Saturday, March 29, 2014

Month in Review (March)

3/2010: 109.0 miles
3/2011: 129.6 miles
3/2012: 153.3 miles
3/2013: 174.7 miles
3/2014: 192.4 miles

Looking Behind

March was a month of extremes. There were many days when all I could muster was a 30-minute ride on the bike trainer or a 3-mile run down the Boulevard. It was exceptionally difficult to motivate myself to get outside the week after I returned from the warmth of Florida. But, in contrast to these short bouts of exercise, I did manage to get in 5 long runs-- one each week. Definitely an improvement over last year. I'd estimate that those long runs accounted for half of my mileage every week-- meaning they accounted for half of my mileage for the entire month! So, I hit my modest mileage goals for March, but the distribution of those miles was perhaps a bit... unorthodox.

My daily exercise streak is now at the 3-month mark. I like the discipline of carving at least 30 minutes of time out of my day to exercise-- even if it means riding the bike trainer at 9pm after the kids are asleep and the dishes are done. There is no waffling, pondering "Should I exercise today?", there is only "When should I exercise today? What should I do? Bike? Run? Ski?" I keep waiting to come down with a cold and be forced to skip a day or two, but luckily that hasn't happened yet. Everyone in my family is hacking up a lung except for myself. Knock on wood.

So, I'm feeling pretty fit. Not amazingly fit by any means, but better than I've ever felt for this time of year. If I had to guess, I'm maybe as fit as I was last year in May. Maybe. It's hard to tell. Hopefully I can buckle down, continue to improve in the coming two months, and whip myself into shape for Bighorn.

Salida Marathon

Of course, one of my long run runs-- in fact, the longest of my long runs-- was the Salida marathon. As always, it was a great race and a ton of fun. It's sooo nice to be able to run on (relatively) snow-free trails at this time of year! My race went well-- not off the charts by any means-- but I'm pleased with the result: 4:46. That represents an 11-minute PR for the course. Secretly, I was kind of hoping for something closer to 4:30, given all my extra training this year, but that would've required much more effort on my part. In retrospect, I think I ran the race a little bit too comfortably. I felt absolutely great before, during, and after. I kept things conversational almost the entire time. I enjoyed myself. I ran the last mile of the course at basically the same pace as I ran the first mile. And I was able to grunt up the hill at mile 21 more than a minute faster than I did last year. Everything felt very sustainable. I didn't listen to any music during the race, which is rare for me, and probably made me a little less aggressive and more inclined to chat up neighboring runners and simply enjoy the sights.

Mile 3

One thing I did differently-- which led to humorous results-- was try to drink more water. I'm convinced that when things go badly for me during a race it's almost always due to dehydration. So, I wanted to practice drinking more fluids. Since I pack 310 calories into every bottle I drink, I only get about 18 oz of liquid per bottle. Which means I generally only get 18 oz of liquid per hour. Not quite enough, I've learned. I think I want to be closer to 24 oz of water/hour, depending on the conditions. This will hopefully keep the osmolarity of my energy drink lower and make it easier to digest. So, I carried two water bottles during the race even though the aid stations were generally less than an hour apart. The exact numbers were difficult to keep track of, but I'd generally try to hit my targets for calories and liquid by keeping one bottle at full concentration and another bottle at a more diluted concentration and alternating between the two. Of course, the cool, cloudy weather on race day did not warrant 24 oz of water/hour, so I must've spent 5 minutes peeing on the side of the trail throughout the day! The sacrifices we make for science...

Looking ahead

So, I survived March. April's next. I think it's going to be my most difficult month of training, at least from a motivational perspective. It'll also be logistically tricky. My wife will be in the field for 10 days-- overlapping two weekends-- leaving me as the sole parent. The rough goal is another 5 miles per week, bringing me up to ~45 miles/week. The question is how to best divide up those miles into quality workouts given the conditions in Leadville.

According to the calendar, it's spring. Looking out my window, it's winter. The roads around town are beginning to melt out, but the trails will have to wait at least another month. Looking at my training log, I can see that in '12 I was running the local trails during the first week of April. That was a very dry winter. Last year, they didn't melt out until May. This year, it's looking like I'll have to wait until May again. My dreams of another early melt don't look like they're going to happen.

