Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Go run 10-plus on a weekday, plus February totals

I don't remember the last time I ran double-digit miles in a single run during the week. Something about hitting 10 or more miles in one shot just seems like a self-imposed barrier. And it feels great to break it.

I put in 16.1 slow miles this evening in time-on-my-feet style. I carried a water bottle, ate a gel, and took it easy. I even considered walking a hill or two. But I didn't, and slowly slogged in the rainy mist known as this winter.

Normally, I wouldn't run such a distance mid-week. Those are saved for weekends when time has more freedom and there are less pressing obligations. But I did anyway, partially to put a punch on February.

February was a good month, by feel and numbers. Hills have felt particularly well, both the ups and down. I have routinely been able to the pace on ascents and descents in group and inadvertently pulled away from the group. I've also taken care to take my easy runs slowly so as to permit myself to recover from longer or harder workouts.

Miles: 216.26
Time: 30:54:07
Days run: 22 (~75 percent)
Runs: 24
Miles/run: ~9.0
Time/Run: ~77 minutes
Miles, YTD: 349.0
Time, YTD: 46:26:54
2012 season base: 576.6 miles (227.6 miles carried over from November and December 2011).

So what does this all mean? Lots of things. Most notably, it means that by the time I toe the line at Zumbro, I will have something between 800 and 850 miles of mileage on me, of which 650 or so is injury-preventing base. I'll more prepared than I have for any other early-season race I've ever done. As I noted last week, I rarely have hit 200 miles in a month, with my monthly max somewhere in the 235 range. As the numbers indicate, it will be more than easy to hit and exceed that going forward.

Going forward I still need to work on taking less inadvertent days of. I took a week off of running in February. Had I run those days, I would have likely gotten another 35 to 50 miles and four to seven hour in for the month and those numbers would look even better. It will be harder and harder to hit increasing mileages if I take take too many days off.

And like I do every Monday, tomorrow I will recommit myself to my upcoming training plan for March, which includes - gasp! - the beginning of speed work. There is one week of 50 miles (this week), a rest week of 35, then three weeks of 60 miles. Speed work begins (lightly) the first of these weeks. Long runs start to get dedicated distances (25 percent of weekly mileage e.g., although I will always feel pressured to run more than that, regardless of the percentage).

Monday, February 27, 2012

Solid week for early season: Feb. 20-26

I felt great all week and ended up running a wee bit too many miles. I managed to pull out a 22 miler on Saturday (long run should be between 12.5 and 15...) and felt good enough the next day for eight easy miles.

Monday: off
Just a really long day, and I needed a break after last week's 40 miles in three days. That hill run really took it to me.

Tuesday: 6.7; 0:58
Hill run with Main Street, Glenwood, Monks, and Stadium. May have tweaked my right quad by the push down Stadium. Or maybe it happened on Wednesday.

Wednesday AM: 5.4; 0:49
Really easy run to Mt. Kato and back. Legs a little sluggish after last night's push.

Wednesday PM: 6.7; 0:53
Same route as Tuesday, just five minutes faster and maybe tweaked my right quad (for first or second time this week). Had to make up for Monday's off day. Watched Unbreakable. T'was awesome. Review coming.

Thursday: 5.4; 0:50
Mt. Kato out-and-back.

Friday: 5.4;  0:48
Mt. Kato out-and-back.

Saturday: 21.7; 3:01:00
Long run with Multisport/Runner's Edge folks and pushed hard on ups and down. Helped get a runner preparing for Boston put down 22 miles of time on his feet. Awesome run.

Sunday: 8.2; 1:06:00
Looping easy run through MSU-Mankato/Hilltop area in 20-plus mph winds and 30-mph gusts. Wind died down during run but never let up.

Miles: 59.46 (six running days; seven runs)
Time: 8:26:33
Miles, YTD: 326.5
Time, YTD:  46:11:39

Up next is another 50-mile week, and it should go as smoothly as this one did. I'm easily going to clear 200 miles for the month and may get close to 220 - February's stats will go live Thursday. I'm seven weeks out from Zumbro and feeling great about running well there.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Too-predictable for a first 50-mile week: Feb. 13-19, 2012

As I predicted here, my first 50-mile week of the year could either go really well with consistent running each day. Or it could go not so well because I took a day or two off and ended up running the bulk of my miles on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. History would say that the latter is much more likely to occur. And it did for my first 50-mile week of the season.

