Training for My First 24-Hour Race

This year I am finally stepping up to the 100-mile distance. My first go at it will be at Outrun 24 this Saturday, April 26th. Then I will run Burning River 100 in early August. It has been my “dream” to run 100s since I started running distance back before surgery in 2012.IMG_2112

Now that I am less than one week out from Outrun and in an extremely boring taper, I have time to sit here and ramble on about what I did to get ready for this insanity.

Originally, I had planned to follow the training plans from “Relentless Forward Progress” with a modification to the prescribed mileage. I wanted to peak at 100-110 miles. As I got closer to peaking though, I became increasingly worried that I would not get an opportunity to run a 50 or 50+ training run, and I decided to attempt 4 weeks at or above 100 mpw with the idea (or comfort, shall I say?) that it would give me that extra little edge. Now, that sounded good, but pulling it off… yeah…

Granted I don’t have a “job, job” per se, but I really do. I take care of my fully dependent child around-the-clock. That’s very literal, mind you. I am up at night every 3 hours to care for him. Just finding time to run 40 mpw can be tricky. A little less sleep, a couple loads of laundry waiting, and an extra hour gets snagged here and there until I banked enough up to chunk into running longer each day.  Determination and prioritizing can turn impossible into absolute reality.  It helps a lot to have a very patient and understanding spouse!

Here’s what the 4-week peak looked like.

Time Period
Count
Distance
Time
Elevation Gain
Summary        37      428.28 74:22:14                   15,307
03/10/2014 8 104.14 18:38:28 4,642
03/17/2014 9 105.57 18:24:24 3,615
03/24/2014 8 100.99 17:38:09 3,799
03/31/2014 12 117.59 19:41:13 3,251

While a lot of the miles in the first 1.5 weeks were slow and easy, the rest of the weeks’ runs included a lot of high-quality workouts when things felt good.  I incorporated a lot of hillwork and occasional speedwork like fast finish long runs, tempos, etc.  Throughout the 3.5 months of training, I did back-to-back long runs almost every weekend generally consisting of 20-30 miles Saturday, 15-25 miles Sunday and occasionally covering 65+ miles over a 3-day period as well as one 4-day period covering 90 miles.

During my peak, I encountered a lot of new little aches and pains and had to be very diligent about staying on top of them and watching for any signs of injury. Near the end of my peak, I really started seeing and feeling the benefits of running that kind of mileage. Running became incredibly organic and natural. My leg turnover was quicker, and there was no mental decision to run… it was all my body knew how to do for the time being! It did take me considerable time to run this much since it was on hilly, grassy, and sometimes very muddy trail, but in my mind, the more time on my feet, the more benefit I was reaping. I think it is prudent to add that almost all of this mileage was completed on either a .12 mi or .25 mi out-and-back. Yes, you read that right!  How’s that for training for a 24-hour race on a 1-mile loop?  I can’t even imagine how completely out of my mind my family must think I am now.  As crazy as it does sound, for me to run this volume, I had to accept my fate on this out-and-back since it meant simply stepping out my front door and starting my watch.  And it worked.IMG_2106

Perfecting recovery and listening to my body during this time was absolutely vital in executing this without ending in injury.  I learned this very early on.  Never had postrun recovery been so imperative in my training.  I followed a stringent nutrient-dense diet, but I didn’t focus much on carbohydrates at all. Considering the volume I was running, I was eating fairly low carb and rarely ever ate on a run unless it was over 4 hours. Immediately after a run, I would rehydrate, eat a bit of complex carbs or Greek yogurt, and wear compression socks to bed and sometimes the only time they came off were for my next run.  I feel like the compression socks and sleeves played a very integral part in postrun recovery.  Other than those few things, it was pretty simple but always concise.  Most runs were done as single daily long runs, but I did chop up a run occasionally when time was tight.