So, what does that mean? Running roads, roads, and more roads. Some dirt, but I'm going to have to embrace the asphalt for most of my running next month. And, given my limited options, that means that April probably won't be very big in the vertical department-- at least, certainly not where I would normally like to be at two months before a 100. I'm going to have to mix things up a bit and try to substitute some speed for elevation gain. Given the choice, I prefer the later. But, I've come to accept the fact that I'll have to wait until May to start running up mountains... In a lot of ways, what I've been doing so far is just base building. Sure, I've had a smattering of quality workouts where I pushed myself-- most notably in Florida-- but mostly I've just been slowly ramping up the miles without ramping up the intensity. That's going to have to change in April, I think.

May will be fun. The leaves will come out; more and more of my favorite running routes will open up. In many ways, May will be the reward for all this early season training-- huffing-and-puffing up and down the same roads every week. I've got 3 back-to-back-to-back races lined up: the Collegiate Peaks 25, the Quad Rock 50, and finally the Sage Burner 50K. It will be a cycle of race, recover, race, recover, race, recover. Then a final two weeks of peak training, then the taper for Bighorn. It's crazy to think how close it is!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Month in Review (February)

2/2010: 100.9 miles
2/2011: 111.3 miles
2/2012: 151.9 miles
2/2013: 137.8 miles
2/2014: 186.5 miles

Well, another month of training is in the books. I'm pleased with how it went, all things considered. My goal for February was roughly 35 miles/week, and I ended up running closer to 40 miles/week, with a 60-mile week thrown in while I was on vacation down in Florida. I very rarely run more than 50 miles/week-- even during peak training-- so that was notable. Naples, FL is flat, fast, and oxygen-rich compared to Leadville, that's for sure. Oh, and humid. Incredibly humid. I would return from early morning runs completely drenched in sweat. Running in the dry mountain air of Colorado is downright civilized in comparison!

Not Leadville.
February began with the snowshoe marathon as my first long run, and then I managed to get in another 20-mile run in Florida. (One took >5 hours, the other <3 hours. I'll let you guess which one was which.) I integrated some skate skiing into the mix early in the month, to keep things interesting. I resorted to the bike trainer 8 times-- usually when the weather was nasty or when I was recovering from a hard workout. The other statistic that jumps out at me is that I managed to run 7 runs longer than 10 miles in February. The way my training schedule tends to work is that the only run I'll run longer than 7 miles will be a 20-mile long run. I don't often run any distance between 7 and 20 miles. Just a quirk of habit, I guess. I'm sure more tempo runs around the half-marathon distance would be beneficial. I think I just naturally gravitate to hill workouts during the summer-- like the Powerlines, which is 3.5 miles up and 3.5 miles down (with 1,700 ft of vertical).

Speaking of which, the one area I wish that I was doing better in is vertical gain. Sure, I've logged plenty of miles. Last year, I didn't run more than 180 miles in a month until May. But, if we compare February of '14 to, say, April of '13, yes, I ran 10 more miles this February, but with only half the vertical gain. I find that the snow makes it tough to get in a lot of vertical around town. For plowed roads, you've got 7th St, 5th St, and Cal Gulch. All uphill, but nowhere near as steep as the trail options that are available in the summer. If you want something steeper you pretty much have to wear snowshoes and wade through thigh-deep powder. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not exactly, well... running. I'll be honest and confess that I've had "inappropriate" thoughts about giving in and joining the local gym just so I can use the treadmill. That would not only give me another pre-breakfast (too cold outside) or post-dinner (too dark outside) workout option, but could also help in the vertical department. (I know, I know... I should just suck it up and go snowshoe up a mountain.)

They say that the foundation of proper periodization is making your training look more and more like your goal race the closer to the race you get. So, I guess, I can rationalize all this by saying that now is the best time for me to be running fast(er) and flat(ter). As I get closer to Bighorn, my runs will get slower, hillier, and longer. A better match for the conditions I'll encounter during the race itself. With this in mind, I've started to experiment with incorporating a tiny bit of speedwork into some of my midweek runs. Mostly just a few short fartleks. Trying to hold a 6:30-7:00 min/mile pace for half a mile or so when the terrain is flat. (Don't laugh.) This is all very new to me. I've never tried speedwork before. Damn, it's hard. And humbling. But it's one more dynamic to keep things interesting during these winter months. Plus, if I'm not happy with my performance I can always blame it on the snow! Or the headwind ripping off of Mt. Massive. Or the altitude. Or...