Monday: 6.4; 49:00
Compact hill run: up Main, down Glenwood, up Monks, down Warren. Felt great every step of the way.

Tuesday and Wednesday: Off!
I saw this coming and couldn't do anything about it. The two days off put me in a big hole - I now needed to bang out 43.6 miles in four days. You do the math. 

Thursday: 4.6; 41:00
Back on the wagon with the Main/Glenwood loop.

Friday: 9.25; 1:13:00
Lollipop around Mt. Kato. Awesome night run with clear skies and bright stars.

Saturday: 15.1; 2:05:00
Easy run with Mankato Multisport/Runner's Edge. Asked to pace a friend for a marathon-pace run; that didn't turn out, so converted into an easy run with the focus being time on our feet. Easy, relaxing, all-around good for you.

Sunday: 15.0: 2:05
Best workout of the year: long hill run in North 'Kato with three loops up Lookout Drive and down Lee Boulevard. Legs were destroyed upon return, all to my satisfaction. Extra bonus: I ran in shorts and a single long-sleeve shirt. No gloves, no headband, no fleece hat - just a simple ballcap on my head. It's February in MN, damn it!

Week: 50.3; 6:52:52 (5 running days, 5 runs)
Month: 134.3; 19:12:29 (14 running days, 15 runs).
YTD: 267.1; 37:45:16 (34 running days, 36 runs).

A few notes about the totals. It's only the 20th of February, and I've already run more miles this month than I did in January 2012. All good signs. The next two weeks are 50-mile weeks, and with 10 days left in the month, I should be able to hit 200 miles for the month if I can hit my mileage next week and start the week of the 27th off on a good foot.

If I do hit 200 miles, that bodes very well for the rest of the year - especially because February is only 29 days long. If we were in March instead of February, that monthly total could be closer to about 215. My biggest month ever was 232.6 in April 2011 (running 23 days and 26 workouts that month), and there have been a little over a handful of months where I've exceeded 200 miles. If I'm already hitting 200 miles/mo this early in the season, more mileage is well within my grasp and all I need to do is put in the time and effort to reach those volume goals. And that increased volume will reap rewards on race day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Recovery weeks are awesome: Feb. 6-12, 2012

Recovery week was supposed to be last week. But I raced instead, and (conveniently) swapped last week for this. Looking back, it was a lot of easy running on generally the same route and minimal hills. That must change!

Monday: Off
Fighting a cold that started on Friday (pre-race). Felt like death after long work day.

Tuesday: 5; 47:00
Cold miraculously lifted. Life is clear again, but slow. OOB to Mt. Kato.

Wednesday: 6.5; 54:00
See original note -> OOB to just past Mt. Kato.

Thursday: Off
Wife was back from Cities for first time in several nights. Stayed home with her after I failed to run in the morning.

Friday: 5.4; 45:00
Same route as Tuesday.

Saturday: no running, but lots of walking
Worked at scout camp over weekend, walked maybe 8 miles? Maybe?

Sunday: 11.8; 1:30
Awesome long (Q1) run for the week, especially post-scout camp headache. Loop around Sibley and Mt. Kato (trifecta!). Took it at a quicker pace because sweat plus wind means evaporative cooling at an excessive rate - and one I didn't appreciate. 

Totals: 29.05 (goal was 30); 3:56:40
YTD: 216.8; 30:51:24

Up next: A real week, 50 miles, and still in phase 1 base building. How this week goes may well affect the remainder of my season. It is the first 50-mile training i.e. non-race week, and I generally start to slack off a little bit when the mileage goes about 50 mpw. This ends up with massive runs on Friday/Saturday/Sunday to hit the goal mileage and little work on the front end. The plan this week is to run about an hour at a time every day except Saturday or Sunday so as to get off on a good foot - so to say - on Monday.

The above is also part of my mental strategy for the season. Every week, I am rededicating my self to two of my 2012 goals: finish Sawtooth (well); and run what I planned to run for that week. Each week, without thinking about what is beyond that. I do that, by keeping rolling seven-day and three-week averages (see 2012 training plan, at right), but not to any high degree of importance. This week, with 50 mpw and a 12.5-mile-plus long run, I need to bang out between 6.5 and just over 7.5 miles/day, depending on how many days I run (six vs. seven, and hopefully not five - the last of which puts those non-long day closer to nine miles/day).