So here I am, just tapering away, having the not-so-fun time of my life, and I have to wait and see if all of this was worth it.  Well, worth what exactly?  If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you probably know by now I’m not in this to finish. 😀  Outrun 24 was originally planned to be a kicker race for Burning River 100 in August.  It didn’t take too long for that to change.  Obviously the primary goal is to get 100 miles and a freaking buckle!  That alone is going to be a massive undertaking, but I’d practically be lying if I didn’t say that I’m really itching to go after the podium.  This sounds insane for my first 100-mile attempt, but I have this belief that if you reach far and beyond, if you believe you are capable of things, you will eventually live it.  It’s been said that the people who win and succeed already knew they would without question but were patient and used failures as fuel.  In other words, if we are ever afraid to shoot beyond the impossible our fear of failure will manifest that reality and we will be living a self-fulfilling prophecy.

IMG_2572No one will argue that the 100-mile distance is a more mentally demanding challenge than a physical one.  Mental… I’m good with that, because I REALLY want this badly and am willing to put a lot at risk to get it.  The only question is does anyone else want what I want as bad as I want it? 😀

I want to do and feel something incredibly significant.

On another note, my teenage daughter is running and is hoping to complete her first ultra of 50k.  My mother and sister are also flying up to run as well and test their limits.  It’s going to be way too much fun!  We haven’t all been at a race together since Pensacola in 2012, and my daughter has never run a race over 5k but has done 15 miles in training for O24.  My mom’s longest distance to date is 13.1, and I believe my sister’s longest distance is 50k.  There’s no telling what kinds of awesomeness will transpire!

Good times!  I can’t wait for this weekend to get here!

Training for 50-Mile Race

I’ve been training to run the second day (October 12) of the multistage event, The West Virginia Trilogy, which entails a 50k, 50 mile, and half-marathon over the course of 3 days.  I thought I’d post a little bit about how I’ve been training for the 50 miler.  I wrote my “base” training plan based off those in the book “Relentless Forward Progress,” and then modified them to fit more of my style of training and race specificity.  I do tend to slightly modify my training plans from week to week, but generally I do not skimp on mileage but instead increase it or add harder workouts depending on how good mentally and physically I’m feeling.

IMG_0006

Post Highlands Sky 40 I built base mileage back up to about 50 mpw before I really started training again.  Since I had such a strong base coming out of HS40, I gave myself 11 weeks to train for Trilogy 50 mi.  The original plan was to peak at 70 mpw, but the volume was feeling so good with no sign of injury that I ended up hitting 100.  It really felt like the more volume I did the better I felt physically and mentally with running.

During the first 3 weeks of training while my weekly volume was still below 65 mpw, I focused on different types of hill work with some speedwork mixed in.  Then I switched gears the following 3 weeks and concentrated on sheer volume that included long runs of 42-50 miles and peaking at 100 mpw.  For the remaining 3 weeks, I will be dropping mileage down to 50-75 mpw and concentrating again on hillwork, mostly endurance-type climbing, speedwork intervals, and fast-finish long runs with one run of over 40 miles.  Then it’s 2 weeks of taper and race day!

Most websites, books, people, etc. will always stress not to run the race distance in training.  I strongly disagree with this idea.  If you want the body to do something well, you’ve got to give it a rinse-and-repeat scenario.  You want the body to say, “Oh, yeah, we’re doing that again… okay cool!”  Granted a lot of people do not have time to go out and run 40, 50, 60 miles, but oftentimes time can be scrounged for if the desire to do it is strong.

Anyhow, it always bugged the crap out of me when I was marathon training how often I heard this nonsense about not running the distance (especially since I had been running 20-26 mile runs on weekends for fun before marathon training).  Well, if I were training for a 50k or a 50 miler, then running 26 miles becomes pretty standard practice.  So… now it’s okay since the race got longer?  The logic behind it is that it increases chance of injury and recovery can be prolonged afterwards, making some of the following runs suffer or be missed completely.

