Saturday, 7 February 2015

100 days later, the joy of streaking

Back in at the tail end of October after the a few days recovery after the Jedburgh Three Peaks Race I decided to take training easy but keeping getting out regularly to maintain fitness. Somehow I ended up running every day in November, it wasn't a planned effort, it just happened because I was enjoying just getting out everyday.  I continued running doing the Marcothon in December, and haven't stopped running everyday since.  Yesterday was my 100th day running everyday.

Except it wasn't turns out that I did my accounting of days on months wrong and it was in fact my 101th day of running on the trott!

On my 101th consecutive run, heading back to Callander  looking west towards Ben Ledi


Benefits of Run Streaking

I log all my runs and keep track of effective number of calories per mile reported by my HR monitor.  This allows me to track how my efficiency changes over time and what type of training benefits my fitness most.  At the of November I analysed by training and wrote up my findings in a post:

Training Log Analysis : Consistency is the key to improving fitness

The findings were pretty clear, running more often was more critical to fitness than length of individual runs.  If one looks at the training of elite endurance runners you'll find that they training twice or three times a day everyday of the week, so the finding that run frequency is crucial to my own fitness mirrors that of top athletes.   With such a unequivocal result from my analysis keeping running everyday was an easy decision.

Fitting two or three runs in a day doesn't fit well with my work and family life but running everyday before lunch is something that has fitted in easily.  I work from home so starting work a little earlier and finishing a bit later, or doing a little work in the evening keeps the work hours up.  Running mid-day allows me to make the most of rather lack lustre Scottish winter sun.

Once you've decide to run everyday and fit it in with your daily routine your view of training shifts.  No longer do you feel that you have to push yourself in training runs, instead you take the pressure of training intensity and duration a little because you'll need to run tomorrow, so gutting yourself is not worth the risk.

Now three months into my experiment with running every day my fitness has shown consistent improvements.  The last three months have been the most efficient I've ever recorded and January was my most efficient month ever, and the first week of February has seen improvements.

Effective Calories Per Mile between November 2013 and February 2015

The importance and benefits of Recovery runs 

When running every day Recovery runs after harder sessions take on more active importance - you do such runs to aid Recovery not to tick a box.  Keeping these recovery runs nice a slow aids recovery so you body repairs quicker and gets more benefit from the workouts.

Doing lots of regular Recovery runs also helps improve your running economy at ultra-marathon race pace as the two paces a typically well aligned.  For me I race ultras in the 9 to 10min/mile range and this is pace range of my Recovery runs.  Improving running economy and comfort at race pace is an often over-looked but important factor in racing well in ultras.

With the change in emphasis in my training from more stressful runs done less often to doing less stressful runs more often has had big difference to my ability to shrug of injury.  In previous years I'd struggle to training for more than 3 months on the trott before a injury would sideline me for months.

I've now done just over three months of running every day and while I've had plenty of aches and few strains that felt that they might get worse and become injuries that would stop my running streak nothing yet has got beyond aches in the morning and few niggles when running.

The biggest issues injury wise has been a long standing issue of metasalgia and recent ankle strain due to having to run on frozen rutted icy trails.  Avoiding lots of steep descents and staying away from trails for the past few days it's been possible to arrest these niggles and calm them down without stopping running.

The joy of run streaking

One can take about the benefits to ultra-marathon training of running everyday but I don't just run to get fit, I run because I love getting outside into nature.  Running everyday you are forced out in good and bad weather, and regardless of you mood.

What I have found is that by forcing oneself to go out even when it doesn't seem like nice weather there can be some beautiful sights and thoroughly invigorating experiences that make you feel alive.  There can be many little surprises along the way, things that you would have never seen or felt had you been sat in front of the TV or computer screen, yet these moments can live with you and make you smile when you think back.

I've captured a few of these moments with my phone's camera over past 101 days.  They don't really do it all justice but perhaps it'll convey just a little of the joy and wonder that just getting outdoors everyday can bring.

