Sunday, April 19, 2015

Western States 100 Race Day Strategy

Race Day Strategy and Plan

Course Guide | Participant Guide | Crew Suggestions | Pacer Rules | The Killing Machine Part I | Course Profile

Preparation

I ask that all of my crew and pacers read the above. The plan is to keep things simple and efficient. My goal is to be patient in each station and be sure my needs are met. Here are my objectives for my pacers and crews:
  • Assist me in being efficient through aid stations and re-stocking my supplies.
  • Do not allow me to quit unless there is a medical reason to do so
  • Allowing me to stop and regroup at an aid station is acceptable if I am really struggling
  • Push me to continue working hard even if "A" goals are slipping -- any time is better than that time plus 1 second.  PUSH ME.
  • Make sure I am staying on top of eating and drinking
  • Do not be offended if I put in a iPod in an attempt to zone out
  • DO NOT let me be negative. Find ways to force me stay in the moment, problem solve and be thankful and positive.


Start

Gear and Food

  • Altra Superior plus stoneguard
  • Waste pack and handheld, both with Skratch Labs
  • Drink Generation Ucan (two servings) and have a bar (Epic) for breakfast
  • T-shirt and race shorts plus body glide (for feet too).
  • 4 extra packets of Skratch Labs, 3 bars, and 3 gels
  • Assorted essentials in pack (ginger chews, S!caps, Imodium, Chapstick, ibuprofen)
  • Sunglasses

Lyon Ridge - 10.5

Description

The opening climb is not super technical and not terrible grade, but it is long. Patience is key and hiking is fine -- expect an average split around 16 minute miles through the four mile climb. The remaining six miles are downhill and may be slightly technical, but should allow the overall segment split to come in near 12:30 pace.

Plan

Estimated Time: 2:10
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 7:10 AM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 12:30 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 2800
Miles: 10.5

Gear and Food

  • Continue with gear and food from the start.
  • Refill a handheld with Skratch
  • Consider eating something small, but solid like half a bar

Notes

  • Warm up slowly to ensure aerobic efficiency
  • Start time is 5 am but no headlamp will be necessary on the climb
  • No crew here

Red Star Ridge - 16

Description

The next section is net downhill, but rolling along. Expect splits to be in the 11:30 range.

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:10
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 8:20 AM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 11:30 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 1000
Miles: 5.5

Gear and Food

  • Refill handhelds and add Skratch labs as heat/thirst allow
  • Continue with gear and food from the start.

Notes

  • No crew.  
  • Apply sunscreen if available at AS.
  • There is one steep climb about mile 11, leaving the Lyon Ridge aid station
  • Eat something solid.

Duncan Canyon - 23.8

Description

From Red Star Ridge this is quite a downhill segment. Be sure to make up time on the average pace, but don't go crazy pounding downhill.

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:30 minutes
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 9:50 AM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 10:30 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 500
Miles: 7.8

Gear and Food

  • I will have crew at this aid station (not Robinson Flat).
  • Refuel with Ucan (x2) and Epic Bar, it has been more than 6-hours now
  • Refill handhelds and eat something solid.
  • Refill supplies to make sure I leave with 4 extra packets of Skratch Labs, 3 bars, and 3 gels
  • Pick up a hat?
  • Apply sunscreen

Notes

  • Be swift but make sure not to be hurried.
  • Meet with crew here, directions in the "Crew Suggestions Guide"

Robinson Flat - 29.7

Description

Leaving the Duncan Canyon AS, there is a remaining descent into the canyon before crossing Duncan Canyon Creek. Then a climb up to Robinson Flat, a roughly 1700 foot climb. Expect this section to be rocky and technical in places.

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:30
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 11:20 AM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 13:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 1700
Miles: 6

Gear and Food

  • Refill handhelds

Notes

  • No crew here, though it is a crew aid station.
  • Make sure to wet shirt and hat.

Miller's Defeat - 34.4

Description

This is the beginning of the major downhill section of the course. Good forward progress without blowing out the quads. It is likely to be quite hot by this point in the race.

Plan

Estimated Time: 0:55
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 12:15 PM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 11:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 400
Miles: 5

Gear and Food

  • Refill handhelds and add Skratch labs as heat/thirst allow
  • Make sure to wet shirt and hat.

Notes

  • This is not a crew station

Dusty Corners - 38

Description

This section is a continuation of the downhill from the previous section. The final two kilometers before this aid station are quite steep.

Plan

Estimated Time: 0:40
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 12:55 PM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 10:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 0
Miles: 3.8

Gear and Food

  • Refill handhelds and add Skratch labs as heat/thirst allow
  • Make sure to wet shirt and hat
  • This is a crew point
  • Refill supplies to make sure I leave with 4 extra packets of Skratch Labs, 3 bars, and 3 gels

Notes

  • Be swift but make sure not to be hurried.
  • Meet with crew here, directions in the "Crew Suggestions Guide"

Last Chance - 43.3

Description

This section is a continuation of the downhill that began after Robinson Flat, the downhill half marathon. There are rolling sections of climbing in here, including one climb of several hundred feet.

