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.

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