Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Leadville Training Plan

As I try to keep my 2013 resolutions, I’ve devised a working Leadville 100 training plan that I think is super solid and will get me to the starting line in awesome shape and good health. This plan takes into account the fact that I’m one of those runners who seem to get in good shape fast and then go stale, leading to injury in the final weeks of training. So the key is a gradual build-up that incorporates strength training and as much climbing as possible. Here’s the plan and I welcome feedback:

February – March
  • Reduced volume – hold weekly running mileage to 40-55
  • Cross-train on the bike when possible
  • Consider a fast road ½ marathon
  • Keep up with good intensity – weekly intervals and tempo runs to stay sharp and strong
  • 2-3 weight training sessions per week, focusing on quads, hamstrings, glutes, hips and core. Weight sessions should be on intensity days so to avoid undermining rest/recovery days.
  • At least one big climb on a trail per week
  • When possible, keep long runs to 2 hours or less. If a run goes longer (like if I’m running with Team CRUD), be sure to fully recover from it.
  • Planned recovery days
  • Gradually increase weekly mileage to 60-75, incorporating some 2-a-days
  • Continued weekly intensity
  • Cross-train on the bike when possible
  • Light, short barefoot running on a flat, grassy field to build foot strength
  • 1-2 big climbs on a trail per week
  • Extend long runs to 2-4 hours
  • Consider a trail ½ marathon (Mount Carbon) and/or 50K (Cheyenne Mountain or Greenland Trail)
  • Continue with weight training, reducing sessions to 2 per week while still doing intense core work
  • Planned recovery days
  • Weekly mileage mostly in the 80-90 zone. 1 week of 100+ miles
  • Train on the Leadville 100 course (at least 1 Hope Pass double-crossing and practice on all other parts of the course)
  • Continued weekly intensity (adjust where needed)
  • Ideally 2 big mountain climbs per week
  • Stair climbing during lunch
  • 2-3 long runs of 4-6 hours (ideally on the Leadville course--see above bullet point)
  • Consider a 50K training race like the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty
  • 1-2 light weight sessions per week while still doing intense core work
  • Planned recovery days
  • 2 weeks of 100+ miles
  • Train on the Leadville 100 course (1-2 Hope Pass double-crossings)
  • Continued weekly intensity (adjust where needed)
  • Ideally 2-3 big climbs per week
  • 2-3 long runs of 4-6 hours (as much as possible on the Leadville course--see above bullet)
  • Stair climbing during lunch
  • 1 light weight session per week while still doing intense core work
  • Planned recovery days
  • Start taper the week of July 29-August 4
  • Annual Leadville night run
  • Taper
  • Race!

Friday, January 25, 2013

2013 Resolutions

With a fairly successful Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon now behind me (I say successful because I earned an early entry into the 2014 Boston Marathon), my thoughts have turned to the Leadville 100 and earning my third big buckle. Honestly, Leadville's been on my mind for months--I just tried to keep it second to Phoenix.

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

Monday, January 21, 2013

Arizona Rock 'n Roll Marathon Race Report and Review

After four days and three nights in the beautiful, friendly, clean and laid-back city of Phoenix, it's great to be back home in Denver. I had a lot of fun in Phoenix and at the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon but, as always, I greatly missed my family. It's so hard being away from them.
First off, the stats from Sunday's race:
Time: 3:04:57
Placement: 82 out of 3223 (top 2.5%)
Division: 15 out of 317
Gender: 71 out of 1,850
I fell shot of my A goal, which was a 2:55. I also fell shot of my B goal, which was sub-3 hours. Fortunately, I achieved my C goal, which was to requalify for the 2014 Boston Marathon. And actually I did slightly better than my C goal. Not only did I qualify for Boston, but I'll have a chance at early entry into the 2014 race since I beat my qualifying time by more than five minutes (albeit with 3 seconds to spare!). Also, interestingly, by the time I enter the 2014 Boston Marathon I'll be 40 years old. The qualifying time for me by then will have moved up to 3:15 (right now it's 3:10 since I'm 39). So, if Boston recognizes that my BQ for the 2014 race is 3:15 even though I qualified at 39 under the 3:10 standard, then I'll have an even earlier entry opportunity since I will have bested by my BQ by over 10 minutes. Wow, did that even make sense? We'll see!
Basically, I was on pace for a 2:59 through 22 miles and then the wheels totally came off. Here are some more interesting stats from the day (aggregate pace in parentheses):
5K: 21:06 (6:47)
10K: 41:50 (6:43)
Half: 1:28:20 (6:43) - on pace for a 2:56:40
16 miles: 1:50:08 (6:53)
20 miles: 2:16:22 (6:49)
26.2 miles: 3:04:57 (7:03)

