Being on gardening leave for 6 weeks has its perks, one of which is being able to spend a day in the Brecon Beacons learning all about trail running navigation and mountain running skills in general. And what a day it was, quite honestly I don’t think it’s possible to have better winter weather conditions for spending a day running around this stunning landscape. Just look at this view.
As you know I love trail running, 99% of my running is off road and while it isn’t all in such exciting places as the Brecon Beacons it is possible to find remote and interesting places to run even in Wiltshire where I live. Most of the running I do at home I know broadly where I’m going and where I am without needing to read a map, plus most of the races I do currently are on marked courses so navigation really isn’t a concern. But I want to get a bit more adventurous with my running (more of that later) and challenge myself more and one logical way to do that is to go somewhere like the Brecon Beacons to run.
Trail running navigation course
However while I’m reasonably comfortable looking at an OS map and following footpaths etc I’m not experienced enough to really read the detail of contours, or follow an unmarked route in these wilder areas. That’s where JT Expeditions come in, I found them via Twitter and duly got booked in for a day with Jake one on one to learn some trail running navigation skills and get some good advice about planning days in the hills. There really is no substitute for practical, hands on training when it comes to learning these type of skills and as it quickly became apparent Jakes huge depth of knowledge as a Mountain Leader and also mountain marathon competitor was exactly what I needed to learn.
I’ve used the Hanson method for the first time to train for the Broadway marathon this weekend, clearly I need to wait and see what the result is in the race but from a training perspective it has felt awesome and really clicked for me. But it is a plan aimed at road marathons given how the pacing’s work for the various sessions so I wanted to share a few thoughts about how I’ve adapted the plan for a trail marathon.
What is the Hanson method?
If you haven’t come across the Hanson method before I do recommend buying the book on Amazon and having a read. At the very least it’ll get you thinking about your approach to training even if you don’t follow one of their plans. In essence their approach is all about building fatigue in your legs so that when it comes to your long run you are tired. The longest run you do is 16 miles but it should feel like the final 16 miles of the marathon given the running you’ve done in the days before it. There is also a big emphasis on different paces with easy runs truly being easy and then strength and tempo work done around marathon pace.
I’m a structured person, I like plans, lists, goals, meeting minutes, good queuing etiquette. I’ve tried the ‘take it as it comes’ approach and honestly it makes me uncomfortable and stresses me out. I can cope with freedom within a framework as my corporate colleagues would call it, some rules and limits to guide with freedom in between but that’s it. This applies in particular to running and training, I love setting some big goals and then building a plan to try and achieve them. Just drifting along without some structure for when/how far/how fast just makes me feel I’m wasting time and not achieving anything. Sure I have periods of training where I don’t have a training plan and instead just enjoy being out running/cycling/swimming but those periods are planned and designated as ‘holiday’ periods, you see, freedom in a framework!
I’m also not a prolific racer, I like setting a big single goal and then focusing everything on that rather than flitting between races. Setting that s There is something so interesting about the process of developing your fitness in this way, trying different approaches to training to see which gets the best results and fine tuning with each iteration. I think it also helps that a big part of my motivation for training is mental health, this is my time for reflection and de-stressing, so I don’t mind the long periods of training alone.
I ran over 500km in the first 2 months of this year as I trained for the quadzilla, then after a short break picked it up again training for the Milton Keynes marathon. Significantly higher than last year and an awful lot of running to fit in around work and family. Plus marathon training can all get a little bit intense can’t it? You focus on every run and how it contributes towards achieving that big time goal, so right now I’m trying to have a little fun.
I’m triathlon training, something which I think I’m going to try and do every year at some point having enjoyed it so much last year. I’m doing another half ironman which I know is a little crazy seeing as my objective is to have some fun but I genuinely enjoy the longer races. I like the challenge of endurance and actually the longer you race the more relaxed the event gets in my experience.
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting different results and it’s probably a good thing to keep in mind when planning your training for a race. I’m marathon PB chasing again with Milton Keynes marathon on 2nd May 8 weeks away now and a pretty aggressive time goal in mind. Currently my PB is 3 hours 26 minutes which I set at the 2014 Yorkshire marathon. I was on track to beat it last year again at the Yorkshire marathon but the fact that I’d spent the year triathlon training became very apparent at 20 miles as I hit the wall pretty hard.
But I know I’m capable of faster if I can get a solid block of training in and stay healthy. However there is no point just blindly following the same plan as for the other marathons I’ve done and expecting to be somehow in better shape. Training has to be an evolution where you learn race by race what works for you and what doesn’t, but also what you can learn from how others approach their training. Make a small change each time and review the impact it has, what is the result in the race and how do you feel.