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

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Planned Recovery

This is the last in the series of a somewhat new approach to ultramarathoning.

I've always run too hard on my easy days. Fitness being a function of the average training load, it's easier to make the easy days harder than to make the hard days harder. The only way I could keep myself from doing that was to make easy days complete days off from running. If I took Friday off, I'd often find myself thinking on Thursday "I can get through this. Tomorrow I don't have to do anything" and on Saturday "I should be able to crush this workout; I've had a day off." Along with the psychological boost, there's a real benefit in terms I've been using earlier: if you run, say, 10 miles six days per week, then a day off increases the variation as much as running a 20 miler - and variance per mile run increases, as the average mileage decreases.

What I've been especially bad at is having easy weeks, except when tapering for a major race or when injured. My best year of running - 35 years ago! - I'd have a moderate mileage week, two high mileage weeks (and I still recall how hard they were), a moderate week, then an easy week with speed work and then an easy week tapering to a race. That six week cycle worked well for me, but I abandoned it and I don't remember why.

Looking at the ultramarathon schedules that are commonly used, for example the Ultraladies, the Relentless Forward Progress,  and to a lesser extent Hal Koerner's Field Guide, they include weeks of decreased mileage. I think the idea is that the very long runs, usually back-to-back, are so stressful that one needs entire weeks of recovery. Many marathon plans also include an easy week every third or fourth week.

What I'm thinking is that, after two high mileage weeks, a low mileage week will become much faster paced (given my propensity to run too hard on easy days) and perhaps the increased speed may lead to the next high mileage week being run at a faster pace as well.

It's too early to tell so far. I've only been through a bit more than three weeks of training, but the "easy" week has been fast. I'm running about a minute per mile faster than I was three weeks ago, but part of that is weather related. From what I can see, I'm about 30% of the way to where I want to be in training in just a few weeks. Of course, the biggest gains come early and it's very early in the season.

It's a promising start, as long as I don't fall apart and get injured.

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