So, yeah, it took me a whopping 48 minutes and 35 seconds to cover that last 10K. Yowzers!
My 5K split was slightly off pace because my first mile was in 7:15--I was a little cold and not properly warmed up, so I went out conservatively and then did a 6:33 mile two. After mile two I stayed pretty well on pace for a sub-3 through mile 22, with mile 20 being my last mile below 7:00. Mile 21 was 7:04 and mile 22 in 7:17. After mile 22, I was down to very labored eight-plus-minute splits. My legs were totally out of gas and my pace was slowing even as my effort level remained super high. I tried like hell to stay on pace by my legs were done!
By the time the wheels had totally come off at mile 22, I'd taken two Salt Sticks and two ibuprofen. I'd also taken four gels (a fifth was yet to come) and many waters and Gatorades. Normally I avoid ibuprofen in races, but on Sunday I took these two--spaced apart by one hour--out of desperation. The Salt Sticks proved to be too much. When I crossed the finish line, with the temperature at about 70 and rising, I had major cotton mouth and my face and neck were caked with crusty salt. I was close to dehydration and basically inhaled two big waters as soon as I finished.
Looking back on the last few months, I honestly don't know where I went wrong in my training except to say I probably didn't do enough volume. I feel like I did enough quality in my intervals and tempo runs and I know I did enough long runs. I did a total of five runs of 20+ miles all in one go and many, many runs in the 16-18-mile range with lots of marathon-pace miles mixed in. I also had a few 20+ mile days (meaning I did two runs in a single day combining for more than 20 miles). I was consistent on a weekly basis. I think the missing piece was bigger volume and longer runs at goal pace, which clearly result in much greater strength for me. My weekly mileage hovered around 67-71. The three times I've broken three hours, my mileage was in the 90-100+ mile range. But that was a few years ago. This time around I thought for sure that my solid base, complemented by consistent quality, would be enough.
I'm still very proud of my performance at Phoenix. I'm back in Boston and I enjoyed my first big-city marathon in almost four years. It's hard to believe, but four years have passed since my last big-city marathon (May 2009). I guess it's also fair to say that I was perhaps a bit rusty--fast marathons are a game of precision in which every second counts. I should have run a half-marathon in my training for practice--big mistake not to have raced 13.1 at least once in my build up.
With Phoenix now behind me, I'm excited to take some time to rest and lift some weights to prepare my body for Leadville training. I'm going to keep running and keep up with my quality but I'm going to do less volume between now and my Leadville build-up. My foot is still tweaked--probably a neuroma--and needs some rest. My Leadville training mileage and quality are going to be stout.
As for the Arizona Rock 'n Roll Marathon, here are my thoughts on the event as a whole:

Pre-Race Communication: C-. I got too many e-mails about race-day photography, a pre-race "Warming Zone," expo details, etc. It got to be too much. I think pre-race communication is really important, but it should be limited in quantity and focused on conveying only the most important details.
Expo: A+. Very nice and well-organized but not outlandish in any way. They made packet pick-up, which was at the convention center, easy and there were lots of great vendors on hand.
Start: A+. There were more than enough porta-potties. The corral start went smoothly (at least for me). The race started on time. The atmosphere was festive. I also really liked that the half-marathon started in another location. We marathoners got our own start.

