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It's time to run fast

I enjoy training in the winter, whether in Wisconsin or Colorado, for sundry reasons; the most prominent among them is this: it's time to run fast. Due to the nature of the winter season, e.g. cold, windy, poor road conditions, etc., my mileage is typically lower than usual. In part to compensate for the lack of miles, and in part because my legs feel more fresh, those miles tend to be notably faster. My racing schedule in this spring (2012) reflected this fact about my winter training, as ran a number of fast road courses (Cowtown Marathon, Mad City 50k, Door County Half). As my 2013 race schedule indicates, I'll be running a road marathon in mid-March, a very fast 50 mile course on April 6 (the American River 50 (AR50) boasts a modest 3,400' of total ascent), and a return to the Mad City 50k (no races over 50 miles for me until next year). My goals, respectively, are to run within plus or minus five minutes of the following times: 2:40, 6:05, 3:12. To run these times, my body will need to start feeling more comfortable running at a faster pace.

My winter and spring schedule will be very similar to last year, with the exception that my races in the spring will be exclusively at the marathon distance or longer (although some half marathons in training will be in order). Zach Bitter recently posted an insightful article about his training over the next few months, and it had me thinking more about my own training in the months to come. Zach's article is worth reading, especially for those that plan to run a fast course in the spring. I think his strategy is quite inline with mine: over the next several months, it's time to run fast.

What does it mean to say, 'it's time to run fast?' Training should include lots of speed-related workouts (note that my intended training plan will closely resemble what Zach is doing; this is not an accident). After running a marathon with a friend in Florida in mid-January, I'll try to keep my mileage between 65 - 90 miles per week until just before the AR50 on April 6th, and to return to the same volume within two weeks after AR50 to continue to prepare for Mad City and Ice Age. This will give over three full months of consistently fast training during the winter/spring. My weekly schedule during that time will include at least three of the following speed workouts (unless it's a race week): tempo (6 - 12 miles @ 5:30 - 6:00/mile pace), 20/40 sprint workout (20 seconds spring, 40 seconds recovery jog), track repeats (anywhere from 200m to 2,000m), mile repeats on the road (as fast as possible for at least four), up tempo longer run (13 - 22 miles at a sub 7:00/min pace). This last style of run will include speed injections at various points: for example, running three miles in the middle at close to 6:00/mile pace, or three miles at the end at around 6:00/mile pace.

Here's to pursuing, and hopefully reaching, new PRs in 2013! It's all in the training. Cheers!

12/17 - 12/23

I've finished up for the semester this week and commenced traveling; first from Madison to St. Louis, then to Panama City, finally back to St. Louis -- all this week. I'll be off to Colorado on the 28th where I'll spend time in Boulder and Breckenridge. Of course, all the traveling made running a bit of a difficulty, and all the activities otherwise (e.g. a wedding) made it ever more difficult. After feeling tightness in my IT band and knee last week, I think it's best that I take it easy until mid-January. Real low mileage this week, but I'll keep the mileage between 40-60/week for the next two to three weeks before returning to larger volume. Plus, during the next three weeks I'll have loads of cross training: snowshoeing, snowboarding, and the like. In any case, here's my last week of running (I wouldn't call it training!):

Monday (Dec. 17): off
Tuesday (Dec. 18): AM 12 miles, 1hr:22, 6:51/mile, Monona Bay loop to the Arb (road) with Hank & Fran. We ran three or four miles at 6:20-30/mile. Felt good.
Wednesday (Dec. 19): off. Grading, writing papers, traveling.
Thursday (Dec. 20): off. 10+ hours of travel today.
Friday (Dec. 21): PM 7 miles, :46, 6:37/mile, Panama City, Panama. Hot and humid, with smog and sunshine. I ran in the city along the water where the traffic was heavy, the sun was shining bright, and the humidity was palpable. Not the most ideal conditions.
Saturday (Dec. 22): off
Sunday (Dec. 23): AM 6.2 miles, :44, 7:00/mile, Panama City, Panama. Another travel day, but I was able to get a quick run in before breakfast. This one included two miles around 6:30 pace and a moderate incline throughout.

Weekly Totals: ~25 miles, 2hrs:45. Hardly a week of running, but things will get back on track over the next few weeks.


12/10 - 12/16

Back to running after some much needed time off. Also the last week of classes, which has kept me really busy. Here's a summary of last week:

Monday (Dec. 10): off
Tuesday (Dec. 11): AM 10 miles, 3 x 1 mile @ 5:28, 5:22, 5:24, plus 800m @ 2:41 at the Shell with Fran. 400m jog between sets. This was my first run since TNF-SF after ten days off running and my legs were a bit shocked by the pace. Still ailing in places from the race--I felt tightness in my left calf and hip, as well as my right knee.
Wednesday (Dec. 12): AM 10 miles, 1hr:19, 7:55/mile, Ice Age Trail. The trails had several inches of snow in most places; a bit of slipping and sliding around on this run. Still tight in the hips. Feels good to be back on the trails.
Thursday (Dec. 13): AM 10 miles, 1hr:09, 6:53/mile, Cap City Trail to the Arb (road). Same story today: still a bit tight, still good to be back running.
Friday (Dec. 14): PM 12 miles, 1hr:30, 7:31/mile, Lakefront Trail with Hank plus two miles on Cap City Trail. It was an unseasonably warm afternoon with little wind and a brilliant sunset. Plus Hank showed me a stretch of trails that I hadn't yet found.
Saturday (Dec. 15): AM 15 miles, 1hr:54, 7:34/mile, roads around Madison with Mike's Saturday morning group. On an overcast and rainy morning like today, the sun never quite seems to come up. We started in the dark at 6am, got caught in some rain, almost fell on some ice, and kept a consistent, comfortable pace. A good morning!
Sunday (Dec. 16): AM 13 miles, 1hr:30, 6:52/mile, SMR loop + two miles with Hank & Fran. We started off easy and then ran consistently at around 6:40/mile. My hip is still tight on my left side and it's causing some pain in my knee. I think I'll need to take it easy and increase strength/core work.

