As the race draws closer, I am reflecting more and more on training. I will probably write more on this topic after the race is complete and can "grade" myself, but here are some early thoughts on this cycle:
The one thing that stands out this cycle more than most of my ultra training cycles is the intensity at which I trained. As I said I would back in August, this cycle was about more than just slogging around logging miles. I did at least half a dozen runs that ultra runners would call "long tempo" runs. These are quite similar to MP miles when marathon training, though they can obviously differ in terms of specificity because they are on trails. It is really just a measure of intensity. Less seasoned runners have a difficult time recovering from them, but I have reached a point where they are critical to me getting better. I also kept up the intensity during the week with at least 10 speed workouts through the cycle (intervals, tempo runs, hills, etc..).
The second big difference is cross training. I ignored my body and the warning signs during Leadville 100 training and I paid for it. Through necessity, I became a huge advocate for cross training. And now that I understand the benefits of it more, I honestly don't know why every runners doesn't make it a priority to hit at least two hours a week. (I guess for the same reasons I didn't before.) It is a safe bet to say I did more than 80 hours of cross training through my 20 week cycle. I don't mean the usual "aerobic" biking and swimming things that runners like to do. I did mostly strength training, core training, and stretching -- all things specifically designed to both aid my in staying healthy and be a stronger runner. I continue to evolve in this domain, and will do some things differently in my next cycle, but I am very pleased with the results thus far. If Anton Krupicka has to do these "damn exercises", then I think you should be too.
Another key element was base building. This is a difficult topic because the necessity to base depends on lots of factors. A new runner might only base train for an entire cycle. A seasoned runner that keeps their mileage relatively high all year may not need to base at all, or at least not for long. In my case, I was coming off an 8 week layoff from Leadville and had lost significant fitness. Since being introduced the concept last year, I have struggled with how to use Maffetone principles in my training. And I kept having to fight off the thought that Maffetone training was making me slow.
After listening to a series of podcasts at Endurance Planet, I now understand the principles much better. I was feeling too slow because I was misapplying the principals. Lucho, the coach at Endurance Planet, prefers to use your lactate threshold HR minus 20 beats per minute (about 151-153 in my case) instead of Maffetone's generic formula. This makes total sense because everyone has different physiological characteristics. Running at max heart rate of 144 (as Maffetone suggests for me) would have me running in my recovery zone without enough training stress. I have started to target a range of 145 - 155 as my base building range. The point of base building accord to Lucho is to get as fast as possible in that base training range. If you run there enough, you will be providing stress to your body and it will adapt. Your running economy will improve and you will get faster and more efficient. But, you aren't providing enough stress to require real recovery, hence you can do this while increasing your mileage. Once you start to plateau, then it is time to incorporate speed work. For most runners it takes something like 8 - 12 weeks of base building.
Anyway, long story short, I have started to see the benefits of this in my own running. For example, my run on Tuesday was all in my base building zone and it was close to MP pace. In fact, it was marathon pace intensity if you factor in the hills. And that is the sort of twist base training takes -- if you are effective at it, then it actually gets quite hard. Your body is being challenged, despite the fact that your heart isn't jumping out of your chest. You are providing the foundation from which you can sustain a high heart rate and intense pace for a long time.
The lone thing that disappoints me about my cycle is volume. Volume is always the seductive beast to the runner. How much is enough? That is such a hard question to answer and the evidence is mixed. There are undoubtedly runners pounding 100+ miles per week. And most of them are damn good runners. But that doesn't leave any time left over for cross training or life. There are also many talented runners that only do about 50 miles per week and can competitively race 100 mile ultras. Of course, they usually have decades of running in their pocket. According to Runner's World, the benefits of volume start to show diminishing returns somewhere between 60 and 70 miles per week. The increased risk of injury offsets the physiological benefits. And it gets more and more difficult to add in quality workouts. Nonetheless, I've had my volume well into 70's and 80's in pervious cycles. It is a little daunting to think that I am going to run my average weekly volume in one day. That is the only element that has me wondering if I may be slightly undertrained right now.
In summary, it has been a well executed cycle. I am confident in where my training has taken me and I think I am in a good place to race. I've only really raced on other 50, and that was my first ultra 18 months ago with a virus, so it is somewhat hard to predict how I will feel in the second half at race intensity. Similar to how I approached training, I don't plan to run this race at a "slog it out" pace. After an hour or so of easing into it, I intend to push a pace and HR that should be sustainable for a 50 mile distance. Everyone suffers in an ultra. Just being on your feet that long will cause you to feel fatigued. Going out slow won't necessarily prevent those late race feelings of fatigue. The best way to find your effort and pace early is to monitor your heart rate, conversation level (though I will have an iPod), and how much you are eating and drinking. Then you just have to fight through the inevitable low periods, if you can.
This blog post went on way longer than I intended when I sat down! If you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed it.
|Tuesday||7.3||MP Miles, P90x Legs and Chest|
|Thursday||7||Ladder Track Intervals|
|Saturday||19||Tempo Trail Run|
|Total||38||About 3200 vertical feet|