A recent discussion on an internet forum got me thinking about whether I train hard enough, or perhaps more precisely put, if I trained ‘well enough’. There was a time when all I needed was a number. If I knew the number of miles that I had covered during any given week, then I believed that I knew how well my training was going. As far as I could see back then it was a simple equation of ‘miles in’ and ‘results out’. Perhaps I should also have born in mind another maxim which I’m familiar from the world of computer programming, that being “garbage in, garbage out”.
For many years my simplistic view of, the more miles the better held true. As my weekly milages increased my race times decreased. When it was no longer possible to increase milage I then varied my training to include tempo runs, hill running and the like. This worked for me as well, for a while and my race times crept ever downwards. Of course it didn’t take long for this strategy to exhaust itself and I was seemingly snookered. There are only so many miles a week you can run before you’re injured, divorced, bored or all three. It was only then, having boxed myself into a ‘hard-ass corner’, that I realised that it might be necessary to apply touches of subtlety here and there and that more is not necessarily better in all cases.
I look through my recent training logs now and realise that in the twelve weeks prior to my recent 100 miler that I averaged less miles per week that for almost any other ultra in recent years and yet I’d count the result as being perhaps my best. How come? In the main I believe that I benefitted from a programme of strength training that I’ve been following since the end of 2009. Having previously cast aspersions liberally on the potential benefits for runners of working with weights this was a fairly big change for me to make and until the Connemara 100 I wasn’t completely convinced. obviously, now I’m a convert and you may expect me to drone on in this blog about the ‘obvious’ benefits of partial squats and deadlifts for many months into the future.
The larger point here is I suppose that we shouldn’t ever over simplify our training – that we should always allow for the possibility that we have it all at least slightly wrong. Despite knowing our bodies well and knowing how we respond to various types of training we should always know that we probably don’t know it all.
If this year has taught me anything it’s that I probably know a lot less about training myself to run ultramarathons now than I did five years ago.
Onwards through the fog.