Sunday, March 20, 2011

Back to Work

Just wanted to post a quick training update for this week.  If you read my last post, you know that I was on a ski vacation last week and was quite happy to have run 65 miles (with 6 of 7 runs above 8000ft).   The week before that was low as well, only reaching 75 miles because I spent a weekend out of town attending a friend's wedding.  So this week I decided to just play it by ear and see how I felt.  But I also knew, with only 3 weeks left until the Mad City 100k, this would be my last big week of training before I needed to start tapering. 

Monday's run confirmed that my legs were indeed tired from a week of snowboarding and running at altitude.  I still felt out of rhythm on Tuesday, but wanted to hit the track anyway.  Sometimes a little track work is just what the legs need to blow out the crap and feel fast again.  The workout was 2x2mi (10:40, 10:37) w/2min easy + 1 mi (5:11).  I left the track with confirmation that my fitness was just fine.  I just needed some time to get back into my routine and feeling normal. 

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were all easy runs where I continued to search for my normal stride.  Each run got progressively better, but I've definitely got a little tightness in the lower back and hamstrings. 

Saturday I planned to meet up with a local ultra runner, Harvey Lewis, and run easy with him for a while and then take off when I needed to do so.  I wasn't even sure how many miles I would try to get in.  I was just going to see how I felt.  We ended up joining up with a couple other guys who were running a 10 mi hill tempo loop.  It wasn't what I had in mind, but the pace was mild, so it wasn't a big deal.  After the hill run, Harvey and I headed off on our own with no particular destination in mind.  We were just running and talking.  Before I knew it, we were dropping into downtown Cincinnati - a place I hadn't yet explored on a run.  But I was feeling good and I decided that it would be fun to visit Kentucky.  So we crossed the Ohio River and ran a little on the other side.  By this point we were close to 20 miles in to the run and I was still a long way from home.  Harvey had run great to make it this far with me, but I was unintentionally picking up the pace and our average had just dropped to sub 7 min pace.  He backed off knowing he was going to pace a half marathon the next day, and I headed home.  Eager to get home, I really started rolling.  My last 4 miles were around 6:20 average pace.  And I was 3:06 for a total of 27 miles.  I think that's the longest non-race training run that I've ever done.

That put me at 80 miles for the week.  Might as well try to hit 100 even with Sunday's run.  So I did.  On a flat, mindless out-n-back run, I started tight and slow, but loosened up nicely for the second half and finished just over 2:15. 

So, 100 miles for the week at an average pace of 6:45.  Very pleased with the weekly total, and especially this weekend's work.  Less than 3 weeks to the 100k champs and time to start tapering.

What kind of time do you think I'll be able to run for the 100k?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Vacation (aka Cross-Training)

Stefanie and I at Breckenridge.

This past week I was on vacation.  It was a vacation from work and my typical running schedule, but it actually turned out to be a pretty big week of training, all things considered.  You see, I'm not really a lay-on-the-beach-for-a-week vacation kinda guy.  I like to be doing stuff.  And one of my favorite things to do is go skiing - or snowboarding to be specific.

The uphill view from our condo.
A sweet deal on a friend's condo led us to Silverthorne, CO which is close to the ski resorts of Breckenridge and Keystone.  It's also happily situated 8,700 ft above sea level.  The ski resorts themselves just go up in elevation from that point.  I've been skiing several times before, but it's been a long time since I've stayed that this kind of elevation for any length of time.  And I don't remember running at this altitude either.   Let me just say that it was tough running at elevation.  It didn't help that our condo was located on a mountainside where my only options were to run up or down.  And if I chose down, well, then I had to finish going back up.

Stefanie and I, joined by our old friend Matt, were scheduled to arrive at our destination around 4:30pm on Sunday.  A tractor-trailer accident resulting in a closed interstate made for an interesting detour through a snowy Loveland Pass and a 7pm actual arrival time.  Our 1.5 hr drive was turned into a 4 hr drive.  Not fun.  And I still had to run.   Seven miles on the dark, snowy roads.  You'll find that 7 miles is a common theme.  That's how many miles I ran every day that I was in Silverthorne.  I guess it's an arbitrary choice, but 50 mpw is sort of my self-imposed minimum mileage.  I find it's best just to pick 7 miles a day and not give myself an option, because motivation to get out and run is pretty low while on vacation even for a running nut like myself.  Plus, I knew that I'd probably be able to run more Saturday and Sunday following the weekdays of skiing.

