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03/19 - 03/25

Monday (Mar. 19): off

Tuesday (Mar. 20): PM 8 miles, :59, 7:20/mile, out-and-back around Monona Bay to the Arb. It was really windy this afternoon but otherwise rather pleasant. I think it might have hit 80 degrees and it actually felt too warm (in March, go figure)! Everything felt smooth. The next ten days should keep me well rested for Mad City.

Wednesday (Mar. 21): AM 8.5 miles, 6 x 800m with 200m recovery at the Shell with Fran & Hank. We kept pace evenly for the most part: 2:37, 2:36, 2:37, 2:36, 2:35, 2:38. It was definitely an effort but not too taxing. PM 4.5 miles, :33, 7:20/mile. I ran a few easy miles to loosen up my legs. My left knee had been feeling good this week but it was a bit tight this afternoon. I'll need to stretch and foam roll extensively this week.

Thursday (Mar. 22): off

Friday (Mar. 23): AM 8+ miles, :57, 7:00/mile, out-and-back on the Cap City Trail. I ran miles five and six at (roughly) expected race pace: 6:21, 6:13. Feeling sharp.

Saturday (Mar. 24): AM 12 miles, 1hr:19, 6:37/mile, SMR loop. This was the last substantive run before Mad City. The plan was to run every other mile at around race pace. I ended up running those miles a bit faster than expected race pace (but who knows, maybe race pace will be this fast!); I ran the five "on" miles in 5:51, 5:55, 6:05, 6:02, 5:59. The "off" miles were around 7 minutes per mile. The quicker pace felt pretty smooth, but realistically I don't think I can hold that tempo for a 50k. This was another promising run, though, since I think that a pace a bit slower will be more than manageable.

Sunday (Mar. 25): off

Weekly Totals: 41 miles, 4hr:50. I was able to get more than enough rest this week. Another three days off next week will have me adequately rested for the race. The pain in my left knee subsided this week but I was still having minimal pain in my right foot. Once again, more rest should do the trick.


03/12 - 03/18

Monday (Mar. 12): off

Tuesday (Mar. 13): AM 11.5 miles, 1hr:26, 7:35/mile, Monona Bay to Arb Loop and back by Monona Bay. It was much darker at 5:45 because of the recent time change, so I went out with my headlamp. The temperatures were in the low 40s with minimal wind, which made for great running weather. My legs felt more fatigued that I would have expected after a day off. I guess they got more banged up last week than I had thought. I'll have to see how they feel as the week progresses; hopefully I'll be able to get give more days of hard training before taking it easy. PM 6.3 miles, :44, 7:00/mile, around Monona Lake into Turville Trails. I wasn't planning on a second run today, but it was way too nice out! I explored some trails nearby and tested out the new Montrail trail racing shoes I recently purchased (I need to alter the inseam because it made for some bloody toes--see picture below). My legs actually feel much better after a second run; hopefully they'll still be feeling good for the tempo tomorrow.

Wednesday (Mar. 14): AM 12.6 miles, 10k tempo around Arb with Fran, 36:44, 5:56/mile. The temperatures were in the high 40s when I stepped out the door at 6am; wonderful weather for a hard run (or any run, really). I met Fran and we ran a 10k around the Arb and hit mile splits in 6:08, 6:01, 6:04, 5:48, 5:44, 5:46. My legs were a bit stiff in the first half from yesterday, but the last three miles felt really smooth and my breathing began to settle into a nice rhythm.

Thursday (Mar. 15): PM 10 miles, 1hr:13, 7:15/mile, out-and-back along Monona Bay to the Arb. Ridiculously nice weather again today (high of 79!). My legs were quite sore from the effort yesterday (oh, and from 4 hours of sand volleyball yesterday afternoon), so I wanted to take it easy and run a few less miles.

Friday (Mar. 16): AM 8 miles, 16 x 200m repeats @ 37secs. The temperatures continue to rise! It was in the high 50s when I went out this morning. The repeats went well and my legs seemed to be responding to the up-pace tempo. My stride was feeling very efficient as I continued to work on turning over my steps as quickly as possible. PM 5 miles, :37, 7:20/mile, short Monona Lake loop. Easy miles on a pleasant evening; got the legs loosened up.

