One of my concepts with this blog, beyond sharing my experiences, is to use it as tool to keep me focused and honest with myself. I had intentions of writing a blog article exactly one month after my first race. I even thought about writing this article today and back dating it just so it had the “correct” date. But what is the purpose of doing that? Is it just to make me feel like I do everything according to plan? That is pretty laughable. Why is it that we focus so much on how we think we will appear to others or to some preconceived notion of what is perfect? What a waste of energy. On with the show…
Last week I mentioned that I wanted to ramp up the training to my 100 km level that was my baseline prior to the race. Good intentions they were but life sort of got in the way. I had a long anniversary weekend getaway with my amazing wife at the beach so I thought it would be a lot more fun and wiser to spend it with her rather than pound the pavement for hours on end. Cherishing my wife and our marriage is of the utmost importance and what gives me a foundation in my life that I never had before her. The end result of last week, I spent four fabulous (rain filled) days with my wife in which we did not have any distractions and really were able to enjoy our time in a decompressed mode that most parents with young children rarely experience. My distance for the week 73 km with no long run.
One good thing out my running last week was that I have started the framework of a more focused weekly training program. On Wednesdays, I am focusing on speed work. For an ultrarunner, speed work is a bit of a debated topic as to whether it is worthwhile or not. When you are dealing with distances of 50 to 100 miles, there will rarely be a time that you will get into a sprint or a pace that gets anywhere near the speeds that a normal speed workout requires. For that reason, the camp that is against it thinks that you are better off focusing all your efforts on training that is more applicable to the real life experience of the ultramarathon. It is said that the time on the feet is more valuable than the shorter, more intense running in speed work.
The other side states that in order to run faster, you must run faster i.e. train faster. The other idea is that by pushing your cardiovascular system, by way of intervals and hill repeats, you can improve your fitness and run at faster speeds with less effort. For example, if I run at a pace of 6 minutes per kilometer in cool weather, my heart rate would be between 115-125 beats per minute. The hypothesis is that after some dedicated months of speed work, I might be able to run at a pace of 5:30 or 5:45 per kilometer, in the same conditions, and with the same heart rate. In effect, I would run faster with no extra energy expenditure by my body. This idea seems to make sense to me.
After deciding that speed work was my route, I researched the various ideas out there to pick one to test. Several websites, coaches, and books I read mentioned 800 meter repeats. One coach in particular, Bart Yasso, has a method called Yasso 800s. The concept behind this method is to start with four 800m repeats with a rest period equivalent to the time the 800m lap. If you ran the 800m in 3:30, then run slowly for 3:30 before you attempt the next 800m lap. Each week, you add another repeat eventually reaching ten repeats. The added bonus to this method is that supposedly when you are up to 10 repeats, whatever your slowest repeat was of the 10 will translate to your predicted marathon time. Let’s say your slowest time was 3:25 (3 minutes 25 seconds). Then your predicted marathon time would be 3:25 (3 hours 25 minutes) provided you did all the sufficient marathon training as well.
I am not particularly concerned with a marathon time, although one day I would like to either do a BQ – Boston Marathon Qualifying time and/or run a sub 3 hour marathon. I am encroaching upon my 40th birthday so I am not too sure I will be able to ever reach sub 3 hours. My body is fighting father time and according to the experts, I am well past the window of peak performance for marathons. In fact when I was in that window (age 31 for marathoners), I was in my worst condition of my life. On the other hand, there are reports that show, in ultramarathons, the average age for top ten finishers for males is 37 with many winners in their 40s. Who knows what the future holds? What I have decided is that I am going to let it all hang out and train as hard and as smart as I can to see what I can achieve with full effort. I refuse to be in my 50s, 60s, or 70s wondering what could have been if I had only tried as hard as could have.
In a future post, I will dive into two previous passions (baseball and music) where I definitely did not put everything I had into achieving my best results. For various reasons I did not dedicate myself in the way that was necessary to realize my full potential. These experiences have left an everlasting imprint in my psyche. It is the feeling of climbing the mountain only to turn back thinking I would never get there only to realize later in life that I was almost there. I only needed to keep pushing and I could have reached my goal. I think those experiences are what drives me now. I am not anywhere near the fastest runner out there but I know I am also not in the back of the pack. Regardless, I feel my tenacity (or stubbornness as my family might call it) is an attribute that serves me well in my passion known as ultrarunning. In these short three years of being a runner, there have been several times when I have felt like I wanted to just stop but there is something inside of me that just keeps plugging away. The more often I reach points of despair in long runs and then fight through, the more confidence I have the next time I reach those points of despair.
Back to the speed work–one thing that has bothered me in my runs lasting over 6 hours is that I seem to lose any sort of extra gear. I feel like a tractor-trailer going up a mountain in a low gear. I can keep going and going but my max speed is topped out. My feeling is that if I can keep my conditioning program improving, the speed work will help my late hour top speed.
One month removed from my first race, the post race glow has worn off. I still feel proud but I am totally ready to get back into the deep grind of improving my fitness and focusing on new targets. Besides researching several coaching possibilities, I have been inundating myself with as much ultrarunning information as possible. I’ve added the following podcasts to my running playlist to try to absorb more tips, tricks, methods, and knowledge:
- Ultrarunner Podcast
- Talk Ultra
- Trail Runner Nation
- DFL Ultrarunning
- Ginger Runner LIVE
Wrapping up this entry I realize that I’ve entered the rambling zone. I’ll end it with this, week two of speed work still hurt a lot but I know that it will take at least a month for it to start showing tangible results. I have dedicated at least at least 60 minutes of nonstop downhill running per week by way of propping up my treadmill. I am continuing to run with a group on the weekends. Finally, I am incorporating core strengthening with a little bit of yoga poses each week, too. My next project is to build a harness attached to a tire to drag during some of my runs.