Monday, December 10, 2012

Hay in the Barn

This coming Saturday will be a big step forward for me in my slow recovery from the stress fracture. On that morning I will be on the top of a mountain in Chattanooga, TN toeing the line for the Lookout Mountain 50 Mile Race put on by Rock Creek Outfitters. I'll have some good company as a few other NWA Goats will be making the trek as well. This will be the most challenging course I have tackled to date for an ultra. Athens Big Fork is a tougher course but that is a marathon distance race. Butterfield Trail at Devils Den is tougher too but only 16 miles in length. This is basically a 23 mile loop down and back up the mountain and then a second, separate 27 mile loop down and up the other side. Throw in some water crossings, spectacular scenery and 6,400 ft of vertical and it will be a challenging day. I am using this not so much as a focus race but more of an adventure. And on that notion I should share that this will be the first time that I will be posting via Twitter and Facebook my race progress. The plan is for all of us NWA Goats to give some updates during the race. My goal is a finish time under 11 hours. That would allow me an average pace of 13+ minutes per mile. I plan on going out very mellow (as much as 8 miles of downhill will allow) and enjoying a day out on the trails with at least 300 other runners. My focus race is still RR50 with a goal of going sub 9 hours there. The big question is which Goat will go sub 8 minute pace on the downhill and trash his quads leading to a miserable back half?

After a final tough training run this past Sunday a buddy mentioned "the hay is in the barn". For those of you uninitiated to the Southern vernacular that means what done is done and there is nothing more that a person can do to prepare for something. Now we wait and see.

The thought occurred to me... what is it that I have in the barn anyway? I decided to analyze. I went from two months of no running (post fracture) to cycling, to walking/hiking, to jogging and by late Spring I was running again. In March I cycled a little over 100 miles. There was no running. In April I rode 200+ miles and got in about 20 miles of running (120 in 2011). In May it was nearly 200 miles on two wheels and 45 miles of running (155 in 2011). Then I started back in earnest with 180 miles running in June (130 in 2011) and 190 in July (135 in 2011). I purposefully cut back in the heat of August and logged 130 miles (150 in 2011). I managed 155 miles in September (150 in 2011), 175 in October (140 in 2011) and 200+ in November (185 in 2011). 

As my mileage has gone up my average pace per mile has slowly improved. I began incorporating some "speed" work into my training. It started with strides (10-20 seconds) at 10k-5k pace during shorter runs. I also threw in some tempo runs of 6-10 miles once a week or so. And twice during the last two months I have included a week in which everything I did was fast (at least for me). During those weeks I would cut back about 30% on my total mileage but run every mile with intensity. For me that meant half marathon pace or better if on the road and sub 10 minute miles on the trails. And as always, I make an effort to finish all of my training runs with some kick over the closing mile or two.

That training block has included some monster runs in the Grand Tetons, some PRs at half mary, 25k and 50k distances, a memorable trek along the Ozark Highlands Trail, a return to Lake Wedington and plenty of good times with some good folks. Looking at the numbers I can see the work that has been done. What I like most is the consistency I have been able to get over the last few months. More than anything I believe that will pay off. Now it is taper week and my question is does 50 miles last week count as a proper taper? And that makes me feel pretty good about where things are at currently. Saturday should be interesting. I expect some highs and lows, plenty of smiles and some good stories. Hope your training is going well and that you are healthy and strong. 


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