mile ultra marathon – by Josh Merret
I have been running for just over 3 years now and before that I was a regular gym goer and for a few years I was training and competed in a few powerlifting meets. During the subsequent 3 years I have completed 2 Half Marathons, 2 Full Marathons and after running the London Marathon last year I wanted a new challenge. During the summer last year I started reading a book on Ultramarathons and that lit the embers for contemplating whether I was capable of doing an ultra myself. So over the summer after a couple of months off I started to run a few miles again and set myself a challenge of seeing how far I could run a few days before my 30th birthday. The weekend before the milestone birthday I set off to cover as many laps of the short circuit by my parents house where I could leave supplies to refuel and hydrate at the end of each lap, that day I was aiming for anything over 30 miles. I eventually ended the day after 41 miles after hobbling round the last lap.
After a couple of weeks recovery I was ready to start thinking about running again and entered my first ultra, at the end of September I started my 16 week training for the Country to Capital ultra slowly building the mileage up towards the new year and then started to taper the miles. So into 2015 I went soon to be running my first ultramarathon, the event took place on the 17th January and the distance was approximately 43 miles and I finished in 6 hours 36 mins which I was incredibly pleased with! I was hoping for a finishing time of under 7 hours so it was a very good day for me with many lessons learnt.
For the couple of weeks after the race my son was in hospital for a planned operation so after he was fit, well and home I entered my next race that was to take place in July and would be 78 miles. This was to be a big step up so in the lead up to that race there was a local ultra that I entered as part of my preparation for the bigger race. I ran the 40 mile local race in April but on that day I started feeling great but ran the 1st half too quickly and suffered in the last 10 miles, I finished in 6 hours 50 mins, slower than I wanted to but once again the lessons you learn during these long distances are invaluable.
After this race we found out my son would have to go into hospital again for another routine procedure but it would mean him being in hospital for longer than a week and would coincide with the 78 mile race so I had to cancel my place in that event. So after cancelling my 78 mile race and was at a bit of a loss as what to do next. I scoured the internet for the next challenge I could enter, I looked at all kinds of distances my thoughts being as it was my first year of running these kinds of distances I should do some more events that were 40 to 50 miles in length but none of them really lit a fire in me. I knew that if I was going to train how I needed to for how I wanted to perform I would have to be enter something that excited me or scared me but ultimately would light a fire in me. The decision was made then, 100 miles it is then!
The Cotswold Way Century is my chosen race and as I write this I have 13 weeks left of training before the biggest test of my life.
My Training Cycle
After entering the event I had 21 weeks of training ahead of me and to be honest I did not have a great deal of knowledge or experience to call on in order to develop a plan to tackle 100 miles. In order to have a plan I had confidence I took a framework from a book call Relentless Forward Progress and then adapted the schedule to fit around other life obligations I had in the diary.
They way I have developed my mindset for increasing the distances so that I am not overwhelmed by running 100 miles is by splitting the cycle into 3 phases culminating in 1 of the 3 longest training runs.
– Phase 1 (Weeks 1-11) building towards Fairlands Valley Challenge 50k/31 mile event.
– Phase 2 (Weeks 12-16) building towards a 50 mile event/self supported run.
– Phase 3 (Weeks 17-21) tapering distances so as to keep working but ultimately to feel fresh, confident and injury free for the 100 mile ultramarathon.
This is the plan set out at the very beginning of my cycle:
This is the plan with the runs I have completed so far:
Monday – Rest or Cross Training days (Plyometrics, Lighter workout days e.g light circuits and bodyweight exercises or gym CV equipment), these days are for recovery but still being active.
Tuesday – 8 to 14 miles sometimes including some faster miles but usually at a steady pace.
Wednesday – 5 to 6 miles of steady pace running used as recovery between the more arduous and technical runs on a Tuesday and Thursday
Thursday – 8 to 10 miles of hill repeats and sometimes a steady paced run if more rest is required.
Friday – Rest or Cross Training days (Plyometrics, Lighter workout days e.g light circuits and bodyweight exercises or gym CV equipment), these days are for recovery but still being active.
Saturday – Long Run which is run at an easy pace and is to get the body use to spending increasing amounts of time on the feet and to practice hydration and nutrition.
Sunday – Long Run which is run at an easy pace and is to get the body use to spending increasing amounts of time on the feet and to practice hydration and nutrition.
The Training Cycle So Far
I am currently in the 8th week of training and I am pleased with how things are going and my body is feeling healthy and strong. The moment I am most proud of so far is a 29 mile training run I completed whilst on holiday in Devon a few days ago as it was a tough 29 miles. I had set out knowing the run was to be well over 20 miles and hoping for 2500-3000 ft of elevation gain, after finishing and checking my tracker I could have been happier! I had covered 29 miles in 5 hours 30 mins which is not great in itself but there had been a total of 5400 ft of elevation gain which blew my mind!
This was by far the most ascent I have ever covered and therefore made the time that I covered those miles in a great success in my eyes especially as not only the ascent was tough but the terrain was technically challenging. It was a big weight off my shoulders in some respects because I had been struggling to get any significant ascent training in due to living in a place that is flat as a pancake, so for me to test myself how I did that day unplanned made me feel amazing! And all while I was on a family holiday, thankfully I have a very understanding and supportive family.
After my 29 mile run from Sandy Bay to Lyme Regis ( Best feeling ever seeing my kids after a run!)
So with 3 and a half weeks to go to my 50k race my confidence is high and I can’t wait for race day, I will write another update in a few months to let everyone know how I get on!
Please follow my progress on Facebook – www.facebook.com/runjoshrun1
Josh Merrett (Run Josh Run)