It is now December 1st. December means a few things to me: 1. The birth-month of both my wife and my mother. 2.The beginning of severe winter here in Gunnison and Crested Butte. 3. The beginning of ski race season for the junior nordic team athletes that I coach. 4. The beginning of the 2009 training year for me as an ultra-runner.
I have picked this month to begin focused training for several reasons: 1. It enables me to get a running jump on the ‘New Year.’ I have always enjoyed trying to establish new habits one month before the new year, so that they are already part of my routine prior to the New Year. With this year’s training it is no different. I want to adopt consistency and focus prior to 2009; that way I can literally hit the ground running once 2009 actually becomes a reality. 2. Last year I started too early with too much volume. I strung together 4 solid months: November, December, January, and February. I trained very hard, and by the end of it I had an enormous base, but was also tired and mentally spent. So, this year, December 1st as a start date is some 30 days later than last year. This will help me carry solid training into the Spring. 3. I am looking at running my best again at the 2009 Leadville Trail 100 miler on August 22, 2009, and I have found 9 months of mental focus is about all I can handle.
This fall has been good. My ‘set-point’ body weight is 10 lbs. less than last year at this time. This is odd, because I certainly am eating well and abundantly, but, after a full year of 100 mile weeks, my body has changed. Last year, even in good training mode, and healthy eating mode, I was a comfortable 172 lbs. This year (since about July) I have been a very comfortable 163lbs. So, my whole set point has changed. Mentally, my mind has been ‘turning the corner’ for about 5 weeks now. I have had a strong desire to really get going in training since the end of October, but have held off for the above-mentioned reasons. It is great though that my mind has shifted and has really been desiring a higher training load again.
What this fall looked like: The two weeks immediately after Leadville I spent not running, and instead mountain-biking fairly easily with my wife Annie: some good rides, low key, and around 2 hours per ride. Since September 1st, I have been running and consistently running a weekly average of 60 miles, mostly very easy. I have had some hard runs: 6 min pace. I have had some long runs, Grand Canyon Epic. But mostly I have gone out and ran an easy 60 min – 80 min on mixed terrain almost every day. I have also spent a lot of time in the weight room doing light weight weight exercises, heavy amounts of core, and a good deal of stretching. Since the ski season began I have also been cross country skiing every day for approximately 75 min – 90 min. The skiing has been pretty mellow, and I have stopped quite a bit to run the kids through drills, video, etc. This skiing has occurred between 10,000′ and 11000′; so I know the blood cells are still there too. Clearly, it is not like I have taken any time off really, but mentally I have enjoyed just going out and moving, breathing, and relaxing.
The mental difference: As I mentioned above, the past 5 weeks, my mind has begun to shift to ‘training mode’ and focusing more on specifics, etc. During my harder strength training sessions, my mind has been visualizing numerous points along the Leadville 100 course, and I now know that I am gearing up to truly focus on Leadville again. So, my mind has clearly turned, and now it is time to state the goals I’ll be chasing after. My number one focus this year is to go back and defend my Leadville 100 victory. I love Leadville, and want to compete there again very badly. I am aiming at running a 17 hour race. This will be approximately one hour faster than 2008. This certainly will be a challenge, one that I am craving again. I am craving the process badly. There are several other races that I will be racing in; all with various goals, but none that I have locked down yet. I will post the updated race schedule within the next month or so.
The sub-goals: These few items are the goals to get me there. If I can implement these daily small tasks, then I will put myself in a position to run that 17 hour race at Leadville:
1. Core: To greatly focus on the strength of my core: to enhance core strength to another degree. My core is already very strong; but the thing I am visualizing is running up power-line with my core; not my legs.
2. Strength: To enhance my overall total body strength. I feel, at times, very weak, and wish to change that greatly. I think that increased leg strength will get me through a huge part of the race next year by aiding me even more on the down-hills. Stronger core, and stronger legs. Need ’em both.
3. Speed: I really need to focus on increasing my total speed and running economy. With the simple act of running hard one day per week, I feel I am capable of bettering myself as a runner greatly. Last year, I had 6 weeks of faster running prior to Leadville, and I am convinced that those runs helped me at Leadville. So; if I can re-work my running economy higher and higher; I should see even greater benefit: Running faster at the same effort; or running the same speed with less effort: This is the goal.
4. Coffee: I need to drink less coffee: period. I do think that the amount of coffee I consume has a detrimental impact on my running and overall energy levels. I need to change this and I think I have already made a slight shift. I’ll keep you all posted. Caffeine-free tea, and water will be the substitutes.
5. Sleep: I need to sleep more: period. Sleep is the crux of recovery, and something that I do not focus on nearly enough. Typically I sleep about 8 hours per night; which is fine for normal living, but not fine during periods of heavy training volume. I think I am negatively impacted by this little sleep during huge volume times. I believe that if I can somehow get 9.5 hours or more per night/day (i.e. take a short nap) then this will greatly enhance my recovery, and thus, my training ability.
6. Focused Effort: Last year I essentially ran as much as I could whenever I could. Although it is important to run a lot, this did not maximize my abilities in training or racing. So, this year will be much more subdued and consistent training most of the time with pockets of high volume. (February will be one such month; as will May and June). July will be lower weekly volume with heavy weekend volume. So; I will stay consistent and focused on daily runs, good strength training; ample cross training, and then during those periods when volume is crucial; I will throw it down. (Below, I will sketch out what my training is going to look like.) With this ‘focused effort’ mindset I will attempt to approach a few weeks during the year as ‘training camp weeks’. I think that this will enable me to focus the efforts even more.
As for what a typical week will look like: These next two months (December and January):
1. I will run between 65 and 90 miles per week. One day per week will be a hard effort: Tempo run, intervals, etc. and one day per week will be a long run (for these two months that will be 2 -3 hours at a solid pace.)
2. I will lift weights on a consistent basis: 2 times per week. These routines consist of 3 sets of 10 reps for 12 exercises. I also do more core work, pull-ups, pushups, and dips during these sessions. During these sessions I also stretch a significant amount. I also will do 2 – 4 other core strengthening sessions with my junior ski team throughout this winter.
3. I will also count a good amount of cross training in the form of cross country skiing with the junior team that I coach. These daily skis will be approximately 80 min. in duration with varying intensities. In addition I will also attempt to get out and ski on my own 1 or 2 times per week for a little more non-stop skiing. I plan on racing a few cross country ski races throughout the winter as well. I’ll keep that up-to-date too.