the INTERVIEWS by Talk Ultra

New for 2020, TALK ULTRA podcast will bring you the INTERVIEWS from the extensive podcast back catalogue.

The USP of Talk Ultra has always been long shows designed to be listened to during long journeys, or ideally, during a long run!

Over the year’s we have been asked to release the interviews that make up a show, typically 3, as stand-alone interviews. So, for 2020 and moving forward, we will release the interviews, randomly and not in chronological order.

Talk Ultra podcast will still be released and published as normal.

Released using ANCHOR, the INTERVIEWS will be available on many different formats and importantly, Spotify.

Our first show will go back to February 2012 and an interview with Gordy Ainsleigh who has a special place in ultra-history as being the first person the run the Western States Endurance Run on foot.

Listen on SPOTIFY HERE

The podcast will also be listed and available on many other outlets, as listed below (links added when appropriate):

Apple Podcasts HERE
Breaker HERE
Castbox
Google Podcasts HERE
Overcast HERE
Pocket Casts  HERE
RadioPublic HERE
Spotify HERE
Stitcher

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Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

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THE LONG RUN – Running Long, but how long?

We all run long, but the length of a long run can really vary depending on many factors such as age, fitness, race and training history, targets, objectives and available time. I get asked and read, time and time again, the question, ‘How long should I run?’

‘What session you doing?’ 

‘Long run today,’ the answer.

But, what is a long run and how long should a long run be?

Before that question can be answered, one needs to understand why one is running long and for what purpose. Typically this will be a long-term event that is planned in the diary that may or may not be a race.

Having a date to work too is a great starting place as it provides a deadline point. This helps focus the mind and plan the time accordingly.

Ask yourself, what your objectives are? For example, there is a difference between competing and completing?

What distance is the event? (What is the time limit, what are intermediate cut-off times?)

If you are used to running 5k and 10k events, a long run for you may well be 75-90 minutes? If you are a marathon runner, your long run may be 3 to 3.5-hours. If you are running an ultra, this is where it gets tricky.

Why do we run long?

In summary, we put an emphasis on 3 key points: 

  • Mental Strength
  • Muscular and physical adaptation 
  • Efficiency to use fat as a fuel

Mental Strength:

If you have never run for more than 1 hour in training, then 3 hours on your feet just feels like a really long time, so, you need to adapt mentally for the challenge ahead and you need to be strong to get the job done. This time on feet, needs to be appropriate to the challenge one has planned.

Muscular and Physical Adaptation:

Muscle soreness will come for everyone, however, we can train to reduce the impact or delay the process by progressively running longer in training. With recovery periods, we allow our muscles to adapt to the stress and they become stronger. Delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) is not pleasant and it something that can really be painful in the 24/ 48 and 72 hour period after hard/ ;long training or racing. By running long in training we adapt to delay or reduce the DOMS.

Efficiency to use fat as a fuel:

Our bodies can only store so much carbohydrate and once those stores are used up we have only two options left: top them up or slow down and maybe even stop if they have got very low. As an endurance athlete we need to tap into our almost unlimited fat stores. We do this by teaching our body to use fat as a fuel during the long run. The more efficient you become at this, the longer you can run and the longer you can maintain a pace. Ultimately it means the whole race/training experience will be better and more enjoyable.

The Long Run

Running longer requires running slower, especially if we are going to switch fat burning on. It requires a pace that one can maintain for hours and hours and yes, that pace can be walking. The long run/ walk is specific to you and nobody else!

Running hard and faster has its place and yes, top elite runner can and will incorporate faster paces within a long run to adapt. But be specific and think of your objectives and what you are trying to achieve.

Be specific with terrain. No point for training for a 50-mile trail race with loads of vertical and technical trail and then run all sessions on the road.

Runners get stressed and worried by mileage, pace, miles per minute and so on. Relax. Think of your long run in terms of time, not distance. Particularly important if running off-road.

To help provide perspective, 3-hours on the road you may well allow one to cover 20-miles, but on the trails or in the mountains, one may only cover 12-miles.

Slow down! 

A common mistake is that we make our long run too fast and our faster runs not fast enough. We therefore end up one paced. Make longer sessions slow and make hard sessions hard. If in doubt, use RPE, Rate of Perceived Exertion. Quite simply, when running long and easy you should have a perceived effort of breathing calmly and being able to talk. If running hard, you should have a perceived effort of difficulty, shortness of breath, discomfort and an inability to hold a conversation.

The big question, how long should the long run be?

Short distance runners often run ‘over distance’ in training. For example, a 10k runner may run a long slow half marathon to build endurance. A half marathon runner may run a long and slow steady 16-20 miles in preparation for a fast race.