The new version of the FluidFlex came out in February! I'll be ordering a few more pairs...
So, ultimately, I find myself feeling pretty confident in my early-season fitness going into March. The Salida marathon is only two weeks away, which is exciting to think about. On paper, I should be in better shape than I've ever been in at this time of year. How much better? Who knows? I'd really like to believe that another PR at Salida is possible. I've already glanced at my splits from last year's race and identified a few sections that I feel I could improve on-- mostly on the downhills. So, we'll see... 4:57:36 is the time to beat. I'd be happy with 4:45:00.

My goals for March? Pretty simple. 40 miles/week. And a long run every week. Let's hope the trails down in Buena Vista melt out soon! It's go time.

Monday, February 10, 2014

2014 Training Plan

So, I took some time to scribble down (metaphorically speaking) some training notes and goals for this year. I've been tossing a lot of these ideas around in my head (and in previous blog posts), but I wanted to write them all down in a single place for reference and (hopefully) motivation.

As I've said before, with the Bighorn 100 looming in June, April and May will be the most important and challenging months for me. I'm basing my training this year off of my previous year's training (which I feel went extraordinarily well), just pushing things up about a month; trying to take what worked and making small improvements when I can. Consistency is the key.

Even if my training goes perfectly, I don't think I'll be in quite as good shape this June as I was last August, but hopefully I'll be pretty close. Regardless, I'm very excited for something new.

In other news, last night I set a PR for the most pieces of pie eaten during a workout!

December Plan

‘12: no real training.

‘13: Races: Ha!

25 miles/week. Survive the holidays. Diversify training: add in snowshoeing.

(Mixed. I didn’t quite get in the mileage I wanted. No big deal.)

January Plan

‘14: Races: None.

30 miles/week. Nothing too crazy. Just exercise every day. Two flat long runs. Snowshoe a lot. The two long runs will easily push me over my mileage goals for the month.


February Plan

‘14: Races: Leadville Snowshoe Marathon.

35 miles/week. Again, nothing too different. Exercise every day. (I missed a lot of days in ‘13 due to sickness and travel.) Two long runs (the same number as in ‘13). One of which will be the snowshoe marathon and the other one will be in Florida. Take advantage of Florida vacation to put in a hard training week. (Lots of flat tempo runs.) The timing for the Salida Marathon (3 weeks out) is perfect. Skate ski to stay motivated.

(So far, so good.)

March Plan

‘14: Races: Salida Marathon.

40 miles/week. Nothing too radical, but careful planning for long runs will be required. I want to get in a long run every week. (4 or maybe 5 long runs?) That should get me more than enough miles for the month. Looking at April ‘13 for comparison, my long runs were all easy. Only 2,500 ft of vertical each. The CPTR course (x2) and around town. The Grand Canyon was the only exception. (And who knows how good a workout that really was due to the stomach flu?) Perhaps a snowshoe up Mt. Elbert near the end of the month? A PR for the Salida Marathon would be nice, of course. And a confidence boost for my early season training. Not sure I can really get a lot of vertical midweek in town. Up to Adelade, I guess? Maybe a Mosquito Pass snowshoe? Black Cloud gets me 1,200 ft vert in 10 miles. Fri: Blackcloud + Sat: long run would be a good combo. Hopefully BV will open up as a weekend long run possibility. If not, another flat/fast 20 to Halfmoon Rd might be required. Historically, my first training run in BV was: ‘13 3/7, ‘12 3/23, ‘11 3/1, ‘10 2/27. So, there’s hope, but-- damn-- we have a lot of snow right now.

April Plan

‘14: Races: None.

