Anna’s Month in Running – June ’23
I cannot believe we’re over halfway through 2023! June has been the month I’ve had my eye on for most of this year, as that’s when I was starting my proper 16-week 100km training plan for the 7 Valleys Ultra at the end of September. I’m following the Runna app plan for 100km and have completed the first 2 weeks of it so far and I’m loving it!
Rewind to the start of the month and I was continuing to keep base building before the start of the proper plan, so I did parkrun in Rugby and got one closer to completing 100 parkruns, which is more than likely going to happen later this year! The course at Rugby is great. It’s a two-lapper that consists of paths in a park, trails downhill, a bit of a beast of an uphill and then a grassy football pitch – so a bit of everything really. The weather really started to be more summer-like from the start of the month, so it was a warm one!
The following weekend was my first of two races this month. The Two Castles 10km. It’s a point-to-point run from Warwick Castle to Kenilworth Castle, taking in the beautiful Warwickshire countryside. This is not a fast or flat course with PB potential – it’s pretty hilly and race day was a hot one. I had signed up to this race with a few of my friends and my partner, Neal, as a bit of a fun day out at a race that’s really popular in our local area. It always sells out! I didn’t have much of a goal going into the race, other than to enjoy the day, as I knew the heat would be tough and that my main aim was to run with friends and remain injury-free, ready to start my training block for the 100km properly the following day. I think it’s still important to have an idea of what you’d like to achieve in a race, and so I had a rough goal of finishing in about an hour.
By 9am when we started, the temperature was already in the early 20°Cs. The first few kilometres were reasonably flat and I got into a good rhythm. But by the 5th kilometre, the hills started, and the heat intensified. I held on to get to the first drinks station and got myself some water, but I knew that I couldn’t sustain the pace I had set out at. It was at that point that I spotted Neal, who was struggling with a tight hamstring. I told him I’d run the second half with him and so we did just that. The locals all came out of their houses and sprayed us with their hoses to keep us cool, which was a welcome relief from the heat. We finished the race in just over an hour and headed to a nearby town with our friends for celebratory bagels and iced coffees! It was a really great race that was well-organised and really scenic. Definitely, one I’d like to do again.
The day after the race signalled the start of my 16-week training block for the 7 Valleys 100km ultra in the Lake District. As with most training plans, Monday was a rest day though! I’m using the Runna coaching app for this training block and have opted for 4 runs a week and two strength sessions, as this is what I can fit in around life and work. There’s a really nice balance of easy runs, hill reps, sprint intervals and long runs and so far, I’m loving it. I fondly refer to this as ‘the training block of joy’, as it’s so nice to get back to some real structure with a serious goal at the end of it.
My favourite session so far has been what they call ‘drop sets’. It’s an interval session of descending distances with increasing paces. You start with a warm-up and then do two lots of 1km at a prescribed pace, based on what you tell the app you can currently run a certain distance at. You then get a walking break and then it’s into two lots of 800m at a quicker pace. You then drop down the distance again by 200m until you get to the final pair of 200m intervals. I’m a huge fan of interval work, not only because of the way I feel when I’m doing it and afterwards, but also because I know how beneficial it is to your training. Even as an ultra runner who is constantly running longer distances at slower speeds, recruiting those fast twitch muscle fibres and giving your body a different training stimulus to adapt to is important to your overall ability as a runner at any distance. The power from faster running builds quad strength, which is vital in tackling hills!
Speaking of hills, that brings me nicely on to the final big run of the month, which was the Cannock 50km by Big Bear Events. This race is held annually on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire. There’s a 10-mile, 50km or 50-mile option available. I opted for the 50km, which was quite enough for me! The course is a 10 mile lap of the chase which takes in a notorious stretch known to the locals as ‘the switchbacks’. This is a 1,300m section of the course with 6 steep up-and-down hills in very quick succession. The 10-mile runners do this once. On the 50km, you do it three times. If you can handle the 50 miler, that’s five goes at these bad boys. I was very glad to have my running poles with me for this event, especially towards the end.
The race started at 8am and you have a very generous 12 and a half hours until the cut-off to complete it. There’s the main event village aid station, plus one at 5 miles and 8 miles, which is the same spot. It was manned by volunteers from the Cannock Chase Trail Runners, who went above and beyond to look after us runners. One of them even had the genius idea of providing a couple of buckets of cold water with sponges to cool off with, as it was another warm and humid day.
Having covered this distance in Yorkshire at the Calderdale Way 30 miler a few months earlier, I knew it would probably take around 9 hours to complete, which turned out to be an accurate prediction. It was a great day out on the Chase and a great opportunity for me to get some hill training in, with the support of a race environment. It was great to see so many people at the event and speak to a few of you who are fans of The Running Channel.
I have one more race scheduled between now and the 7 Valleys Ultra, which I’ll be doing in August. Stay tuned to the blog to find out which one it is and how I get on!
I hope you’ve all had a great month of running and I’ll catch you next month.