Saturday (Mar. 17): AM 18 miles, 2hr:35, 8:38/mile, loops around Indian Lake Park with Hank. The terrain was diverse this morning: grassy trails, muddy trails, dirt trails and gravel trails. The technicality also varied greatly: some flat, some very steep, some with steps, some with roots and rocks, some rolling. Overall, the variety was perfect for training purposes. Hank & I took it nice and easy, doing (I honestly have no idea how many) laps around various parts of the park: around the lake, through the woods, up the bluffs. I had some tightness in my left knee and a bit of a cramp in my right foot; I'll have to keep on eye on these things in the next two weeks.

Sunday (Mar. 18): AM 11 miles, 1hr:10, 6:22/mile, SMR loop with Hank & Fran. Splendid conditions: temperatures in the 50s, sun rising, minimal wind. We kept the pace steady and finished strong, covering the last mile in 5:37. My legs were extremely sore but surprisingly responsive. This run provides great promise for Mad City. The last mile of an 82 mile week was sub-6 mins, and the last 11 miles of an 82 mile week -- on terribly sore legs -- were run at a low 6:20/mile pace. I'm thinking I can hold a similar pace for the 50k, but we'll see!

Weekly Totals: 82 miles, ~10hrs. Another stellar week of training. My left knee and right foot were acting up a bit over the weekend, but the minimal mileage over the next two weeks should be more than enough rest to bring me back to full health. Now it's time to lay low and prepare mentally.

                                                       Looks like socks may be needed.


03/05 - 03/11

Monday (Mar. 5): off

Tuesday (Mar. 6): AM 10 miles, 1hr:11, 7:05/mile, out-and-back to the Arb on the Cap City Trail. I ran much faster than I would have liked, but I couldn't manage to go any slower. My legs felt better than I was expecting, which was a pleasant surprise. Once again, I am reassured that my return to training has been conservative enough and that I am ready for some solid training over the next two weeks.

Wednesday (Mar. 7): AM 9 miles, 2 x 2 miles at the Shell. I jogged over to the Shell and met Fran for a workout. Neither of us were in a position to expect too much: Fran was sick most of last week and had run at a fairly brisk pace the day before; I ran a marathon 10 days ago. We struggled through it, and it hurt more than it should have given the pace, but the results were respectable: 1st two in 11:05 (5:30, 5:35); 2nd two in 11:07 (5:35, 5:32). We plan to move to Wednesday morning tempo's next week, so this was a nice way to transition toward longer speed workouts. PM 5 miles, :37, 7:20/mile, Lake Monona short loop. Easy miles in very warm temperatures for this time of year: 60s! My legs felt great as I finished up.

Thursday (Mar. 8): PM 12 miles, 1hr:27, 7:16/mile, out-and-back on Cap City through the E-ways. I went out on the Cap City Trail and was able to run through the E-ways for a few miles. The E-ways are primarily wide, grass trails that are used in the winter for nordic skiing. Since the snow has just recently melted, the grass is now exposed and the trails are close to run-able. Parts of the trails were very wet and I had water up to my ankles at a few points. But it felt great to be running on soggy grass instead of pavement for a change. Looking forward to warmer weather and more trail running! The way back was incredibly windy -- gusts of up to 30mph -- so the second half of the run wasn't very pleasant. But I got through it and my legs were feeling fairly good at the end.

Friday (Mar. 9): PM 8 miles, :48, 6:00/mile, Monona Bay loop. The pace felt really comfortable for the most part. I had some stomach issues, which required a pit stop, but otherwise it was a strong effort. It was the perfect time of day to run (around 5pm): the sun was setting and the air was (finally!) still -- no wind!

Saturday (Mar. 10): PM 24 miles, 3hrs:03, 7:35/mile, back roads to Ice Age Trail to Military Ridge Trail. It was quite an effort today, but it was very enjoyable (despite the 20-30mph winds, which made the run feel every bit of twenty-four miles). I met Hank at his place and we ran a few miles along roads/paved paths before entering the Ice Age Trail. This was the first long trail run I've had since early January and it felt great to be off the pavement! The Ice Age was really muddy at times and the swift, rolling hills made for some moderately challenging climbs. It's easy to forget how different a climb is on wet trails rather than dry pavement -- much more exertion is required on the trail. We made it to the Military Ridge and ran 8 miles there on what felt like quicksand. Military Ridge is a dirt trail but, since we're just getting out of the thawing season, it was semi-firm mud. The trail was soft, but not sticky, so my shoes weren't sticking much; however, it made the pace feel much more difficult, since each footfall made a one to two inch imprint in the trail.

