It seems like every year at this time I make a bunch of running resolutions that, invariably, I never keep because I have some strange attachment to old habits (run a shitload of miles, run fast as hell a few times a week and forget about recovery). I always talk about the importance of recovery, cross-training, etc. Over the past few years I've waxed on about the critical need to train on mountain trails if I'm to be successful in Leadville. And while I do get to the mountains with decent frequency, I've nonetheless spent entirely too much time running hills in Parker and telling myself it's going to work for a trail race at 10,000+ feet. Yada, yada, yada.
When I look at myself, here are the good things and bad things I see--and I'll start with the positives: First off, I love to run and I love races. I love adventure. Although I'm still learning how to run mountains, I freaking love the high country. I'm very experienced with ultras. I have some decent ability. I have deep desire. I do a great job with healthy eating. I am disciplined. I sleep well (except when I'm overtrained...).
Now for the negatives. When I look in the mirror, I see a guy who's a few months away from turning 40 and who has some physical issues that need to be--and can be--addressed. My knee has flared up in two 100-milers. I was able to finish (barely) that first time it flared up, but the second time (Leadville 2012) I DNF'd. My knee didn't give me any problems at Phoenix, but I'm quite aware of the fact that there could be an issue in my next 100. I'm also aware of the fact that I have some quad issues. At Phoenix, my quads were trashed at an unacceptable level. I often wonder if there's a connection between my quad issues and my knee issue--a connection that is becoming problematic given that, as we age, we lose muscle. With that thought in mind, in 2013 I really want to spend some time weight training. I'm talking about high repetition/low-weight training.
I also think proper shoes will help my knee. My Hokas freaking killed me at Leadville last year. I felt incredibly unstable during descents, and that feeling of instability can cascade into many problems. So right now I'm looking around for some good trail shoes that are fairly light but stable (update: I just bought some Mizuno Wave Ascends).
I always talk about cross-training and how it's important to staying healthy. But I've come to realize that, with limited time, cross-training, except for maybe weight training and occasional walking, isn't going to be in the mix for me at least for the next few years. The reality is that I'm a runner and I'm going to run a ton. If I want to perform well in ultras, I need to run a lot and I need to hit good quality. I'd rather run than bike and I'd rather have my teeth pulled than do the elliptical. If I had time to swim, I would. I love swimming. Again, time is an issue; I make time for running. I tend not to make time for other sports because I have more important things to do, like enjoy my family, mow the lawn and report to work.
So I need to find ways to stay healthy, particularly when it comes to avoiding soft-tissue injuries, which have plagued me over the past few years, while still running good volume. I'm hoping that weight training will help me stay healthy. I mean, when you weight-train you develop stronger muscles and when you have strong muscles your joints are less taxed when you run. It makes sense to me. I gotta hit the weights! But that's not all, which leads me to....
I also always talk about the need for recovery, and yet I do such a piss-poor job of it especially when I'm in the throes of training for an epic race like Leadville. Right now, with Phoenix just done, I'm doing a great job of taking it easy and doing active recovery. But in March, when my training starts to ramp up and I have Leadville on my mind, I know I'm going to find myself wanting to keep the pedal to the medal instead of backing off now and then to let my body and mind recover. In 2013, I have got to do a better job of planned, proactive recovery, especially given that I intend to hit triple digits (after a few years of avoidance of triple digits).
Finally, if I want to achieve my goals at the Leadville 100, then I have to do lots of high-altitude training. Yeah, I know, who'd have thought that? Last year, because I'd started a new job and had very little time off, getting to the high country was extremely difficult. This year, it'll be easier because I have some time off and I'm more established in my job. Last August, I found out the hard way that no hill or trail in Parker is going to prepare me for Leadville. To be prepared for Leadville, I need to run a lot of miles at altitude. And what better place to do that than Leadville?
Another benefit of high-altitude training is that it'll give me confidence. The mountains, how ever much I feel drawn to them, can intimidate me. With more experience on mountain trails, I'll have more confidence. I'll also develop a better understanding of mountain running. Running hills, which I'm good at, and running mountains are two different things.
So, in summary, here's what I need to work on in 2013:
- Weight training
- Proactive recovery to stay healthy
- Long runs at altitude, particularly Leadville