- Run 100-110 miles a week, including lots of doubles
- Train through races before my goal event
- Do some hard mile repeats on the track every week
- Do a hard tempo run two days after the track intervals
- Resist rest
But, alas, I'm finding that even my "new" routine doesn't seem to work. I'm not getting the results I should, which leads me to the conclusion that I overtrain and am experiencing diminishing returns. I'm even open to the fact that back in the day, maybe I wasn't getting the results I should have and was operating on diminishing returns despite one PR after another. Let me explain.
Running 55 miles a week from 2004 to the spring of 2007, I consistently clocked marathons of 3:05-3:08 and rarely got injured. I don't ever remember running being a huge commitment of time, and I usually took one or two days off a week. But then in the spring of 2007, I got into 100-milers and, on the advice of a few who I trusted, jacked up my mileage to triple digits (breaking many rules but somehow averting disaster) to build a body strong enough to go insane distances. But I was still doing marathons and found myself perplexed by the fact that my marathon PR dropped to only 2:58. Yes, it's true, I did win a few ultras in that time span. But does it make sense that a near-doubling of my mileage would result in only a 7-minute reduction in my marathon time? One would think that, by doubling my output and doing good intensity, my marathon time would drop far more than 7 minutes.
I used to get ribbed for having only a 2:58 marathon PR when my half-marathon PR is 1:22 (set in the midst of a 100-mile week, I would add) and my 5K PR is 17:39. A 1:22 half PR and 17:39 5K PR should translate to a marathon of about 2:53. Still, a few guys I knew back in Cleveland were convinced I could go sub-2:50. Obviously, I've never come close to that (but hopefully will in January when I run in the Rock 'n Roll Phoenix Marathon).
So here I am today, an almost 39-year-old runner who hasn't set a PR in a few years and is now questioning everything I'm doing. Granted, it's not like I've done PR-friendly races lately. No, I've signed up for some monsters like the Jemez 50-mile, the Leadville Marathon and, of course, the Leadville 100. But, still, the PRs seem to be in the rear-view mirror. Or, maybe I've just been doing a bad job of signing up for PR-friendly races (geez, are there any PR friendly races in Colorado?). What I now see when I look in the mirror every morning is a guy who used to think he had it figured out, but who is now clueless.
But that's not all I see. I see guys out there breaking 20 hours at the Leadville 100 on 60 miles a week. I'm doing 25-30 percent more than that and last year I finished in 22:35, still a very solid time but, like many of my results over the past few years, a time that was out of whack with how I trained.
Confession: Saturday's race up in Golden Gate State Park has forced me to think a lot about how I train (volume-based approach). But even before Saturday I was kind of in the wilderness. Only now am I admitting my cluelessness. Right now I desperately want someone to help me figure this out. Last Sunday I thought about driving down to Manitou Springs to see if Matt Carpenter, if he had a moment at his busy custard shop, would help give me that Yoda insight I want so badly. Of course, I didn't do that (thank God--I'd have made a fool of myself) and, even if I did, how (or why?) would a guy like Carpenter, who I consider one of the giants in this sport, help a dude like me, who has 1/100 of his ability in the mountains?
So instead I just stewed and was a cranky bastard.
I know what you may be thinking: Wyatt, why are you taking running so seriously? You should do it for enjoyment. I take running seriously because it's who I am. I'm not out to finish; I'm out to achieve bigger and better things. That's the story of my life, for better or worse. And you know, I love that part of it, even as it brings me to the situation I'm now in.
Even as I don't know the solution, I think I know the problem. And here it is: I'm a volume guy who pushes it hard--too hard. Every single weekend I do back-to-backs and rarely do I take a day off. I'm always going for it, because, deep down, I'm an insecure runner who "finds" (false) security in pressing the pedal to the medal. I convince myself that I'm doing the right kind of training so long as it's heavy in volume. Big miles=big glory. Wait, no, it doesn't. What I now see is an equation I can't figure out (yet). And it goes something like this: X+Y+Z-A=goal achieved. In that equation, I don't know what X, Y or Z is, and I sure as hell don't know what that A is (rest? but how much?).
So in my clueless state, I'm questioning everything, including whether or not I'm consuming enough calories on a daily basis. Maybe I'm not eating enough to support how I'm training. Should I be in minimal shoes, or are Hokas and Salomons the ticket? Is 7.5 hours of sleep every night enough? Should I take one tablespoon or two tablespoons of Udo's Oil? Is a day of rest every week a requirement?
Beyond that, I'm struggling to find my new "sweet spot." What's the maximum amount of miles I can run while still improving? Is it 65 a week? 70 a week? More? Less? What about intensity? For races like Leadville, what's going to get me into the finish in under 20 hours: Track intervals? Hill repeats? Tempo running? Jump roping? Mountains? All of the above? None of the above? Ah, the 800-pound gorilla question: Am I even capable of doing Leadville in under 20 hours, especially as I live in Parker and can get to the mountains only 1-2 times a week because of family and job stuff? What about long runs? What's better for ME: back to back 20s? Or 30 on Saturday and 10 on Sunday? And here's a big question I'm dealing with: What about walking as part of my training? Since to break 20 hours at Leadville I have to average 5 miles per hour (not easy, believe me), should I also be focusing on walking? Is walking just as valuable as running, or is it just a big waste of time? Another 800-pound gorilla question: Why does sub-20 at Leadville even matter?
I'll do what it takes, but what does it take? Yeah, we're back to that mysterious equation. Hopefully I'll find the answers. This week I've incorporated some new practices. On Sunday, the day after the 50K, I rested. I walked hard and on the trail for 4 miles on Monday and then that night walked 2 miles on neighborhood streets. Then on Tuesday morning I ran nearly 9 miles and that evening walked for 3 miles hard and on the trail. This morning I did hill repeats on the road, and tonight I'm going to get back out and walk hard and on the trail. This weekend I'm going to hit the Incline and Barr Trail.
I'm taking it day by day, not sure of what will work but open to the fact that I have to try new things to see if they do work.
Because this I know: I can't keep doing what I've been doing--since it ain't working.