Course: C-. This was a new point-to-point course, going from downtown Phoenix to Arizona State University in Tempe, and it wasn't easy, with over 700 feet of climbing. That's a fair amount of climbing for a "fast" road marathon. I heard from many people that the new course was way harder than advertised, and the crowd support was pretty minimal. Again, this was a new course, but if it's going to have almost 700 feet of climbing then please don't say it's a PR course. On the good side, they had plenty of aid and plenty of helpful volunteers.

Post-Race: Big, fat F. Where to even begin? First off, I had to get on the UPS truck at the finish (UPS sponsored the drog bag service) and literally help the guy find my finish line bag. I shouldn't have had to do that. Second, since it's a point-to-point race, I, like a few thousand other runners, had to take the light rail back to the start, where my hotel was located. The race organizers didn't help one iota with transportation back to the start--there was zero signage for getting to the light rail station at ASU. Like many others, I had to ask about a dozen people how to get there. For the love of God, help the runners get on their way! We're not exactly operating with a full deck after hammering it for 26.2 miles. Oh, and we had to pay our own way back after shelling out big bucks to register. Something about that doesn't sit well with me. And when I finally did get on the light rail, it was packed with mostly non-runners. A few of us runners almost passed out because of the constant stopping and accelerating as we went through at least a dozen depots. After a hard effort, you're in a delicate state, and the light rail about sent me and a few other runners over the edge.

I get the whole point-to-point thing. What they should consider doing is busing runners to ASU for the start, or even making runners pay their way to ASU via the light rail, and then have the race finish in downtown Phoenix. I would have been glad to wake up a tad earlier and pay my way to ASU for the start. No big deal. I have a problem with the organizers making me do a bunch of stupid stuff after I just ran my ass off for 26.2 miles.

Overall grade: B-
I'm proud to have requalified for Boston and look forward to going for a PR at the 2014 Beantown classic. My next road race will probably be the California International Marathon in December 2013. But that's a long way off. More immediately, my goal is to get well-rested and start thinking about Leadville once again!
Keep rocking!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Taper Week Plan

For the first time in a long, long time, I think I feel reasonably comfortable the week before my big race at the Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon. I have a race week plan, thanks to Lucho's advice, that I'm following. The key is to keep my legs fresh and energized and avoid letting them go flat. So, here's what this week looks like:

Monday: Off
Tuesday: Did 4 miles total with 2 miles at 6:40 pace with a 2:00 "rest" (still running) in between. Super easy workout--barely broke a sweat.
Wednesday: Did 4 miles total, 3 of which were at 8:00 pace and 1 of which was at 6:35 pace. Again, super easy. Zero stress.
Thursday: Three 1-mile intervals at 6:40 pace with 1-minute recoveries in between. Hopefully I can do these on the track if it's snow-free.
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 3-4 1-minute intervals at 6:40 pace. This is basically just a shake-out effort.
Sunday: RACE!

I'll avoid solid proteins on Friday and Saturday and try not to overhydrate. Rather than eating a huge meal on Saturday night, like I normally would, I'll go light and focus on carbs. My biggest meal will probably be Saturday breakfast, when I have every intention of ordering a huge stack of pancakes!

The high temperature for Sunday will be a balmy 74 76. Yeah, only I could register for a January marathon and then have to deal with unusually high temperatures for this time of year. I'll do the best I can and make adjustments if needed.

My race strategy is to stay at marathon goal pace through the first 14 or 15 miles and then make adjustments if needed. Ideally, I'll stay at  MGP the whole way--from start to finish. I want to get through the first half in 1:27:30 and then get to the 20-mile mark, feeling good, in 2:14. The key is to let those times come naturally and not force myself into a pace that's not feeling good. Also, under no circumstances will I go out faster than goal pace--you pay for that later. I know the last 10K will be challenging and I intend to push through it and run courageously. Hopefully by then the temperature will be in the 60s and I can keep the motor going hard.

After Phoenix I'm going to take it really easy for a few weeks and actually do some weight training and cycling and maybe light running. My foot still isn't 100% and so I'm hoping a little time off will do the trick. I'm now suspecting a neuroma. I may check in with my sports medicine specialist for a diagnosis and then follow whatever treatment plan he recommends.

