Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Build up to the North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 50 miler

Having not written anything for a while, I thought I'd post given all the excitement over this weekend's big 50 mile race north of San Francisco in the Marin Headlands. There are so many races around those hills so it's certainly a good, tough course. It'll be a crazy race with so many really quick guys there from all over the world, even with many big names dropping out. Excellent coverage is at irunfar, profiling the men's and women's races and updating all the time for any drop outs.

I'd really been looking forward to it as it's always more fun to race the best guys than have a weaker field and there aren't many ultras around the world that can guarantee really great, deep fields. To my mind it's only Western States, UTMB and this race for trail runs, although there's a second tier of races with plenty of fast guys.

Unfortunately, I've decided to wimp out and drop down to the 50k. A combination of the overtraining since July (I definitely shouldn't have raced that half marathon 2 weeks after WS), not getting out on the trails except at occasional races plus me still feeling worn down now made me think that I'd end up crawling through the 50 miles. Such a comparison to May when I felt fine doing stuff like the Miwok 100k, while the last few 50ks I've run have left me with sore calves and limping around for a few days, even though I tried to run them steadily and felt like I was holding back a bit.

Hopefully I'll be pleasantly surprised in the 50k and have a bit of energy to get round in a reasonable time. But I'm also fully focusing on Comrades, which is only six months away, so I need my road speed to improve. That's meant that I'm doing 2-3 hard speed sessions a week, but I've never really done much speed work and endurance has always been my strength instead, with my 10k and half marathon speeds being barely quicker than my marathon pace (compare a 35:18 10k to 36:10 per 10k in my best marathon).

I've run hard 5ks on the treadmill and a couple of 10k races recently, but I'm still a long way off where I need to be - 16:19 for 5k and a 34:38 10k, both of which left me feeling near a heart attack. I think I've been making the mistake of doing these speed sessions too hard, which is partly due to many of them being on treadmills and me being stubborn. So when I set myself a goal I generally manage to stop myself hitting the controls to slow it down, which turns me into a hyperventilating, noisy runner and I virtually fall off the treadmill. It's not fun, but I kept telling myself no pain, no gain.

Now I see the error in that - I've heard from all sources that you should feel like you can do one more rep at the end of a speed session, so when I can barely stand up at the end, it's just making it impossible to recover quickly enough for the next hard session (even the recovery jog feels hard). I'm going to try to fix it and still have just over six weeks until the Phoenix marathon, which needs to be quick. Then lots of miles, lots of hills and lots of 90% race efforts until Comrades.

The next six months should be great with some fantastic runs coming up. In particular, I'll be doing and/or helping out at most of the Pacific Coast Trail Runs, which now have a huge number of races in their calendar. And I have the honour of joining their inaugral race team, too, which should be fun and be a great chance to get more involved with the local running community.


  1. Damn! I was looking forward to seeing what you could do against the top guys. Be a while until such a lineup again. Enjoy the 50k.

  2. I'd say it'll be about a year until a similar line-up, so I'll just have to wait. But if I tried the 50 miler this weekend I think I'd end up walking the last half marathon or more and would be wrecked for weeks. Jez Bragg, Lizzie Hawker and Ellie Greenwood will be flying the British flag

  3. Good luck for the 50km. It would be good to see what damage you could do in the 50 miler, but that'll come around again soon enough... there's lots of time yet! Richard.