IMG_0007The benefits to the body and mind of running the race distance in training, in my experience, are quite underestimated.  For one thing, the confidence gained is immense, and this in itself can make for a superior race.  I don’t think that all of these race-distance training runs should necessarily be done at goal pace by any means, but I do think that a large majority of them should, and running the distance should be done as often as humanly possible.  Certainly some people will get injured doing this but, in my opinion, it’s a risk worth taking.  The principal of pushing the body to the overreaching point to further advance your fitness can be well achieved by race-distance runs.

Now obviously once you pass beyond the 50-mile training run it starts to get a little crazy to run the whole distance in training.  I’m tentatively planning to do my first 100-mile race next year, and will I train the distance?  While I don’t want to say it’s not impossible (as I certainly would love to!), I highly doubt it.  At that distance I think back-to-back long runs with one of the runs being in the 50-65 mile range would be what I’d shoot for.  For me, I do believe that any race distance under 80 miles, I would run the distance at least once in training.

Different things work for different people, and I’m still learning what works best for me, but I think the most important thing here is to turn off the computer, put down the books and magazines, and lace up and go find out through constant “trail” and error.

Now go out and get some miles!

Injury Update

I’ve been incredibly busy since I started really putting in the training time for my ultra.  Between training for 13-16 hours a week, sneaking afternoon naps, caring for my dependant son, and fulfilling my housewifely duties… it’s been nothing short of insane.  All of this on 3-4 hours of broken sleep at night.

My iliotibial band injury has been getting much better.  It still flares up on runs over 2 hours, but I’ve continued to run through pain and have learned to manage it on the trail.  As long as I ice it and take some ibuprofen, the knee bounces back very quickly from long runs.  Granted, I’m certain it would be healing a lot faster if I were not constantly aggravating it, but I’ve ruled that option out at least until after my race in June.  For now, I can live with and manage the pain, and I’m not very concerned about getting through my race with it.

On a more somber note, my compartment syndrome has returned again in full force.  Following a 35 miler during a 70-mile week, my shins started swelling and throbbing only a quarter mile into a recovery run.  I continued to try to work with it last week and finished the week off with a 40-mile run and a 62-mile week where I was just barely sliding through the runs with tight calves and shins.  It was somewhat pathetic, and I really ended up with some poor quality workouts.  This week I’ve shifted into damage control mode in hopes of sparing this weekend’s 32-mile long run.  Next week I’ll be 3 weeks out from the ultra, and it’ll be time for pure recovery.

Obviously I choke all the injury up to quick mileage and distance increases.  I’ve also been doing a lot of intense hillwork during the week which is likely not helping much.  I’ve managed to get through the bulk of training though without much issue until just now.  Being less than 4 weeks out, the majority of hay is in the barn, so taking time to recover at this point won’t be an issue.

Recipe for Disaster – Bring it On!

After last Saturday’s 20-mile run, I crashed really hard.  I was exhausted for days following that run.  I felt pretty apathetic towards diet and exercise in general and just wanted to sleep all week.  I was even fairly depressed.  I got on my treadmill Tuesday for a 5-mile jog, but my shins got extremely tight and began throbbing less than half a mile into it.  I jogged and walked for a while, determined to get some type of mileage accomplished, but I finally gave up and hit the couch.  The same thing happened again Wednesday.  I was completely bummed out.  It felt like my mind and my body were just powering down.

After doing some research and talking to my sister, I stumbled upon this article titled “Endocrine System Depletion,” by Succeed! Sports Nutrition.  That article really put things into perspective for me as far as what I was going through.  I realized I recently had been experiencing other symptoms that could be attributed to endocrine depletion as well.  This is a nasty bag of worms right here.  I can be pretty tough when it comes to physical grit, but when we’re talking about hormones and chemical imbalances, that’s a hard battle to fight.