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:00
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 1:55 PM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 11:30 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 800
Miles: 5.3

Gear and Food

  • Refill handhelds and add Skratch labs as heat/thirst allow
  • Eat something solid.

Notes

  • This is not a crew station

Devil's Thumb - 47.8

Description

Leaving last chance aid station, you will descend a steep four kilometers to the bottom of the first canyon, Deadwood Canyon. The canyon is American River and home of the Swinging Bridge. From the river, you will ascend more than one thousand feet to Devil's Thumb.

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:20
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 3:15 PM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 17:45 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 1700 feet
Miles: 4.5

Gear and Food

  • Refill handhelds and add Skratch labs as heat/thirst allow
  • Make sure to wet shirt and hat

Notes

  • This is not a crew station

El Dorado Creek - 52.9

Description

Leaving Devil's thumb you will pass Deadwood Cemetery and descend several thousand feet down to Eldorado Creek.

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:05
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 4:20 PM on Saturday
Pace: roughly  12:30  min/mile
Elevation Gain: 300
Miles: 5

Gear and Food

  • Refill handhelds and add Skratch labs as heat/thirst allow
  • Make sure to wet shirt and hat

Notes

  • This is not a crew station

Michigan Bluff - 55.7

Description

This is the second big canyon climb, once again totaling about 1800 feet.

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:00
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 5:20 PM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 20:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 1800
Miles: 3

Gear and Food

  • Refuel with Ucan (x2) and Epic Bar, it has been more than 12-hours now
  • Refill handhelds
  • Refill supplies to make sure I leave with 4 extra packets of Skratch Labs, 3 bars, and 3 gels
  • Shoes?  Altra Olympus?  Foot gel?
  • Take headlamp if after 7 pm

Notes

  • Apply sunscreen
  • Meet with crew here, directions in the "Crew Suggestions Guide"
  • Be swift but make sure not to be hurried.
  • Make sure to wet shirt and hat.

Forrest Hill - 62

Description

Leaving Michigan Bluff, the runners will make their way toward Volcano Canyon, the last of the three canyon descents (and climbs). The first part of this has a small climb before descending down into Volcano canyon. Crew (or Pacers) are able to meet the runner at Bath Road (mile 60, see Participant Guide and Crew Suggestions).

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:25
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 6:45 PM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 13:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 1200
Miles: 6.5
Pacer: Chuck

Gear and Food


  • Refill handhelds
  • Refill supplies to make sure I leave with 4 extra packets of Skratch Labs, 3 bars, and 3 gels
  • Shoes?  Altra Olympus?  Foot gel?
  • Take headlamp if not already

Notes


  • Meet with crew here, directions in the "Crew Suggestions Guide"
  • Have Chuck meet me at Bath Road
  • Make sure to wet shirt and hat


Dardanelles (Cal-1) - 65.7

Description

Leaving Forrest Hill, the runners will now join Cal Street. Becareful not to get caught in the hype of having a pacer and the easy trail here. Keep on pace, but don't extend your limits. This section is very much downhill with a few short climbs only.

Plan

Estimated Time: 0:45
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 7:30 PM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 12:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 300
Miles: 3.7
Pacer: Chuck

Gear and Food


  • Refill handhelds and add Skratch labs as heat/thirst allow
  • Make sure to wet shirt and hat

Notes


  • Not a crew area

Peachstone (Cal-2) - 70.7

Description

Continue along Cal Street, this is a rolling section with two steep climbs of 400-500 feet each.

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:15
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 8:45 PM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 15:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 1000
Miles: 5
Pacer: Chuck

Gear and Food

  • Refill handhelds and add Skratch labs as heat/thirst allow
  • Make sure to wet shirt and hat

Notes

  • Not a crew area

Ford's Bar (Cal-3) - 73

Description

Continue along Cal Street, this section is net downhill with one 400-500 foot climb in the middle before descending to Ford's Bar.

Plan

Estimated Time: 0:40
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 9:25 PM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 16:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 700
Miles: 2.5
Pacer: Chuck

Gear and Food

  • Refill handhelds and add Skratch labs as heat/thirst allow
  • Make sure to wet shirt and hat

Notes

  • Not a crew area

Rucky Chucky - 78

Description

After leaving Cal Street, runners will descend down to the North Fork of the American River. You may have to wade across it or be ferried across. There is an initial small climb (200 - 300 feet) before descending down to the river.

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:15
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 10:40 PM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 15:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 500
Miles: 5
Pacer: Chuck

Gear and Food

  • Refill handhelds and add Skratch labs as heat/thirst allow
  • Make sure to wet shirt and hat
  • Shoes?  Altra Olympus?  Foot gel?

Notes

  • Meet with crew here on the near side, directions in the "Crew Suggestions Guide"

Green Gate - 79.8

Description

From the far side of the river, you climb on fire roads up to the Green Gate aid station. This climb is nearly 1000 feet and very late in the race.

Plan

Estimated Time: 0:40
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 11:20 PM on Saturday
Pace: roughly 20:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 1000
Miles: 2
Pacer: Chuck

Gear and Food

  • Refill handhelds and add Skratch labs as heat/thirst allow

Notes

  • This is a crew section (on foot), but I think we'll skip it.

