Saturday, 28 March 2015

150 Days Running

Back on the 29th of October, four days after completing the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultramarathon, I began running everyday and yesterday completed by 150th day.

View of Loch Venachar, this week, spring sprung for a day! (next day it snowed ;-)

I never really intended to start a big run streak, I just got into the groove in November, and followed it up with the Marcothon in December, and saw big improvements in my fitness, as I'm keen to keep progressing my race fitness it felt natural to just keep it going and see where it would take me.

Runstreak Base building

With 5 months of running every day, every month my fitness has improved - most noticeable in how my heart rate for a given pace has changed, it' now around 10 beats per minute lower for a given pace than it was this time last year.  In the last 5 years since I got back into training I've never see such a consistent improvements.

The way I'm tracking my fitness progress is by recording the number of calories used in each run via my Heart Rate monitor used in each run I do, the divide this by the distance and a factor I compute to normalize for terrain and HR drift. The daily calories per mile goes up and down but if one averages over the whole month you can start to get clearer picture of how fitness is progress.  The following chart is my average Effective Calories per mile from the January 2014 to end of March 2015.  This period covers when I was beginning my training for the 2014 Highland Fling and West Highland Way Races through to day of writing this post at the end of March 2015.

The graph shows how I've gone from averaging around 86 to 76 Effective Calories/Mile.  The biggest jump was when I began my run streak back in October.  In the December during the Marcothon I ran everyday but backed off on the mileage a little to make sure I can finish the challenge, the result was a tiny improvement. January onwards I've ramped up the weekly mileage and progress has resumed.

The gradient of the improvement over the last two months has actually been steeper than the average over the past 15 months which has surprised me - I had expected the figures to have bottom out months ago as essentially I've been doing Aerobic Base style training, I've done very few tempo runs, or hill sprints, just a large number of 6 to 15 mile runs at an easy or recovery pace.

Back in December I joined Strava, so it's easy to track my training, the following screen-shots illustrate the mix of running I've done:

Training December 2014, Total Mileage 181, Daily average 5.8

Training January 2015, Total Mileage 227, Daily average 7.3


Training February 2015, Total Mileage 252, Daily average 9

Training March 2015, Total Mileage 253, with 4 more days left, Daily average 9.4

The general trend in my training has to increase my mileage by increasing the length of all my runs by a small amount each week/month.  This month I've progressed to doing two 70+ mile weeks which the highest mileage two period I've ever done.

Last year I had planned similar mileage in the run up to the West Highland Way Race but my legs just couldn't cope with sustained high level of mileage and niggles began heading towards injury so I backed off.  This was the right thing to as I never sustained any serious injury before the race and had a great race.

I don't doubt had my legs been more resilient back then my race would have gone even better so it's really encouraging this year to be able to cope with higher mileage.  In fact all three months this year I've set my highest monthly mileage, with totals of 227, 252 and 253 miles (with four runs left), last year the highest I achieved was in February with 224 miles.

However, I am pretty close to my current limit of training load vs adaptation rate.  I've had DOMS in my lower calves most days in the last two month.  Low level niggles have come an gone.  With the goal of running every day now I have to make sure that these niggles don't progress into injury.  The big thing that has helped me achieve it this year is learning to listen to my body and back off in distance and intensity when my body needed a little more time to adapt.

Part of allow yourself to listen to your body and using this as a guide to what training your body can cope with next is that strict training plans are impossible. Instead of a training plan I've essentially stuck to following some loose Training Principles.  These are essential:

  1. Listen to your body, only run as fast or as far as it's ready for
  2. Run everyday, which means that you have to view your run today in terms of it's own training effect and the effect it will have on subsequent days
  3. Eat well - plenty of calories to replace those burned, as well as ensuring you get all the micro-nutrients as well.  Eat roughly the balance of macro nutrients that my body will need in my ultra racing, so this is around 50% fat, 30% carbs, 20% protein.
  4. Make sure you sleep as well as you can (I'm naturally a bit of on insomniac so this can be a bit of struggle.)
  5. In times of stress find ways of relaxing, a certainly avoid taking stress to bed (again I struggle with this sometimes, a bit of curse of having an overly analytical mind.)
  6. If sleep has been compromised, or stress levels are high easy back on the training load to rebalance the overall stress on the body, when things get back to normal then one can start pushing harder in training again
  7. Do a good mix of flat, road, trail and hills
  8. Through the week hit a range of paces - but the majority of the time at recovery or easy pace
  9. A small sprinkling of high intensity workout such as tempo or hill sprints when the body feels up for a challenge.  No more than two faster sessions per week, but quite happy if I go a couple weeks without a faster session.
  10. Enjoy training, Enjoy Eating, Enjoy Sleep!  

These principles have worked really well for my base building phase, 5 months of steady improvement in Aerobic Fitness and now able to handle the highest monthly mileage that I've ever been able to manage.

Times are a changing though - race season is upon us, time to move from general Aerobic Fitness building to needs of Ultra races.  The first step along this way was last Sunday's Loch Katrine Marathon - a impromptu marathon that I got a last minute entry to.  I'll write about in my next blog post.


  1. Interesting post Robert. It looks like your training is going really well. I look forward to seeing what you do in the Fling!

  2. It is great to see your steady progress