Sunday (Mar. 11): AM 13 miles, 1hr:31, 7:00/mile, SMR loop plus 2 miles. This morning was quite pleasant. The sun came up slowly, the wind had died down, and the temperatures were in the low 40s. My body, however, didn't allow me to enjoy the pleasant surroundings too much. My legs were at first stiff, then numb, and finally unresponsive. The last two miles were close to 8 minutes/mile (I was taking it easy at that point), but some of the middle miles were in the 6:30s. All things considered, this was a good training run (and a character builder, because it hurt like hell at times--37 miles in less than 24 hours will do that).

Weekly Totals: 81 miles, 9hrs: 51. A spectacular week. I couldn't have asked for a better return to training. Another strong week next week should have me in ideal shape for Mad City.


Training short to go longer, faster

A recent article in the April 2012 edition of Runner's World magazine, entitled "Go Short: Drop down in distance to ramp up speed and power," claims that: "But to run [their] pros, whether they're milers or marathoners, spend time each year racing under-distance." I was thrilled to hear this news (for I take a similar approach in my own training)! Indeed, the article continues, stating that: "Training for short races speeds up your cadence and increases the power of your push-off, making you more efficient and ultimately faster when you move back to longer distances." This, for me, is old news. Some might call this one of the oldest tricks in the book: get your body used to a very intense speed for short distances, and you will feel like you are gliding when you run more moderate speeds for a longer duration.  But, to my knowledge, few ultramarathoners have been apt to apply this old nugget of wisdom to their training. Notice that, even in the runner's world article as quoted above, ultrarunning pros are not mentioned. This is due, in part, to the fact that Runner's World is geared more toward mainstream running events and less toward the obscure ultra races that take runners through the woods for dozens of miles. Even so, magazines that are geared more toward ultrarunning -- such as Ultrarunning Magazine, the Running Times, and Trail Runner --  fail to make note of this important method of training. So, in general, I think that the "go short" training plan is utilized to a lesser degree in ultra training.

But this method is equally as effective for longer distances. In fact, it might be even more effective for ultrarunning pros who stick to the trails (rather than the pavement). Many prominent ultraraces, like the Western States 100, the Hardrock 100, the Leadville 100, and the Wasatch 100, feature some of the most rugged, technical running trails in the world. They are some of the most rugged and technical in the sense that the trails are extremely steep, full of rocks, roots, river crossings, and often muddy or unkempt. Thus, it is necessary to "pick through" the trails, so to speak, by shortening one's stride in an effort to avoid the sharp rocks, the bulky roots, or the mud puddles. A prominent way, and perhaps the most effective way, to develop a short, efficient stride, is through speed work. As the Runner's World article notes, speed work for shorter distances "speeds up your cadence and increases the power of your push-off." In other words, it makes your stride more efficient. When running 50 miles, or 100k, or 100 miles, the more efficient your stride, the less energy you expend, the more likely you are to perform well later in the race. The point is that you want the most efficient stride possible. Speed work provides this. Even as an ultrarunner, it can be beneficial to incorporate intervals as short as 200 meters (yes, meters!) into a training program. I know several ultrarunners (myself included) who routinely run 200 meter repeats. The benefits of speed work remain the same for any distance where you can run at a substantially faster pace than your projected race pace (I'm thinking here of anything from 200 meters to 2 miles): you speed up your cadence and increase the power of your stride.

And the benefits of speed training are more than just physical: a runner also benefits mentally. The RW article quotes Chris Solinsky, the first American to break 27 minutes in the 10k, as saying that: "If you're too ingrained in longer distances, you get scared and think that's as fast as you can go." For an ultrarunner, a psychological benefit is as good as gold. So, I say, train short to go longer, faster!

Ultrarunning Books

I have been asked countless times about "what it takes" to run an ultramarathon or about how one begins training for ultraraces. The answer to these questions can be either short or complex: the short answer is that you start running every day; the complex answer is filling in the details of what it takes to do so (nutrition, training plans, gear, etc.). Unless I have the urge to talk on end for hours (usually I don't have this urge and more often the listener would prefer a quick answer), I recommend books. I have done some searching on the web and have found that there is no catalogue that provides a list of ultrarunning books. I have found lists of running books, which include a wide variety of topics (many of which are not at all focused on ultrarunning), but have failed to locate a list of *purely* ultrarunning books. So, I thought that I might begin by starting a short list here. I'll try to locate books that are either purely descriptive (i.e. they provide the details to the above questions -- how to start training, fuel, gear, nutrition, etc.) or narrative (i.e. stories about ultrarunners that illuminate important aspects of the sport). I plan to revisit this post from time to time with updates, in the hopes that eventually this post will serve as a comprehensive list of the most helpful ultrarunning books.

1. Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an all-night runner by Dean Karnazes. Dean's book came out in 2006 and has become hugely popular (and no less controversial, as is pointed out here) since. In the book, Dean details much of his road toward becoming a world-class distance runner.
2. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. This fascinating book is a masterpiece: McDougall combines the excruciating details of distance running with detailed explanations of human physiology, historical overviews and a thrilling storyline.
3. A Step Beyond: A Definitive Guide to Ultrarunning by Don Allison. This book is called "the world of ultrarunning, captured in a single book." Allison gives advice on training and racing, discusses the biographies of ultra greats and classic races, and explains the physiology of endurance distance runners.
4. Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek (forthcoming in June 2012). I think this review says it all: "The surprise here isn't that Scott Jurek knows a lot about nutrition—I especially love his "Holy Moly Guacamole" recipe. Or that he ran prodigious mileage to prepare for his many ultramarathon victories. More impressively, we discover that Jurek studied many of the great philosophers, and used their lessons to focus his running. In pursuing the mental side of endurance, Jurek uncovers the most important secrets any runner can learn." —Amby Burfoot, winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon and author of The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life
5. The Extra Mile: One Woman's Personal Journey to Ultrarunning Greatness by Pam Reed. Pam Reed's passion for running jumps from the page in this autobiography by the woman who won the Badwater Ultramarathon in consecutive years.

...more coming soon!


Week of 02/27 - 03/04

Feb. 27 (Monday): off. I was quite stiff this morning--more so than I expected to be. The soreness wore off, however, after I foam rolled and walked to my office. I was walking normally by the end of the day, although stairs remained a bit of a difficulty.

Feb. 28 (Tuesday): off. I was feeling much better this morning. By the end of the day, my legs were almost back to full recovery.

Feb. 29 (Wednesday): off. Feeling great today. My legs feel fully recovered. Even so, I took an afternoon nap instead of a run just to make sure that I get the proper amount of rest before returning to training.

Mar. 1 (Thursday): AM 8.7 miles, 1hr:04, 7:15/mile, out-and-back on the Cap City Trail. It felt great to be back on the trails. It would have been better if I had kept a slower pace but, as much as I tried, I was unable to go any slower. In fact, I ran the first mile in 7:03--about the same time as my first mile of the Cowtown marathon. Whoops. My legs felt heavy at times, stiff at other times, but quite relaxed during some portions of the run. I'm not fully recovered, but I think a few more days of easy miles will do the trick. I'm hoping to run 15 or 16 on Saturday, but I will first have to see how I feel tomorrow.

Mar. 2 (Friday): AM 7.3 miles, :55, 7:20/mile, Monona Bay Loop. Yesterday my legs started tightening up around mile 7, so I kept my run to just about that today. I started out in worse shape today in that my legs were tight early. But by the end of the run I was feeling better. Recovering slowly but surely.

Mar. 3 (Saturday): AM 12 miles, 1hr:35, 8:00/mile, BRC to Lakefront Trail to Cap City Trail BRC. I ran with Mike's Saturday morning running group, which consisted of about seven of us today. Similar story with my legs as yesterday, except that my they felt *significantly* better at the end of the run today. It snowed four or five inches last night (maybe more) and the trails were more iced over than would have been expected; it made for some slow moving.

Mar. 4 (Sunday): AM 10 miles, 1hr:09, 6:55/mile, SMR to Capitol square +2 added on. I met with Fran at 7am at the store and we did an altered SMR loop. There was more snow over night and it continued into the morning. It was snowing heavy at times during the run but the ice was minimal so the trails weren't too treacherous. This was the first run with a bit of pace since the marathon and I felt good. I'm taking tomorrow off so I think that I will be fully recovered by Tuesday.

Totals for the week: 38 miles, 4hr:55. A conservative week that was much needed. I think I came back at a slow enough pace so that I'll be fully recovered and able to train hard for two weeks before tapering again for Mad City.

February totals: 261+ miles, ~32hours. Not a bad month. I'm expecting to run more miles in March and, as the weather gets warmer, it will be hard not to spend more time on the trails!