Auburn Lake Trails - 85.2

Description

Rolling single track trail from Green Gate to here with one climb that totals about 600 feet.

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:30
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 12:50 AM on Sunday
Pace: roughly 16:20 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 800
Miles: 5.5
Pacer: Chuck


Gear and Food

  • Red Bull Time?
  • Eat solid food?

Notes

  • Not a crew station.

Brown's Bar - 89.9

Description

Rolling single track trail from Auburn Lake Trails to here.

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:15
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 2:05 AM on Sunday
Pace: roughly 16:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 300
Miles: 3.7
Pacer: Chuck


Gear and Food

  • Red Bull Time?

Notes

  • Not a crew station.

Highway 49 - 93.5

Description

Leaving Brown's Bar you descend a few hundred feet then climb steeply about 400 feet to Highway 49.

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:05
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 3:10 AM on Sunday
Pace: roughly 18:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 600
Miles: 3.7
Pacer: Chuck

Gear and Food

  • Red Bull Time?

Notes

  • Meet with crew here on the near side, directions in the "Crew Suggestions Guide"
  • Change pacers to Heather


No Hand's Bridge - 96.8

Description

The first section of this is a small climb before descending down to No Hands Bridge, one last trip to the river.

Plan

Estimated Time: 1:00
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 4:10 AM on Sunday
Pace: roughly 18:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 300
Miles: 3.3
Pacer: Heather

Gear and Food

  • Red Bull Time?

Notes

  • Not a crew location

Robie Point - 98.9

Description

From No Hand's Bridge there is a steep climb up to Robie Point, totaling about 800 feet.

Plan

Estimated Time: 0:30
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 4:40 AM on Sunday
Pace: roughly 15:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 850
Miles: 2.1
Pacer: Heather

Gear and Food

  • Red Bull Time?

Notes

  • Not a crew location
  • Chuck should meet us here, he'll have to walk-in from the finish.

Finish - Placer High School - 100.2

Description

One mile plus a lap around the track.

Plan

Estimated Time: 0:20
Arrive at Destination Aid Station: 5:00 AM on Sunday
Pace: roughly 18:00 min/mile
Elevation Gain: 0
Miles: 1.3
Pacer: Chuck and Heather

Notes

  • Party? Sleep? Sleep then party?
  • Crew can join at Robie Point until the stadium, directions in the "Crew Suggestions Guide".


See Also

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March Training Wrap


Let's just start with the raw stats:
  • Miles - 280 Miles (2nd most all-time, 309 in July 2012)
  • Time* - 45 Hours (2nd most all-time, 55 hours in July 2012)
  • Vertical** - 22K (very pedestrian number, around 10th all-time)
* I didn't count race months in this because it skews the training data. For example, in Sept of 2014, Bear 100 was 30 hours in just one day!

** A quick note about vertical gain: I bought a Suunto Ambit 2 this year and am now able to track my vertical gain with altimeter data. Previous years gains were tabulated by Strava, which appears to be generous by roughly 15-20% for the routes I typically run.

My biggest training month ever was July 2012 as I peaked for LT100. I have never taken on another goal with the same gusto as I took on that race. However, I also wound up injured the week of the race. I have been in sort of a rut the past few years of constantly being worried about that happening again and unwilling to push as hard, constantly seeking the perfect balance between training and recovery (like anyone knows where that line is!).

My big picture thoughts for this month were shaped by reading an interview with Matt Carpenter and re-reading Lucho's famous Quality vs Quantity rant. First of all, I really like Matt's idea of not tinkering with things for 5 weeks. That sort of works well with my idea of starting to only look at my training by month (instead of weekly). The one comment that always stands out for me after reading Lucho's post is this: "Once you have built an adequate base then quality is king!". (Of course, he goes onto qualify that as quality is never always more is better.)

To summarize, the first 12 weeks of training now have been mostly about build up and easy volume. I have been doing lots of hilly, low intensity road running with just a little bit of quality and trails thrown in. I am something like 200 miles (40%) ahead of my intended volume for the year. That leads me to believe that I have done a good job of base building (almost 90% of my miles in Zone 1 or Zone 2) but that I may be reaching the tipping point of falling in love too much with volume as a metric for training. I am certainly getting good HR feedback and know that I am at a level typical for me after a true base-building period.

Now comes the crucial question, how do I spend the last 12 weeks of training before the most-hyped event of my life? When looking for clues, I try to see what has worked well in previous training cycles. Last year, when training for the North Fork 50 miler, my "A" race for the year, May was a monster month for me. I raced three times that month, twice as part of a back-to-back weekend. Considering that was my best ultra result ever and the same weekend as WS100, I think the lesson is to do plenty of quality in May! The risk is that I was never right the rest of the summer, clearly spending everything I had in May and June. So, it must be timed right.

At this stage, I think it would be best to ease off the miles just a bit and force myself to take one day a week off. And, I need to really make a focus on adding one or two quality/structure days per week. Finally, I need to start getting out to the trails a bit more as I increase the focus on my B2Bs.

