To succeed in the sport of running, you have to do what others aren't willing to do. What I keep forgetting is that you also have to be willing to do what those who are successful do. I posted some ideas on training for a 100 mile trail race, but overlooked the fact that everyone agrees on some basic points, which I chose to ignore because I didn't care for them.
A brief question and answer with John Horns, who won the Superior 100 at age 51 (23:16, a slow time - a hot year) brought back some old ideas to me, which I've managed to gel into a coherent plan that looks like what others have done.
M 10 miles hike
T 5 miles with 3x20sec. hill sprints
W 15 miles hills with 7.5 miles hard
Th 5 miles with 3 sprints
F 10 miles hike
Sa 19 miles with last 13 hard
S 31 miles easy
Improvement comes by increasing the pitch of the hills on Wednesday and increasing the difficulty of terrain on Saturday and Sunday.
Every third week is an easier week, though the mileage stays steady.
15 hill WALK
That's almost 100 miles per week, which John was doing at his peak training. So how does one build to that? I just went from running 20-30 miles per week straight into it! Ten days in, I'm not hurt, but I haven't been doing much of the hard running and my weekend runs haven't been long enough. I'm doing 75 miles per week, just as the weather starts turning cold.
Ideally, the times for the above would eventually be
T 45 min
W 3:00 (done on Hyland ski hill, 500 ft. climb per mile)
Sa 19 @ Afton in 3:00
S 31 @ Afton in 5:30.
Given that running the Afton course in 5:30 is what I've done in races there, it's "a bit of a reach."
Runners tend to divide into two camps, the "do less" and "do more" camps. Most middle-of-the-pack and beginner runners want to know "what's the absolute least I can do and still succeed?" One of the best-selling running books is entitled "Run Less, Run Faster" and is inevitably bought by people who think the title means "run faster while running less: when in fact the book's about "running less, but running faster can get you similar results."
When runners decide to turn professional, they suddenly have an entire day to fill that used to be filled with a job. There's only so much more they can do; after diminishing returns, they start to become counterproductive and end up over-trained if they just keep trying to do more. That's why you start to see them talk about things like sports massage. Mostly, however, they decide "well, I could probably eat better" and then suddenly they try to convince you that they're experts and tout some fad diet... as if running 180 miles per week with much speed work has nothing to do with their success.
Then the beginner runner turns to the pros to see what they're doing and they see some dietary advice. They decide that they'll follow suit, because better runners are doing it and changing diet feels like they're doing something, when what they need to do is train better.
There are a number of reasons I've been posting less on this blog - blogs are disappearing in general, I've posted daily on my movie blog and that's taken up time, I haven't run much and raced not at all - but also, I started seeing someone and, let's face it, relationships are time-consuming, if in a rather pleasant way. Well, that last excuse is gone and, for some reason, people seem to like my personal posts. So here goes...
She just showed up in my life, as we ended up in the same place at the same time on a regular basis. We're both people that tend to be remembered and at least part of that is that we're both a little weird, so when I didn't see her for a while, I noticed. In fact, I missed seeing her, though we hadn't even spoken. Then she showed up again one day and I said rather cheerily "Haven't seen you in a long time!" She sputtered out "Ga ki bah di mmmm...." shaking her head up and down and I found it completely charming (irresistible, really) that she was completely flustered that I deigned to speak to her. "Hi. I'm Steve," I added. She responded, "I'm waiting for a taxi." Non-sequiturs like that were going to be common in the rare occasions she spoke.
I have a tendency to fall for women that have qualities I wish I had and Carla (not her real name; her real name doesn't suit her) had an ability to do some things easily that I just can't, basic life skills that I really should've mastered. I in turn had some abilities she didn't, most notably her being nearly non-verbal made a lot of things difficult for her and I have a knack for deciphering what people need who can't explain things for themselves. [No, I'm not available for babysitting]
Getting to know her was a painstaking process, because I couldn't just ask her a question and get an answer. I discovered that I had misjudged her age by a lot - I noticed first that she didn't have any real sun damage to her skin, then that she didn't have any fine lines at the corners of her eyes; I was dating age-inappropriately. I also discovered, to my surprise, that others found her physically attractive and assumed that that was the only reason I was interested in her. I had to mull it over: tall, slender, blonde, blue eyed, with a tendency to show off her legs in short shorts and skirts - yeah, I could see what they saw.
