Sunday, July 28, 2013

Leadville Taper is On

With the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run just 20 days away, my taper is now on. This morning's 21+ miles put a wrap on another solid week: 103.5 miles, 16 hours and 15,300 feet of vertical. While my mileage in the Leadville run-up hasn't really been that much higher than previous years, my vertical and time on my feet are way up. In fact, I'm putting in, on a week basis, about three times the vertical I put in going into my previous three Leadville 100s. That includes 2011, when I finished in 22:35.

All in all, I feel like I've done the necessary work to give Leadville my best. Having the entire summer off from work (even if it wasn't on my own terms), I took full advantage of the time and trained harder than I've trained probably ever. I hit the trails pretty much every day and, in the process, I asked a lot of my body and mind. Honestly, I feel like there were times when I played with fire, as I didn't really allow for much recovery, but every day my body kept delivering for me--and I think that's because I laid down a super-solid base earlier this year (more on that below). Here's to hoping I remain injury-free going into the race. During taper time, aches and pains have a way of creeping up on you.....

In looking at 2013, my plan through April was to build a solid aerobic base by adhering to the Maffetone Method while also weight training (disclaimer: weight training technically violates MAF, but I felt it was critical to improve muscular strength in my legs and hips). Coming off a Boston-qualifier time at the Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon in January, clearly I was building on what was already a decent base, but I felt I was aerobically weak relative to where I needed/wanted to be. I believed my aerobic weakness, which was compounded by the effects of living at 6,200 feet, was at the heart of my many injuries and declining performance over the past three years.

That's where MAF came into play. For four months, I ran 70 miles a week at my MAF pace and I never, ever strayed from my target heart rate zone. It was an enjoyable process, actually, and it helped me develop a good aerobic base and better fat-burning capacity during running. I routinely run for three hours on hilly trails without needing a single calorie. That's because my body has learned to better-utilize fat as energy. Even the leanest athletes have plenty of fat to burn. These days, we're told (by companies wanting to make a buck) we need X number of calories every hour to keep going. While calories are necessary during long races--as well as faster races like marathons--they're not always necessary during training. One benefit of being a better fat burner: I've lost about 7 pounds and am down to a lean 159-161 pounds. I'm sure I'll put on a few pounds during my taper, and that's okay.

My performance at the Cheyenne Mountain 50K in late April, while respectable, wasn't quite where I wanted it to be, and I think that's because I was a bit weak in terms of anaerobic strength (a side effect of MAF). That started to change in May. With the loss of my job (FYI, I just landed a new gig and will start in early August!), I quickly shifted gears to trail running, with a particular emphasis on hilly, mountainous terrain that gave me plenty of opportunity for strength-building. And so I've made daily trips to the trails and, for the first time since moving to Colorado, learned to run up and back down mountains. Deer Creek Canyon and Mount Falcon have been go-to places for my training, though I've ventured to many others places, too, like Grays and Torreys peaks, Hope Pass, Bergen Peak, the Barr Trail, etc. My time at the Leadville Trail Marathon in late June signaled that my efforts were paying off.

When I look at the numbers behind the work I've put in this summer, I'm really happy with what I see.

339 miles
51 hours
45,000 feet of vertical

373.2 miles
59 hours
61,000 feet of vertical

July (through 7/28)
371.4 miles (will probably get to 400 miles in July)
59 hours
57,000 feet of vertical

As far as the taper, I'll probably cut my mileage by 30 percent next week, and then another 30 percent the week after, and then just do very light running along with some short striders the week of the race. I'm going to continue to hit some vertical and I'm going to get as high up as possible, but on a reduced basis, and also work in some short, fast stuff to keep my legs feeling strong and lively.

If there's one area I've neglected, it's been faster stuff. I have gone on some tempo runs (and can run within my MAF zone at 6:15-6:30 6:30-6:40/mile for 6-8 miles), but all along I've felt the priority had to be volume and vertical. In 100-milers, the guys and gals who do best are the ones who slow down the least in the last 25 miles of the race. I feel that what I've done this summer positions me for a strong finish at Leadville. I know what it means to finish a 100 strong. I've done it before, but not for a few years.

I'm not really thinking (yet) about my race-day approach and all the details, mostly because I'm still processing what I've done over the past three months and what it really means. I feel like I'm in a great place mentally, spiritually and physically. I've really enjoyed the journey and I've had fun every day, but I need to figure out what it means to my Leadville readiness. What I can say is that it's been fun and fulfilling. That said, I do have a few loose race-day goals I'll keep in mind once the gun goes off. I'd like to get into Winfield, the halfway point, within 9 hours--but only if that pace feels good to me. I'm not going to force any pace. If I can get into Winfield in 8:45 or 8:50, feeling good, then I'll be positioned for a time under 20 hours. But the real work doesn't begin until the second half, particularly after Twin Lakes on the return trip. That's where the race really begins.

Congratulations to all Leadville 100 entrants who have put in the hard work this summer and are now tapering. The taper isn't always easy to handle, but in my case I've put in some good work and can now rest up and get ready.


  1. During the 4 month MAF cycle what was your pace? What is your MAF heart rate?

    I started MAF this month and find I am walking ALOT. I am not sure I can stick with it. In fact about half way through my 8 mike run today I gave up.

    Thanks for any guidance you can offer.

  2. ATLRB:

    My MAF pace varied/varies depending on terrain. On a flat course, I can run 6:15-6:30/mile within MAF. With hills, my MAF pace might get into the 8's. It really depends. My MAF zone is 136-146 and all of my easy runs are at MAF of even lower. Admittedly, when I started MAF earlier this year I was already in decent shape, but I did have to take super short walk breaks now and then if I was on a big hill. I think MAF requires patience, discipline and diligence, which are in short supply in our fast-food, gotta-have-it-now society. Too many athletes give up on MAF because their pride gets in the way. To break through with MAF, you have to dedicate yourself to it and forget about pace and just go on HR. A faster pace will come. Stick with it!


  3. You are running 6:30 at 146 on flat stuff?

    That being the case, you should consider Chicago in the fall once recovered. You'd be going sub six I think at a threshold pace.

  4. Curious as to what you max is as well.

  5. GZ: I went back and looked at a recent "fast" MAF run I did and it looks like most of my splits were 6:35-6:39, so it looks like I misspoke in my blog when I said 6:15-6:30. My bad. I'm actually thinking about doing a MAF test this week or next week at the track. Probably this week.

    I don't have any race plans, especially race plans that involve travel, after Leadville and will instead focus on getting up to speed in my new job. I may do the Denver Marathon in October but we'll see. Hope your PPM training has gone well. It looks like you're ready!


  6. Wyatt, do you have a HR zone that you plan to keep it in during the 100? Are you going to stay at MAF? MAF +10 or just go by how you feel?

  7. Andy: I'm just running Leadville on feel. You?


  8. I know you're probably way past this, based on the fact of how cavalier you are talking about these mileages and paces, but wow! I mean, I'm just in awe.

    Best wishes on your upcoming race! And good luck with your new job!