Training for my first ultra – Week 1

I don’t know if I was out of my mind when merely after two marathons, I put myself down for an ultramarathon. Or maybe I was simply looking for a bigger challenge. Or maybe a bit of both! Putting that aside, the news is that I signed up for the 105k Canberra trail ultramarathon. The good thing: it’s in October this year so I have 30+ weeks to train. The not-so-good thing: I’ve never gone beyond the marathon distance i.e. 42.2k (yet).

Training plan

Finding a training program for ultra is probably more difficult than a marathon, plainly because of the unpopularity factor. The old and wise training advice are along the lines of “spend more time on your feet” and “do more long runs”. But what about other days? I consulted a few of my running club friends who have done ultras, studied the existing programs (for example: Surf Coast Century 100k, some wikipedia styled pages etc.). I took in bits from everywhere and created a formal plan for myself. I don’t have anything scheduled for all the 30 weeks but I do know what I am doing this week. Based on this week’s progress, I’ll plan the next one (also taking in considerations other commitments). My training plan is a mixture of running, cross-training, a bit of body-weight workouts and more importantly, enough rest.

How did the week go?

Running-wise, it was a pretty good start. 1 easy run (D1), 1 fartlek (D3), 1 long run (D5) and a longer run (D7) for the week.

The long runs were 22k (2 hours) and 26.2k (2:12 hours) with which I am pretty happy given that I could run at a good pace comfortably. Sunday run was on a really windy day and I liked the challenge of those gushes. Some things to remember for the future: no sugar bars for nutrition (not so good in the mouth after eating), avoid over-hydration (belly starts to hurt). Dates seem to be good and I’d experiment further with them. Mashed potatoes for next week.

The fartlek  session I’d do throughout my training would be Mona fartlek as it would provide an indication of the overall fitness and running speeds. This week, I did 5.12k in 20 minutes.

During my easy run, I listened to a few podcasts while it was still dark outside. Weekly mileage: 69k.

Cross-training? It had been a combination of cycling, swimming and badminton. I spent 30 minutes in a cycling group fitness class on D2 and rode a total of 36k on D4 in two sessions. If you have known me, then you might know that I can not swim and that’s why when I said I swam, it simply meant I tried to (with a kickboard). I swam on D3 and D5. The last bit was an easy hour of badminton on D1. Basically, I am mixing easy days of running with some easy non-running activity (which I am hoping would enhance my overall fitness) and when I am not running, then I am pushing slightly harder on these non-running activities.

Finally, on D2, I did some body-weight based exercises for the core muscles. There are plenty of apps for this and I am using the one called Home Workout. It was approximately a 20 minute session that included crunches, planks, some sort of twists etc. Too many names to remember!


Running Log – 4 Mar 17

Distance: 6.48k

Time: 0:35:52

Course: Mostly grass, some concrete

I thought I’d go for a Saturday morning run, but I got up really late. Didn’t want to go to parkrun because it is far and that’s a good enough excuse. I woke up at around 9, and I was out for the run very soon at around 9:30.

It was hot, so I went to a nearby park because they have a water tap and I don’t really like running holding a water bottle when I’m on anything longer than 30 minutes. Till the park, I was running with my shoes on. I slipped them off to feel the cold grass (it is AMAZING), I kept looping around the park till I felt good. My core felt weaker, my stomach was in a bit of pain and that made me realize that I am not doing any core training which I MUST do. Overall, I felt good and I listened to my body. Next week on wards, I will focus on my core-strength training and I’ll try to make my running schedule more systematic and consistent. I’ll also be training for Wings For Life World Run which is in May and I want to be in my best shape when it starts.

(Read it on MultiEMOtions Android App)

Parkrun#2 – My first sub-23 5k

This is going to be a (relatively) long post.

This parkrun was fantastic and full of adventures. Also, I ran a PB in this run. earlier it was 23:13, which I set up during my training run probably last year. I never had raced in a 5k before, so I never thought too much about it before. If you just wanna see the run, head here:

I’ll now begin the post for interested readers. I’m splitting it up as it happened.