Before I go, here are a few updates from my goals:
  • I have definitely started to incorporate some heat training into my runs, mostly just by mixing it up and getting out midday on hotter days. I won't count this as true heat training, but definitely working in that direction.
  • Night running has become a good focus and something I am ahead of schedule tinkering with. I have now done two night runs and one early morning run (with a headlamp) on trails. It definitely feels like it is paying dividends.
  • Volume, as I mentioned above, has been a slam dunk.  I am averaging close to 60 miles a week for the year, well above my intended 55 mile per week goal. And I already have two 70+ mile weeks in the bag.
  • I still haven't quite nailed the "light quality" or true quality workouts the way I would like. I've spent quite a few days just logging miles.
  • Winter is over, so I think it is fair to check off "Don't fight winter" from my list. It is April (tomorrow) in Colorado, so there are likely still some challenging days of weather ahead, but nothing like January and February!
  • Cross training is something I always feel I need to work more on, but somehow I always cobble together 2-3 sessions a week, so this is a pass, I think.
  • Trails and vertical is definitely an area I suddenly feel lacking. The plan was to not overdo it, but I definitely feel an urge to get out there more and get prepared for the specificity of doing a trail race.
One additional note, I've been tracking my time walking my dog. This is somewhat silly, but it is does add up to about 40 extra miles per month. I like to do this as a cool down after my long runs on the weekends, when it is convenient that is. It is also a good time to just hang out and chat with my wife!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lessons from B2B2B

A few weeks ago I posted an article on Brain Training and I theorized that a B2B2B (Morning, Night, Morning) run might be a great way to train for a 100. I posted that I intended to do my first one on Facebook and it started a conversation on the merits of training this way, namely comparing one single long run versus similar mileage split over multiple runs. Now that I have completed my first one, I thought I would post some details about what I did and what I learned (thanks to some encouragement from Wyatt).

To begin with, here is what we did with some details.

Saturday Morning we woke early and started at Deer Creek. I only slept 4-5 hours the night before, typical of restless sleep before a big race. For breakfast, I ate what I would eat before a race: a serving of Ucan and an Epic Bar. We started at the trailhead at 5:35 am in total darkness, which meant we had to manage the first hour with headlamps. Deer Creek is a moderate climbing trail with some technical elements, so it was a good challenge. My heart rate and effort were pretty easy all day, but it was definitely harder mentally with such an early start. I am NOT a super early morning runner any more. And, I almost never start a morning trail run in the dark. I wore my Altra Lone Peak 1.5 and found myself tripping a ton, even at an easy effort. Along the run, I tried to mimic a typical early race nutrition strategy for me with a pretty rough goal of 200 Kcals per hour. I managed to eat a Hammer Bar, some Fuel 100 Bytes, and a serving of Skratch Labs. By the end of the run, my legs were stiff and I was tired.  Total was 14.1 miles and 2400 feet of vertical gain in two hours and forty-five minutes.

In between the morning and night run, I didn't rest or sleep. I ate a big breakfast and a small lunch. After lunch, I ate only food I would typically eat on race day, mostly Lara Bars and Epic Bars. I did a few hours of yard work and sat and watch soccer in the afternoon sun for a few hours. After soccer, I felt nauseous from the heat, easily the hottest afternoon we've had so far this Spring. I drank cold fluids and some electrolytes to try and tame this.

Saturday Night we met at the Green Mountain trailhead at 8pm, this time with two extra runners (five total). Before starting the run, we toasted by splitting a few PBRs. Tony was our guide for the evening as he knows this trail system the best. We put on our headlamps and headed uphill, straight uphill!  I definitely wanted to keep the run easy, but also just kind of wanted to "just run" and use Tony as a simulated pacer, only slowing him down once or twice. The trail was way more technical than we were expecting, which is a positive because that is typically the case in an ultra for me.  (It wasn't that technical, but we were expecting almost nothing.) We were treated with some gorgeous views of Denver lights and we bobbed up and down across the mountain. The trail reminded me very much of part of Bear 100, which is kind of ironic since that was the night I decided I need to train more at night! Overall Green Mountain is not a difficult trail system, but it provided some reasonable vertical gain and technical elements that challenged us just enough. I definitely felt stronger than when night comes in a 100 and also stronger than my last night run a month ago. My heart rate was low the whole night, lower than my perceived effort for sure. I switched shoes to my Altra Superior 2 and had no issues with tripping. But, my feet got a bit beat up on the underside from the lack of protection those shoes provide. Once again, with experience at the 100, I switched to a more typical nutrition strategy for me this late in a race: watered down Redbull and gels. I was quite surprised my stomach didn't get rotten from that. Total was 10.5 miles and 1500 feet of vertical gain in two hours.

After the night run, I had a decent dinner (5 eggs) and slept for about 6 hours.