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Race Recap: JD Memorial 50K

I signed up for the John Dick Memorial 50K to ease my nerves. A runner friend of mine commented that I was really going to run a 100 miler as my first race of the season, and it sent a signal of doubt into my thighs. In past years, I have always built up to a long, peak race. This year, I would be hitting it hard, 100 miles right from the outset. So I needed something between six and eight weeks out. In swooped the icy, muddy, and snowy JD 50K, held on a snowmobile trail in the Kettle Moraine area of Wisconsin.

The course layout required us to run five loops of essentially and out-and-back course that had a lollipop on one end. The start/finish was on a spur trail that branched off from the middle of this trail. Once we hit the trail, we did the out-and-back first, then the lollipop, and then re-started the whole process. The out-and-back was about four miles, the lollipop was about two.

I took the first loop easy enough. The race director, Robert Wehner, recommended people wear screw shoes or Ice Spikes because the trails were icy. Now, I wear New Balance MT10s and those soles aren’t thick enough to put a sheet metal screw into it without puncturing my foot. And I didn’t get around to asking one of my runner friends if they had some Yaktrax or Kahtoola microspikes for me. So I ran bare, so to say.

Ultramarathon starts are (almost) always informal.

I was running with a pack of six runners throughout the first loop, and we there were seven runners ahead of us. Sometimes I would lead, sometimes hang back, but never in the middle. There were two aid stations on the course. The first was at the turnaround of the out-and-back section. It was unmanned and had a tub of goodies and two water coolers, one with water and the other filled with HEED. The second was at the end of the lollipop on the other end of the course. This aid station was manned and full of a smorgasboard of food. Everything from typical ultra fare to Little Debbies (why you would want one or could stomach one while running is beyond me) was present, and they also had stove going with ramen soup in pot.

When we came into the manned aid station, I hit it and turned around right away. In doing so, I dropped my five companions instantly and put on a several second lead. One runner caught up to me in short order, an man in all black who wore a blaze-orange stocking cap with “Cougars” on the back and “RRR” on the rear, both written in permanent black marker. He would be my companion for the next ten or so miles.

He and I pulled through the first loop in 51:20, a sub-4:25 pace. I felt solid, was running well, and felt no qualms about the pace. I thought on a great day I could run 4:30, and set a goal of 5:00 hours. 5:30 was also acceptable, but only if conditions dictated (see also 2012 Afton 50K at Afton Alps instead of Afton State Park). We were right on track to where I wanted to be. All I had to do was hold on.

He and I battled together without other companions until about one third of the way through the third lap. We came through the second lap in 48:53, a respectable almost-even pace from the first lap (maybe a little negative) and pushed each other on. On the third lap, my legs started to tire, and the race director caught up to us at about just after the turn around on the out-and-back. He ran past us, and got in front of the two of us just prior to the large, shallow hill on the that section. Now heading back away from the aid station, the hill sloped up. I walked, they ran, and I  was dropped.

I ran through the remainder of the third lap myself, and I started to flounder. When I came through I told my wife that things were starting to hurt. My hamstrings occassionally twinged and my legs started to feel heavy. I knew I had a blister or two on my right outside big toe, and the top of my the toes on my right shoe had a blood stain. I didn’t feel anything so I chose not to worry (or tell her about it).

By the time I was done with the third lap, the sun had come out in earnest and was pounding the open areas. Snow-covered trails turned to mush, dirt turned to mud, and ice became covered with shoe-tracked sand. I can through in 53:50. A little slow down, but respectable given how I was running. I was likely in 10th place at this time.

The fourth lap did a number to me, and I had to remind myself to dig deep. I started walking more of the inclines, and started to take short 45-second to one-minute walking breaks to gather myself. Up until the first aid station on the fourth lap, I had consumed four gels. I had been running for around 3.5 hours and was starting to wane. My stomach felt fine, but I didn’t have any zip in my steps. When I got to that first aid station on lap four, I stopped there for the first time in the race. I had been running right around through it. I slammed two glasses of Coke, belched out the carbonation, and trucked along. My step picked up, and I pushed as hard as I could.

The second aid station on that lap was a similar story. Not only did I put down two more glasses of coke, but I grabbed a fistful of potato chips, too. The salt tasted good, a little too good. That meant one thing: my electrolytes were low, and I needed to replenish them ASAP. I grabbed two more handfuls of chips and got out of there.

