Sunday, February 24, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 2/18 - 2/24

Race week is here! This is the best I've felt on a race week in some time (finger crossed!). I started this week battling a nasty cold that lasted until Tuesday night. I've been feeling gradually better each day since. I did a little specific training this week and a hard tempo to try and maintain some fitness. I feel strong and ready. Race day forecast is for sunny skies, mid 60's for the high and mid 30's for the low. That is ideal for me, t-shirt and shirts the whole way. No excuses. It is all about the mental gymnastics now.  One of the best quotes I've heard was by Ken Chlouber, founder of the Leadville Race Series: "The hardest distance to conquer is the five inches between your ears."

Of course, you can always reference Vince Lombardi for a good motivational quote:

- “The good Lord gave you a body that can stand most anything. It’s your mind you have to convince.”

- “Once you have established the goals you want and the price you’re willing to pay, you can ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure and the temporary failures.”

- “Life's battles don't always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins, is the man who thinks he can.”

This my favorite motivational video:

One last logistical note before I end for this week: I noticed that I have been using my Nathan Hydration pack more and more as a "race vest" lately. Frankly, fiddling with bladders is just a pain in the butt, particularly on race day. And I've had several malfunctions with bladders that always leaves me a little uneasy about a catastrophe during a race. I broke down and bought a new Ultimate Direction AK vest this weeks. I only ran with it once, but it was plenty to know that I am going to love it. It changes my drop bag strategy just a touch, but it should make things smoother and easier overall.

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest Yoga for the Core
Tuesday 8 Repeats at the Bluffs
Wednesday5 Easy
Thursday74 @ Tempo (6:53)
Saturday 10Mt Falcon Taper Long
Sunday 5 Easy Snow Miles
Total 35 About 4200 vertical feet

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 2/11 - 2/17

Sort of a good week and a tough week all at the same time. By about Tuesday afternoon this week, I suspected I was getting sick. I could feel it starting in my throat primarily. However, this is a critical week for my training. Yes, I am in taper, but the real challenge to taper is keeping your fitness so you don't peak 2 - 3 weeks before the race. While I am reducing my mileage, I am trying to keep up my intensity and fitness. I plowed ahead with a hard track workout Thursday and the cold officially dug in. I didn't even want to run Saturday, but took some Advil and waited for a window where I felt good enough. The run went very well and I am glad I did it.  But that sent the cold into full blown misery.  I am planning to skip a recovery workout on Sunday and now have two days to rest. For the same reasons, I fell behind on cross training as well.


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.

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest
Tuesday 7.3 MP Miles, P90x Legs and Chest
Wednesday5 Recovery
Thursday7Ladder Track Intervals
Saturday 19Tempo Trail Run
Sunday Rest
Total 38 About 3200 vertical feet

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 2/4 - 2/10

It is taper time! I cannot remember a training cycle where I looked forward to taper this much. Winter training is hard and tough to be motivated. At the same time, I am grateful that I made it this far with no setbacks. And I am grateful for the gift of running and the opportunity to go race in 3 weeks. Sure there are somethings I would change about this training cycle -- there always are -- but it has to be defined as a success. It is a journey. And I continue to learn more and more about myself and running.

I also wrote up a post on my goals for Old Pueblo 50 that you may want to check out.

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest Yoga for the Core
Tuesday 8 Bluffs Repeats, Weight Training
Wednesday5 Recovery, Yoga for the Core
Thursday7TM Hill Workout
Friday7 Easy Miles, Yoga
Saturday 23Specific Trail Run
Sunday 8 Recovery
Total 57 About 7500 vertical feet

Friday, February 8, 2013

Old Pueblo 50 Goals

I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious. -- Vince Lombardi
I don't think the fact that I am an overly analytical obsessive will surprise anyone that knows me. I spend hours pouring over data and strategies trying to find the best answer to every question. Honestly, that usually just yields more questions. In this case, the real question is what is my full potential as an ultra runner? While I have participated in a dozen or so runs beyond 30 miles, I have really only run two of them as races: (Leadville Silver Rush 50 and Leadville Trail 100). To be fair, I think the jury is still out on my potential.

As I think about this upcoming race, I have spent time analyzing the course and doing the relative race comparison game. Time goals anywhere from nine hours to eleven have gone through my mind. I have the course completely analyzed all the way down to the length and grade of each significant climb (about 5 of them). But, finally, it occurred to me that I am ruining it for myself. Part of the reason I love ultra running is the unknown. It is hard to compare courses. It is hard to quantify all the emotions, the fatigue, and the pain you will go through in a race lasting half a day or more.