45 miles/week. This will probably be the month that will be the most difficult for me to hit my training goals. There’s just a lot going on and conditions will still be snowy in town. I want April ‘14 to look like May ‘13. ~225 miles, 27,000 ft vert. Except, I want more vertical on my long runs. I was only getting 3,500 ft vert with each long run in May last year. So, maybe 30,000 ft vert total for the month as a goal? I won’t have to taper like I did in May ‘13 because I have no races in April ‘14. I’ll need to take advantage of high vert midweek runs (1,000+ ft vert). However, with Christina in the field for a week, it will be tough to get in adequate miles. There’s also our family vacation to Fruita/Moab… I will probably have to take a few midweek days off from work to get in my long runs. Maybe throw in some two-a-day workouts? Maybe I can get some vertical doing sections of the Colorado Trail + 14ers down near Salida? I also kind of wanted to do some speed work in April prior to CPTR. That would not help with the vertical, though. Maybe total vertical shouldn’t be the emphasis for April… Sure, maybe get in 1 high vert long run, but the rest are my normal spring long runs (CPTR course, Clear Creek Road, Twin Lakes, etc.). I could tack on Midland Hill for more vertical during my BV long runs… Fri: quality + Sat: long run will be important.

May Plan

‘14: Races: CPTR 25, Quad Rock 50, Sage Burner 50K.

50 miles/week. I want May ‘14 to look like June ‘13. ~250 miles, ~50,000 ft vert. Racing in warmer climates will help (BV, Ft. Collins, Gunnison). I have 3 back-to-back weekends of racing planned. I only need to go on non-racing long runs twice. Memorial Day weekend will be my final uber long run (Mt. Elbert + Mt. Massive: 26 miles, 10,000 ft vert). Due to all the racing, and the warmer weather, my May goals actually seem more doable than my April goals.

June Plan

‘14: Races: Bighorn 100.

June will be: taper, race 100 miles, and then recover. I’ll run Native Lake (18 miles, 3,500 ft of vert) 3 weeks out. Then a 10 miler the following weekend. Then Bighorn 100. Fill early June with lots of power hiking leading up to Bighorn. No hard downhills. Try to run every day, just get slower and shorter as Bighorn approaches. Take care of knee. Stay loose. More power hiking and biking for recovery after Bighorn. Due to the race, and all the hiking for taper/recovery, I will probably match my ‘13 levels for total mileage and vertical for the month, I think.

July Plan

‘14: Races: None.

An easy week at the beginning of the month, for sure. More power hiking. More biking. Continue to recover. Maybe run (not race) the Silver Rush 50 if I’m feeling good? That would be 3 weeks after Bighorn. Then two weeks of quality training (probably do Hope Pass at least once, if not twice) and then my taper for the Leadville 100 begins! Due to Bighorn recovery, I will not be able to match my monthly totals from ‘13.

August Plan

Races: Leadville 100.

Same as last year. Taper, taper, taper. Then race Leadville. Goin' solo: no pacers this year. 5-10 minutes slower to Twin Lakes, hydrate better, make improvements over Hope Pass, both out and back (goal: 3:30 each way), and from Mayqueen to the finish (goal: 3:00-3:15).  Finish strong. Another PR would be nice, of course, but I'm doubtful that I'll be in better shape than last year. Most importantly: just enjoy it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Leadville Snowshoe "Marathon" "Race" Report

Despite piles and piles of fresh snow, and cold temperatures on race day, Smokey put on a great, friendly, low-key snowshoe race. Just the kind of race you'd want this time of year. Very fun, low-stress, and challenging.

There was so much new snow on the golf course, where the race began, that it couldn't be groomed. Instead, the night before, some folks packed out a narrow, single track trail leading to the "mini-powerline" climb and up onto the road around Turquoise Lake. From there, they managed to groom a track following the road all the way to Mayqueen. The road conditions were still very, very soft and slow and so it was decided that the marathon distance would be cancelled. There'd be a 10K option and a half marathon option, with a single aid station at the 5-mile mark. (It was an out-and-back course, so you'd hit the aid station twice.) Those crazy enough to dare, could run further around the lake, and turn around whenever they wanted. My friend, Craig, and I were the only two runners to do so. Personally, my goal was to get 5-6 hours on my feet. I'd just keep running until the 3-hour mark and then turn around. Carter Summit (where the 100 MTB course pops out onto the road) seemed like a good, logical goal. It was the high point of the course.