Monday morning I got up and put in my 7 miles before heading to the slopes.  I averaged around 7:30 pace for most all of my runs during the week, but it felt more like 6:30 effort - or faster.  Tuesday, same thing, I ran before skiing.  Most of the time, when I'm traveling with or visiting others, I try to get up and run in the morning before things get going.  I find that reduces the chance that I will get stuck doing something in the afternoon/evening that might interfere with my run.  But I don't particularly like running in the morning.  The slopes closed at 4pm which left me with plenty of daylight, so I switched over to running in the afternoon on Wednesday.

Me all geared up with Peak 8 in the background.

When you're snowboarding from 9am to 4pm, the legs tend to be a little tired for the run in the afternoon.  So it would only make sense on Wednesday, knowing I still had to run in the evening, that I would take the ski lift as high as it would go and then proceed to hike the rest of the way to the summit of Peak 8 at 12,998 ft.  If the skiing itself wasn't cross-training enough - climbing at 13,000 ft, in snowboarding boots, through soft powder snow, with the wind trying to blow you off the mountain - now that is serious cross-training.  It was only about 150 vertical feet of climb, but I had to stop several times to rest.  When I finally reached the summit, I was sucking wind like I'd just run an all-out mile.  It was so much fun that I repeated the challenge on Friday in even windier conditions.

The convoy of all the other crazies hiking to the summit.

On top of the world.
Double black diamond - the only way down from here.

I continued running my easy 7 miles in the evening on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but Thursday's run is worth noting.  I ran 2 miles up the mountain from our condo to a snow-covered trail.  I carried my YakTrax and slipped them on just before I hit the trail.  The snow was packed down by previous trail users and the YakTrax gripped beautifully.  It was really a treat to run through a forest blanketed in white.  I even encountered some cross-country skiers and quickly passed them.  I was so excited that I clocked a 5:10 for the final downhill mile on the road back to the condo.

The Saturday we wrapped up our vacation and were leaving Colorado presented a unique opportunity for me.  It's a long story, but there turned out to be a 5 hour gap between Stef's flight out of Denver and mine.  I decided to take this opportunity to go run on the Magnolia Road that I've read so much about.  After dropping Stef and Matt off at the Denver airport, I drove an hour to a spot just west of Boulder.  I continued driving up a paved, windy mountain road until the pavement ended.  This is where 'Mags' begins.  A 7.5 mile long dirt road, just above 8000 ft in elevation where many great runners have logged countless miles.  I parked on a small pull-off and began running with my camera.  I never run with a camera.  The road is rolling and climbs a manageable 400 ft from the start to the turn-around.  But the elevation is killer for a guy used to sea-level running.  For the 15 mile roundtrip, I averaged a measly 7:15 pace while running at 6 min/mi effort.  A long week of skiing could account for some of my fatigue, but the legs really felt decent.  I was hurting for oxygen though.  That was a very weird feeling.  I guess I expected to feel that way in Silverthorne.  But, here, on the road where the Colorado cross-country team trains, I expected to be able to run closer to a normal training pace.  I didn't fully appreciate the brutal effect the elevation has on this run.  Mags is beautiful in its own way, and I encourage any runner who has some time in the Boulder area to seek it out and experience Magnolia Road for yourself.

Enough warning signs for you?  Don't start running here.  Drive up 4.5 miles
to where the pavement ends and the dirt begins.  You'll be glad you did.

Magnolia Rd with snow-capped mountians in the background.

Magnolia Rd elevation profile.

Prior to arriving in Colorado on Sunday, I spent Friday and Saturday in San Diego for a college friend's wedding.  The weather was absolutely perfect for running, and I wondered aloud on Facebook why I was choosing to spend the majority of my vacation in Colorado as opposed to staying in San Diego.  After my week in Colorado though, I know I made the right decision.  I loved every minute in Colorado.  And although I wore more clothes, I was strangely never cold while running.  Obviously, I love skiing enough that I would sacrifice a week of optimized training just a month out from the USATF 100k to hit the Rockies.  I also can see why so many of the top trail ultra guys love Colorado enough to make it their home.

