Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Finishing Strong

My February totals:
  • Running: 260.8 miles; 35 hours, 23 minutes; average pace: 8:09
  • Cycling: 36.0 miles; 2 hours, 8 minutes
  • Walking: A few miles….
FYI, in January I ran "only" 204 miles.
My commitment to cross-training is already beginning to wane. I cannot let that happen!
All in all, I’ve started 2012 much more conservatively than in previous years, in part because of my leg injury, which got me off to a slow start (the injury is, for the most part, behind me). In March, I’ll probably surpass 300 miles. Mileage is important to me, but I’m really trying to also focus on time on my feet. I think it’s easy for ultrarunners to obsess over mileage and forget just how important time on your feet is to preparing for a race.
For the past two years I’ve been quite aggressive (by my own standards) in ramping up my mileage in preparation for the racing season. Although I was relatively strong throughout the spring and summer of 2011, after the Leadville 100 in August I pretty much found myself out of gas and useless except for a few decent 5K races in the fall. Then right after Thanksgiving, when I began ramping up for a March marathon, my Achilles went south, leading to a nasty case of posterior tibial tendonitis. Essentially the same thing happened in 2010—only worse as I battled a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that sidelined me after Leadville for essentially five months.
I am determined to stay healthy all year! One of my goals for 2012, besides a sub-20-hour effort at the Leadville 100, is to go for a win in a 24-hour race late in the year—probably Across the Years in Arizona. I think I can win at the 24-hour level in 2012, provided I get through Leadville in one piece and avoid overuse injury. Easier said than done. Unlike in previous years, 2012 will include some bonafide recovery weeks that will hopefully prevent injury and keep me fresh.

In ultras, there are many ways to run a race. Some folks go out hard and try to hang on, sometimes flaming out well before the finish. Other runners go out conservatively, gain strength with every passing mile, and finish strong. There are merits to both approaches. For me, the best approach is to go out conservatively and try to finish strong. That approach will guide my 2012 training and racing strategy and hopefully keep me on track for success.

So in a nutshell, my goals for 2012 are to be at my strongest on August 18, when I toe the line at Leadville, heal in September, and then go for a 140+ mile 24-hour effort later in the year. 


The Manitou Incline is going to be a huge component of my Leadville 100 training. I’ve already done the Incline three times in the past month and plan to keep at it from now until Leadville. Honestly, I think I’m pretty good to go on all parts of the Leadville course except Hope Pass. I have crunched the numbers many times and the bottom line is that, to break 20 hours at Leadville, you need to complete the Hope Pass section, a 21-mile stretch with 12,000 feet of combined elevation change, in no more than 5.5 hours. At the 2011 race, the Hope Pass section took me a little more than 6 hours, with the inbound really taking a toll on me. Last year’s Leadville 100 showed me that I have to get stronger on big climbs. That’s where the Incline comes into play.

What I most like about the Incline is the fact that it doles out killer vertical (about 2,000 feet of gain in a little over a mile) and offers a number of fun options when you get to the top. You can take the Barr Trail back down for a “quick” loop; you can head up the Barr Trail for some more vertical (maybe even going for the Pikes Peak summit), or you can do multiple loops. This summer I want to work up to an Incline quad—that is, four Incline/Barr Trail loops, which would bring about 8,000 feet of climbing, 8,000 feet of descent, and 16 punishing miles. The only thing an Incline quad lacks is high elevation. The highest I’d get is about 8,500 feet—not bad, but not quite 12,000 feet, either. Another run I’d like to do is to take the Incline up to the Barr Trail, go on to the Pikes Peak summit, and then run back down.
My current PR on the Incline is 27:29, set last Sunday. My goal is to break 25 minutes this summer. How I do on Mosquito Pass at the Leadville Marathon on June 30 will be a good indicator of my fitness on climbs and whether or do not training on the Incline is paying off.


  1. How does that go again? You are Davey Crockett and Leadville is your Alamo?

    You need to do Elk Park and/or the dreaded 3/2/1 workout on Pikes. Or just go do Hope Pass a bunch of times, I heard that's good training for Hope Pass.

  2. JT: Tell me more about the 3/2/1 workout.

    I wish I could train exclusively on the Leadville course but it's pretty far away and it's logistically very difficult to get up there on a regular basis. Manitou Springs is perfect. I also love training at Mount Falcon.


  3. Drive to the top of Pikes. Run down to A Frame. Run up. Run down to the two mile sign. Run up. Run down to the one mile sign. Run up.

    Lots of time above treeline.

  4. 3-2-1 Wyatt... Drive to the Pikes Peak summit and park. Run down to the three to go sign then back up to the summit. Then turn around and run down to the two to go sign then back to the summit. Then turn around and run down to the one to go sign then back to the summit. My theory is that your time for doing a 3-2-1 is roughly equal to a full ascent time. Anyway a great workout. Also from Elk Park to Barr Camp/Trail then to the summit and then back out is a good solid 24 miles all above 10,200... another fun day. You can also hitch from the summit back down to Elk Park if you don't want to to the run back out if needed.

  5. Dude, you're a freaking stud. My shins hurt just reading this. When is Leadville?

  6. Another good post Wyatt. I think there is a tendency to want to "one-up" ourselves each year. And that leads to ever increasing mileage with no rest. I ran more miles than ever last year without too much downtime and carried straight into this year. This was a good reminder that some cut back weeks as I start ramping up for the summer season is just fine. Even elite endurance athletes only try to peak a couple of times a year.

  7. Hi Wyatt! Don't know how I've missed your blog, but it was a welcome surprise! Scrolled down and saw your last post on ultra haters, and I was like, "What?". Wow! I'm with you. I've met very few jerks in ultrarunning, and all the front-of-the-pack folks are always incredibly athletic - sometimes at multiple sports.

    Glad to see you are on the mend. Instead of Across the Years, you might want to look at Desert Solstice 24 Hour. It's also put on by Aravaipa Running, and it's in December, but it's a much smaller race.

    Anyway, so glad I stumbled onto your blog! Looking forward to reading more!