I'm still trying to figure out what races I'm going to do leading up to the Leadville 100 on August 16. I'll figure that out after Phoenix. But this I do know: I'll be training hard.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mike Morton, UROY, UPOY and My Own Awards for 2012

Huge congratulations to Mike Morton and Ellie Greenwood on being named Ultrarunners of the Year by Ultrarunning magazine. Mike and Ellie also earned Performance of the Year honors--Mike for his incredible win at the 24-hour world championship, where he set a new American record with 172.457 miles, and Ellie for her record-setting Western States 100 win. In my book, they both more than earned UROY and UPOY.

Pound for pound and mile for mile, I believe Ellie Greenwood is the best ultrarunner in North America. Period. Women's ultrarunning has achieved new heights and Ellie continues to be a dominant force in a sport with incredible talent. When and if she tackles a hardcore mountain race, like Hardrock, it'll be interesting to see how she does. Personally, I'd love to see her run Leadville.

Now, as for Mike, there are some folks out there who think Timothy Olson, who set a new record at Western States with a blazing 14:46, should have won Ultrarunner of the Year and/or Performance of the Year. I can see how UPOY could have gone either way--Morton or Olson. And Timothy, like Mike, is a compelling figure (Olson's overcome drug addiction and incarceration) and super guy. But, personally, I think Mike's record-setting world championship win trumps everything else, including a new record at Western States. I'm speculating on this, but, because Connie Gardner, who also set a new American record at the world 24-hour championship, didn't get UPOY for the women this year, we can only conclude that the voters gave Mike UPOY for his world championship win, with the new American record being icing on the cake. Also, it's worth noting that Mike became the first American to ever win an ultrarunning world championship.

Mike has an incredible story. As the de facto teller of his story (see March 2012 issue of Ultrarunning magazine), I feel like people need to understand a few things about him. First of all, Mike set the record at Western States in 1997, becoming the first non-Californian to win that race, but didn't earn UROY or even UPOY that year. Not long after that, he effectively disappeared from the sport for 10 years. His disappearance was due largely to two factors. First, he suffered a devastating hip injury that got worse and worse. Second, after 9/11 he found himself quite busy with other, more pressing matters, like defending America. As a member of Special Forces, Mike did multiple tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and other dangerous areas of the world where his life was literally on the line every day. Yes, I believe all of that factored a little into the voting for UROY and UPOY this year, but the ultimate factor was his performance in 2012.

Of course, as we all know, Mike reappeared in the ultrarunning world in 2010, surpassing 150 miles at the Hinson Lake 24-hour race that fall, and then the next year (2011) he racked up an eye-popping 167 miles at the same event, quickly reestablishing himself as one of the sport's best. Since then, he's been on a rampage. In 2012 alone, he set course records at several 100-mile races with times in the 13-hour range, including a very competitive Umstead, and also nearly broke the record at Badwater and surpassed Scott Jurek's American 24-hour record by five miles in the world championship. Just to be fair, he DNF'd at the Javelina Jundred in November--something Ultrarunning magazine overlooked when it said he won all five races he entered.

At the tender age of 41, Mike Morton is perhaps at his very best, and that's saying a lot because he was a dominant force in the mid-1990s. I know many will think I'm crazy for saying this, but I have every reason to believe he'll win Western States this June. Why do I think that? He's super fast. He's super tough. He's incredibly motivated. He trains ridiculously hard. He performs very well in the heat (see Badwater and Hinson Lake). He'll have an A+ crew (Eric Clifton crewed him at Badwater). And he's done Western States before. If Mike wins Western States this year, his two victories will have come 16 years apart.