Before the 3,2,1: I missed the last week’s parkrun because I was lazy. I have to leave my home before 7 AM to make it to the run at 8 AM, but not today. I insisted not to run around the block and instead move my ass up to the Chelsea Bicentennial Park. I had an egg poured in a cup of milk before I left (I always think of Rocky – I when I do that), but it backfired. When I got off the train and was heading to the park, I wanted to reach the park at the earliest, not to run, but to poop. I felt great when I was done with that and I told myself that since I feel good, I HAVE to give it all to the run itself. I made it to the start line and the head volunteer announced:




GO: This time, I was almost at the front of the start (maybe in the third row) and I was aware that people at that part start faster but I didn’t imagine that they would (literally) sprint and some of the runners moved around me, hitting me here and there and apologizing, I heard someone behind me saying “we have to get in the stride” maybe that’s why they took off for a fast-start. The pace was perhaps around 4 min/km or less which I know I can not sustain so I gave up after some 400m and I slowed down to allow some runners to pass me by. I know the pace would settle for all, eventually. I stick to a 4:40 pace and was thinking that it is not a good idea to continue this for too long because I know that I don’t run that fast. Then I began to follow into the steps of people, rather than my watch. A Japanese-looking guy was immediately ahead of me so I followed in his steps. A tall guy passed us. I kept with the Japanese (maybe he is not Japanese at all, but that’s how I remembered him). I crossed him slowly. I followed the tall guy, he became my (virtual) pacer. I heard the breaths of a woman behind me, she passed us both. I passed the tall guy, and I followed in the steps of Wilma (I met that woman after the run to tell that I exist). We passed the halfway mark. I was still behind. At around 3k, we were on a par, there was no competitive spirit as such, I would had loved to finish the run that way. We cross over another guy and she took the back seat this time. I kept on pushing. On the way up, I followed a kid. I told him that he was running brilliantly before I ran past him. His form was really good with a midfoot strike. I could sense that we were around 4k into the run as my watch was closing to 19 minutes!! I was awfully surprised and shocked to check that I had been running at a pace that I thought would not let me sustain in the race, yet I pulled it through. During all these following-chasing-pulling over time, my brain was fighting against and with my body, I knew what I had to do. In the end, I followed a girl wearing a violet top, I ran behind her till 4.9k probably, before I burnt off my final fuel to sprint and cross her and one more gentleman to finish my run in 22:52 (in 28th position).  This may not be a very good etiquette for runners but not to forget, I was in a race. My watch, however showed my time as 23+ because I stopped at the finish line and forgot to turn it off. I’ll celebrate this until I overtake this time.

Aftermath: I got some water and met Wilma. I thanked her and told her that she ran really good despite the fact that she’s in an age range of 50-59. She introduced me to Stephen and he turned out to be the gentleman I passed just before the finish line. He told me to come and run in the same park in thirty years just to find someone younger passing me in a flash the same way. But he was happy. He was fast nonetheless. I jogged back to the train station silently. Someone commented “Showing off mate?” I just said “Naah, just warming down” Maybe I could have said “Hell yeah”I felt absolutely fresh after the parkrun.

Special thanks to volunteers to carry out such a wonderful event and all the people who knowingly and unknowingly pushed me.


Re-releasing the Android App

I am not in any sense, a hardcore developer, but to spread the words of this blog more effectively (and instantly), I earlier came out with two apps, one for Android and one for Windows platform (Universal App). My love for technology drives me to do this and my laziness drives me to easier solutions. When I was looking into the Android app I had before, it seemed pretty outdated to the current content on this blog. Therefore I am coming up with a newer version which now also provides:

  • Push notifications on your phone as I post any single damn thing on this blog.
  • You can mark posts as favourite and could comment on it through the app.
  • Categories are rebranded (removed the older ones and incorporated the newer).

The whole idea here is to give you an easier access to the content of this blog. A mobile app is definitely much more convenient than a blog itself. I’d really appreciate you checking out the new version of my app, and since I am not a playstore developer, you’d have to download the app from here and install it manually (it takes two seconds, umm, maybe four to be precise) 😀

Running my 1st Half Marathon

I started running and training myself seriously in October, 2015 when I started to train for a 9k run which was scheduled in January, 2016. The training continued for my next run that was scheduled in April, and it turned out brilliant. In the meantime, I thought I had prepared myself enough to compete and complete a half marathon i.e. a run comprising straight 21 kilometers. My lab mates told me that I should focus on my thesis as the date of this HM was not very far from my oral presentation, but I was not an easy fellow either. I registered for it and continued my training amidst my research.

There were nights when I would work up to 5 or 6 in the morning and would head to the track to train myself for this HM before getting a well deserved sleep. There were times when I would go to lab in my running attire so that I could save some time before heading to the track. All this continued for a month and half during which I made sure that I am not taking either my research or this run for granted.

