Zero to Tahoe

2009 Training Log

2009 Training Log

In my kitchen I have a noticeboard that is generally plastered with old race numbers, race packs, hotel bookings and train tickets for future races.

This morning I was retrieving my train tickets for the Thames Trot 50 at the weekend when something on the whiteboard caught my eye – a set of dates and numbers which I’d written almost 5 years ago to the day – probably in permanent marker which was now forever, indelibly etched onto the white plastic. It was a log of my first ever runs on the gym treadmill from January 2009. This lead me to reflect a little on the past 5 years and how I progressed from that first 12 minutes on a treadmill to entering a 200-mile race.

2009 – zero to Half Marathon

I remember it well, back in January 2009 I was unemployed and overweight – having given up smoking the previous year and subsequently piled on a few pounds. Although being a regular at the gym – the rest of my lifestyle was somewhat questionable. I hit rock bottom shortly after New Year and then, one day – had a look at the treadmill in the gym thinking “I should give that a go”.

Those first few weeks were painful, 12 minutes at 10 km/h nearly killed me – but I progressed, slowly and surely to running 10k in about 70 minutes on the treadmill. Eventually, at Easter-time I ventured outside and did about 5k on the roads. I remember returning absolutely knackered, but exhilarated – and entered the Nottingham Half Marathon that afternoon.

Somehow I discovered my local parkrun a couple of miles from me, and went along one Saturday – it was my first organised event with other runners and I was unbelievably nervous about it, but I survived the 25-minutes it took me to complete 5k and started to integrate it into the half marathon training.

Nine months after my first 12-minutes on the treadmill it was the Nottingham Half Marathon and I completed it in 1:54, nicely inside my sub 2-hour goal. By this point running had become a regular part of my life…

2010 – The Marathon

When I started running I’d said I wasn’t bothered about running a marathon, eventually though – the call of the marathon got to me. London wasn’t an option, and so I eventually settled on Palma in October, a marathon AND a holiday – what could be better?

I chose a training plan based on the Furman (Run Less, Run Faster) FIRST method which specifies 3 runs a week, all fast running with an additional two cross-training sessions. To say I found the training challenging is an understatement – there was no plodding, no 10-12 minute miles, just fast, painful running…

Eventually October arrived and I completed my first marathon in 3:34 – a bit disappointed not to have broken 3:30 but most of all, questioning my desire for this running lark. I hadn’t enjoyed the training, and I didn’t really enjoy the marathon either, maybe it was time to hang-up my running shoes and try something else?

Towards the end of November I came across details for “The Cardiff Ultra” – 50 miles from Brecon to Cardiff in May 2011, maybe this was my calling…? I entered over the Christmas period resolving to start training in 2011.

2011 – Into Ultra

How do you train for a 50-mile race – especially considering I’d only just completed my first ever marathon…? Well – the first few months of 2011 answered that, and the upshot basically is – you practice, a lot. Weekends became about long runs – more and more races were accumulated as training runs and the marathon count steadily increased as I used them for training runs.

May arrived and I completed the 50-mile Cardiff Ultra in 8:50 – extremely happy with the result, over an hour quicker than my projected sub-10 time. After a few weeks rest and recovery 2011 slipped by with a mixture of marathons and shorter ultras (40-miles) thrown in to keep me ticking over. I also had my first experience of a timed-24 hour event at the Thunder Run which taught me more about nutrition in long events than anything before or since.

2012 – 100 Miles is not that far?

Early in 2012 I was fairly comfortable with the 30-50 mile ultra distance, it was time to up the ante. After much consideration I entered the North Downs Way 100 as my first 100-miler. Training was very similar to the 50-miler the year before, with more of an emphasis on long runs – again I used races for training and also had my first encounter with the mighty Fellsman.

At the end of June I used Run24 in Reading as a gauge of my fitness and completed 100 miles in under 22 hours, smashing my expectations and giving me massive confidence for achieving a sub-24 at NDW100 in August.

NDW100 was executed to perfection… I paced it for a sub-24 and came in at 23:48, right on schedule. In less than 4 years I had gone from zero to a sub-24 hundred mile runner!

The rest of 2012 passed with a mixture of marathons, including a failed sub-3:15 Good-For-Age attempt at Chester and foreign marathons in Palma, Valencia and Lanzarote.

2013 – The year of The Bear

A new challenge was needed in 2013, and an American 100-miler was on the cards. After failing to get in to Western States 100 I finally settled on The Bear 100 in Utah – this was out of my comfort zone, at reasonable altitude with more than double the ascent of NDW100. But I paid the entry fee, booked the flights and committed.

Training followed a similar pattern to 2012, with more emphasis on hilly stuff. I learnt a lot in 2013, especially after my first DNF at UTSW100… I wasn’t committed to the race and thought I could “wing it” – I can’t, at least at the moment, wing a 100-miler!

The Bear was amazing, everything about it was incredible and I was hooked. Organising a big holiday with a race opened up new horizons and possibilities, it was more than a run – it was an adventure, before during and after.

The remainder of 2013 was spent recovering and doing silly stuff like “Double Snowdonia”, although I thought I was quite lazy from Oct – Dec I seemed to mange to fit-in a 40 & 50 mile mountain ultra, a couple of marathons including “double Snowdonia” and two or three marathon+ length training runs.

2014 – Tahoe

Which brings me up-to-date, and almost 5-years to the day since I first stepped onto that treadmill for 12 minutes. In just over 8 months time I’ll be lining up somewhere in Nevada, on the shore of Lake Tahoe ready to start a 200-mile race around the Tahoe Rim Trail.

But – before I start getting my head around 200 miles, I have a bigger problem to deal with. My medal hanger seems to be full to breaking point and, yes – these are in chronological order from left-to-right.

Medals 2009 - 2014

Medals 2009 – 2014

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3 Responses to Zero to Tahoe

  1. Haydn Baker says:

    Great read Guy. We have a lot in common. Except medals, lol. For some reason the races I do tend not to give them out (or run out like the MCN round 4, lol.). Best of luck for Tahoe 🙂

  2. Vickie Woodsford says:

    Amazing Guy. I didn’t realise that you’d truly gone from Zero when we lined up in Brecon together! I’ve no doubt you’ll finish the 200 and look forward to the blog post.

  3. Jason says:

    Fantastic progression – really impressive stuff!

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