Monday, 29 August 2011

Training by feel……..really?

Regardless of the fact that Jez Bragg had to pull out of this year’s UTMB the fact remains he is one of our best ultra runners if not the best. We hadn’t heard from him for quite some time after the Western States 100 where he came 4th and then just before the UTMB he posted ‘Catching up’ where stated that he had a good idea where he went wrong there, I quote:

“I won’t bore you with all the detail but needless to say I’ve made some changes to bring about improvements.”

I’m guessing that if blogging was a two-way process, many others in addition to me would’ve been silently shouting at their screens;

‘No please, there’s no way that info would bore us, we want, no, we need the details’.

Correct me if I’m wrong but many of us follow a training regime - with certain targets and goals in mind. Through time and experience we revise our expectations and make adjustments to how we train to reflect this, right? So we’ll all have slightly different approaches to training and I bet that almost every one of us would love to know if there is a golden ticket (so to speak) to superior performance? And where better to get it than from the very best? We may have to wait some time for Jez to come up with the goods.

Recently, however, no less than three other superior ultra athletes attempted to bridge this gap with blog posts of note.

Terry Conway, answered many questions in a post about how he trained to win this year’s Lakeland 100. A point he made, that stood out for me, was that he never wears a heart rate monitor and tries to train at a pace he is comfortable with i.e. a pace that feels right for that particular session. In his race report for this year’s Highland Fling, which he finished in a little over 8hrs, he explained that he got to Drymen in a 6:50min/mile pace but wasn’t concerned about that as the terrain wasn’t too taxing. Here’s what gets me; why was he not concerned about that pace - for a 53 mile race? I have not read too much about Terry but my guess is that not only is he very talented but that at some point in his life he has followed a regimented training programme. I believe that nowadays he is afforded the luxury of training to how he feels by being able to draw upon his experience.

Geoff Roes has his name firmly imprinted in record books throughout the world. The guy has won countless ultras and is always regarded as main competition at the start of any major race. Just before this year’s UTMB (where unfortunately he DNF) he posted a blog which he titled ‘Consistency’. My take on this post was that there really is no short-cut to reaching your ultimate aim so don’t get so stressed about missing the odd training run or trying to fit yourself into a strict running program. Instead you should do what feels ok at a time when it’s good to go and that by this process you will make the progress you desire. A quick root around Geoff’s blog and you’ll see that his approach to training over the years has been pretty full-on. Additionally, anyone that follows Geoff will also know that he isn’t chained to a desk for most of the day as he is one of the fortunate (deservedly so) ones to be sponsored full time.

Again, without taking anything away from him, it is my take that Geoff has had the luxury of saying what he did in this post because of where is now. For example, there are many occasions in the past when I (no-doubt like everyone else) have felt great and wanted to go for a run but that my work, studies, social life (who am I kidding), wife or kids demand I do otherwise. By the same token, there have been far too many other times where I have been fatigued but as it’s my only window of opportunity for a few days to get some training in I feel utterly compelled to go.

Stuart Mills, previous winner of the Lakeland 100 and all round elite performer, recently posted an excellent blog which at first glance appeared to give some advice on the physical training required to be a top ultra runner. In the end Stu, pointed out that for him the physical preparation required for an ultra was only a small part of the TOTAL preparation required. In fact if TOTAL preparation was a round block of Edam cheese the physical portion would be only 1/6th! The main thing I got from his post was that the brain plays a massive role in determining ones performance. I agree with this wholeheartedly. However, what puzzles me is that Stu seems to give so little importance to the physical part of training. Maybe I’m way off the mark but he was certainly not so forthcoming with advice on that front.

Again though, have a search through his history and you’ll note that he too has completed a vast amount of training from quite a young age. This is not something he hides. I get the impression he is almost quite pleased with the quantity and quality of miles he has amassed in training and races to date – almost as if it is this tangible evidence that allows him to have absolute belief in himself today.

As I’ve said before training by feel is one of my ultimate aims. However, to summarise my take on the advice of the three guys above (if that was how it was intended); training by feel is something which is or should only be attainable though experience.

This brings me to the reason I blog. I have never been a runner and display no obvious talent as a runner. I wonder if this is how we all started out or did the likes of Jez put some trainers on one day and become an overnight sensation. My blog is my record of progress. It will detail the experiment of training so that one day, I too can train by feel. The secondary aim of this is collaboration. So if I ‘make changes to bring about improvement’ I’ll be passing it on.

The way I see it is we have a very limited time to live life. How are expected to get where we want if we all keep secrets from one another. I concede though, there is the possibility that I will continue to be mediocre as a runner and will therefore interest no-one in my findings.

My next post will be about how my base training has gone - it has been my most specific to date. I have discovered a few things and have also had to deal with an unexpected and unwelcome situation. I still have a few weeks until I progress to my next level so there is the possibility of learning more. Wait out..................

1 comment:

  1. jonny..all findings valid..even if personal. people do what works for them. ive ditched a written plan in favour of flexibility and going with how i feel. whichever way im always mid to back of pack but that way i get to see the beautiful scapes for longer!