Training for Chiltern Wonderland

Time to start counting down another 16 weeks of training

In roughly four months, I’ll be having another go at the 50-mile distance when I take on the Chiltern Wonderland. Hopefully it’ll be a case of third time lucky as injury thwarted my first attempt and the second ended with a whimper. Here’s how I’ll be to preparing for it.

Training plan

I considered hiring a coach this time, but after searching for several hours, I gave up in frustration.

At one end, there’s so-called experts who seem to just dish out cookie cutter training plans. Then on the other, there’s coaches with impressive credentials, but their rates are eye-wateringly expensive.

So I’ve decided to use the Higher Running 50-mile plan as the basis for my training.

Some of the workouts on it are intimidating – especially for someone who is allergic to intervals – but they’re undoubtedly beneficial.

I’ll have no qualms in shortening or altering any sessions if it gets too much. Likewise, I’ll take extra rest days if fatigue sets in or my legs feel like they’re about to fall off.

Unlike the Hal Koerner plan I used for SDW50, there’s no double run days or back-to-back long runs. I don’t think either are necessary for races up to 50 miles.

Double run days

If a double run day is the only way to get the mileage in, then do it. But if it’s because you don’t want to get up early, then you’re just cheating myself. Being a committed ultra runner sometimes requires waking up at the crack of dawn. It sucks, but it’s also part of the process.

Getting a run done early also maximizes the recovery time, and doing a 10-mile run – rather than a couple of fives – is mentally and physically more beneficial.

You also don’t have to shower as much. Or spend the day dodging people as you’re too lazy to change clothes.

Back-to-back long runs

Back-to-back long runs can be useful from a mental standpoint, as learning how to grind out miles on tired legs is a good skill to have. But I prefer to shift most of the weekend mileage to one day.

The longer a run is, the increased chance of problems occuring, requiring you to work on your troubleshooting skills. This is most applicable to fuelling and potential GI issues. A couple of 18-mile runs won’t tax your digestive system like a single 30-miler can, and it’s a good way to test race day nutrition strategies.

Also, from a practical perspective, if you’ve got family or other interests outside of running, then it’s good to not have the entire weekend taken up by training for an ultra.

If you still need convincing, then Sage Canaday articulates the case against back-to-back long runs better than I can.

Catered long runs (races)

I’ve so far entered the Maverick X-Series Chilterns event in July, at the end of week six. I’ve ran most of the course already, so it’ll be a good way to gauge my progress. Hopefully I’ll show some self-discipline and not go all out, but we’ll see.

I’ve also got my eye on the Woldingham Marathon at the end of August. It’s three weeks before Chiltern Wonderland with similar lumpy terrain, so it’s potentially a good tune-up race. If I do it, I’d go straight into a linear taper afterwards.

I begin training for Chiltern Wonderland on week commencing 30th May. I won’t be doing monthly updates like I did for South Downs Way as they were a bit dull. Maybe I’ll do one at halfway and another a few days before the race.

But as always, you can follow my progress (or demise) on Strava.

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