Photo: INOV-8.COM/LEE PROCTER
Last Friday I went to a talk by fell running legend Nicky Spinks (read my interview with Nicky from earlier this month here) at Katie Bell Physio in Sheffield. Having completed a raft of staggeringly difficult races and events (including, famously, the Double Bob Graham round) Nicky is a wealth of ultra-running insights.
Here are some of the nuggets of information she shared with us.
#1 The single Bob Graham wasn’t that tough (that’s 66 miles and approx 28,000ft of ascent!)
“I didn’t find it too hard,” Nicky told us of her first Bob Graham in 2012. “It didn’t push me to my limits.” This led Nicky to realise she was capable of more. In 2015 she broke her own Bob Graham record, and the following year she set a new record for the Double Bob Graham – 132-miles and around 54,000ft of ascent. Incredible.
#2. Nicky isn’t into huge mileage in training
“I run 40-50 miles a week and don’t tend to go over that,” she told us. “I’m a big believer in quality not junk runs. You don’t have to be doing 60/70 miles a week. I tell myself, ‘Look at your race results; look at your achievements [on lower mileage].” An easy week for Nicky might be 24-30 miles. “I’m quite happy doing a 24-mile week,” she explained.
#3. Training plans don’t just help you train, they help prevent overtraining
“Plans aren’t just to get you out. If your plan says it’s an easy week you don’t feel guilty and this stops you from overtraining,” Nicky explained.
#4. Plyometric exercises have improved her running
Nicky does a range of plyometric exercises, including scissors, forward hops, side hops, jump squats and rebound jumps and hops. “Hopping on and off the steps has really helped me [in technical terrain]. I now just hop up steps or other things on runs, which is quicker.”
#5. Take care of your feet
“They’re so important to you,” says Nicky. When my feet are trashed, I try to be nice to them, so that might mean wearing some footwear that’s more comfortable and not necessarily for the trail. I might slip around on the trail a little bit, but it’s worth it.”
#6. Mental strength is key
When it comes to preparing for a big challenge like the Bob Graham, Nicky believes mental strength goes a long way. “You can get yourself fit, but what gets you to the end is mental strength. It’s about how many [mind] tricks you can use to get to the finish. If I’m at a point where I’m finding it hard, I know I’ll only return again for another attempt so I tell myself, ‘You’ll only have to come back next year and do all that you’ve just done again and more.”
#7. Nicky practises middle-of-the-night fuelling
If Nicky’s running a ‘round’ on a weekend, she’ll start practising midnight snacking from the Wednesday. “I’ll start snacking throughout the day and then if I wake up in the middle of the night for a wee, I’ll have a snack. Otherwise your stomach doesn’t know what to do when you’re stuffing food down it at 3am. If I find I’m starting to get hungry in the middle of the night, I know it’s working!”