I felt instantly better as I left the second aid station on lap four. I was right: my electrolytes were low, and it was affecting my running. I ran on, not caring if I stepped in a mud puddle or four. I came through the fourth lap in 1:06:17 - a noticeable drop from the third lap, maybe of two minutes per mile. But I came through at just under 3:40 for approximately 40K. It was about a 3:50 trail marathon pace, and I was all-but guaranteed to hit my goal of running sub-5 hours. There was no way - absent severe mental or physical breakdown - that I was running an 80-plus minute final lap.

To make matters worse, I had watched the eventual winner drop the pack and pass me going in the opposite direction on every loop. Each loop, he gained more and more. First he had a third of a lap on us, then half, and then on my way to the the start of the fifth loop, he passed me coming up from behind. I was in 15th or so place and was lapped. I had been lapping the slower members of the field, but he lapped me. Just an incredible performance.

The fifth loop was my best loop of them all, at least for feel and racing tenacity. Like the third and fourth loops, I took my a walking break or two, but I ran harder (not necessarily faster) than I did on any loop but my first. Two cokes at the first aid station, two more and some chips at the second, and I hard run through the snow and mud throughout. I pulled off the snowmobile trail and onto the pavement and looked back. The person behind me was starting their fifth loop, and I blasted uphill on the road to the start/finish.

Running uphill - even at a gradual incline - late in an ultra is a task in and of itself. Seemingly innocuous molehills become large chores on tired legs. This was my case with this last hill. But with nothing left to put on the course, I ran as hard as I could - likely around a 7:30 mile pace around the hook and into the warming building. Time recorded - 4:45:00 by my watch - and fast enough that my wife wasn't out to cheer me in because she didn't expect me for another 10 minutes and a PR for the distance by 34 minutes.

In the end, I made it though without falling, although I did have my close calls. I also slipped around plenty - especially on the first two laps - costing precious energy each time. However, after the first loop or two, I figured out where I could and couldn’t step and where I should and shouldn’t put run.

The takewaway

I went into this race as a tune-up for the Zumbro 100, now just over eight weeks away. My time and the feel of the race settled any doubts I had about finishing Zumbro,

I also felt strong on the hills, even the ones I power-walked up. I had a zip in my step up the quick inclines, and powered down the descents on every lap. I'll take this as early-season confirmation of running up and down hills on my easy runs.

Finally, as always, I need to work on pacing. Laps one through three went well, and a 4:30 finish was definitely in reach had I not slowed down by two minutes/mile on those last two laps. This was partially an electrolyte deficiency - a rookie mistake, essentially - and partially mental. I'm going to set a 4:30 time goal at Afton and work like crazy to hit it.
Lap 1: 51:20
Lap 2: 48:53
Lap 3: 53:50
Lap 4: 1:06:17
Lap 5: 1:04:39
Finish: 4:45:01 (unofficial)
Recovery time, with a head cold: <72 hours.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Big week, big PR!

A big week, and big PR. Finally, I run a 50K on something other than crazy-hilly single track and PR by a huge amount - 34 minutes!

Monday: 9.25; 1:13
Out and around Mount 'Kato in the early AM. This served as my long run for the week.

Tuesday: 4.6; 31:55
A little jumpy with this one, functionally a Q2 workout, only 36 hours after Monday's Q1 workout. I shouldn't be running this yet, but I had one of those days where everything felt like it clicked. So I pushed it - here's the result, a sub-7 minute/mile pace with a wicked climb up Main Street. Also, mailed my registration for Saturday's race.

Wednesday: 3.5; 30:00
Slow and sluggish trot around local park. Nothing spectacular, but I got outside.

Thursday AM: 5.4; 48:00
Out-and-back, easy, to Mount Kato.

Thursday PM: 6.4; 54:00
Out-and-back, easy, to Mount Kato and then some.

Friday: 4.4; 42:00
Repeat of Wednesday, just a little longer and a little slower. Think of it as a pre-race set up. Extra bonus: I came down with a head cold in the AM, 24-hours before Saturday's race.

Saturday: 31; 4:45:00
John Dick Memorial 50K. Race report coming soon. Needless to say, huge PR by 34 minutes and I'm pleased with the whole icy, snowy, muddy mess. Headcold (and then headache) cometh in earnest.

Sunday: 4.3; 42:00
Recovery run. Ouch. Headcold continueth.

Totals: 68.8; 10:07:22.
YTD: 187.7; 26:54:44.