Monday, February 2, 2015

Month in Review (January)

January training history
With a disappointing, injury-plagued year behind me, and Hardrock only six months away, I've put an embarrassingly large amount of thought into how I want to improve my training this year. I say "embarassing" mostly because after all the time I've spent pouring over my historical training data, listening to podcasts, and reading articles and books on the subject, the conclusion I've reached is ridiculously simple: I just need to run more.

Specifically, I need to run more consistently during the week during the winter months. Not bike. Not ski. Run. And I'm not talking about running faster or harder or longer, just running more regularly. That, in a nutshell, is my main early season goal.

I feel like historically, I do a good job of getting in an adequate number of long runs on the weekends (starting with a few easy efforts in January and February, but then logging one long run/week from March onwards). My long runs really add up over the course of a season, but I haven't been as disciplined as I could be about my midweek runs-- especially before Leadville's trails melt out.

During the summer: no problem. Motivation is not an issue. My bike trainer is quickly forgotten, and I'm out running on the trails around town almost every day. Training volume quickly shoots up (both time, mileage, and vertical). I just need to start that process earlier in year, suck it up, and slog through the snow.

So, I can happily say that everything pretty much went according to plan this January. You can see my renewed focus on running in the chart above. 9 more hours spent running than last year. 50+ more running miles. 6k more vertical. I only resorted to the bike 4 times, usually the day before or after a long run. While my total training time was only 3 hours more than last January, it was much more run-specific. That makes me happy.

I'm definitely seeing improvements in my fitness since I began training in December. At this stage, all it takes are ~35 slow miles/week to provide enough stress to encourage my body to adapt. My times on all my regular routes are steadily dropping. They're not quite at PR pace, but I'm getting closer. My philosophy is to not force anything. Anything resembling a quality workout comes as a surprise to me after I'm out the door. I try to run without any pre-conceived notion as to how hard to push it. That said, I did take advantage of a business trip to Boston last week to attempt something resembling some speed work. After a 20-minute warmup at MAF (which seems to be about 8:00 min/mile for me at sea level right now), I tried some mile repeats with a quarter mile of rest in between. 7:38, 6:46, 6:35, and 6:25. Probably 3 of the fastest miles I've ever run! (Don't laugh.)

My two biggest fears-- my lingering injuries from last year-- have been manageable. Everything seems to be under control. My Achilles is occasionally tight, and my knee sometimes feels mildly sore, but these little niggles have all been fleeting and haven't interfered with my training at all. In fact, they've kept me extra vigilant. And, I think they're slowly getting better as they adapt to my 6-9 hour/week training load.

9 weeks of base training.

The spreadsheet below has become probably my favorite way to visualize my training progress this year vs. the last three years. I've found that weekly historical data is the best resolution to judge how my training is going. Monthly is too coarse-grained (and months aren't all the same size), and daily is too fine-grained. What I'm generally working towards is improving upon my training in '13, by far my best year-- especially that sweet, 9-week stretch starting at week 26. That was the best block of training I've ever managed to pull off. If everything goes according to plan, my dream is to exceed even that level of training in the weeks leading up to Hardrock this year. I'll be in unknown territory at that point...

Dark green means a higher training load. I track total training time and running distance/week along with my historical max.

This week-- the first week of February-- will be a high volume week for me. I've got the Leadville Snowshoe Marathon this Saturday. I'm excited! The weather looks good. The conditions should be much faster than last year. I'm not planning to taper for it, nor am I really going to "race" it, but it will provide an excellent excuse to get outdoors and get in 5+ hours of jogging.

Hopefully, February will look a lot like January for me: just unremarkable, steady, consistent training, with a little bit of extra volume. Nothing too drastic yet. I'm looking forward to the Salida Marathon in March, which will serve as my first real race of the season. Plans for another R2R2R attempt with my buddy Alex are materializing for mid-April. That'll be so fun. I've got so much to look forward to!

I just gotta keep pluggin' away...

My new tele skis. I'm not worthy.

Our household has a new family member: meet Luna the puppy!

The shack.

Leadville style.

Extra motivation.

Ah, pre-dawn, early morning winter runs.


A plethora of traction options for winter in Leadville.

I'm avoiding this-- no, not the beer, the bike!