Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Ultra Marathon Training 2013

Hard work braking the huskies running downhill

Last year I completed my first Ultra-marathon – 42 miles across the Brecon Beacons. I trained for it, I prepared, and I suffered! Of all the ultra-marathons to choose I selected one that even hardened ultra-runners were saying was one of the toughest they had done!

To give you an idea, in training I had completed a 30mile cross country run in just over 5 ½ hours over my local military ground. On the Brecons I was only on mile 18 at the 6hr mark…I found out the hard way why the UK Special Forces uses this terrain for training purposes, the terrain is TOUGH! 

I wrote the foreword to Adam Eason’s excellent book ‘Hypnosis For Running’, ( which will tell you more about my exploits on this race. (While you are at it, take a look at my book, No Worries and, thanks!)

I run with my two huskies as a team – yet don’t think they help! The uphills in this race are too steep for them to pull, the ground terrain on the flats too treacherous, and they pull me on the downhills necessitating me braking on every step. They actually are a hindrance on the Brecons!

I absolutely loved the race last year. So much that I have entered again this year, and I’m looking forward to 42 miles across Welsh Mountains on 7th December in whatever weather conditions are thrown at me. I reviewed the training I did last year and have learnt from the experience. This blog will break down what I am doing currently to make the race easier and even more enjoyable.

I learnt so much from last year. Firstly, whatever running I get in won’t be enough. So I have looked to increase my mileage to get as much running under my feet as I possibly could. To achieve this I start each week’s running on a long run. I then have been running ‘back to back’ which is running on consecutive days. As my conditioning increased I’ve been running twice a day. I’ve also looked to completing as many miles each week as I can. I allow myself 48hrs rest and recovery to allow my smooth and cardiac muscles to rest a little, and allow ‘adaptation’ to take place. 

I’ve been listening to my body and so far it’s been in good shape! I recently did a 75mile week that started with a 28mile run, so followed this with relaxing back into an easy 33mile week to allow me to recover. 

Continually running these high mileages is now allowing my endocrine system to adjust. It now knows what I am putting my body through and is adjusting my hormones and my metabolism to suit.
We run as a team. The selected pace matches the team. If the huskies are slow, then I go slowly. If the huskies are fast, I go fast. I just let the ‘run’ dictate the pace – it is never planned in advance. That way I don’t sweat about things like time. In fact, apart from checking the time when I leave and when I come back that’s the only time reference I use. I don’t carry a watch. 

Mentally I am getting stronger and stronger when running – which is the main aim of all of my preparation.  I can stay focused and positive for longer. I can maintain my running form much better. 

I’ve been experimenting with food. I have enough energy stored in my body to last nearly 1,000miles, and the trick is to allow my body to access that fuel source. In order for this to take place I need to run in the ‘fat burning zone’, which can be described as a pace where I can hold a conversation while running. I’ve experimented with various food sources while running and have settled on honey flapjacks. Normally, taking on carbs will produce an insulin spike which inhibits fat burning. Yet for some reason I only get a positive response from the flapjacks, so they’re staying.
I haven’t changed my diet at all during this race preparation. I still eat when hungry, and listen to my body. I haven’t been eating more food, nor have I been losing weight. I’ve stayed the same weight. I can only assume my thyroid has down-regulated my metabolism when I am not running.
 Reservoir crossing

I’ve been running with the WAA Ultra Equipment ULTRABAG MDS 20L Pack ( and it is simply superb. The configuration I am using is with the water bottles mounted on the front giving me 1.5litres total fluid. It is very comfortable and has lots of front access which is important to me with the huskies. It also means that in the rear of the rucksack will just be the equipment I need only in an emergency – the medi-kit, space blanket, spare clothes, waterproof leggings and so on. All of my running is done with this pack loaded with race equipment to get used to the weight and pack. 

My footwear has been rotating between three pairs of Vivobarefoot Neo Trails. These are exceptionally good – light, barefoot style, just not hard wearing enough for the amount of miles I do! They have traction in all but the muddiest of terrain. I’m expecting to go over a few times during the race yet far less than last year! I’ll need to buy a ‘race-pair’ as my three will be a little worn come race day. Fortunately they fit my Barney Rubble feet perfectly right out of the box and won’t need wearing in. 

Here’s an important one that is worth mentioning! On a 10-12hr race I will quite probably need to go to the loo – both kinds! So I’ve been practicing, and have a system of the huskies sitting patiently while I go. I do however need a tree to lean back on, so I can ‘go’ without needing to take off the rucksack!

Downhill again!

I have been injury free over my training with just the odd twinge here and there. I pay attention to this with my running style, ‘listening’ to my body. I do not warm up. I do not cool down. I have not needed massages. I have not had DOMS. I just run.
With only a few weeks to go I’m looking to do some hard running, before cutting back on the miles the last three weeks to ensure that my body recovers nicely to adapt and be strong for the race.
Here’s where I am so far in my training. All of the miles have been cross country over as varied terrain as possible.

Week 1 25th Aug
Sunday 9miles
Monday 9
Tuesday 5
Wednesday 5
Thursday 4.5
Friday 2.3
Saturday 0              Total 33.5miles

Week 2 1st Sep
Sunday 16
Monday 9
Tuesday 3.5
Wednesday 5
Thursday 5
Friday 3.5
Saturday  0              Total 42miles

Week 3 8th Sep
Sunday 7 + 10
Monday 9 + 3.5
Tuesday 6 + 3.5
Wednesday 4.5 + 2.5
Thursday 3.5 + 2.5
Friday 0
Saturday 0              Total 52miles

Week 4 15th Sep              
Sunday 21
Monday 7 + 7
Tuesday 3.5 + 2.5
Wednesday 4.5 + 2.5
Thursday 3.5 + 2.5
Friday 0
Saturday 0                              Total 54miles

Week 5 22nd Sep
Sunday 23           (4hrs)
Monday 9 + 4.5
Tuesday 7
Wednesday 4.5 + 2.5
Thursday  4.5
Friday 0
Saturday 0              Total 55miles

Week 6 29th Sep
Sunday 25           (4hrs)
Monday 7
Tuesday 4.5 + 3.5
Wednesday 5 + 2.5
Thursday 3.5
Friday 0
Saturday 0              51miles

Week 7 6th Oct
Sunday  25           (4hrs)
Monday 7
Tuesday 4.5 + 5
Wednesday 3.5 + 2.5
Thursday  3.5
Friday   0
Saturday0              51miles

Week 8 13th Oct
Sunday 28
Monday 7 + 5
Tuesday 4.5 +3.5
Wednesday 7 + 2.5                  
Thursday 9 + 3.5
Friday 5
Saturday 0              75 miles

Week 9 20th Oct
Sunday 9
Monday  10
Tuesday 5
Wednesday 4.5                         
Thursday 3.5
Friday  0
Saturday 0              33 miles

Week 10 27th Oct
Sunday 23
Monday 8.5 + 2.5
Tuesday 7 + 3.5
Wednesday 7.5 + 2.5              
Thursday 4.5 +2.5
Friday  0
Saturday  0              61.5 miles