Here are some of my own awards, and please pardon all the hyphens:
  • Feel-Good-About-Things-Again Award: Anton Krupicka for finishing Leadville fourth overall after an injury-plagued 2011 and early 2012. Note: I'm hoping Geoff Roes wins this award next year.
  • I-Didn't-See-This-Coming Award: Hal Koerner for winning Hardrock, which is kind of ridiculous because we all should have seen Hal coming. The guy is a beast.
  • This-Guy-Is-A-Serious-Badass-on-the-Run-and-Bike Award: Tim "Lucho" Waggoner for his incredible Leadman record.
  • Ages-Like-Fine-Wine Award: Karl "Speedgoat" Meltzer, age 44, for winning a competitive Run, Rabbit Run 100-mile in which lots of guys half his age were nipping at his heels.
  • She's-A-Serious-Badass Award: Connie Gardner for her record-setting performance at the 24-hour world championship. Honorable mention: Lizzie Hawker.
  • Eats-Nothing-But-Fruit-And-Still-Kicks-Everyone's-Asses Award: Michael Arnstein, aka "The Fruitarian."
  • Blows-the-Door-Off Award: Timothy Olson for his new Western States 100 course record.
  • We-Knew-He-Was-Good-But-Not-This-Good Award: Dakota Jones for his impressive win at Transvulcania.

All that said, there were some head-scratchers with the voting this year. Questions that come to mind:
  • Why did Joe Fejes get overlooked for his performances this year, including that insane 329-mile outing he had at Across the Years?
  • Why are only North American runners eligible for UPOY and UROY when ultrarunning is a very international sport? Arguably the best mountain runners in the world, like Kilian Jornet and Anna Frost, aren't even eligible for UROY or UPOY.
  • Also, if we're going to "count" performances for races outside North America, like Comrades, Transvulcania, world championships and Mont Blanc, then why not also make all ultrarunners around the world eligible for UPOY and UROY? There's a lack of consistency here.
  • Why did Max King place third in the UPOY voting this year for his record-breaking JFK 50M run when David Riddle, whose record Max broke, won UPOY last year for his JFK record?
I would love to know more about the voting process. Also, I wish Ultrarunning magazine's website would become more interactive, like iRunFar.com, so that we could all have some dialogue on things like UPOY and UROY.


With my marathon in Phoenix a little over a week away, I'm now in the taper stage and very excited. I do think my weekly mileage for the past four months--about 70 a week--has been slightly low. But I also think I've done super solid quality, including intervals, tempos and long runs with fast miles worked in. My quality has been spot on, but I suspect my volume has been a tad low. It'll be interesting to see how things turn out next Sunday. If I turn in a good performance, then I'll know moving forward that my body responds well to quality and that I don't necessarily need huge volume, though in training for 100s I think volume is critical.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Phoenix Taper Begins! / Signed Up for Leadville

What a holiday break! Not since graduate school have I enjoyed such a long break—a full eleven days in which I spent lots of quality time with my family, including a few ski outings to the mountains, and went on some really fun runs. After a few years of talking about it, I finally attended a Team CRUD run, joining the club on Saturday, December 29 for a rather chilly 22-miler on the Sante Fe Trail and Falcon loop in Colorado Springs. I'll be running more with CRUD this year--they like to run long and they're all super nice guys and gals. In addition to putting in some miles with CRUD, I'm also excited about their annual pancake-eating contest.

On New Year’s Day, I ventured back down to the Colorado Springs area, where I ran the Manitou Incline (1 mile "long," 2,000 vertical feet up to 8,600 feet) and then up to Barr Camp and back, climbing a rather stout 4,000 feet. It was very cold at 10,200 feet! After months of grinding out hundreds of road miles, it was great to get back on the trail. I definitely have some work to do in redeveloping my climbing muscles.

From the top of the Manitou Incline on New Year's Day.
1 mile long, 2,000 feet of vertical.

With the Rock ‘n Roll Arizona Marathon (Phoenix) now a little less than three weeks away, I think it’s fair to say “the hay’s in the barn.” And so the taper begins. I’m very pleased with how my training has progressed. The key word here is “progressed,” because my training has been a gradual build-up designed to (hopefully) get me in peak shape for the race. I’ve hit lots of solid quality and also managed some decent quantity. In December, I ran 310 miles (41.5 hours), ending the year with 3,407 miles (I had originally thought I’d end 2013 with 3,500 miles but a math error had me off by 100 miles). Those 310 miles in December included lots of marathon goal-pace running. My Phoenix training included five runs of 20+ miles, including the 22-miler with CRUD three weeks out.

