Friday, September 28, 2012

Training 2012 Analysis

"Law 6: Achieve As Much As Possible on a Minimum of Training" -- Tim Noakes

I've been taking it super easy since the 100. Only last week did I actually begin to really exercise regularly again. Up until that point I only went on a few, scattered 5 mile runs to test out my legs. My left knee is still a bit creaky, but I've reached the point where it doesn't affect my stride. I'm foam rolling it and stretching my hips every day. In addition to my knee, I was sidelined for a few days due to a random head cold and for a week due to my hernia surgery. Thankfully that's all behind me now and I've returned to the trails to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage up here in Leadville. We just got two cords of firewood delivered, and the snow is starting to stick above 12,000 ft...

My general plan for the off season (from now until February) is to average around 20-25 miles a week. Why? Insurance mileage, I guess. Just in case I actually get selected for Hardrock next year! (I should have 2^3 tickets, if my calculations are correct...) After much agonizing, I decided not to run the Devil Mountain 50 this weekend in Pagosa Springs. I ran it last year and it was a lot of fun, but my training has been too inconsistent since the 100 and (more importantly) my knee hasn't fully recovered yet. So, instead of running a 50 miler with 10,000 ft of vertical, I've registered for a much more terrifying race: a totally flat road marathon at sea level! Ahhh! The race coincided nicely with my next business trip to Boston and I'm really curious to see how I do on a more traditional marathon course. It's totally out of my comfort zone. I've never run a marathon below 7,000 ft or with less than 5,000 ft of vertical. Pavement? What's that? I didn't even own a pair of road running shoes until yesterday. However, at the risk of sounding cocky, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that a PR for the distance is pretty much in the bag. It gave me a chuckle to see that on the front page of the race's website they advertise how fast (i.e., easy) the race is ("Selected by Runner's World as one of the 10 Fastest Marathons")! Funny... I don't think I've ever seen any Colorado race make such a claim... (Don't get me wrong: running a fast marathon is insanely difficult! I'll be lucky to break 4 hours next month. However, a 4 hour marathon would be a 1 hour and 34 minute improvement for me. I suspect I'll be the only runner wearing a SJS50 t-shirt and carrying a hand held water bottle during the race. Gotta represent.)


Continuing in the spirit of number crunching, I thought I'd take a moment to summarize my training for the 100 this year. I don't really consider myself a "hard core" runner who regularly logs huge mileage. I try to focus on quality, rather than quantity-- though I could certainly improve in that area. (It's also possible that I'm just lazy.) I'm sharing this data not because I think I have all the answers when it comes to training for a 100 miler (far from it!), nor because I think my training is especially remarkable, but because hopefully someone out there on the interwebs will find it helpful/useful as an example-- just another data point to take into consideration.

I've never really followed a specific training plan per se. I certainly look at various plans to get a feel for what other folks think constitutes good training, but I never pick one particular plan to follow religiously. The training plans I refer to most often are Bryon's. I guess the biggest distinguishing features of my training are:

  • 90% of my training is above 10,000 ft. Very few runners can say that. (There are certainly pros and cons to training so ridiculously high...)
  • I almost always run on trails. I log very few paved miles.
  • I average around 10,000 ft of vertical/week from May-August.
  • I'm slow (see above). My average pace for a month is typically only ~11:00 min/mile.
  • I incorporate biking during the winter (on the trainer) and for recovery after long runs. 1 hour bike = 5 mile run.
  • I race a lot, though I don't really have a separate "racing gear". I run races as training; to test out gear and to practice various nutrition strategies and general race management. Plus, they're fun.
  • I try to run about 15 ~20+ mile runs. About half these are races.
  • I try to climb a few 13ers/14ers every month from May-August.
  • I don't do any speed work. (I probably should.)
  • I like to think I pay proper attention to post long run recovery (e.g., getting enough protein, icing my legs in mountain streams, etc.) though I need to get better at regular stretching/foam rolling.
  • Living in Leadville, I am completely familiar with all the Leadville race courses. I regularly train on the more scenic sections during the course of the year.

The Spreadsheet of Truth

 So, some explanations about the spreadsheet:

  • Yellow cells are bike rides-- generally an hour on the trainer.
  • Green cells are my ~20 mile runs (or, more generally, runs that take 4+ hours).
  • Purple cells are vacation/business trip runs (which generally means sea level).
  • Red cells are injuries.
  • Mileage in bold (generally in green cells) are races.
  • YTD = from the week following LT100 '11. I train from Leadville to Leadville. :)
  • I consider "serious" training to begin at the 24 weeks until Leadville mark-- which corresponds nicely with the week of the Salida marathon. The SUM/AVE at the bottom are for that 24 week period.
  • The green/red columns on the right are the difference of my weekly mileage compared to Bryon's 50 and 70 miles per week training plans. Despite some fluctuations, I came out 36.3 miles ahead of Bryon's 50 mpw plan and a mere (ha!) 212.7 miles below his 70 mpw plan (which I would consider the minimum for trying to break 25 hours and big buckle, fwiw).

Weekly Mileage
The graph above represents my weekly mileage in the 24 weeks leading up to the 100. Some observations:
  • I consider a week of training to begin on Monday and end the following Sunday.
  • I came down with a case of ITBS which severely limited my running during weeks 4 and 5. Luckily I was able to recover quickly and jump up to 50 mpw.
  • The dip in week 12 was because I was tapering for the Sage Burner 50K on the following Monday. Thus the spike in mileage in week 13.
  • Weeks 16 and 19 are my 50 mile races: the San Juan Solstice 50 and the Silver Rush 50.
  • I like the consistency of my weekly mileage from weeks 6-11. After that I start see-sawing as I race, taper, race, taper, etc. I don't think that's ideal... There are just too many fun, local races to run!
  • I missed one 20+ mile run on week 21 when my son was born. It would've been hard to explain to my wife why I needed to do a double crossing of Hope Pass while she was in labor. :)
  • I started tapering for realz at week 22.
  • Week 24 was the 100.
I feel that training-- particularly for an ultra-- just sets you up for success-- it doesn't guarantee it! Injuries and/or poor nutrition on race day can completely negate/overwhelm all your hard work. For example, after training basically the same as I did last year, I managed to finish the 100 one hour faster this year simply because of improvements I made to my race nutrition. That was by far the most important change I made in 2012 even though it may seem so simple/trivial. Your #1 training priority should be: don't get injured. And I'd venture to say that your #2 priority for success in 50+ mile races should be: learn how to eat/drink adequately while racing. Once you've mastered that, then you can focus all your efforts on total mileage, proper intensity, course specificity, hill work, speed work, fiddling with gear, shoes, etc.

So... there you have it. There are certainly things I'd like to change about my training for next year. (I've started compiling a list.) But I'll refrain from rambling on about that until my plans for next year firm up. Certainly, like almost every other ultra runner in Colorado-- or at least every other Colorado runner in the blogosphere, Hardrock is the ultimate goal. Being selected for that venerable race would certainly push my training about a month forward and kick it into high gear. Failing that, another Leadville finish (in 27 hours, dammit!) is my default goal, though we have plans to visit my wife's parents in France and Switzerland next August/September... UTMB, anyone?