Sunday Morning we met at my house for the last leg. We discovered on our way home from the night run that the local Highlands Ranch Open Space trails had re-opened and we switched our plans to go there instead of Ridgeline. We also changed our plans to meet at 6:30 (instead of 6:00) so we could leave headlamps at home. The three runners (only three of us did all three legs) remarked at how fatigued we were and just wanted to get this over with. But, we were able to keep a respectable pace as we jogged our way around the local trails, which are very much runnable trails with only a little vertical gain and few technical elements. I switched my nutrition to watered down Redbull and another handheld of plain water, again typical of the late stages of a race for me. The heart rate was once again much lower than the perceived effort, though we did manage to push the final few miles a bit to finish strong. Total was 10.1 miles and 900 feet of vertical gain in one hour and forty-five minutes, yielding a total of seven and a half hours, 35 miles, and almost five thousand feet of vertical in the three runs.

So, what did I learn?

My buddy Chuck summed up the pros and cons pretty well in his Strava post:
Pros: Night/dark running and getting familiar with technical terrain and headlamps, running fatigued, pre-run and in-run nutrition practice (although it was weak today), mental toughness preparation.  Cons: I can only say that I was never physically as tired as I might be if I did 2 Long B2B's,
I totally agree that the biggest benefits were night running and running with mental fatigue. I also liked the nutrition and gear switching as the day changed to simulate how I know that typically goes in a race. It is great to have a nutrition plan to start, but anyone that has done a 100 knows it typically goes off the rails at some point. Working with different combinations and experimenting with the switch through the day is helpful, particularly to someone without experience. One of my goals for this was to prepare for the challenge running all day long. While I would be naive to say we accomplished that, I think this was as close as we could come without doing a run that was 12 hours in length.

Also, it was nice to feel totally engaged for a weekend. I have done so many 20 - 30 mile runs over the years that it can sometimes feel like work and just go through the motions. This weekend we were totally engaged in every aspect of training and totally resolved to get it done. That is always a nice oasis twelve weeks into training.

If the critique of this approach is that it isn't the same as one long run (or two long runs) to really push into the red and find lows, then I would agree. It isn't the same. But, I would add that going into the red frequently probably isn't the best training strategy. I did a 38 mile run just two weeks ago and it really takes a lot out of you. An advantage of this strategy is the ability to recover a bit in between runs and pile up mileage/time plus other specific elements of an ultra without going that far into the red. Ultimately, as I said in my post, I am not sure there is any realistic way to be 100% ready for a 100-miler other than to run a few of them. Training should encompass lots of ways to be as specific as possible and stretch your comfort zone and harden your mind. This weekend definitely stretched my comfort zone and I feel I am more prepared for the 100 mile experience as a result. However, I won't be making the B2B2B a staple of my training, mostly because it just takes the whole weekend.

My only regret was not putting some cushioned shoes into the rotation for one or two of the latter runs. I have a few blisters that need tending too. However, I did get to test my new Petzel NAO headlamp under realistic conditions and was quite happy with both the battery and the brightness. That was a good purchase as part of my previous unhappiness with trails was just having an inferior lamp (I think).



Sunday, March 15, 2015

Training Update: 3/9 - 3/15

Huge week last week, only my second official 80 mile training week. Of course, a 38 mile run on Saturday helps to really push the numbers higher. And, I won't lie, I ran Sunday primarily to push the number to 80. It is a tough balance sometimes, fighting between chasing numbers and recovering properly. I often tell my buddy Chuck not to be afraid to train when it is time, but only when the time is right. That's thing, this is almost the time, but not quite. I am 14 weeks from a race I have been training for the past three years. Soon the trails will be in a good shape and I need to be ready.

In addition, to good volume, I had good structure and a high-quality workout on Thursday. I even managed 3 cross-training sessions.


Day Miles Notes
Monday 9Easy Lunch Run
Tuesday 10Fartleks
Wednesday6 Recovery w/ Strides
Thursday9Bluffs Progression
Friday5 Recovery
Saturday 38HPRS - Fat Ass - Highline
Sunday 5Recovery
Total 813,800 feet of vert

I am trying to figure out the best way to approach next week given the large spike in volume last week. This period of training is about building volume and continuing to extend my B2Bs. I need to be vigilant that Saturday's effort doesn't have long standing recovery needs, so I won't do anything too hard for a few days. The good news is that the vertical gain has been really modest considering the trails are still full of snow and ice. So the stress level isn't as high as normal for that amount of miles. My knee and the rest of my body are feeling as good as they have in months. I am finding that my appetite has increased pretty dramatically the past few weeks as well, so I need to keep a conscious eye on keeping my calorie intake at the proper level.

The goals for this next week will be to cutback and only a bit of "light quality" (no true quality). Most importantly, I need to be completely honest with myself about how I feel and take a day off if I feel excess fatigue creeping in. Big trail miles lay ahead and there is no use spending up my motivation and energy in March!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

February Training Wrap and Training Update

Historically I have used this space to regurgitate my weekly training with some periodic updates and random thoughts, much of which anyone that cared could get just by following me on Strava. So, I think I am going to try to use this space as a space to "reset" every few weeks instead. I am self-coached, which is both great and confusing at the same time. Instead of week-to-week thoughts, this space would be excellent for grading my past few weeks of training and planning my next few weeks. You see, planning an entire training plan 20+ weeks in advance is crazy. Life happens. Things change. I get bored and think of new run concepts I want to try. By week three of a twenty week plan I am really just ad-hoc. Of course there is a main theme (specificity) and general direction (namely weekly time/mileage), but the specifics can and do change week to week.

