Monthly Archives: February 2011

UTMB: Training (Part Zero)

Training of course, but why Part Zero? Well after a fairly dreadful autumn and early winter with a succession of colds culminating in a full blown flu I’m starting to get back into a bit of running form, aided by a week in Lanzarote at the end of January and finally a few weeks of consistent running. But it’s also time to think about my weaknesses which may prevent me from training effectively over the next 6 months.

The first of these is core strength. I sporadically do core work but despite it being the easiest kind of training to do – can be done in a half hour in front of the TV – I seem to skip it far too often. I think a good strong core will be crucial for long distance running, as the stronger the core the longer good running form can be maintained. Have a look at the picture below which shows frames from a video of me running (on the lovely blue La Santa running track). The way my pelvis drops away from my standing leg (see how the waist-band of my shorts tilts) really demonstrates how weak my core is! This also ties in with the discomfort in my right-lower-back which I have a lot of the time.

So much work is required on strengthening my core and glutes. As well as the home-based core work on the floor and the swiss ball I have also just started doing hill drills to build up run-specific strength; bounding (maximum distance, like leaping over puddles) and springing (maximum height, jumping over logs). As this is quite a short intense session it’s perfect to do in a lunch break, or would be if there were any hills in central Manchester! I considered using the ramps in a multi-storey car park but for now have settled on Jutland Street which is a bit short but certainly steep enough.


The other concern at the moment is my ankles. My left ankle – which I twisted at the start of August last year, 3 weeks before the Ridgeway – is still troublesome, with a restricted range of motion laterally. This means that I have a much higher chance of going over on this ankle when I run off-road. So along with an embargo on off-road running this month I have been doing frequent ankle mobility exercises using a theraband, taking in plantarflexion (toes away from shin), dorsiflexion (toes to shin), inversion (twist foot to inside of leg) and eversion (twist foot to outside of leg). This seems to be working and I hope to try an off-road run next weekend. I’m stull suffering from limited dorsiflexion in both feet though, no idea what the cause of this is or really how to treat it, other than stretching and some eccentric heel raises. We shall see.

Anyway, enough of the slightly negative stuff, my long run is up to 20 miles as of yesterday and I’ve had a couple of runs which have felt really smooth. Coming up in 4 weeks time is the Edale Skyline so I’d better get back out into the hills again soon.


UTMB: Beginnings

So, I have been accepted into this year’s UTMB – Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc – at the end of August. I’m going to try to blog occasionally about my preparation, probably not much interest to anyone else really but useful for me to get my thoughts in order at least.

What is the UTMB? It is a 100 mile ultra-marathon based on the Tour du Mont Blanc long distance hiking trail, starting and finishing in Chamonix and passing through France, Italy and Switzerland. There is also approximately 9000m of climbing and descending, and 2010 winner Jez Bragg has said the best comparison is that it’s like going up and down Snowdon from Llanberis 10 times in a row. The cut off time for completion is 46 hours.


The first I remember hearing about the UTMB was in this article in the Guardian. Interestingly this was just after I’d completed my first Ironman tri so maybe my mind was ripe for planting the seed to do something even more crazy. Anyway, I remember reading this article and thinking it sounded insane, but in a good way. Shortly afterwards a few other people in Manchester Tri, mainly Brian, started talking about it and fatefully I looked at the qualification procedures. That was it, a year of going short and fast in 2010 was replaced with ultras; Osmotherley Phoenix, Lakeland 50 and Ridgeway Challenge. The latter two gave me my 5 qualification points to enter the UTMB draw.

I wasn’t going to though, oh no. The last 6 hours of the Ridgeway were very hard, possibly the toughest and most painful thing I’ve ever done, and I was in no great rush to repeat the experience. I managed to convince myself I’d have a year off then enter the UTMB in 2012. But over the Christmas period my resolve started to crumble, I started thinking about it more and more and in the end it became inevitable I’d enter this year.I did, and I was selected in the draw. Unfortunately Brian didn’t get selected, but I’m sure he’ll find something equally mad to do this year (as I type he is nearing the end of a Double Ironman in Lanzarote!).

I’ll just close this first post off with links to a great blog by Jeff Grant about his participation in the 2009 UTMB: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3