Weekly Totals: 70 miles, 8hrs:40. This may have been a bit much for the first week back. I'll probably stick to fewer miles for the next few weeks.


12/03 - 12/09

A full week without running for the first time in 2012. It was nice to take a break, relax, swim several miles throughout the week, and prepare to return to training.

I also was added to the American River (AR) 50 field this week and am especially excited to get back to training in preparation for this race (and others) in 2013.
**2013 AR50 entrants list can be found here


Race Report: TNF-Championships

If you've never been to the TNF-Championships, here's how I'd explain the 50 mile race: WOW. If you've been before, but you weren't there this year, here's how I'd explain it: WOW (and wet). The course was challenging and the field was indescribably deep and unimaginably fast. As I explained to some colleagues: "Temp in the 50s, minimal visibility, rain at one inch per hour, and high winds, all while running dozens of miles up and down mountains on muddy trails? Yep, that was my Saturday morning." As I told some running friends around Madison: "People were running faster than you would ever possibly imagine given the conditions." Or as Ian Sharman said to me after I had dropped from the race (I'm paraphrasing here): "Guys came through Tennessee Valley [at 8.9 miles] over five minutes faster than last year, and the conditions are way worse this year. You wouldn't have been too far behind the leaders last year through [8.9 miles] with your time." But this wasn't last year. The race was wet, the race was fast, the race was, well, absolutely crazy. As my dad, who along with my step-mom and girlfriend did a wonderful job crewing, told me later: "I wanted to pull you off the course at the [Tennessee Valley aid station at mile 8.9] and tell you to get in the car, that we were going home, that this whole thing was completely crazy. But I didn't think you'd like that." I wouldn't have.

Here's how it happened.

I glanced at my watch on the backside of the first climb, at around mile four, to find that I was ahead of course record pace. So it surprised me that I was in around 40th place. Yes, 40th. After I came through Tennessee Valley (8.9 miles) in just under seventy minutes, I ran with Justin Ricks (18th overall) and Sage Canaday's former roommate at Cornell, Brad, into the Muir Beach aid station (12.9 miles). We ran hard and blind (it was dark with nothing but fog and rain in view from the headlamp). On the climb out of Muir Beach, we moved next to Maud Gobert (32nd overall, 3rd female). Justin moved ahead, Brad fell back, and I stuck with Maud -- for the next twenty miles. Maud was in the lead almost the entire time I ran with her and, while we didn't speak too much, I really enjoyed running with her. She was amazingly graceful (despite a pretty nasty fall at mile 28): always picking the best line, moving rhythmically up the mountains, gliding down the descents. It was most enjoyable sharing the trails with her.

But the fast pace, the constant elevation change, and grueling conditions proved too much for me on Saturday. I wasn't displeased though, since I ran like hell for as long as I could. I moved past Maud around mile 29 as we began to climb. I was power hiking/running, depending on the grade of ascent, at this point. Maud seemed to be losing steam (though she bounced back well) and Emelie Forsberg (29th overall, 1st female) had passed her while gaining on me. Once I reached the top of the climb, I hammered the descent into Tennessee Valley, hoping to put ground on my pursuers. To no avail. A 6:41 mile gained me nothing (although, I was evidently in the top-25 when I ran into Tennessee Valley at mile 32). Emelie was picked up by Anna Frost at Tennessee Valley and the two of them moved past me shortly after as we began to climb 400ft over a half mile. Mike Foote (26th overall) then passed me saying, "I've felt worse, but only once or twice." The mud, the rain, and the steep ascents got to most of us, all right (but apparently not to Miguel Heras, who won is an astonishing 5hrs:33!).

By mile 34.5 I had finished the climb out of Tennessee Valley and had  been passed by only two people while mostly power hiking. When I hit the descent, however, my legs were gone. Anytime the muscles were engaged, I was almost reduced to a halt. Anytime the muscles weren't engaged, I was shuffling. No matter what I did, I couldn't get them to move. This was bad. Maud then moved past me effortlessly with her passer. And it got worse. As I made the c. 700ft plunge into Muir Beach, sliding, shuffling, and slopping around in the mud, I twisted, lost balance, and fell (sliding all the while). I managed to labor into the Muir Beach aid station, and it was there that my day ended (thanks to the folks there who warmed me up and carted me back to Tennessee Valley).

Mightn't I have finished? Of course. But perhaps at a cost. Indeed, it was during the next five mile stretch, from Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley, that Sage Canaday took a number of falls in the sloppy mess, was banged up, and dropped from the race.

It was the experience that I needed most, and that I had. This was the first challenging ultra course that I've run, and the first race with serious competition. With less than ideal training, with no mountains to train on, and with minimal experience, I had enough to hang in the top thirty-five for almost the whole race. I was running in the top-twenty five for awhile, I could climb with almost everybody that I ran with, and I had a taste for the incredible competition that is drawn to this sport.

What's more is that this was just my first full year competing in ultras. I have a good feeling about the years to come!

*Results are here.



A quick update and a race report to follow. It was a wild day on the trails: strong winds, serious fog, heavy rain, and muddy trails. Loads of DNFs and a few DNSs to go around, and, unfortunately, I was one of the DNFs, as I dropped at mile 36.3 of 46.8. I think I was in 28th or 30th when I dropped. Really a great experience though and plenty of positive things to take away from this race. More to come soon via a race report. Lastly: damn, were people running wicked fast, as you can read about here.