So, a brief catch-up....

Back in December, I wrote down my goals for my WS100 Training Plan. Those high-level goals are as follows:

  • 2 - 3 good night runs on trails
  • 8 - 10 heat runs up to 2 hours in length
  • Consistent mileage above 55 miles (8-9 hours for me)
  • Peak mileage of 70+ miles, 4-6 times (10-14 hours for me)
  • Lots of light quality: Fartleks, Progression
  • Modest amounts of true quality: tempos/threshold, intervals, hard longs
  • Don't over-do trails and vertical
  • Don’t fight winter
  • Emphasize body weight training for XT


January Training

212 Miles
16K of vertical gain
33 Hours

I started January pretty unfit, having been injured and really demotivated as a result. The injury turned out minor and I am on a path to healing. Nonetheless, the lack of fitness is always hard to start from and figure out how to get going again. As is typical, I started out feeling really eager to get going and follow a well-thought-out-highly-detailed plan that was a fusion between Relentless Forward Progress mileage and structure borrowed from Eric Orton's book. As a result, I did quite a bit of quality for such an early month in training -- 29.3 miles of short intervals (workouts, not the intervals themselves). The structure was nice so I had some options for the treadmill when the weather sucked. I still spend well over 50% of my miles on "easy" runs.

As I look at the above goals the things that mostly stand out is getting my mileage back to 55 miles a week, which I accomplished the last week of January. Not surprisingly, my fitness made a huge leap too -- from 10:15 pace to 9:30 pace on a typical recovery run (by HR). Given that I was so early in training, not many of the above goals really applied.

February Training

223 Miles
20K of vertical gain
36 Hours

You can see there was a modest increase in all the stats from January to March. This is slightly more impressive given that the month is three days longer. The month was shaped by my review of Dr Maffetone's work and a return to some base building. (See what I mean about my attention drifting...) This wasn't just a coincidence though; the weather was good the first few weeks of the month and I was able to spend lots of time outside, where it is much easier to go easy. I even managed a few almost dry trail runs -- a win in the "don't fight winter" category! Another positive was spending most of the month near 60 miles/week and several long runs and mini-B2Bs. And, I did my first night run of the cycle. That night run was a real struggle, reminding me why I made that goal. Overall I am really happy that I was able to get back to a reasonable mileage base and continue to improve my overall fitness and health.

In the context of my goals, I think the biggest negative was going 180 degrees from January and doing almost no structure. I need to find a happy-medium with the light structure and periodic true quality days (every 7-14 days). And, while I would give myself a passing grade in the cross-training department, I would say that I can improve slightly in this department.

So, recognizing that it is still winter and too soon for some of my goals, the mini-goals for March are:

  • Continue consistent mileage and weekly build up of B2B long runs
  • Add more "light quality" to my routine
  • Refocus on cross-training
  • Seek opportunities for Night Running and possibly B2B2B runs



Saturday, February 28, 2015

Brain Training

In my last post, I discussed how endurance is a three legged stool: Brain, Body, Metabolism. I have blogged quite extensively about my thoughts on metabolism and body (training) in the past. But the topic of training the brain has come up more and more recently, and I have learned through personal experience that it may be the single biggest thing holding me back from achieving my 100 mile race goals.

The first time I heard about this topic was reading Matt Fitzgerald's book some years ago. However, I have seen the topic come up in recent podcasts and some of the books that I have been reading on endurance recently. Brain training starts with a relatively simple concept -- the brain is the central governor of your entire body, it defines when you feel fatigue and pain. This is pretty profound in that it removes, or changes the way we view, some of the other limitations runners typically embrace: lactic acid build up, muscle damage, glycogen depletion, etc... All of those factors are real, and all of them contribute to your body sending signals of distress to your mind. But, it is ultimately the brain that decides when we slow down and when we feel pain.

A simple example is glycogen depletion. When people first run a marathon they are more likely to crash than future races. Between their first and their tenth marathon they don't suddenly triple their glycogen stores. Instead, their brain becomes adapted to going into a state of glycogen depletion without freaking out (technical term). A newbie marathoner may only be able to use 60% of available glycogen where a seasoned marathoner more like 80 or 85% before the brains sends fatigue distress signals to the body.

Here are some ways in which training the brain can help with ultramarathon racing.

Specificity

Specificity is a topic just about every runner is familiar with. Seasoned runners quite often do tune-up races or quality workout sessions that mimic the intensity and the duration of their goal event. Ultrarunners frequently train on terrain and environmental elements similar to what they'll race in.  However, training specifically for a 100-miler is a whole new animal. How does one properly do that? I mean, a race that takes 24+ hours has so many different angles to specificity -- length, weather, time of day, terrain, nutrition, etc.... It is quite overwhelming and may not be feasible to hit them all in training, at least not with regularity. Experience may be the best way to truly get better at 100s. But this blog post wouldn't be all that useful if that is all I had to say...