This all falls apart when we go to the marathon and beyond. How often have you heard in marathon training that the long run should be 21/22 miles or 3-hours 30-minutes in preparation for a race. But these generic terms do not take in to account the individual. Think of Kipchoge, if he did long runs at 3.5 hours, even running slow (7 min miles for him,) he would cover over 30-miles!

Long runs and adapting for an endurance run such as an ultra comes from not one run but a combination of all runs. It’s about your accumulative run history. They all add up to make you an endurance machine. So, typically, if you are running longer than a marathon, you will have been running for some time. 

First and foremost, consistency is key and long runs should be progressive and based on ability and experience. A long run should test you but not break you. 

What do I mean by progressive?

Let’s use a 12-week scenario based on a runner who can currently run 2-hours in a long run. I am not looking at base training here, but the specifics of a long run and how to make the long run longer. I’m a big fan of building over 3-weeks and recovering for 1-week.

Example:

Month 1

  • Week 1 – Sunday 2:30 hours
  • Week 2 – Sunday 2:45 hours
  • Week 3 – Sunday 3:00 hours
  • Week 4 – 2 hours

Month 2

  • Week 1 – Sunday 2:45 hours
  • Week 2 – Wednesday 90min / Sunday 3:00 hours
  • Week 3 – Wednesday 90min/ Sunday 3:20 hours
  • Week 4 – Sunday 2:30 hours

Month 3

  • Week 1 – Wednesday 90min/ Sunday 3:00 hours
  • Week 2 – Wednesday 1:45 hours/ Sunday 3:30 hours
  • Week 3 – Wednesday 2:00 hours/ Sunday 4:00 hours
  • Week 4 – Wednesday 60min/ Sunday 3:00 hours

The above scenario provides a structured example on how to build up from running 2 hours comfortably to 4 hours. But remember the above scenario is 12-weeks of running with over 37-hours of running, just in the long runs!. That is huge and a great place to start for any endurance challenge.

But my race is 50-miles, can I run the distance?

As mentioned above, it’s not wise or sensible to run too long in anyone session. But the 12-week plan above on a 3/1 scenario shows you how it’s possible to build time and confidence. As you gain more experience you can look at doing back-to-back sessions and plan long training weekends all as part of a long term plan (see below.) Ultimately though, running too long in terms of distance or time is something that should be very carefully planned. You will always here about runners who can do 200-mile weeks or 50-mile training runs; they are exceptions and not the norm. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security and don’t feel inadequate, we are all individuals and this is maybe the most important aspect. 

Example:

Month 1

  • Week 1 – Saturday 2:00 hours/ Sunday 3:30 hours
  • Week 2 – Sunday 4:00 hours
  • Week 3 – Wednesday 90 mins/ Saturday 2:30 hours/ Sunday 4:30 hours
  • Week 4 – Sunday 3:00 hours

Month 2

  • Week 1 – Saturday 2:30 hours/ Sunday 3:45 hours
  • Week 2 – Wednesday 90min / Sunday 4:00 hours
  • Week 3 – Wednesday 2 hours / Saturday 3:00 hours/ Sunday 5:00 hours
  • Week 4 – Sunday 2:30 hours

Month 3

  • Week 1 – Wednesday 90min/ Saturday 3:00 hours/ Sunday 3:00 hours
  • Week 2 – Wednesday 1:45 hours/ Sunday 5:00 hours
  • Week 3 – Wednesday 2:00 hours/ Saturday 3:00 hours/ Sunday 6:00 hours
  • Week 4 – Wednesday 60min/ Sunday 3:00 hours

Running or walking long is a voyage of discovery and you need to balance long-distance with adequate recovery.

Listen to your body.

Training should be about preparing you to tackle the challenge, but it will never FULLY prepare you. There’s always going to be a bit of extra and a bit of unknown on the day of the event, but surely that’s why you’ve entered?

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Strategy for Completing and not Competing

The last time I toed the line as a runner was 2012. It was at the Lakeland 50 in the UK. I was confident, I was really fit and in April, I had won an ultra in Turkey.

However, everything was not ok.

I was getting constant knee pain and I kept ignoring it… Ultra runners are good at that!

Anyway, for much of Lakeland 50 I was near the front, that is until Ambleside and then it all fell apart with constant knee pain. My hopes of a top-10 disappeared and I eventually crossed the line in 36th place in 9:59. My target had been to run around 8:40. In retrospect, I should have been happy. But I wasn’t. I went away knowing that my knee issue had stopped me performing and it needing addressing. 

I have not raced since…!

