Saturday, March 9, 2013

Know Thyself

"To get ready for 100s, it's all about volume, volume, volume!"
--Tim Clement, a former training partner and multiple-times national champion at the 100K and 100-mile levels

I'm about to wrap up my third consecutive week of 70 or more miles. For me, when I start running 70 miles a week, I've flipped an important mental switch. Seventy miles in a single week means I'm starting to get serious about something. That something is the Leadville 100 on August 17. But this is only the beginning. The mileage is going to get higher--much higher.

My MAF training seems to be working beautifully. I've noticed that running at MAF is getting easier. My pace is gradually improving and my body seems to be in good working order. My foot, which has been wracked with metatarsalagia for four months, is slowly improving, thanks to physical therapy, stretching and a night splint. I'm cautiously optimistic about it.

In these past few weeks, I feel like I've gotten to know myself as a runner. So often we get into the thick of training and forget to really listen to our body, learn along the way and make the necessary adjustments. I've gone back to the basics, even reevaluating what kind of shoes I should wear. After a lot of research (more than I care to admit), I found that I need shoes with good forefoot cushioning and support since I'm mostly a midfoot and forefoot striker. I don't need tons of heel cushioning, which is to say I need to avoid shoes with a lot of heel-to-toe drop. I don't feel comfortable going with zero-drop shoes but I am comfortable with 7-9 millimeters of drop, versus the 10-12 millimeters of drop you'll find in most shoes these days. Too much drop inflames my metatarsals. So I'm now wearing shoes that give me what I need and where I need it. We'll see in the long-run if it all works for me--shoes can be tricky. In case you're interested, the shoes I've turned to are Saucony Omnis and Saucony Guides. Interestingly, those were my go-to shoes "back in the day." On the trail, I'm wearing New Balance 1210 Leadvilles (new to the market) and Mizuno Wave Ascends.

It's often said that we're all an experiment of one. I couldn't agree more. While there are tried-and-true training principles, those principles have to be applied according to our own unique selves, which is why all the best coaches will tell you they personalize their clients' training plans. For me, since I tend to get in shape fast and then go stale, only to get injured, MAF seems to be the ticket at this stage in my training. With a huge aerobic base and excellent fat-burning capacity (which are big factors in ultras), which I hope to have by May, I'll be ready to start working in some real intensity, which will entail hills, tempo runs and significant vertical. For me, there's no such thing as junk miles. I know there are many who scoff at "junk miles." When I look back on my running logs and trace how I trained for races that I did well in, there are some common threads I simply can't ignore:
  • High volume, including many two-a-days
  • Most miles at MAF
  • Some good intensity later in my training
  • Lots of long runs
I think for the past few years, specifically since we moved to Colorado in the spring of 2010, I've lacked a solid aerobic base and that's kept me from responding well to intensity. So right now the charge is to keep base-building and keep adding volume because it'll lead to the aerobic base I believe very strongly that I'll need. The fact that MAF training also improves your ability to burn fat on the run is also a big plus.

My next race, as of now, is the Cheyenne Mountain 50K in late April. Unlike last year, I'm really not out to make Cheyenne a key event and I don't want to be in super shape going into that race, because that'll mean my fitness is progressing too fast and I risk going stale by August. It's more for practice, a good long run, and fun.

Fun...isn't that why we do this crazy sport in the first place?


  1. Great post! Lots going on here. I think you have nailed the shoe thing... everyone is different. I have heard/read more than one "elite" (Jurek, Karnazes, etc...) say to pick the shoes that are most comfortable to you. Your brain knows what you need.

    Regarding, Cheyenne Mtn, I have a similar plan. I am going to just get out there and see what I have that day. It is not a goal race, but a fun way to get in a long training run with support.

    Keep up the good work. I am really excited about Leadville.