Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Starting to Get Back at It After a Winter of Not Running "Much"

With March here, I'm just now starting to get the itch to ramp up my training and think about my races. This morning, I actually did a tempo run. When you cut through the crap, the two most important workouts you can do to prepare for a long race are 1) the long run and 2) the tempo run. Hill repeats aren't far behind especially if you're an "aging athlete." But I hate hill repeats. I'd rather run intervals around the track. That said, I'm making myself do hills this spring and summer--I need the strength.

All winter long, my mileage has been anywhere from 50-65 miles a week, with one recent seven-day stretch of 72 miles. Honestly, the motivation to bust my ass every day hasn't been there. I've been really busy at work, and we've tried to ski as much as possible this winter (and what an epic winter it's been in Colorado--a fresh powder bonanza almost every weekend of late). Fortunately, my motivation is coming back; otherwise I wouldn't have done a tempo run--and enjoyed it--this morning.

Being able to see the sun rise in the morning, after a winter of cold and darkness, makes a big difference. Unfortunately, with daylight saving time kicking in this weekend, I'll be back in the dark for a few more weeks--always a cruel slap in the face in the early spring. But it's great that we'll have later sunsets--meaning more time outside.

Even though I don't feel old (I know I could still break 18 in a sea level 5K), I know I'm aging. I'll be 41 this June. I'm in good shape according to the metrics we keep at work. My blood pressure is low. My BMI is ideal. My LDL cholesterol is good (though in a recent test my total cholesterol came in a bit high--it's being retested as 18 months earlier my total cholesterol was 162). I've found with age that I'm a bit more judicious with how I use my body and what I ask of myself physically and mentally. It used to be that I wracked up 4,000 miles a year and didn't take much time off at all--because I really didn't need it (or I didn't feel like I needed it). Over the past few years, and especially over the past few months, I've recognized the need to give myself some down time and then, when it really counts, focus on what matters--in 2014, what matters to me is the Leadville 100.

Following so many people on Facebook, on the blogosphere and elsewhere, I can't help but notice a trend I'm seeing. People are racing year-round, running huge miles all winter long, and not really giving themselves any downtime. That may work for a while, but I think over time it catches up to you. In 2010, my foot imploded and my body rebelled on me after putting it through a meat grinder in 2008 and 2009. Back in the day (admittedly, right when I was getting into ultras), there was something of an off-season. Among the first big races of the year were Way Too Cool and Umstead. These days, there's a race every weekend. I honestly think a lot of people (but not all people) over-race because ultrarunning somehow makes them feel good about themselves and they also like the oohs and ahs from non-runners. I get that to an extent. This is my eleventh year of racing long distances, so external validation and praise stopped meaning much of anything to me a long time ago. That said, in a race it's good to get encouragement, especially from your family and friends.

This being March and my conditioning well below where it needs to be by August, ordinarily I'd be feeling a bit freaked out. But not this year. I'm only now starting to get mentally engaged with running after about five months of aimlessly staying somewhat fit and skiing on the weekends (and let me tell you that fresh powder skiing will kick your ass!). Ultrarunning requires such a high level of mental energy (and physical energy, too) that if you're not 100% into it then don't bother. You might as well take up sewing. We're not just warriors; we're kind of like "Jedi Masters"--you have to have your mind into it because the mind is the most powerful weapon for the ultrarunner. My ultrarunning mind is now starting to awaken after a great winter and I'm excited to race soon!

I still plan to run the Colorado Marathon in Fort Collins in early May, but at this point it's hard to see being in great shape going into that race. If I qualify for Boston, I'll be happy. I like to stay qualified for Boston 365 days a year!

Then I'll have the Leadville Trail Marathon in mid-June, the North Fork 50K (or maybe 50-miler?) in late-June and a gnarly half-marathon at Copper Mountain Ski Resort in July--all leading me to the Leadville 100 in mid-August.

My Leadville training will be interesting. Monday through Friday, much of it will take place here in Parker since I work full-time, have a family and don't have the time to run in the mountains during the work week. On Saturdays and Sundays, I'll head to the trails, with Sundays being my big days with lots of vertical. I'll still be able to take the occasional Friday off and head up to the mountains. The most important goal, besides showing up in August healthy, is to avoid peaking too soon.

Onward and upward!