Though all the new snow dissuaded most of the Front Range folks from making the trip up to Leadville, a good contingent of locals showed up. I'd say 20 or so. The start of the race was comical, with no one wanting to lead the way. I fell into second place as we followed the deep, narrow single track through the woods to the lake. It was very slow-going, with most racers-- including myself-- barely able to run. Despite the brisk 16F temperatures, I started overheating a bit, and my sunglasses fogged up around mile 1.5. I couldn't see anything, and was happy to step aside to fix the situation, dropping back behind a long train of racers. It took me an hour to reach the the top of the "mini-powerline" climb-- the 3-mile mark! I had to laugh.

Things sped up a bit on the better-groomed lake road, but not by much. It was still soft enough that I sinking into the snow with each step. During the week, before the storm, the lake road was like concrete and I was able to snowshoe along at a blazingly fast ~11:30 min/mile pace. Now? More like a ~14:00 min/mile pace. Patience was the key. Given the fact that I was just out to run for 5-6 hours, regardless of speed or distance, I didn't really feel like I was racing. It felt more like a relaxed, group run. When I reached the aid station, I chugged what remained of my energy drink and refilled both my bottles-- plus grabbed a third for good measure and threw it in my pack. Smokey informed me that Craig had continued on and was aiming for Carter Summit and told him to tell me to hurry up so that he wouldn't be out there all alone! I told Smokey of my plans and he promised he'd leave the cooler there with some water for me on my return trip. Off I went.

I waved and cheered for the other racers as we crossed paths near the turnaround. I continued on, solo, slowing climbing up the road to the summit.

The week prior to the race, I had obsessed over the weather forecast and what exactly I should wear. I experimented with different combinations of clothes on shorter snowshoe outings during the week, finally settling an outfit that provided a lot of waterproof protection below the waist, and lots of breathability above the waist. You kick up a lot of snow while snowshoeing and it coats the back of your legs all the way up to your butt-- especially in powdery conditions. If you're not careful, you also work up quite a sweat and can quickly become drenched if it can't evaporate. A recipe for hypothermia. Now, on a shorter, hour-long outing this isn't such a big deal. But I definitely wanted to be comfortable out there for 5-6 hours. I swore to myself that during the race if I ever felt too cold, too hot, too sweaty, etc. I would stop and immediately address the situation rather than stubbornly pressing on. As it turned out, I only had to make one or two minor adjustments during the entire race. I had guessed perfectly and was surprisingly comfortable. Three (!) layers of gloves/mittens and four (!) layers of wool shirts turned out to be perfect!

Though slow, the course was beautiful in all the new-fallen snow. It was very peaceful being out there all alone. I never resorted to my ipod, and just soaked in the scenery and let my mind wander. As I approached the summit, around the second meadow, I could feel the snow getting softer and softer. I guess because of the increasing elevation or perhaps because of the terrain and the prevailing wind? I could easily see that continuing much further would require more and more effort. Craig and I hooted and high-fived as we crossed paths near the summit. He had about a 20-minute lead on me, I'd estimate. That felt about right as Craig has handily beaten me in every single race we've ever run together. The man is a beast, with a Leadville 100 PR of 22:38. He's training for the 100 again this year, going for his 6th finish. It'll be great to be out there racing with him again. If I run an absolutely perfect race, maybe-- just maybe-- I could conceivably catch him around mile 80. Doubtful!

After more-or-less climbing for 9.5 straight miles, it was refreshing to finally be able to turn around and run downhill. I hit the summit at almost exactly 3 hours. I felt tired, but good. I was getting down enough calories-- icy maltodextrin slush!-- and wasn't feeling any knee issues. The descent went relatively quickly-- emphasis on relatively.

Sure enough, there was the cooler waiting for me. I restocked my bottles, and headed down the last section of road. Right near the top of the powerlines, I ran into two friends, Becca and Chris, who were out cross country skiing around the lake-- a much more sensible mode of travel! We stopped and chatted for a bit, and then I pointed in the direction of the finish line and grunted, smiling, "Beer that way!" Sliding down the steep powerline section of the trail was fun. The course was basically an 18" wide, 24" deep chute. It was definitely packed down better in the return direction, as now ~20 racers had packed it down going each way. I was easily able to negative split the final, flattish three miles of the course given the better snow conditions. I crossed the finish line alone, the last racer to finish for the day. I was spent, but happy. Smokey was the only one left at the finish line, cleaning up. I was very grateful that he had hung around and waited for me. He served me some homemade soup in my finisher's mug and we chatted about training and reminisced about last year's 100. (Smokey and I were neck-and-neck up to mile 94 and then he pulled away and crushed the final 6 miles beating me by 17 minutes and 22 frickin' places! Simply amazing.)

