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!