On the race day, my roommate was kind enough to accompany me, to cheer me, to motivate me and to fill me up with some pre-run boosters. I told him to pin my BIB and I was very happy that he was there. Before the run, I warmed myself up by running/jogging for around 1.5k and stretched out enough to get my muscles geared.

The race started.

For a minute or two, I was barely standing at my place among a crowd of more than 3000. I started slowly as I had planned to. I knew I had this habit of starting out faster which later would wear me out earlier than usual. After a couple of kilometers, I started passing by some slow runners and joggers. Water stations passed by. It was a riverside run. People were riding bicycles on the same track. It was silent and beautiful. I was checking my watch after every passing kilometer to check on my progress.

Long distance running is a lot of time for you to think about a variety of things. The mind thinks about running, running slower and faster, about others who are running ahead and behind, about the sky above, about the earth below, about the training, about friends, about life.

After some 17 kilometers, my bipolar brain started its activity. It thought about taking a break, it thought about slowing down. Few runners who passed me by during this conversation encouraged my brain to let go off the flow. It is then I understood how a strong willpower is required for running such long distances. I had trained myself enough and I held on to that. I held on to the efforts I had done on the track, on the roads for the past couple of months. I maintained my running form, forgetting about the pace I was at. Remembering the things I have read, watched and felt, I put that experience into the moment and kept running. I was getting eager to cross the finish line. My roommate had challenged me to be in the top 200 and I told him that I will do my best. It is my race against me and there is no way I can monitor my rank in real time.

With every falling step, I was able to see the stadium more clearly from where we all had started. I passed by a couple of runners which further encouraged me not to slow down. I could now remember the track because now I was at the road where I was jogging before. I knew I was nearing the end. Excitement kept on rising. It was a now or never kind of feeling. We took the last turn and I could see the finish line. I heard my roommate shouting as I was 20 meters away. Someone was behind me. I took on at that moment making longer strides and crossing the finish line without letting anyone else pass me by.

I was embraced with the finish medal instantly and I looked for the water stations and I gulped down nearly a liter of water and I laid down on the ground looking at the sky, thanking it. I laid there for sometime and got up. My shoes were burning. It had gone considerably hot in there. I took my shoes off and throw a couple of water drops on my feet. With my shoes in one hand, I met my roommate and I handed him my result. I had ranked 114 with the chip time of 1:57. He was happy, I was happier. I had set a decent timing which I would look forward to break in my next HM.


Take a deep breath

Whatever follows in this post is extracted from this beautiful book called “The art of running faster” by Goater and Melvin. I have tried to implement a lot of things mentioned in this book and I have seen changes in my running once I implemented them. So, here in this chapter titled take a deep breath, I was reading about the relation of breathing with running. Of course we breath while we run, some even pant. It is the controlled breathing that could make your runs more efficient.

Run tall and relaxed. One needs to master the skill of effective breathing.

It was said that try to maintain an even balance of number of steps with the inhaling and exhales. So it could be two/three/four steps for every inhale as well as for every exhale. While the numbers are unmatched, you’re not at your best. And it indeed works well!

In my last workout, which was supposed to be mostly a steady run with occasional boosts/pick-ups, my focus for most of the time was on my breathing. I was breathing deeply and with more control. I was trying to impose this control because I know that my natural running could be with uncontrolled or uneven breathing. I wanted to test this theory. Most of the times, I ran with three or four steps for every inhale/exhale and for the time I was sprinting, I could not care to count it because my focus was on to cover as much as ground as possible with the cruising speeds I wanted to achieve.

To increase the lung capacity, it is important to be able to breath deeply, no matter you are running fast or slow.

I am still in the process of learning how to run, how to run faster and more efficiently. These are some of the points that I have implemented so far in my run, based on this book:

  1. Cadence is very important. For those who don’t know what it is, it is how fast you switch between your legs i.e. the speed of your legs or the number of steps per second, you can say. I try to maintain a good cadence and while uphill running, I (try to) maintain the same cadence with shorter strides (stride is the length of your single step, these two things together determine your speed). While I want to outrun someone who is at a same pace as of mine, I increase my cadence accompanied with a slightly shorter stride and when i outrun that person, I try to keep the same cadence with the original stride I was running at.
  2. Arms are your acceleration pedal. The faster you can move your arms, the faster you’ll be able to run. I have personally experienced it every single time I am on the track. To increase my cadence, I never move my legs faster, I start to move my arms faster and the legs go along by themselves.

These were some of the noticeable changes that I experienced while practicing my runs. If you have any of yours or anything else, feel free to share them here.