Only photos I have don't show much (she's very camera shy):
80 degrees and wearing a hoodie - staring at nothing
Jaywalking bag lady look
Eventually, her weirdness was getting to be a bit much, even for me. She carried things in a Zip-loc bag rather than a purse, though I bought her a nice clutch in her two colors: red and black; it was practical - she could see what she wanted through clear plastic. I never saw her eat; she drank an enormous amount of soda (yet her teeth are perfect), but in six months I never saw her eat. I once saw her sorting laundry on a public bus, sniffing things to see if they needed to be washed, testing the elastic on a bra, etc. When buying something, she'd often find herself short of cash and would ask me or strangers for money; it didn't matter to her who she asked. For reasons I never figured out (it might have to do with attention or hearing), when she made a phone call, which was rare as she rarely spoke, she'd bend over - and when it got colder and she started wearing tights under her shorts, this would cause the shorts to slide to her knees; if she weren't wearing the tights, she'd be mooning the world; at first, I just pulled them up for her, later I'd tell her to pull them up, eventually I just stopped caring.
I figured out that what "gifts" she had turned out to be a simple lack of shame. If she wanted something, she did what she had to do to get it. That was so foreign to me that it seemed charming for a while. I tend to fall in love with an idealized version of someone and then, as I learn details, substitute loving the real things for the imagined. As I realized there wasn't anything that was going to work out or improve, she moved on to another guy, who quite frankly, seems a better match.
I'd been very ill for a few weeks and unable to do much of anything, so I thought a lot about training for 100 mile races. What I realized is that a lot of what's been published has the same taint as marathon training plans: they tell you what to do to increase the likelihood of finishing, not what to do to run it well. Finishing a hundo is never a given, but the ideas being thrown around start to border on the crazed.
The most popular plan comes from the "Ultraladies" site, which builds to a 75 mile week.
T 4 tempo
Sa 30 on terrain like the race
S 20 on terrain like the race
The back-to-backs do in fact teach one how to run when tired, but the program has several problems. The average run is too long, so one never recovers. 30 miles for a top runner might be 4.5 hours, but could be at least 10 for someone trying to finish the Superior 100 in 38 hours; for the slower runner, it's too close to being a race. The Sunday run just compounds the problem.
I noted that there was some similarity to a 3 hour marathon plus 100 miler plan I once drew up:
T 12 with 6x1 in 6 - 3/8 in 4
Th 12 w/ 16x400 in 85 - 400 in 2
Sa email@example.com, 10@7 (20 in 2:45)
S 18@8, firstname.lastname@example.org (30 in 4:15)
If one's running at that pace, the 30 miler falls into place, but it makes no sense for a 4:30 marathoner.
An alternate theory states that what is important for endurance are runs of 1.5-2.5 hours. To have adequate rest and variability, the plan becomes (again, for a 3:00 marathoner):
T 150 minutes (13-17.5 miles)
Sa 150 hard
The problems with this are that the average run is too long (and too hard, at about 85% effort) and the longest run is not long enough.
This was an idea I had and published last year, which still stands, but which I never liked : [Three week rotation]
W 9 (mar. pace or hills)
Sa 1: 20
S 1: 9
Sa 2: 12 hard
S 2: 9
Sa 3: 31
S 3: 12
At 11-12 min/mile, this is about 12 hours per week.
At 8 minutes per mile, it's 9 hours per week, so add a second 6 mile run on M,T,Th&F and do 14 of the 31 miler hard.
At 7 min/mile, run the last 10 of the 20 hard, last 11 of the 31 hard and add 6 on W, S (total=100 miles/week).
Race a 50K every 9 weeks, dropping the hard 9 before and the hard 9 after (run the miles, but not hard). If closer to 4:30 marathon than 3:00, also drop the hard 12 prior to the race (if 3:45, run 6 hard of the 12). Alternately, for Superior, do 34 miles of hills [300 feet of climb per mile] in 1/4th predicted finish time.
This plan doesn't have any real problems other than that it feels way too rigid. What I came up with recently is
M 90 min. run, 30 hike
T 2 hours hills: 60@50K heart rate, 60@100mile heart rate (hike uphill in 2nd half)
W 30 run, 15 hike
Th 30 run, 15 hike
F 30 run, 15 hike
Sa 4 hours trail: 2.5@HR_100 (hike uphill), 90@HR_50K
S 90 min run, 30 hike
[For me, the heart rates are 155-158 and 126-130. The latter actually matches Maffetone!]
