Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 Training Plan 2023 - Behold The Plan, For It Is Glorious!

Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 Training Plan 2023 - Behold The Plan, For It Is Glorious!

Okay, where do we start... 

Before we begin our 'training plan' there's a few things we need to discuss. At this stage I'm not interested in the intricate detail of the sessions and how they should be completed, let's just start by taking a step back and looking at the 'bigger picture'. What's the general overview of the plan and what are the principles that we'll apply throughout the next 10 months. 

There's 3 key principles to discuss

1. Enjoyment is key for consistency
2. Specificity rules for any sport
3. Be wary of the tech, there's pros and cons

Principle 1: Enjoyment is key

If you ask any coach what's the key to success, 'consistency' will be the pretty close to the top of the list. Different coaches will have different training methods, but the common ingredient for athlete success will always be 'consistency'. Forget the detail of the session, did the athlete actually complete the session every day? Week? Month? Being consistent and 'accumulating' sessions is critical for long term progress and success. 

If you can train consistently over the next 10 months, then you'll be fine on race day, but here lies the biggest problem. I can write you a plan... it's actually really easy. I'm sure when we offered a 'free training plan' you immediately thought your problems were solved. Well, the issue is that you have to actually 'do it'... You have to stick to the plan and complete the sessions... and that's the really, really hard part of this relationship. 

I've said many times that you 'write' training plans and you 'coach' people. One of the issues I've found with many coaching plans is that they have to include as much detail as possible and the plan becomes very over-complicated. In some cases, I'd say that we become so absorbed by the 'plan' that the athlete is simply an after thought. There are percentages of heart rate, optimal blood lactate levels and target speeds given to the precise millisecond. The plan is phased into meso, micro and macro cycles which progressively build to a crescendo of success. The plan is indeed a work of art, behold the plan for it is glorious!! But the plan is also an utter waste of time unless you follow it. And if you don't follow it... that's completely your fault... I did the hard bit, you should have done yours and you are entirely to blame for your lack of resolve and commitment.  

So what we need to consider, is 'what makes someone stick to the plan' and train consistently. More important, why do they NOT stick to the plan? There are factors such as available time and other life pressures, which may mean that you will NEVER be able to do as much as you like. Rather than fighting a losing battle, you probably need to be realistic and accept how much time you have, whilst being realistic about your potential result. Setting unrealistic goals for both training and for the event will leave you constantly fighting the odds and most likely failing. Don't spend 10 months trying and failing because you set your sights too high, that's not sustainable or enjoyable.

If you don't think that you set your targets high, ask yourself how many times have you stood on the start line of a race feeling like you've done more than enough training and you're completely prepared? Seriously... who are those weirdos? 

Of course, your motivation throughout the next 10 months will play a huge part as to whether you are consistent or not and whether you 'stick to the plan'. There are 2 simple methods to consider, which are the tried and tested 'stick and carrot'. 

The stick is always about the plan:

You have been given a plan and to be successful, so you must stick to it. It doesn't really matter whether you enjoy it or not, I've written down the things you must do to succeed, so get your head round it and get yourself motivated. I've done my bit and written the plan, so it's all you don't stick to it, there's nobody to blame but you. 

The plan can quickly become something you 'have to do'. You've entered the event and now you 'have to' follow the routine to succeed. If you miss a session, there's a blank space in your training diary and even though you were tired today, you feel guilty that you skipped the workout and dwell on it. The plan was supposed to help, but now it's hanging over your head like a threat and the plan is adding pressure to every single day, rather than helping. It's another thing on your list that MUST be done. 

You'll force yourself to do as many of the sessions as possible, but some weeks you'll miss half of the workouts. The plan will remind you every week what you 'should have done' but failed to do. The sessions will become less enjoyable and you may actually start dreading them. The Lakeland 50 & 100 is looming... Let's face it, you're never going to be ready, you've missed too many sessions, so you may as well send the withdrawal email now then you can relax and get your life back. It gets more positive... stick with it. 