Evening run with my daughter, looking east towards Keltie Bridge caravan park
Some days with Driech

And the next first snow of winter

Or windy and wet
And flooded

On one run during the heavy rains I passed through some serious flooding at Keltie Bridge - I waded in and video'd the experience.   It's end of day so the video quality is really poor, but it might capture a bit of what it was like wading into up to the top of my thighs.  While the camera on the Moto G is bit poor, the phone is waterproof :-)

Shortly after the floods were gone and the weather turned colder.

Runs with friendss Craig and Rob
Or witnessing man-made destruction of forest
And regular route churned up by forestry trucks

But one bright day can lift ones spirits in an instant
Stuc a'Chroin and Ben Vorlich with their heads in the cloud and snow
Yule log made my daughters added a bit of festive post run treat

Recovery run at first light brings it own reward

A Christmas  presents - glasses, top and shoes as modelled by my youngest daughter Ellen :-)

Run streak means an afternoon run even on Christmas day

But what better way to try out your presents before the sun quietly slips away.
Away from home and visiting relatives provide new opportunities to explore

Using strava to explore new routes, and storm the castle to set some strava segment CR's

Back home and exposed to the full force of nature is when you feel most alive

River Teith in full spate

What better way catch up with friends, Neil and I head out for a run

Top of the Callander Crags look west towards Loch Venachar and snow storm

Windy days means bad weather clears more quickly!

My show to the left and big-foots shoe to the right.  Feeling more like a hobbit every day...

Recovery run, but everyone has to take a photo to remember it ;-)

Had to replace broken HR monitor,  replaced with  Pebble and Wahoo Tickr and Aerotracker Pro phone app
Pebble screen is nice an clear and with 5 day better life will cope with whole West Highland Way Race this June.
Storms lashed the Trossachs, one run I had to clamber under/over/around 15 fallen trees

Wet and windy storms were replaced with wintry storms

And then lots of snow, took me 40 minutes to clear the road in front the house.
But 12" of snow didn't stop me getting out for my run
Perfect reason to done my X-Talon 190's and gaitors

Deep snow made for a tough run, 11 min/mile pace at a HR of 160+, and 40% Calories per mile than normal!

Through January my eldest daughter was doing prelims and took to placing post-it notes around the house to help with Spanish vocabulary, this one seemed to sum up quite a bit of my life!
Exploring the new path to the north of Loch Venachar brought some amazing views.
As the wintry weather continued the roads and trails turn to rutted ice

But the views were well worth heading out into the freezer (Loch Venachar looking west)

The whimpy camera on my Moto G phone failed to capture how spectacular the sunset was

Sun finally slips behind Ben Gulipen

More snow turns Ben Guilpen into a winter playground, fast descents in fresh snow is glorious!

But when out running every day you also see the saddest of things. This hare was knocked down during my run - it wasn't there on the way out, but 20 minutes when I return it lay twitching. A red kite was circling not far away so I'm sure in it's death it will sustain other wildlife, but still it really tugged at the emotions - one of natures greatest runners the victim of mechanised transport.

Nature has it's way of being enchanting

When the new Bracklin Bridge was being built it looked so large and incongruous, but in place amongst the rock and trees it fits in, adds some something to this very natural location

Between Bracklin Bridge and Scout Pool bridge you get great views of Stuc a'Chroin and Ben Vorlich, except... when it's completed whited out!

As January progressed and February began the local trails had become horrible mess of rutted ice, which after 2 marathons worth of such trails over a three week period my right ankle was starting complain. Rather than stopping my running streak I switched to training mostly on roads in February.  Still icy in many places but at least the ankle started to settle.  An the views even form the roads can be rewarding.

5 miles into a half marathon, 4 miles of which was on icy roads and trails, but those views more than make up for it.

This highland cow watches me several times a week, I'm sure that's a bemused/incredulous expressing as he chews his food.  This great looking highlander is one I used for the new "Trossachs Mountains, Trails and Lochs" strava club
After many weeks of cold strong winds each day the wind dropped and left Loch Venachar as calm as a mill pond.
At the loch's edge a bizarre stack of ice collected, perhaps a combination of wind, nightly ice formation and loch level changes had created it

Whatever the history of this natural conundrum the result was mesmerizing

What I thought was my 100th consecutive run, the sun shone once again

These photo's just capture a fraction of all that I experienced and witnessed over the course of the past 101 days of running every day. Spectacular, invigorating, challenging and uplifting.