So now I have a new strategy in need of development.  So, where do I even start?  I was already forced to drop my weekly mileage way back this week.  Maybe I should try to decrease my weekly mileage down to 30-40 miles for 2-3 weeks while maintaining a weekly 20 miler and slowly work back up from there.  It might even be helpful to incorporate a recovery day before and after my longest run.  Another thing I realized is that I’m often running my long runs really hard.  I can really tell the difference in fatigue and mental status whether I’ve run it hard and fast or not.  It takes me a couple days to really recover if I’ve given it 110%.  If I take it easy, regardless of how far I ran, I can feel ready to get on my feet the next day.  I probably just need to slow down, enjoy the run, and focus on the real purpose of the long run – adaptation.  We will see how I feel after my long run today.

I still have this plaguing compartment syndrome, possibly more aggravating than ever, to work with.  Obviously, cutting miles and resting a whole lot is going to be the protocol for treatment, but that’s just an avenue I’m not willing to take just yet.  It’s going to have to get me completely down and out before I’m willing to cut back as much as would be necessary to resolve it, I think.  I do realize this injury could be a major issue for the November Pensacola Marathon, and I’m going to have to do something about my legs before it gets close to that time, but I just prefer to keep putting it off as long as possible.

All of these issues almost seem like a red flag, honestly, in which I’m setting myself up for an inevitably huge crash and burn any day now.  I feel like I’m tiptoeing around the edge of physical limits!  Bring it on!  What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger… I hope!

Marathon Training Plans – Yah Whatever!

So, my 60 miles for last week didn’t work out so well.  Yeah, I am more than a little disappointed and ill about my compartment syndrome showing up in full force again.  In all honesty, I absolutely know that I should cut back my miles to whatever amount produces no symptoms and slowly work my mileage up, but I just about can’t hold myself back from running as far as I can once I am  running and in the zone.  I don’t really have a strategy yet this week for pulling my miles up injury free and probably will do one of two things:  A) run as much as I can again until my shins stop me, B) replace some runs this week with Insanity workouts.  Both are appealing options to me at least, though not necessarily the smartest choices.

As for training for the Pensacola Marathon in November…  I really wish I could be completely sure that I’m going to be able to make it down there to run.  Regardless, I am going to train for it.  I’m going to be running anyway, so why not?  Now, how do I want to train for it?  I’m almost leaning towards an unorthodox approach.  Not surprising, huh?  I really like going against the rules 😉

So hypothetically, what if I don’t follow some training plan with its tyrannical schedules and structured runs?  What if I just run and train however my body tells me.  I know what I need to work on, be it hills, speed, endurance…  Wouldn’t it really make more sense to work on the unique aspects of MY running and MY progress and gauge what needs to be done on a daily basis by my own performance?  This just sounds like a little common sense to me.  But what do I know?  I mean, training plans are proven methods of marathon prep.  What about self-awareness though?  Training plans can’t know what your weak areas are, and maybe you end up running less distance or hills or whatever than you personally needed to meet your maximum potential.  Why does so much of everything we do in life follow a dictated method in a one-size-fits-all fashion?  Are we so afraid to think for ourselves?  And what if I don’t make a BQ at Pensacola after doing my own style of “marathon training?”  At least if I trained my way, I would know that I really did everything I felt I could to prepare and did my best.  I like my way more every second that I consider that route!  (Besides, that is kinda my style of doing things!)  Just run, damnit!

Carb Depletion and a Marathon – Yet Another Experiment

After a couple broken hours of sleep from getting up with my son throughout the night, the clock painfully insists that it’s 4 am and time to get up if I’m going to make that early morning run happen before the humidity kicks in.  We’ve had quite the mini heat wave for us north easterners.  As I indulge on a steamy bowl of chocolate oatmeal and a stout coffee, one thought occurs to me: six months.  Will I be able to do what it takes to train for a BQ at the Pensacola Marathon in November?  (Of course, actually going to Pensacola is contingent on my husband’s shift work schedule not changing by then.)  But do I really have what it takes?  What does it take?  Are dedication and passion for running enough in themselves?  It’s quite possible that it’s a long shot for me to expect to BQ in 6 months, but I still feel like I have to try.  I think it’s possible enough to try to make it happen.  If I don’t get it done in Pensacola, I’ll work towards the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2013.IMG_1184

It’s going to be hard, no doubt.  Especially with my schedule (or lack thereof) – a combination of extreme sleep deprivation, a husband who is a shift worker, and having the very demanding task of caring for a fully dependent child; I’ve got my hands pretty full when you throw marathon training into the mix!  I just have to make it happen.