At this point, my goal for Phoenix is a 2:55. I’ll make adjustments as needed, but my plan of attack will center around running even splits (6:40/mile, 1:27:30 at the half) the whole way. If I can get to the 20-mile mark in 2:12 or 2:13, I’ll have a real shot at 2:55. A 2:55 will get me an early entry into the 2014 Boston Marathon.

Fortunately, I’m feeling in shape and lean. I'm about 163-164 pounds. I’ve recently cut back on wheat products, such as bagels, and I’ve noticed that my mid-section is now leaner. My new favorite breakfast consists of a few eggs along with some Greek yogurt. I still eat lots of quality carbohydrates, but I’m trying to really limit the amount of grains I’m consuming. The other day I had a bagel—my first bagel in a long time—and I nearly got sick from it. I can’t do bagels anymore. Greek yogurt is what tastes good now. I’m also eating lots of fresh fruit, such as strawberries, bananas, pineapple and tangerines. I haven’t been this lean in a few years. I do think my body craves certain things in the winter months—fruit being among them.

As far as my taper, it'll involve continued intensity/quality but less overall volume. The purpose of the intensity is to keep my muscles firing, while the reduced volume will allow my legs to freshen up for the big race.

Even as I’m focused on Phoenix, I didn’t delay a second in registering for the 2013 Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run. Registration opened the morning of New Year’s Day and I’ll bet it’ll close out by mid-January. Though Leadville has always been a popular race, McDougall’s book has clearly taken it to a new level. At this point, my only goal for Leadville is to reestablish myself as a sub-25-hour finisher and earn my third El Plato Grande buckle (shown below).

I’ll be spending a lot more time training on the course and will even do some overnight trips. I'm now accruing some camping supplies for those trips, such as my brand-new Primus propane stove.

Perfect for cooking oatmeal, eggs, spaghetti, Ramen and you name it!
Next up: a propane-powered coffee maker!

In 2012, my only on-course training was a night run held by Brandon Fuller. Starting a new job in February, I simply didn’t have a lot of time to venture up to Leadville in 2012, and so I entered the race in good shape, but not in “Leadville shape.” The key to Leadville prep—and I realize this isn’t exactly new information—is high-altitude training. Who'd have ever thought that was the key to success in a race at 10,000+ feet?

If my Phoenix build-up approach pays off, I’m going to carry it over to Leadville—but not without first taking a few weeks off to give my body a rest and allow my right foot, which is still kind of tweaked, to fully heal. For the past few years I think I’ve been starting my training way too early and peaking well before Leadville, leaving me in a compromised state on race day. Looking back on 2012, I had very solid outings at the Cheyenne Mountain 50K in April and Mount Evans Ascent in mid-June, but then the wheels kind of came off in July. I do think a lack of sleep in July killed me, but I’ve come to the realization that I have a very solid base and so my focus needs to be on quality. Quality includes super long runs, which I’ve been lax about for a few years now. So rather than log a week of 90 miles with a long run of 18 miles (an average Leadville training week for the past few years), I might drop my quantity to 80 miles and include a 25-30-miler in there, along with planned rest weeks. My Phoenix training has helped me reestablish good long-run discipline, but once again I’ve done a bad job with planned rest weeks.

I have no clue what my 2013 racing schedule will be. All I know is that I’ll be at Phoenix on January 20 and Leadville on August 17. I’d like to fit in a 50-miler somewhere—Jemez, Collegiate Peaks, North Fork or maybe Silver Rush. I kind of like the July timing of Silver Rush, but part of me thinks I won’t have enough time to recover for the 100. North Fork is the same weekend as a planned outing to Leadville, so that’s not looking good. That leaves Jemez and Collegiate Peaks. I did Jemez in 2011 (the old pre-fire course) and it was, mile for mile, the hardest course I've ever done. Period. I'd kind of like to see what the new course is like. I’ll make a decision soon.