Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Month in Review (March)

March training history.
Well, somehow-- and I'm not quite sure how-- I survived March intact. I met all my training goals for the month, building on top of the solid work I did in February.

I spent about half my time at sea level in March: a week in Florida on vacation with my family, and a week in Boston for work. All that oxygen and flat terrain meant that I managed to set an all-time monthly mileage PR (241.7 miles). Still relatively modest in the grand scheme of things, but a nice PR to set so early in the year. All my other high mileage months have been May, June, July, or August. Of course, mileage isn't everything (far from it) and while March was #1 for mileage, it was only #15 for total training time, and #18 for total vertical. So, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

I crossed the 40-hour mark for March, which was a 5-hour improvement over February. That was relatively easy to do since I'm now trying to run a long run every week. That certainly helps boost my total training time without any change to my midweek running schedule.

4 weeks of training.
I pretty much ran 6 days a week during the month. Travel or illness were generally the reasons I took a day off. And, man, have I been ill lately. Not fun. It started with a head cold upon my return from Florida, that along with a nasty back injury (not running-related) put the Salida Marathon in jeopardy for me. My cough lingered for a few weeks. I'd hack up a lung after any run where I pushed the pace. Ugh. And just when I thought I was turning a corner, I came down with a fever, aches, and chills on the second-to-last day of the month. I was bed-ridden for the entire day, but luckily it passed relatively quickly and I was back running the next day, albeit very slowly. I blame travel. And kids. And Obama.

I've tried to mix things up with my training a bit, given the variety of conditions I was running in. I focused on speedwork while I was at sea level, running perhaps my fastest mile ever near the end of the month in Boston. And, since vertical wasn't an option, I'd try to run a bit longer, which meant a full marathon on the beaches of Florida. But, during the weeks I was back in Colorado, I'd switch to more vertical-focused training. Probably my best workout of the month was a 5-hour, 20 mile, 6,800 vertical run up and down Midland Hill in Buena Vista, tagging the summit four times. The trails around Leadville are still snowed in, so any chance I get to run on trails is a joy. I was worried that doing hill repeats would be boring, but the terrain is so different than my typical midweek run at this time of year, I actually look forward to them.

My big race for the month was the Salida Marathon, of course. Despite my head cold, a sore back, and incredibly sloppy trail conditions, I managed to set a 5-minute PR for the course: 4:41. It was truly a miracle. I mean, just three days before the race I wasn't even sure if I would be healthy enough to start! And, judging from past results, I'd say the course was about 10 minutes slower than normal due to all the snow and mud. This was my fourth consecutive PR for the course, which I attribute to slowly increasing my early season training volume every year. I tend to run fairly conservative races, I'd say, but this year for Salida I planned to run a bit harder during the first half of the race. Why? Well, despite it being almost all uphill, it's where the most runnable terrain happens to be. The second half of the course is mostly downhill, but it's also where all the snow and mud are located, and most of the technical terrain. I can never seem to run it as fast as I'd like. So, this year, I pushed the uphills a bit more knowing that I probably wouldn't be able to make up much time on the downhill. My plan worked perfectly. I was 16 minutes ahead of PR pace at the halfway point. After that, I kept losing time as I fumbled through all the snow and mud. But, I managed to build enough of a cushion that I still crossed the finish line with another PR. I was psyched that I pulled it off. I knew I was in better shape on paper, but it's still nice to have some concrete evidence.

A week-by-week comparison of March training for the last few years.
So, yeah, despite a few obstacles, I managed to log my best March ever. My training is heading in the right direction, I think. It'd better be, since I'm now more than halfway done with my training for Hardrock-- at least as far as the calendar goes!

April will be tricky. It always seems to be a tough month for me. I'm fairly confident that I can log roughly the same amount of training as I did in March-- approximately five 1-hour workouts plus one 5-hour workout per week. But, the real question is how best to take it to the next level? I've got to keep ramping things up if I want to be in a position to properly absorb the training I've got planned for May and June. Counter-intuitively, I'm actually not too worried about those two months-- my peak training months-- because I'll have so many options to run in the mountains around Leadville. Plus, with Hardrock looming on the horizon in July, I'll be supremely motivated.

Certainly, the highlight of April will be my R2R2R run on 4/18. I gave that a shot two years ago, but failed. (It's a pretty funny story.) A big, audacious run like that is exactly the kind of training stimulus I think I need. I don't want all my weeks to start looking the same. Beyond the Grand Canyon, I think the key to April might be Mt. Elbert. It's probably time I started trying to bag a peak at least once a week. Probably early one morning-- maybe midweek or on Sunday. Hopefully it should only take 3-hours or so, depending on the conditions. I think some high-altitude hiking will help-- especially in the vertical department.

Well, there you have it. Another month of training! More numbers! More dry statistics! I'm sorry these blog posts aren't more entertaining... Maybe when I start tapering I'll actually have the time to be a little more creative...

Two members of my elite Hardrock crew.


  1. Good month! Looking forward to your detailed RRR report- I will be following your footsteps the next week. Will you take Bright Angel to get back to South Rim?

    1. Thanks, Stu! I think the plan is to return via the South Kaibab trail, but I don't think anything is set in stone...

  2. I've been told Bright Angel provides more shade in the afternoon, so longer than SK but cooler and not as steep. Better luck than last time for you!