13 comments:

  1. I have noticed people racing non-stop... 100 miler after 100 miler after 24 race, etc. The two-three weeks I took off and did nothing after JFK was well needed and helped a ton. And though I bitched about it, being sick and taking off the first two weeks of January, again, doing absolutely nothing I think in the long run did more good for me than harm. Those two separate but close breaks of two weeks at a time were just what I needed to come back with fresh'ish legs but more than that a positive mental attitude. One of the biggest things I learned last year doing Leadman is that for me it works best to train to race rather than race to train but some people are different. The other thing learned is that I would much rather have one really awesomely executed race (or five in a series) than to race year round and just to mediocre. Turning 46 myself in a few days I realize that from here on out I have to be very selective about my goals, battles, and races, meaning it doesn't work for me to do 30 races and hope that just one of them is a good one. Bottom line is I am finally understanding the overall importance of rest, both physical and mental. But then maybe I am just a wuss. :)

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    1. Andy: You had an awesome 2013. You focused on Leadman and look at what it got you--you seemed to get stronger as you moved through a series of grueling races. I was a little surprised by the fast time you put up in the 100. You're a great example of what one can do when they focus and work hard and refuse to get distracted by other stuff. Deep respect for you, bro.

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  2. You can rest when you're dead! Toughen up, buttercup!

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    1. JT: You're too young to understand. :-)

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  3. Okay - so let's get to it: what is the goal for Pb this year?

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    1. Hey GZ: Goal is go sub-21. Of course, at the end of the day, the big goal is ten 1000-mile buckles, each under 25 hours.

      Wyatt

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  4. You still did great mileage during the winter. I'm 50 now and I tell you I am feeling it in every aspect of my running. But I still get good results if I keep putting in the hard work. As my doctor said, I am in better shape than most 25 year old patients are.

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    1. Keep it up, Johann! When I'm 50 I hope my doctor says that to me, too!

      Wyatt

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  5. Being new to Parker (moved here from Aurora this past fall), I love the running down here. A lot of rolling hills and in our neck of the woods it seems like there's never any real flat. I've been heading over to Green Mtn / Red Rocks the past several weeks, and while it's not a lot of climbing at least I'm getting some in and on trails.

    I'm also a bit bummed that we'll be back in the dark here next week, but the weather is starting to get a bit better and I doubt there'll be anymore single digit temps. for the morning runs.

    And FYI, I appreciate you letting me follow you on Strava. I've found some nice new routes to run AND everytime I'm thinking I'm starting to make progress, your feed is there to humble me. :)

    I did want to ask you. Do you do you track work over at Legend and if so, do you find it to be just a tad long?

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    1. Mike, yes, there is little flat running in Parker especially east of Parker Road, where we live. My Garmin doesn't like the Legend track. A lap around the track comes out to about .2 or so miles on my GPS, which means I can't use it to accurately track my intervals. So, I hand-time my intervals and bear in mind that my GPS mileage is going to come in low. But Legend is where I run my intervals. I'll be there next week doing some 800s. I love to cool down on the trail loop behind the school.

      Wyatt

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  6. Thanks for the post. I agree with you that races tend to abound every weekend. The temptation is, at least in my estimation, to take on too many. As a result, the possibility of injury is raised. I did find it intriguing that you made this remark: "I like to stay qualified for Boston 365 days a year!"

    I wonder if this type of training is still too much. I know the mileage may not be as high since your competing in ultra marathons, but does staying qualified still put a lot of strain on the body year round even if not many races are pursued? Thanks for the thoughts, and best wishes on your training.

    -Austin Bonds

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  7. Wyatt -
    For many runners 50-65 miles is a lot. I know you believe volume is the key to your running, but I don't think 50-65 miles qualifies as downtime. Particularly not with weightlifting and skiing and just "life" stress. The other consideration, as we age, is a race schedule. You like to race a lot, but I think you can only really peak once or twice a year for a key race. Peaking is always relative to expectations and race effort, but still, racing takes a toll.

    I guess what I am saying is that if you are feeling burned out, just don't run at all for a few weeks. Enjoy some real downtime. You are a seasoned runner and any lost fitness will return quickly. And, if you are like me, all it will take is some good Spring weather and you'll be itching to get back out.

    My two cents. Be well,
    AJ

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  8. Hi Wyatt,
    First of all great and inspiring blog :)
    One of my goals this year is to run a marathon a month. I do 11 of them as “long training runs” where I beside the miles get the social aspect. One of the marathons will be my main goal where I will try to break the 3 hour barrier.
    So I do lot of “races” but most of them are at a slow pace (and MAF puls).
    Last year you trained a lot after MAF (which inspired me to do the same). Don’t you do MAF training anymore as part of you’r basebuilding?

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