Last time down the mountain for my girl.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I normally consider my "running week" to be Monday to Sunday and log my miles accordingly.  But this week I am going to do something a bit different and tell you about my Thursday to Wednesday week of running.  Why?  Well, last week I spent Monday-Wednesday recovering from the Sylamore 50k, and this Friday I leave for a week of vacation.  So the front end of last week and the back end of this week are going to be boring.  And let's just be honest here, what I did in middle makes me look way cooler.

Before I get to the details, I think this would be a good opportunity to share one of the key features of my personal training plan.  I want to use my blog to occasionally share some of my training philosophies, and I felt it was important when looking at my past 7 days of training to understand the distinction of running this kind of mileage in singles as opposed to padding the mileage log with what I consider to be "junk" doubles.

Singles.  By my definition, singles simply mean a single run per day.  Now, depending on my audience here, you might ask, "What other kind of training philosophy is there besides running once per day?"  It's actually quite common for collegiate and elite post-collegiate distance runners to run more than once in a 24 hour period to boost their mileage.  You may have heard runners talking about doing "doubles" - and that's exactly what they were referring to - running twice in one day.  From my experience, it seems serious runners start considering double runs at around 70 miles per week. 

While my weekly mileage is consistently over 70 mpw, I almost always get my mileage in on just 7 runs per week.  This is largely a personal decision, but one I find works well for me, especially when considering the time constraints imposed by a full-time career. 

A typical double would be a 5-8 mile easy run in the morning or evening, depending on when you do your primary workout, and could happen just one day a week up to six days per week for really advanced professionals.  The purpose of a double is that allows you to increase your mileage with less stress on the body than the same amount of mileage in singles.  It's logical that two 5 mile runs, with 10 hours of rest in between, are less demanding on the body than one 10 mile run.  But, you also get less training adaptation from those two 5-milers than you would from the single 10-miler (assuming you can stay injury-free).  And your total time spent on the double preparing, running, and showering afterward takes up more total time out of your day than it would for the one 10 mile run.  There is something to be said about an easy second run "flushing out" the legs and aiding recovery, but that hasn't proven to be all that helpful to me personally.

For me, waking up at 5:30 AM to be out the door and running at 5:45 usually means I'm extremely tight and still half asleep.  I would do more than half of my run at 8 min/mi pace (1:15 slower than my average recovery pace) just trying to warm up my muscles to a normal functional ability.  I believe I get more benefit out of a single 12 miler at 6:45 pace, than a 6 mile/9 mile double.  And maybe the worst thing to me is that the double would come at the expense of about an hour of precious sleep.  I believe proper sleep is one of the most overlooked aspects of a complete training plan, and I know I don't get as much as I should even running just once a day.
[Disclaimer: Everyone is different and what works for me may not work for you.  If you aren't over 60 miles a week on singles, don't even think about doing doubles yet.  I also spent many years gradually building my strength up to the point where I could run 100 mpw in singles.  Lastly, I'm training for 50k's and 100k's, not 5k's and 10k's.]

If you're still reading, you probably want to know what I did last Thursday to Wednesday that would cause me to get out my soapbox, so here goes: 

Thursday:  9 mi @5:40 pace on the treadmill
                 with 3 mi warmup and 1 mi cooldown for 13 mi total
Friday:      Easy 12 mi in 79 min (6:40 pace)
Saturday:  25 mi in 3 hrs, 
                (7 mi road warmup, 14 mi tough/muddy little trail race, 4 mi road cool down)
Sunday:    15 mi really easy in 1:44 (6:56 pace)
Monday:   12 mi easy in 82 min (6:50 pace)
Tuesday:   Track workout: 2 mi warmup, strides & drills, 
                2x2mi w/2min recovery (10:38, 10:33)
                + 6 mi on the roads in 35:30 (5:55 pace), 1 mi cooldown. 
Wednesday: 12 mi in 81 min (6:45 pace)

Weekly Total: 102 miles in singles (average 6:42 pace)

That's a pretty gnarly week of training for me.  Good thing next week is vacation and a down week. I need it now.  I can tell that level of training is right at the limit of what my body can handle.  Let's hope it wasn't too much.