I guess what I am saying is that I need to get back to the simpleness of running. No, I won't just run "by feel" the whole way. I will use clues and training experience -- like my heart rate and how well I am eating -- to pace myself, particularly early the race. But I won't limit the evaluation of my performance to numbers either. The brain is a powerful thing, and it is possible that I am holding myself back by having such concrete goals. As I reflect on my recent ultra performances, it is eerie how close I have been to all of my aid station splits. This can be interpreted as me being very in touch with my capabilities. Maybe there is a better explanation for this phenomenon. Perhaps it is a sign that my mind is only willing to push my body until those goals are met? In other words, do I settle? My pacer Jon got much more out of me than I wanted to give from miles 75 - 95 at Leadville. When he took over pacing, I was fading badly. I was suffering and wanted to walk it in -- as many do in their first 100. By the time he gave up the pacing duties, I had made up nearly 25 mins on my projected splits. I think the primary reason that we made up so much time was that I knew he wouldn't let me settle. (If you know Jon, you understand!). He never had to give me a pep talk or motivation speech, I just knew that I needed to give a little more than I thought I could.

With all that psychobabble aside, here are my goals for Old Pueblo.

Run My Race

The first thing I'd like to do is just run my own race. Some might call this running in the zone. As I think back on all my races, my best moments are when I am zoned out and just pushing myself to my limits. The goal is to block out all distractions and focus on the task at hand. Obviously those distractions can be real, like getting caught up in what others are doing or being bothered by an aid station or weather. But the worst distractions might be my own negative thoughts. My goal is to keep pushing forward for as long and as hard as I can. I have little doubt that internalizing and just running will yield great results, possibly even results that exceed my own expectations.

Push Through the Wall

I've been through massive low points before. I have run twice this distance before. In short, I am no stranger to suffering. Some may argue that it is the whole point of running! It would be a better thing for me mentally if I welcome pain and sought to overcome it instead of trying to avoid it. It really doesn't matter what distance you race, if you push yourself to the limit, there will come a point that you want to slow down or give a little less. My goal is to find that point and push through it. Hopefully with a little more dignity than I did at SJS50.

In closing, I think I can finish this race in 9 - 10 hours, which will be a PR. And, perhaps more importantly, anything under 11 hours gives me another ticket into Western States 100 lottery. But I won't be constrained by these things on race day. And I don't plan to do any aid station math. I plan to start the race at a comfortable/sustainable pace and just run. And, if I can honestly say at the end of the race that I gave an "A" race effort, then I won't be discouraged by any result.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Weekly Training Wrap - 1/28 - 2/3

Lots to say this week, so let's get to it...

First of all, January was another successful month with about 220 miles and 20K of vertical. That is not even close to where I was last summer when I averaged 265 miles and 36K per month. But it is progress, and frankly much further along than I thought I'd be at this point. I am satisfied with where I am at, but hope to start picking up volume a bit in the Spring.

Next order of business is my weekly training structure. My typical routine has been 5 days a week and cross training on the off days (Monday and Friday usually). There are two issues with this structure. The first is that it puts limits on my volume. It is typically not wise to run much more than 10-11 miles per run (on avg for the whole week). If I only run 5 days a week, it makes pushing volume to 60 or 65 miles a week a challenge without risking injury. And, as I pointed out in my recent cross training post, I am violating the hard/easy rule in my training. My new goals is to do my hard weight sessions/cross training sessions on Tuesday/Thursday. Then I may add an extra day of running (probably Friday) to give me some play with bumping up weekly mileage.

Another thing I want to mention is HR training. As you can see below, I did a HR zone test on Friday. I think the outcome was a little skewed on the high side and I moderated my zones (I am using 172 as my LT). This prompted me to start looking at my training YTD in all zones. I am currently running 86% of my total mileage in Zone 1 (recovery) and Zone 2 (general aerobic/base) combined. I guess that isn't too surprising given that my peak race is an ultra, but it is probably still a bit too much easy running. If I am going to take things up to a new level, I may consider some structure to my long runs (like intentionally running hills harder). I am finding that no matter how fit I am, trail running requires me to push in and out of zones more regularly than road running. In any case, I need to spend a bit more time in higher zones to prepare my body for racing.

I have one hard week of training left before I taper for Old Pueblo 50. As is my nature, my mind is racing with last minute thoughts about strategy, goals, and race day nutrition. I think I am narrowing in on some stuff, but I will save that for a future post!

Day Miles Notes
Monday Rest Light Weights, Ab Ripper X
Tuesday 7 TM Hill Workout
Wednesday10 Snowy Midlong, KR WODs
Thursday7Friel HR Zone Test, Yoga Melt
Friday5 Recovery
Saturday 16Hilly, Road Long
Sunday 13 Deer Creek Canyon
Total 58 About 6700 vertical feet