And looking at my training logs I look to be the fittest that I've been in my adult life, and still over two and half months training left till Fling, and four and half till my A race for the year the West Highland Way.  Should I run streak all the way there?


  1. Interesting post and great photos!

    How long do you plan to keep running every day?

    1. Thanks John.

      I don't really have a plan w.r.t running every day, other than to aim to keep my training restrained enough so that running every day is a possibility. I'm not aiming for any particular target number of days, 100 was a nice round number, but in the end these numbers are all meaningless - the key is getting out enjoying my time outside and providing the best training stimulus I can for the time I put in.

      There may well be times that going out running every day will be awkward due to travel, illness or other circumstances. If forcing a run in when it doesn't naturally fit just to keep my streak going then I'll just happily skip a day.

      What I don't want to happen now is to have to take days off because I overdid it in training and ended up injured and over-trained. If this happens it's a sign that I'm listing to my ego or external factors too much and ignoring what my body is telling me. Being physically and mentally able to run every day and enjoy it is a bit of barometer on how well my body and soul is responding to training loads.

      There was only a two run in the last 102 where parts of the runs I felt it a bit of drag. One was last weekends long run where I fell on snow covered ice and still had 6 miles left to get home with a sore back, with 2 miles more of ice covered roads to negotiate. The second was today's recovery run - really felt like yesterday visit to the dentist where I had a tooth out was still in my system, and I lacked my normal energy and smoothness. Mouth is still sore so may well be part of it. Even with these runs there was still plenty of sights to enjoy, little amusing things you see. The recovery run did it's job - my legs are feeling nice and relaxed and ready for tomorrows long run.

  2. Wonderful photos.

    I agree that training often, with quite a large proportion at low intensity, is the best way to show year-on-year development in fitness. Former marathon world record holder Robert DeCastella used to say that the most important session was the 365x10 miles.

    1. Thanks Canute.

      My current weekly mileage is now in the low 60's, on the last two weeks I've added in single run which has 6 mile section at either marathon pace or a tempo section. So mileage wise I'm roughly 90% low intensity, 10% marathon pace and faster. I will introduce some hill sprints if my legs can handle the extra load. My main focus is steadily increasing the volume to help build general aerobic fitness and structural resilience that I'll need during my ultras.

      The approach of running every day and slowly increasing daily mileage is still improving my aerobic fitness so am very happy with progress. Just yesterday I did a route that I've been using for fitness benchmarking, it's a moderately hilly 6.5 mile route, rather that run the evaluations all out I've been doing them at a HR of 140bpm. In previous years saw an average speed at this intensity of around 6.5mph, but over the last few months I've been steadily progressing to 7mph but the closest I had got was 6.95mph last week. Yesterday's evaluation run I finally crossed the 7mph, averaging 7.1mph.

      This time last year I averaged the same speed on this route with a HR of 151, which yesterday I did it with an average of 139. This is quite an amazing change in just one year, especially as last year I set PB's in all distances except an ill fated half marathon attempt where I missed by a few seconds. How this much low HR for a given pace will map to race performance I can't say - it all depends upon how much my HR during a race will have dropped as well, if everything drops by 10bpm then I won't be much further ahead. From my tempo run last week my HR around threshold was probably around 5bpm lower than previous years. This might indicate my average HR during ultras could be 5bpm lower too. This still should give me a tidy improvement in speed during an ultra.

      I don't have a race till April though so will have to wait a few more months before I get a proper test of my fitness.

      The big difference this year does seem to be consistent mileage, week in, week out, month in, month out - just as your quote from Robert DeCastella suggests. It's not glamorous/testosterone filled HIIT sessions but it sure is working. Plus I love getting out doors :-)

      Good luck with your own training, fingers crossed it's progressing as well as mine.