This week I’m focusing on long runs and hoping to hit at least 60 miles by the end of the week.  I have been experimenting with doing long runs in a carb-depleted state in hopes that you can actually acclimate the body better for burning fat reserves as fuel.  When I first started doing this, I did notice a little sluggishness on my runs, and my muscles tended towards fatigue quicker, but I don’t seem to be experiencing any symptoms as of recently.  I’ve been doing these carb-depleted runs now for about a month.  Mind you, there’s absolutely no intention of restricting carbs on race day or even on some critical speedwork days, it’s just the idea that having the body adjusted to fueling up with fat will move the wall out that much further.  I have no idea how long or how much volume you have to achieve before any obvious benefits manifest themselves.  I just make sure I do one-two 5+ mile runs a week in a carb-depleted state.  I do not consume any carbs on these runs, only water.  For 3 days, I eat well under 100g of carbs while I pump out these runs.  I try to make sure I get a good long run in especially on the 3rd day when I know my glycogen stores are zapped from the previous 2 days of low-carb runs.  These runs are typically slower and focused more on running for a certain amount of time instead of mileage.

Time for a power nap before I hit the pavement!

Racing, Hills, and Lifting!

IMG_1145Last Saturday I went ahead and completed one of my goals for the month: to run a 5K race or longer.  I entered a 15K somewhat last minute and went into it with no expectations.  I ran it much faster than I even really thought I was capable of and finished 2nd overall female with a time of 1:07:15.  Every time I glanced down at my watch, I was weaving between a 6:30-7:20 pace.  Instead of doing as usual and trying to hold back, I just went with it.  I figured I’d keep it up as long as my legs would tolerate.  Needless to say, it was nothing short of painful.  The hills were just a little brutal!

Running anywhere in West Virginia except along rivers is quite a feat.  The mountainous terrain is completely unforgiving.  I used to think anyone who attempted running in this state was out of their mind.  Of course, it’s all relative to what you’re used to.  I grew up in the South on very flat land, so West Virginia was kinda like terrain shock!  There are definitely great advantages to living and running somewhere challenging.  You don’t really have the option of avoiding hills all too often.  You’re pretty much forced to do it if you want to get out and run.  We all know how important hillwork is for developing those running legs.  So I guess it could be safe to assume that a person who lives where they run grades on just about every run would most likely have the upper hand versus an average “flatlander.”   This is also one of the speculations or observances made about the elite African runners in relation to their training terrain.

I’m continuing to work on increasing my distance runs.  I’m planning 22-24 miles for this weekend.  The plan is to keep increasing up to 30 miles since by that time I’ll need to focus on marathon training and work on my speed.  I saw this quote in a forum recently that just made me smile.  It said, “Never f@ck with someone who runs 26.2 miles for fun!”  There’s definitely something to be said about that kind of runner!  During the rest of the week I’ve been mixing in a decent amount of hill and speed interval training which I had neglected for some time.  I’m really enjoying those workouts.

IMG_1139I added some spice to my weight training days also in hopes of maximizing gains.  I’m doing upper body/abs 3-4 times a week and legs 1-2 times a week.  I’m really worried about working my legs too much and exhausting them prior to a run, so I’m keeping weight training at a minimum on them.  I upped my sets from 3 to 5 and kept my reps at 8-12 except abs which are 5 sets at 12-15 reps.  I really like the longer workout and increased sets.  I’ll keep this up for a month and see how it goes.