Now you may consider that to be sad? And yes, for a while I struggled with the demons of running twice a day to not running.

My knee injury was chronic and required two, maybe three operations. I declined all knowing that knee surgery success is hit and miss. So, ever since, I have managed that pain, changed my goals and loved adventures. Gladly, big hikes and fast packing/ multi-day is what I really love. I still get pain, but I manage it. So, all is good. I am happy to do what I can. I run regularly, daily sometimes and even now, 30-40km training runs are a regular. But walking has always been something I have used to keep moving and rather than it being a negative, I always made it a positive.

So, why am I writing?

Well, I started running after cycling and triathlon. I have to say, I have never considered myself a good runner. I dropped my marathon PB to 2:53 which was creditable but in doing so, I lost the true reason for running. FUN! Do not get me wrong, I had loads of fun running but PB’s, time, diet and training all took over from a healthy outlook on my running. 

I was obsessed by my running. I must clarify, I was previously obsessed by cycling and triathlon and that is why I stopped…!

Being a photographer and journalist has allowed me to look at running in many different ways. I mostly follow the elites, but multi-day races, such as Marathon des Sables, allow me to follow runners achieving a life time goal. I must clarify, achieving a life time goal may be a 5km, 10km, half-marathon and so on. I use longer distances as this is the area I usually deal in – ultra.

Many are looking to complete and not compete.

I have learnt since 2012 that I normally complete anything I set my mind to in sport and the reason for that is strategy, planning, getting the mind in the right place and yes, embracing walking!

The Older I Get, The Better I was!

So much truth here… For me anyway. As the time has passed from 2012 I have worked on races worldwide and all of those races have required me to have a level of fitness. For example, Everest Trail Race, I do pretty much most of the race with cameras – it is the only way. For personal adventure, I have done big treks, several in Nepal, the most recent being the ‘High Passes’ with the additions of Kala Pather, Everest Base Camp and Ama Dablam BC. In 2020 I have done more multi-day adventures than ever before; regularly moving in a self-sufficient (with tent) way for over a week. A recent trip to Jotunheimen in Norway lasted 9-days and in Trysil, I completed 100km in 2-days with an overnight wild camp. So, all s good!

There is one truth in completing. YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO WALK.

Walking is often looked on as a negative. To be honest, I have heard some people say, ‘I don’t care what time I do, as long as I do not walk!’

The reality is, if walking is embraced, learned and practiced, finishing times will not only get faster but more enjoyable.

For perspective, we now include walking as a key training element at our Lanzarote Training Camp (HERE) with a specific walking group and one day dedicated to a long walk, for all!

So, how do you start?

Firstly, there is a big difference between walking to the shop for a carton of milk and walking in a race/ training. If there is not, there should be!

Walking in a race (or training) should be meaningful, strong and powerful.

There are many strategies one can use.

For example, one strategy I use is a thing I call “7’s” or “5×2”.

Quite simply, it is about covering 7km by walking 5km and running 2km.

The Strategy:

Firstly, with my coaching clients I ask them to walk 5km and time it. We then look at technique and discuss how to get faster.

I need to clarify here, we keep the route flat on road or good hard trail.

I am aiming for, where possible, sub 10-minute km’s. Now of course, many variables come in to play – terrain, weather, climbing and descending to name but a few. But let us assume flat terrain, good weather and fast trail.

Once we get the walking of 5km in under 50-mins, I then add running. Firstly 1km. So, walk 5km and run 1km. Once that fees comfortable, I add another 1km. And here is where the “7’s” or “5×2” comes in.

Basically, the plan is walk 5km and jog 2km.

Like any plan it is progressive, starting with walk 5 and jog 2. Then walk 5, jog 2, walk 5. Then, walk 5, jog 2, walk 5, jog 2 and so on…

This teaches the mind to break down distance and time in manageable blocks. You can focus on the walking, knowing that a jogging break is coming up. You can endure the jogging, knowing that a walking break is coming up.

Why, “7’s” or “5×2.”

Well, 7 conveniently goes in to a marathon – 7/14/21/28/35 and 42.

I think a marathon is something we all understand and although I will round numbers up (for ease) 50-miles is two marathons and 100-miles is four marathons, 7’s provides a great strategy.

So, you see my thinking?

Let’s say, you trained your walking to be so good, that you could walk 5km and jog 2km in under 1-hour. Suddenly, you are doing a 6-hour marathon with actually only maybe 50-60 minutes of total running.

So, if that pace is maintainable, you could do 50-miles in sub 12-hours and maybe even 100-miles in the desirable sub 24-hours!

Here is an example and of course, pace fluctuates based on terrain conditions, but it provides a good perspective.

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