I really enjoyed my first week of MAF training. My pace was never really frustrating, though on Saturday I had to slow down quite a bit on a few uphills in Parker to stay in my MAF range (136-146 beats per minute).
The plan is to stay with MAF training for the next 8-10 week and do monthly tests to determine how my aerobic fitness is developing. The most appropriate place for a MAF test is the track. Unfortunately, the track I use is covered in snow, so I may need to find an alternate location. The point of this MAF stage is to build a solid aerobic base, which I feel I've really lacked for the past few years (more on that below). As a huge bonus, MAF training will also improve my ability to burn fat while running. Being an efficient fat burner is essential to successful ultrarunning (and staying lean).
I think my aerobic base has deteriorated in recent years because, in part, I'm no longer benefiting from anaerobic workouts. When I go anaerobic in training, I find that my splits rarely improve week over week and that my risk of injury goes up dramatically. So, as an amendment to my previous Leadville 100 training plan, here's what the next few months look like:
- Base-building period is 8-10 weeks and 100% MAF. Miles get no higher than 70-80 a week. The goal is aerobic development and consistent weight training. Now through April 20.
- Fundamental period is 6-8 weeks with short, fast hill repeats and some limited, light lactate threshold running and lots of mileage. This is the big volume period. Easy days are at MAF. April 21-May 31.
- Specific period is 6-8 weeks and mileage is 80-90% reduced over peak mileage. Long tempo runs. Long runs at MAF on the Leadville 100 course. Proactive recovery is critical. June 1-August 2.
- Taper period is 2-3 weeks and involves rest and some striders along with light tempo running August 3-August 17.
I know what it feels like to be aerobically strong. The photo below is of me in the spring of 2009, racing a challenging 50K in Mohican State Park. I finished fifth overall and hit my stride at about mile 25. In those days I could run 9 or 10 miles in the morning and then go out for 6 more miles in the evening at 6:40 pace. I often had to hold myself back on those second runs of the day. Then on the weekends I'd run 40 miles over Saturday and Sunday to finish the week with 100+. Then I'd do it again the next week.... Back to the photo.... I could have run forever that day. When I look at that photo I see a confident runner with a confident stride. I'm in the moment and I believe in myself. I was eight weeks away from a big win. I no longer race with confidence, and I think it's because I haven't felt physically good in a long time, save a few races here and there. If I had it do again, when we moved to Colorado I would have spent that entire first year training at MAF, because it was when we moved here that the wheels really came off. I think I unwittingly allowed the altitude to just totally screw up my aerobic fitness. I'm not aerobically weak by any stretch, but I'm not aerobically strong, either.
We'll see what MAF and weight training do for me. I'm not approaching either as a quick-fix, but I'm hopeful I'm on the right track. I'm fully invested in re-establishing a strong base and being the best runner I can be. I love these words from Mark Allen, which also apply to ultrarunners:
Now for the tougher part…the endurance. This is where heart rate training becomes king. Endurance is THE most important piece of a triathlete’s fitness. Why is it tough to develop? Simply put, it is challenging because it usually means an athlete will have to slow things down from their normal group training pace to effectively develop their aerobic engine and being guided by what is going on with your heart rate rather than your will to the champion of the daily training sessions with your training partners! It means swimming, cycling and running with the ego checked at the door. But for those patient enough to do just that, once the aerobic engine is built the speedwork will have a profound positive effect [on] their fitness and allow for a longer-lasting improvement in performance than for those who blast away from the first day of training each year.This week's goal: 65-70 miles at MAF. If we ski this weekend, getting to 70 miles might be a challenge. We'll see.
I'll end with this informative interview with Dr. Maffetone himself. The point where he talks about the difference between being a runner and being healthy really resonates with me.