Today's race? 5:37:38. 18.99 miles. 2,406 ft of vertical. Basically, the equivalent of a double-crossing of Hope Pass with only a third of the elevation gain! Ah, snowshoeing...

It's not really as steep as it looks...

All-in-all, it was a fantastic day. Quintessential Leadville. I probably won't be on my feet that long until I run the Quad Rock 50 in May!

A big thanks to Smokey for organizing such an awesome, local event. It was fantastic training for February. And congrats to everyone who showed up and raced, no matter the distance!


Really, I try not to obsess about gear, but I wanted to record exactly what I was wearing for future reference. I felt it was perfect for the conditions. The only piece of gear that I have reservations about are the shoes. Despite having run multiple 100s in the older MT101s, I'm not a fan of the MT110s for long runs. I thought the cushion of the snow would mitigate their rigidity, but the ball of my right foot was definitely sore afterwards. There's just something odd about their fit. It almost feels like there's a lump in the sole of the shoe. I wanted a waterproof shoe, which I why I went with them (at half price), but I think next year I'll try to get some kind of waterproof overshoe/bootie for my normal Montrail Fluidflexes... I could also go hardcore and screw my running shoes directly to the snowshoe platform (so no straps are required).

The Icebreaker shirts are definitely trendy and expensive, but I love 'em. I run almost all my races-- summer races included-- in one or more of them. I just wait until they're on sale, and only acquire one or two every year.

Conditions: 16F, partly cloudy, 5-10 mph winds, very soft, new snow.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Month in Review (January)

1/2010: 58.7 miles
1/2011: 97.6 miles
1/2012: 123.2 miles
1/2013: 128.4 miles
1/2014: 166.0 miles

A pretty solid month of training for me for this time of year. After a less than consistent December, I set a January PR for total mileage, vertical, and time. I managed to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. And, I logged two long runs during the month, which was my incredibly ambitious goal and puts me... um, let's see... exactly two longs runs ahead of where I was in my training at this time last year. Nice.

I branched out a bit this January and did far more snowshoeing than I have in the past. While much slower than running the roads around town, I feel it's still a very solid workout. Most importantly, it kept things interesting and helped me maintain my motivation. Preparing for the Bighorn 100 in June means I'll be doing a lot more training in the winter months, so variety is key. I just managed to acquire a pair of skate ski boots-- the final piece of the puzzle-- which means I've got yet another hobby to explore on the trails around town. Between telemark skiing, nordic skiing, skate skiing, snowshoeing, the bike trainer, and (yes) running, I think I've got all my bases covered!

Speaking of snowshoeing, the first inaugural Leadville Snowhoe Marathon is tomorrow! We just got the biggest dump of snow I've seen since moving to Colorado seven years ago. So much, that the roof of the old, historic pharmacy in town collapsed overnight! And it's not over. Apparently we could get another 6-12" before tomorrow morning!

So, come on up and embrace the brutality of a 26.2 mile romp around Turquoise Lake in 30+" of fresh powder! Yeehaw!

Trying to escape the snow in Buena Vista earlier in the month.

Ethan's new hydration solution. All 18 month olds need one.

Scraping 3ft of snow off our roof this morning. I'm up to my waist in snow.

A view of the house from the shack (my office).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Year in Review (2013)

2010: 1249.7 miles, 274:08 hours, ? vertical feet
2011: 1796.4 miles, 356:47 hours, 227,206 vertical feet
2012: 1804.7 miles, 352:10 hours, 254,368 vertical feet
2013: 1896.9 miles, 364:18 hours, 276,823 vertical feet

Last year was by far my most consistent, high performing, and enjoyable year of running yet. I feel truly fortunate to have had such a successful year-- setting PRs at so many races.

If I had to pick one adjective to describe my results in 2013, I would probably have to go with "surprising".