My upper body routine looks like this:

Cable crunches
Pullups
Chinups
Pushups wide
Bicep cable curl
French press
Bent-over side lateral
Rear delt rows

Today it’s 15 miles

I’m setting out today to complete my first 15-mile run.  I’ve already done 13 miles, so I’m sure it’ll be a piece of cake!  These long runs are just so addictive!  Today’s run, I believe, will put me close to 40 miles this week.  My legs have been really cooperative all week long; I’ve had only mild occasional shin splints and no true sign of compartment syndrome in my tibialis, so I’m considering upping my miles to 45 miles next week and gradually working my way back up to 60.  Earlier this week, I thought I was experiencing early symptoms of Achilles tendonitis, but that seemed to subside on its own.  I seem to really be acclimating to the higher mileage… finally!  I’ll be setting my sights on a 20 miler in no time!

The plan today is to avoid an out-and-back run.  This requires some serious logistical planning! Temps are supposed to be in the low 60s and sunny. I do wish it were a little cooler than that especially since I probably will end up doing most of the run in the 60s, but you gotta go when you can!

Now, I just need the sun to come up so I can get going!

Last Long One for the Week

It’s been a little bit of a rocky week in terms of running.  My calves and shins were quite aggravated and sore on and off all week.  I’ve been barely warding off impending shin splints and compartment syndrome.  Though I know I probably should take off running completely for 2-3 days, I feel like I have to get this last long run in before I establish a recovery plan.

My performance has really left little to be desired.  Even though I cut my mileage way back, I had a lot of difficulty.  I even had to resort to walking a mile this week just to keep my streak going.  Maybe another week of scaled-back runs will hopefully do the trick so I can get back to upping my weekly mileage again.  This time, I think I’ll take it a little slower.

Today I’m going to finish up the week with a long run I’ve been planning to do since I started running.  It is, unfortunately, an out-and-back that runs along the river on the rail trail.  It’s a little over 5 miles each way, so it should end up being 10-11 miles.  I’m really looking forward to this one as it’s sort of a big milestone to me since I’ve been planning it for so long.  I hope my legs hang in there for this one last long run of the week!

 

Feeling Those 60 Miles

Yesterday’s run, the beginning of a brand new week full of promise, was the most physically difficult run yet.  About mile 6, I felt like my legs were 20-lb weights.  I had all sorts of random aches and pains in my legs, and the soles of my feet were sore.  After struggling through 4 more miles, I stepped off my treadmill and could barely walk.  Everything hip down felt like crunchy peanut butter.  I walked around bowlegged for a while and stretched.  It then occurred to me that I was on the threshold of my current physical potential.  The next thing I thought… disappointment.   But how could I possibly feel that way after doing close to 60 miles over the past 7 days? Last week’s mileage was actually about 20 miles more than I’ve ever done in a week.

It was a long week with long hours.  I was feeling it mentally and physically this morning.  My body and my mind wanted to do nothing more than sleep today.  Granted that’s not what I did.  I did do upper body weight training and did 2.5 miles of incline and speed intervals on my treadmill.  My run felt pretty good, and I was totally into it by the time I was half a mile in.

I’m considering the fact that I’m going to have to back off on my mileage this week or at least for a few days and let my body recover after really beating the hell out of my legs the past 2-1/2 weeks.  I want to build up some serious endurance, but it won’t happen if  I can’t even do the miles, and right now, my body is saying it can’t.  My sister had suggested a week of long runs possibly followed by a week of short runs.  I think that’s going to be the right flavor.  I think it will rejuvenate me.

So, goals for this week?  I’m thinking 25-30 miles will be good.  Focusing more on hillwork and speedwork this week.  I really enjoy doing both of those.  I’ll still probably incorporate a long run or two, but I think I’ll keep it under 10 miles.  I might find myself a race to work towards; I haven’t done a race in a couple months.