This follows a sort of carb-depleting/carb-loading plan with three easy days to recover. It has runs of correct average length, correct long run length, correct variability; the two hard workouts correspond well with Jack Daniels' marathon training plan ("One Size Fits All" 2001). The hiking works as cross-training.
It compensates for ability, for terrain and for weather. Mostly, it's doable and not too complicated.
Top ultrarunners don't keep running their long runs longer and longer, but increase the incline, making them tougher, while keeping the relative length reasonable.
The heart rates I give above come from a study I did while racing with a heart rate monitor in 2008. I found the following equation held for all-out efforts
10.9 - log (min.) = 4.381 log (HR - 70)
Whether this would hold for me now is debatable and I doubt it would be applicable to others, though it corresponds to "Oxygen Power" by Jack Daniels, perhaps coincidentally.
Progress would be measured not only by the average length and pace of runs improving, but the pace at specific heart rates should converge, whether at the start or finish of workouts. The 50K challenge is running hard after having run for hours; the 100 mile challenge is maintaining a pace above a slow walk after an exhausting effort.
I'd also plan to add 3x20 seconds all-out strength workouts (squats, lunges) with minimal recovery, three times per week to incorporate HIIT benefits without interfering with running workouts.
Sorry about the disjointed, almost stream-of-conscious structure of this post. I'm still not well.
I've been thinking about the Superior 100 Mile race again. I volunteered again this year and it gets me to thinking that maybe I should correct that "never finished that one" status. As some of you know, I'm more than a little beat up, having been told by more than one podiatrist that I shouldn't be able to walk, much less run.
The question is: do I want to work hard for a year just to be another poor schlub who finishes? There's a huge investment and very little pay-off. Consider the other runners my age who run there: John Horns won the thing outright a few years ago. John Maas finished this year in 28 hours and he didn't run a step; he hiked 16 minute miles, which would be 13 on flat ground [see how long you can walk at that pace; I can manage 3 miles]. Doug Kleemeier ran 25-something and did little specific training, from what I gather, and he was only the third-place over-50 finisher. It's not a small local race any longer.
That's what always irritates me. People, including me, always think that they work really hard for what they get and everyone else cruises to easy success based on talent. That's what's happening here. Typically, runners finish Superior with a time remarkably close to 9 times their marathon finish. With the course record being 19.5 hours, that equates to about a 2:12 marathon - so he actually worked at it, since his marathon time's nowhere near that. Most people just don't really push themselves at Superior... except to finish, which is never guaranteed. The people who are running it are much much more capable than I am. If I finished, it's be close to a miracle.
There hasn't been much to report about my running lately, because I haven't done much running. The sport's become more a matter of pain management than anything else this past year. After a few days of good running, I decided I needed to do a race to see what shape I was really in - because you can convince yourself of anything, but the race times don't lie (usually). I wanted to do something where there'd be no pressure, where no one would know who I was and so I ended up running a 5K race in Plummer, MN on the 4th of July.
I won a trophy, but it was a harsh dose of reality, especially as I think the course was about 300 meters short. Since then, it's been mostly too ridiculously hot and humid to do much serious training, even if I could.
Today there was a break in the heat and I was well-rested. It was time to see if I have finally figured out how to deal with the pain I have when running - I tend to describe it as "running with broken bones on broken glass."
I felt good and started out much faster than planned. Recently, I'd been plodding at 10-11 minutes per mile, but I was under 8 at the start and kept speeding up. It was time to try to rip the scar tissue adhesions in the fascia holding me together, like running an engine hot and then flooring it to burn off the soot and blow it out of the cylinders.
I dropped under 7 minutes per mile, then spotted one of the top local women runners ahead of me and just "gunned" it. I knew she was doing a long easy run and undoubtedly would be thinking about "guys who just have to pass women." In fact, she turned when she heard me breathing like an asthmatic bull (which isn't far from the mark, really) and I managed to exchange pleasantries about how we finally had decent running weather. Then I hit a downhill and just blasted it. 6 minute mile pace dropped to 5 and then a little better than that.
And nothing hurt!
Unfortunately, there's still all of the "old and out-of-shape" stuff to deal with, but it's a start.
Steve says hi. Like in the last line of a letter (remember when people wrote letters?) between two people who both know him. Like that. Hi.
Oh, and I write about running. 35 years and nearly 600 races thus far.