My training goals for the year were very modest-- conservative, even. Just don't get injured. Ethan was just an infant, and I had no idea how I was going to be able to get out for any long runs while juggling two young kids. I planned to log more miles during the week on shorter runs because I feared that I wouldn't be able to consistently get out on the weekends. I cut back on my racing, sticking only to the closest races to minimize my travel time. There was no big, new race on the horizon to motivate me. Every race I ran, I had run before. I just planned to try to balance running and life in a sustainable way, keep a flexible schedule, and maybe train and race a bit smarter than I had before.

And what happened? Somehow, with just 12 extra hours of training over the course of the entire year, I big buckled at Leadville, set six separate PRs, and improved my finishing times by over 10%.

Wow. Somehow the minor adjustments I made during my training had a huge, unexpected impact. I still can't quite believe it. 

Historical performance data  for the races I commonly run. Pay attention to the far right column.
What did I do differently this year? Lots of little things, I think.

  1. Consistency. Even though my total miles didn't radically increase, I trained almost every single day. That meant more shorter runs during the week. The meant 3-mile runs around the block in the dark after I put the kids to bed. That meant hitting the bike trainer for 30 minutes if the weather was horrible. I managed to get some exercise almost every day.
  2. Consistency. Even though I ran zero back-to-back longs runs, I ran at least one ~20 mile run every week from March to August. In total, I ran seven more long runs than I did in 2012. I have no idea how I managed to do that. Luck, an understanding wife, and a lot of babysitters, I guess! Thank you!
  3. Consistency. I didn't taper significantly for any of my non-focus races. I tried to keep my weekly numbers from see-sawing like they did last year. Sometime around June, I set a 50 mile, 10,000 feet of vertical weekly minimum and stuck to it. (This is one of the reasons I logged more long runs.)
  4. Consistency. My training and racing were never derailed by a significant injury. No ITBS. Plenty of stretching, resistance band strengthening, and foam rolling.
  5. Quality. I didn't do any of the speed work that I tentatively planned to at the beginning of the year, but I hit the hills hard during the summer-- especially during the week. I would play games where I'd try to get more elevation which each midweek run starting with ~700 ft on Monday and ending with ~1,300 ft on Friday. I kept raising the elevation gain on my long runs throughout my training.
  6. Lower body weight. At 6'5", I've always been a pretty skinny guy and I've never really had to worry about my weight. But, somehow-- I think due to my more consistent training-- I found myself weighing around 8 lbs lighter than I had in previous years, dropping to 170ish from 178ish. The only major dietary change that I can think of is that I ate slightly fewer calories for lunch. More salads. Fewer chips.
  7. Liquid nutrition. I ran all my races solely consuming a homemade maltodextrin-based energy drink. The longer the race, the bigger the impact. While I still made plenty of in-race nutrition/hydration mistakes, I did much, much better than I have in previous years. It's so nice to have your fitness be your limiting factor-- not your stomach. I don't think there's anything particularly magical about what I drank, just that I was finally able to get ~300 calories/hour.
  8. Less time spent at aid stations. This mostly applies to the 100, but also to the 50. I was in and out of aid stations way faster than I have in the past-- sometimes skipping them entirely. This strategy easily saved me an hour during the 100 and is the only reason I big buckled.
  9. Montrail FluidFlexes. 9 oz per shoe. Plenty of cushion. They rock.
  10. More experience. In many ways all these changes are due to my growing experience as a long distance runner. So much of running is an exercise in self awareness and self diagnosis-- especially at the ultra distance. What's the right level of effort? How is running 50 miles supposed to feel? What is natural fatigue vs. low-energy due to lack of calories? Why am I dizzy? Why do I have a side stitch? Should I drink more? Should I drink less? Where the hell is the finish line?
2013 went so well that beginning another year of training is a little daunting. There is no way I'm going to match last year's improvements! Yet I'm excited. There's still plenty of room for improvement. There are always new things to learn.

I post my training data not to satisfy my ego, but in hopes that it might help someone else with their training in some small way. Each of our situations is unique, but I think we can all learn from each other. I know I have benefited greatly from reading other runners' race reports and training blogs.

Here's to 2014!


