As you might expect, launching into a training plan after 2 quiet months of running started off as quite a struggle! The two months before starting Project RFP I ran 15 hours in April and 11 in May so June was always going to be about building a base.
Week 1 (June 4th – June 10th)
In the days leading up to the start of the project I began to think about how I might try to measure my effort during training and what metrics I might track. In the past I used to keep a very close eye on my heart rate, MAF pace and distance over the week but this time around I made a decision to basically run entirely on feel – the only metric I’ll be monitoring during runs during this project are time and distance. It’s liberating being able to run without worrying about hitting a certain pace or staying in a certain heart rate zone.
Stripping back to basics is exactly what Project Relentless Forward Progress is all about. Going back to where my love for the sport started from and seeing how it pans out. I can’t see myself getting into racing without a watch and without some kind of plan over the course of this but I’m not ruling anything out for future projects.
Week 1 went pretty well. I stuck to the plan I put together using Bryon Powell’s book and enjoyed the running! I had planned to run the Hertfordshire Mid-Week Road Race League as my speed session but on my way there I started to get really anxious about racing on the road and over short distance, so I instead diverted my journey to the woods and decided to hike instead to process my thoughts and feeling. I’m glad I did that because it really solidified the reasons behind this project – back to basics, doing what I love and getting away from the roads!
Week 2 (June 11th – June 17th)
Week 2 had it’s ups and downs. On the upside I brought my weight vest back into use for the first time since 2016 as I feel that using this once a week will really help with my hiking strength, as well as helping with core and leg strength. I also introduced yoga on Friday evenings which is something I have lapsed from over the past year. Previously this really helped with staying injury free and also with mental strength.
On the downside I cut 10km off my planned long run on the weekend and during the shortened version I ran through a big patch of nettles that crowded the trail – I had no other option it was either through them or turn around. My training log covered this with the following:
Ran through a big patch of nettles at 5km which really hurt and now both of my legs from just above the knee to the ankle are tingling/burning! Oh well, I’d rather that and some mileage than no pain and no gain.
It turns out this was an understatement as the tingling grew to burning over the rest of the day and led to a very uncomfortable couple of days!
Week 3 (June 18th – June 24th)
Although Monday’s weight vest hike was difficult thanks to the aforementioned nettle sting, the rest of the week panned out fantastically. I enjoyed all of the running and I could feel my strenght starting to build as the week went on – hills felt that bit easier, the speed on the road when I hit those sections and I didn’t find it difficult to find a metronome consistency on the flatter sections.
On the Saturday I secured a place at next year’s South Downs Way 50 before heading over Wendover Woods to run a lap of the WW50 course with my buddy Trevor. This was a ‘proper’ ultra training run – 95% trail, a lot of steep hiking and a lot of steep and controlled downhill running! I was pleased that on the 3km road section to finish the run I managed to overhaul my tiredness and put in a really strong, fast finish.
Saturday also marked the foundation of next year’s main project, which will be the Centurion Grand Slam of 50s! The South Downs Way in April, North Downs Way in May, Chiltern Wonderland in September and Wendover Woods in November.
Week 4 (June 25th – July 1st)
I would say that at the end of Week 4 I felt (and still feel) very strong, my base build will continue to the end of Week 6 but if it continues in the this direction I should be very fit for the Tring 50k in September and hopefully the Kings Forest 50k in October.
I have found that my Tuesday and Thursday runs are great and Sarah and I have managed to find a consistency and synergy with our respective training plans. On Tuesday and Thursday Sarah attends Body Pump and sometimes Abs & Back classes at our local gym which gives me a few options when it comes to running sessions on those days – they always end at the front of the gym at the time Sarah finishes her classes and then I get a lift home! Over Weeks 2, 3 and 4 this really came together and I’ve managed to find a 10k direct route with a few trail loops that can bring me up to 12 to 16k when required.
The best run of Week 4 was definitely my Saturday long run effort. 26km, consisting of 5x5km trail loops in our local park. Gravel, dirt, grass and little bit of pavement. I will close this post with my training log entry from this run:
5 laps of Rothamsted Park with a goal of hitting 2hrs for 25km – no gels, 600ml handheld with water only. My plan for Chiltern 50k is to run the first 25km in about 2h15/20m. After this run it’s still the plan!
Laps 1-3 were solid – pretty much 22min and some seconds each. There was a gentle breeze which lulled me in to a false sense of security as the rising temperature wasn’t noticeable.
Stopped at end of Lap 3 to refill handheld with cold water from car and to douse my head as when I stopped I could feel it was getting very hot!
Lap 4 I took a bit easier as I started to feel the heat. I held back guzzling water as the aim of the run was to suffer a bit, in all honesty! I also had to fight the urge to eat the Gu I was carrying as I knew Lap 5 was going to be tough going without it.
Lap 5, predictably, was really difficult! I felt the heat a lot and could feel myself having to try really hard to keep a reasonable pace. Running in the heat with no calories and minimal water is hard work!
By the time I got back to my car I was extremely glad to finish and to be able to break out my cold water stash to wash down a hastily eaten banana! I’m really happy I stuck with the 5 laps as I contemplated bailing at the end of Lap 3 and Lap 4!