"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Massive rethink... so far, so good

When I started thinking about training for 100 miles in the winter, one of the things that I felt I could work on was training fairly long every day and I managed 10-12 miles per day throughout January. It was one of those things I wasn't good at and, given that I simply can't run long in winter - I'd always cringe when I'd see someone like Julie Berg doing 30 miles in -15 degree temps - it seemed like the thing to do.

Now that the temperature has finally improved, I tried adding long runs and some speedwork. That just resulted in massive failure and breaking down every few days. When forced to take time off, one has time to rethink training.

The one thing you always hear ultrarunners say is: you have to find what works for you. I hate that truism. The coach in me was saying to start with what I'm good at and work on the weaknesses. My strengths: top end speed and being able to run at 95% maximum heart rate for 90 minutes; neither of those is useful in ultras. Weaknesses? pretty much everything else. Over the past few years, as I've struggled to work on running long distances, I've lost what I'm good at, while not really gaining anything in return.

So... the plan now becomes to do very long runs, incorporating what I do well within those runs. The basic plan:

Tuesdays, get heart rate as high as possible and hold it there as long as possible. It's difficult for me to get my heart rate where I want it, having to run extremely hard for a long time, which leads me to achilles and heel injuries. The way out of that is to do the runs uphill. Tuesdays have become very hard runs up the longest hills I can find, currently Ohio Street and, when the snow melts, Brickyard.

Thursdays, work on top end speed. Only a year ago, I was able to get to 3:35 mile speed for a few seconds. In my prime, it was well under 3 (probably about 2:30). Now, 4:00 is impossible. The only way to do regain this without fancy equipment and high risk is to do downhill sprints, which forces the legs to go at a pace not possible on flat ground.

Saturdays, work on continuous speed for extended duration. I've never been good at this. Most marathon plans have people running 13-15 miles at marathon pace every once in a while and, for me, that's close to racing. It tears me apart and ruins the next two weeks of training. As it happens, in running ultras, this fortunately is not very important. What I am good at is running 20-30 minutes at a much faster pace. I think this will translate to faster times at the very long distances, by keeping me from just slogging through endless miles and occasionally throwing in a hard burst of a minute or two.

Sundays is the very long run. Once the snow clears, it'll be on the only stretch of technical trail to which I have easy access. One of the problems I have had is that running very long makes me try to become efficient by taking shuffling strides where my feet barely leave the ground. This just leads to falls when running on rocks and tree roots, especially when muscles tire form hills. I'm trying the idea of back-to-back long runs, but with the longer one being the second run; if I tried it the other way around, I either wouldn't be able to do the fast part on Saturday or I'd have to stop too early.

In the past, the amount of time that I've had to put in doing running training has left me too exhausted to keep up with supposrting strength and flexibility training, which has left me tight and with some imbalances. By putting all (or nearly all) of the running on 4 long, long runs, this opens up the other days for supplemental work and gives me extra time to recover from the runs themselves.

It's only been a few days since this plan crystallized in my mind, but so far... I like it! Maybe I've finally found what works for me.


nwgdc said...

My favorite type of run is the long run. I don't care all that much for just putting mileage in. I've often thought about just doing a 3 or 4 days a week schedule like what you've come up with. I'm interested to follow along!

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered why you try to do so much speedwork when your goal appears to be the Superior 100. For almost everyone doing that race, endurance is the key limiter - not speed. Personally, I think consistent running with a focus on mileage - not intervals - would give you the best bang for your buck. Just my two cent.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Here's your problem. Ohio St. is only high in the middle. It's round on both ends. Going round isn't hilly nor is it helping you.

You're in the mid-west: Only one solution will work: firing teachers and other public workers and giving tax breaks to the rich. Be sure to do it in the most dickish way imaginable.

You, not being a retard, scoff at this, but have you tried it? Guaranteed to work - you betcha!

You're welcome.

(I stand by my hyphen in "mid-west".)

Chris Swenke said...

As an admitted newbie with 3-4 years of running experience I feel the adage of "doing what works for you" to be easier said than done, how do we know what works until we step into that uncomfortable, maybe even painful area and back out.

I'd loosely followed plans before and did my typical 5-6 miles a day and long run on the weekends - this worked fine for me and I got out out what I put in. What I got was Marathon times I can't be proud of and tough finishes in my last two Ultras. This past in January I jumped into an intermediate training program to prepare for Chippewa Moraine and Stillwater with hopes that this time would be different. I also came to the realization that if I want to meet the expectations I set for myself I will need to go through some pain and forget the romantic side of running at times.

This jump in training has taken me to back to back 11-14 mile nights in the bitter cold and 20+ milers on the weekend. And dare I say the words - "speed training" has crept into my vocabulary. This kind of schedule may not be anything to new to most of your audience but it has been an eye opener for me. I have learned many things about myself during these late nights around the streets of Hudson and many things that I'm sure have not yet solidified in my head and I hope the will come to life as I step out on to the trails and roads this spring.

olga said...

How about doing 13-15 miles with 3-6 mile repeats at 10k pace in the middle? I remember Khalid Khannouchi brought it to our track club back in Westchester. BTW, when he warmed up, he did 10 min/mile pace for at least 2-3 miles (what allowed me to actually keep up with him). Then I'd never see him again...

Anonymous said...

You may want to consider getting a new device to measure your top speed. Your 2:30/mile pace isn't likely very accurate. If we give you 2:30/1600 meter pace, that still means you are at 9.375 seconds for 100 meter pace. Do you believe you ran faster than Bolt's WR pace for even a couple seconds? If so you're barking up the wrong tree, and should be crushing age group sprint WR's instead of worrying about Superior:)

Which leads me to ask why you don't do what you seem to enjoy and seem to be best at? The ultras seem to cause you nothing but pain and inner turmoil, is it all worth it? I'd think the hour long race would be your sweet spot, maybe you should train for a one-hour test on a track. Do they have age group records for that kind of event?

SteveQ said...

@Anonymous #2: The Garmin measures an almost instantaneous top speed. After I published "closer to 2:30," I knew I'd regret it. I have actually come close to Bolt's speed for a fraction of a second, downhill and with the wind - and that's the measurement I'm using.

I'm planning, once I get the Superior 100 monkey off my back, to train to take a shot at the Minnesota over-50 records at 1500-5000 meters.

joyRuN said...

Wow. I've never even seen a top speed near double a 2:30 on my Garmin.

Wanna trade?

Carilyn said...

I know I've told you before, but you are fast, Steve! Dang! I hope you keep posting about your training for Superior and how it goes. I love reading training posts - it's like reality t.v. for runners :) Since I've never been super fast, I really like to run a lot of miles slowly. I can't wait to see what you do with the shorter, age-group races. My guess is that you will own them!