Training volume is a consideration, but I am not a "volume guy". I do think running 55-75 miles per week (8-12 hours) on a regular basis is a great idea. And I do think more volume would help if the runner can handle it and has a life that accommodates the added stress. But, for the mid-pack, family-centered athlete, there is diminishing returns to volume that will lead to fatigue, burnout, maybe even injury. (As a side note, I am starting to think of volume more in terms of time than miles because that is really the defining factor.)

Another consideration I see in my own training is training too fast. Specificity is about mimicking race conditions. Running too fast in a tune-up race or specific workout sabotages your ability to find the flow and to teach your mind what a sustainable effort feels like. A practical suggestion here is just to take breaks to eat, drink, walk. These breaks slow you down and allow you to recover, a great tip for race day as well. I often get hurried into the race mindset and that causes anxiety unnecessarily, particularly in aid stations. Slow down, eat, drink, say hello to friends, crew and volunteers.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity for specificity training that I see in my own training for a 100-miler is learning to run ALL DAY LONG. My hundreds have not been marked with a lack of fitness or preparation, but rather fatigue and exhaustion that results from missing out sleep/rest and normal meals. Most runners, myself included, have a typical window of time where we train. Our bodies become used to that. Then we show up for a 100 and may have to see two sunrises on the trail, a recipe for a body freak out. One of my pacers at Bear 100  brought up night running in conversation and later that night my body totally seized. With the help of Robbie's comment, I finally came to the conclusion that I must embrace this and train more running at night. I tried my first night run of this cycle a week ago and it was tough! My heart rate was sky high and I felt fatigue normally saved for the late stages of a race. I was cooked! (See note about adversity training below as well.)

I think that perhaps taking the concepts of B2B and night running and blending them into a B2B2B might be a great way to mimic the kind of fatigue felt from running all day. Instead of running 40 miles in two runs over two days (like 20 Sat and 20 Sun), a routine of morning-night-morning might do wonders for pushing through this wall. For example,  Saturday morning,  Saturday night and one last block Sunday morning might be an incredible way to train. Of course there are tons of variations: changing the length of each run, using time instead of miles, fasting in between the last two runs, minimizing sleep in between the last two runs, etc... A pretty extreme but quite useful example might look like this:


  • 2.5 - 3 hours Saturday morning
  • 2 - 2.5 hours late Saturday night (with a headlamp on trail would be preferred)
  • 2.5 - 3 hours Sunday morning with only 4-6 hours sleep in between and fasted.


Forced Adversity

I borrowed this term from a friend. I think the concept is pretty self-evident, don't go out of your way to make training easy. When opportunities exist, make it tough on yourself. Embrace changes in weather and life circumstance. Some of this is related to specificity training -- heat, climbing, technical trail -- things that not every runner enjoys everyday. But much of is it just a mindset. If it snows, get outside and run. A little bit of rain? A new opportunity! If you have a morning meeting, run at lunch. The concept here is to put yourself in -- or maybe just don't avoid -- uncomfortable circumstances and learn to perform well in them.

Before someone takes this too far, I am not suggesting every run be miserable. Running is supposed to be fun, even training. I just mean takes what each day gives you and don't be afraid to have tough days in training too.

Fear

I know for me that Bear 100 was ruined by fear, among other factors. After running my first 100-miler, all I could remember was the pain and fatigue I felt that day. And it consumed me heading into Bear. Worse, it caused me to make silly decisions during the race. Fear is zapper of mental energy and a cause of fatigue. Not everyone has this issue, but for those of us that get anxiety about performing and about pushing through the pain and fatigue, we must learn to deal with that. We must learn to manage that fear. Fitzgerald's book has some practical tips on this.

Ken Clouber's famous quote "the toughest distance to manage is the 5 inches between your ears" applies here. Or, maybe you prefer: "make friends with pain and you'll never be alone". Bottom line, it is going to hurt... a lot. Be ready for it, but don't be scared of it. Challenge yourself to accept the pain and keep moving forward. Practice this with all the other techniques mentioned here, namely specificity and forced adversity.

Keep it Simple

Our minds will fatigue quickly when given too many tasks to manage. I know I tend to over-complicate my 100-milers -- pacing plans, pacers, gear, food selections, etc... Keeping it simple allows us to focus on the simple task at hand, getting from point A to point B on foot. Running is an amazingly simple task unless we make it hard on ourselves. Practice what you want to do in training, then just do it on race day. Do it, but remain flexible. Stay in the moment and keep moving forward.

Messaging

Another good tip that I have used and read about is positive messaging. Don't get down on yourself. Listen to uplifting music. Write positive thoughts and comments on your clothes, water bottles, wrist-bands, etc... Say positive things to your pacers, crew, and aid station volunteers. I know I am guilty of occasionally circling the drain when things aren't going well. The great news about an ultramarathon is that you have lots of time to improve your race!

Be Fully Invested in the Outcome

This may be the toughest one of all. Many of us tend to race often and have many more "B" races than "A" races. That is normal, but set yourself up to give it your all on that "A" race. Trust me, you cannot force this. It has to be a goal that speaks to you at the core of who you are. It has to be something you are willing to work tirelessly for months on end. You can't just "kind of want it". If you aren't all in, the hundred will eat you alive and spit you out. I often try, but words simply cannot describe last 30 miles of a hundred mile race.




