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!