My weekly mileage for 2013 (up until Leadville).
My weekly vertical for 2013 (up until Leadville)
Green = long run, Bold = race, Yellow = bike (1 mi/10 min), Blue = snowshoe/ski.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Month in Review (December)

12/2009: 0 miles
12/2010: 49.5 miles
12/2011: 108.7 miles
12/2012: 64.6 miles
12/2013: 92.3 miles

My last monthly training summary was for... July. Wow, it's been a while. I almost didn't bother posting a summary for December seeing as my "training" during the month was very inconsistent due to travel, illness, and general holiday craziness. Instead of recording mileage I should've recorded the number of cookies I ate. That would've been more impressive.

I wanted to get a slight head start on training for 2014 because I knew that my main focus race would be in late June/early July-- either Hardrock, Western States, or Bighorn. I displeased the lottery gods once again and didn't even make the wait list for Hardrock. I actually had similar odds of getting into Western States even with only one ticket, but that didn't happen either. Disappointing, but no big deal in the grand scheme of things. I'll get into both races eventually, and I believe that each extra year of experience improves my odds of being successful once I do get in.

I'm excited for Bighorn. All the race reports I've read-- and all the folks I've talked to who've run it before-- speak highly of it. "Wild and scenic" seems an appropriate tagline. As someone who's only run one 100-mile course before, it's exciting to contemplate running a new and unknown course. A little intimidating, but mostly liberating as I'll have no historical splits to beat and (assuming I finish) I'm guaranteed a PR for the course. In my experience, running an unfamiliar race purely by perceived effort can be the most enjoyable and satisfying way to run-- even if you might've been able to shave off a few extra minutes with a more rigorous/scientific approach based on past results.

For me, the most intimidating aspect of Bighorn isn't the course or the distance, but the timing of the race. 6/20 seems damn early to be running 100 miles-- especially for someone who lives in Leadville. The trails around here don't generally melt out until mid- to late-May. If I simply move my traditional training schedule up a month how am I going to log 50,000 ft of vertical in April and May? A lot of snowshoeing up Mt. Elbert and racing down in the "lowlands" of Buena Vista, Ft. Collins, and Gunnison, I guess...

Here's what I've been up to since Leadville:

Green = long run, Bold = race, Yellow = bike (1 mi/10 min), Blue = snowshoe/ski.
After taking a full week off after Leadville, I just tried to keep it around 20 mi/week during my 15-week off season. For my fall race I paced my good friend, Alex, at Run Rabbit Run for 61 miles. That was much tougher than expected, but super fun! (We'll be running Bighorn together this year.)

Of course, during my first week of "real" training in December I immediately came down with a nasty stomach flu that took me out of commission for four days. Ugh. Not pleasant. Still, I was able to bounce back pretty quickly. The holidays took their toll, but I'm relatively pleased with what I was able to accomplish. I've been a little more unorthodox in my training so far, snowshoeing and backcountry skiing more than I have in the past. In particular, I've snowshoed 6.6 miles up Elk Run (1,000 ft of vertical) on multiple occasions. This workout is absolutely brutal in untracked powder, taking me over 40 minutes longer than I run it in warmer months. In the same amount of time I could easily run 12 miles on the roads around town, but I'm hoping the snowshoeing will pay off in the long run.

Backcountry skiing counts as training, right? In Second Creek Basin.
Most of my backcountry skiing took place during our annual hut trip. Each year, a group of 20 or so of us rent out an entire hut for 3 nights sometime between Christmas and New Year's. It's super fun. Generally we pick a hut near Leadville, but this year we traveled a bit further to a new hut near Berthoud Pass. Every year it's a contest to see who can haul the most ridiculous amount of food/alcohol up to the hut. Let me assure you that skinning up 800 ft in 1 mile carrying a 70+ lb pack is a workout! Oh. My. God.

Family portrait at Broome Hut near Berthoud Pass.
So, yes, their were some hiccups in my December training, but I'm feeling good. It's certainly way too early to stress out about missing a few days here and there. Luckily, I seem to have retained some of my fitness from summer, and I'm running my regular routes as fast or faster than I ever have this time of year. And, most importantly, I've still got the desire to train. I'm excited for all the races I've got lined up for 2014. My immediate focus is Smokey's Leadville Snowshoe Marathon on 2/1. That will be about, oh... 20 miles further than I've ever snowshoed before. It should be an adventure!