Sunday, February 15, 2015

Slow Burn

*Title borrowed from Stu Mittleman's book.

Back when I was training for my first 100 miler (Leadville in 2012), I quite literally beat the s&%t out of myself. In fact, I nearly couldn't run the race because of a knee injury that left me scrambling in and out of doctors offices the week of the race. I just didn't believe that the common person -- the guy with a full-time job, kids, etc... -- could really train the way "elites" do. But, I attempted to do it anyway.  During training, I asked Wyatt Hornsby about his thoughts and methods on training and he referenced Dr. Maffetone to me. That was the first I heard of Dr. Maffetone. Wyatt went on to train very diligently using Dr. Maffeton's methods in 2013. While he had some horrible nutrition issues, he still finished only 5 minutes off of his personal best time at Leadville 100. And, talking to him and Chuck (his pacer) after, it sounded like he was incredibly strong the last 30 miles of the race. What struck me following along with Wyatt's training that summer was the consistency. There weren't a ton of crazy long runs or super intense speed session.  I think he surprised himself with a break-through performance at the Leadville Marathon that year as well.

Since that Summer of 2012, I have been quasi-practicing Dr Maffetone's methods myself. Of course, like many runners, I have adapted to make them my own. After listening to yet another podcast with him yesterday, I am struck by the simplicity of his method as well as the holistic approach to health. In his book, The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing, Dr Maffetone talks about a three pillar approach to training -- Brain, Muscle, and Metabolism. The book is about running faster by living a healthier life. It is about giving up the short-term for the long-term. Can hacks like overtraining, high carb living, etc.... make us better for one season or one race? Probably. But, at the cost of long term success and health.

Muscles is quite simple: prepare your body for endurance. There are numerous elements to this, but the bottom line is that running easy allows your muscles (and joints, ligaments, etc...) to catch-up and stay even with your aerobic system. Running anaerobic puts undo stress on the muscles and joints and can lead to injury. Why spend hours in the gym and PT playing catch-up AFTER you overdo it when you can just ease into it and prevent these things to begin with?

Metabolism is something I completely endorse. If you follow along on this blog, you already know I am a believer in low carb living -- not NO CARB, but LOW CARB. Primarily that means eliminating processed sugar, grains and legumes. This is a complex topic and books are written about it. But, the bottom line here is that having a happy metabolism allows your body to train and race better. I have seen huge benefits in my own life. Those benefits will be amplified by training slower to build a bigger aerobic engine.

That brings us to the brain... Is that the missing piece? I think so. I've blogged several times about the difference between Bear 100 and LT100 for me. The biggest thing is that I just wasn't having any fun. Training felt forced. My body was nagging with injuries. I never really got into it. I was much stronger at Leadville because I was happy to be there. I didn't obsess about time goals. My plan was simply to run patient for 40 miles -- easy to do a LT100 -- and then simply getting to the next aid station as quickly as I could. My pacers can attest to the fact that I was mostly upbeat. (Note that Dr. Maffetone wasn't just talking about mental perceptions but also chemical and other factors regulated by our brain...)

I finally decided to quit splitting hairs with Dr. Maffetone today and ran my entire run at sub-142 (my MAF number). No more rationalizing zone 1 or 2 or whether I should add 5 or 10 beats for this or that. (Note that most runners are happy to find reasons to add beats to MAF, but few are honest enough to subtract them when they are sick or injured.) The run felt amazing, even after a 16 mile trail pounding the day before. It was so good that I added mileage. In my post, I described it as a "religious experience". I felt good the whole way. No aches. No hunger. My breathing was regulated and I was in-tune with my body the whole way. Midway through the run I began regulating my HR almost with my mind. I could tell when it was rising and I kept it in the zone by concentrating on breathing, form, and taking what the route was giving me.

To be honest, I enjoy running aerobic. I enjoy getting home and feeling like I barely worked out at all, having a simple breakfast and moving on with my day. No need for extensive recovery or well planned out "recovery foods". So, this change isn't a big deal for me, much the same as LCHF fit me well. This journey has always been about life health and enjoyment. Things lined up well for me, and this method is proven. I have never bought into the "No pain, no gain" method of training, even though I have tried it once or twice.

The day-to-day changes really just mean two things for me: 1) I will lower my MAF effort to 142 beats per minute instead of the more typical 150 I used to use 2) I will do a more comprehensive warm-up before my runs. I typically do MAF workouts about 80% of the time, but I won't do them 100% of the time. Even during MAF workouts, I will add occasional "light quality" such as short Fartleks and Hill reps to improve myself as a runner and vary my training. I will still do some quality work -- primarily during my weekend longs -- to push my fitness after a solid base is in place. I am also a big believer in progressive runs where only the final third is hard.  More than anything, the goal is to stay healthy, enjoy the journey, and build a monster aerobic engine. It is the ONLY way to survive the extreme circumstances that 100 mile race brings.