The carrot is always about you:

There's a very clear link between how much you enjoy your 'training' and how consistent you are with it. It's simple, if you enjoy something, then you're more likely to do it and you're more likely to get positive reinforcement and want to do it again. So 'what you enjoy' and 'why you enjoy it' is where we should start our training for Lakeland. You need to think about this for yourself, but without wanting to prompt you, here's some examples:

> You enjoy running on trails more than road
> You enjoy running on trails because of the scenery, nature and seasons
> You enjoy running with friend/s or more likely your dog
> Running gives you some head space

You can manipulate your training to maximise the enjoyment. Run the trails you enjoy, slow down and run at the pace which feels comfortable. Stop whenever you like and look at the view, take it all in. Run with friends or your dog so you can chat all the way round (to your friends or your dog.. we all do it). 

The issue with the above is that it really doesn't sound much like a training plan does it? Well that's one of the greatest problems with 'training plans'.... We've somehow reached a point where we think that 'structure' is essential and sessions must be done to a strict time interval, heart rate or speed. There certainly isn't time to stop and admire the view when you're on the plan because you'll drop out of zone 3 (we all know the lethal consequences of that). Likewise, we believe that if a session DOESN'T have structure then it's worthless. That 45 minute easy run on the trails that you did to clear your head (and for the record, you returned feeling so much better), well that was simply 'junk miles' of no added value.

To be fair, the Kenyan athletes run 120+ miles per week on dirt trails at a very easy pace, chatting to each other with no real structure. They never look stressed, they're always smiling, they don't constantly check their pace on a GPS and they don't use Strava.. look how that's worked out for them (oh there's definitely more of that in later blogs).

The plan is generally not flexible, it's a series of words and numbers. You however, fluctuate from day to day. If you've had a hard day at work and your training plan says 4 X 1 mile at 85% of VO2 maximum with a 2 minute recovery following each... that's a dagger to the heart right there. It's painful, but the plan says you have to do it, so you either skip it and then feel guilty all night (read above) or you fight through it, hating every minute and return exhausted. There's only so many time you can do the latter before you empty that bucket. 

If you can't face a workout, then you should always be flexible and operate on the basis of 'something is always better than nothing'. If you're really tired, then you should rest. But otherwise, go out of the door and do part of the session, a shorter run, or even go for a walk... give it 10 minutes and then make your decision, but ultimately don't beat yourself up over it. Remove the pressure, run slower, run with a friend, do whatever you need to do to make it enjoyable and manageable. It's not about the plan, it's always about you. You take priority over the plan and the plan should never become a threat that looms over you and adds to your stress. 

I think as athletes, it's very easy to develop addictive and obsessive personality traits (we all have a little bit of that in us). I haven't quite worked out whether these personality types are attracted to running or running develops the traits. The issue with runners having things written down in detail is that the addictive and obsessive traits can lead to an 'all or nothing' approach. If we don't do exactly what's on the plan, then we've failed, so we might as well just do nothing. We're particularly good at catastrophising things:

"I've made steps to improve my diet and I've been great all week, then on Sunday I buckled and had a fry-up... WHAT'S THE POINT GOING ON!! I MIGHT AS WELL GIVE UP NOW!!"  Well it was only one meal... the rest of the week was great, so maybe you're over-reacting? Honestly, if you miss or alter a few workouts, it's going to make no real difference. I'm here to tell you it's fine. 

For those of you who are getting worried, yes of course, there's going to be some clear structure. There'll be some physiological stuff, we'll discuss volume, intensity, total training load and appropriate training zones. We'll also look at the specific requirements for a mountain ultra to ensure you're fully prepared for the challenge ahead. Training for long distance running events is actually quite simple, no matter how complicated some people would have you believe. The basic principles have changed very little from the great Arthur Lydiard coaching methods of the 1950's through to the great East African champions of today. Although sometimes it's unfortunately hidden behind the smoke screen of bullshit that todays society brings... :"This routine is a GAME CHANGER!! It's the SECRET OF THE PROS!!" 

There will be key workouts that you'll need to complete, but throughout the process, we'll never lose sight of the fact that the plan is supposed to 'add value' and 'add enjoyment' to your Lakeland journey. It should never add pressure or stress. If we can't achieve that, then class of 2023, we have collectively failed.

Anyhow, I've rambled for too long and even I've had enough, so I can appreciate how you must feel. Stay tuned legends for the next thrilling instalments of our principles trilogy, we need to discuss specificity and tech.

The plan begins October 3rd. Join the Lakeland 50 & 100 Facebook Group.

The Endurance Store

The Endurance Store is an independent running store in Lancashire. We believe in community and we're also the organisers of a very long trail running event that takes place in Coniston every July.