91,500' of vertical
31 summits of Green Mountain
0 days off
Which means that it's objectively been my best January since 2007 when I was training like a banshee in preparation for the Rocky Raccoon 100. Just to prove that I've wisened up a little in terms of the volume I put in these days, here are the numbers from January 2007: 751 miles, 106h 38min, 36,500' of vertical, and three days off.
January's 2008 and 2009 were both affected pretty heavily by nagging lower leg injuries, so I ended up missing quite a few days. (And, the Rocky Raccoon 100 both years, too. As I will this year, unfortunately. Ever since coming within 16min of the course record three years ago during a very poorly-paced race I've been jonesing to get back there and run the race I know I'm capable of. I would rate the 13:32 I ran at Rocky in 2007 as being on par with roughly 17:00 at a non-short (i.e., non-2009) Leadville.)
In addition to the more moderate mileage, it seems I've compensated for this a bit by hitting a whole lot more vertical climbing this year than when I was training in Colorado Springs. During that January of 2007 a very typical day for me would have been a 2hr run in the Garden of the Gods in the morning and then another 2hr run over similar terrain in the evening. I would count a run like this as having zero vertical feet climbed even though, as a result of the rolling terrain, I would probably get close to 1000' on a 2hr run like that. I tend to not really count climbs that are less than 500' in one shot.
Whereas encountering significant vertical when embarking from the downtown Colorado Springs area used to generally require nearly a three hour run, living and running in Boulder has meant that I can run up a mountain and back from my doorstep in two hours or less (thus, the marked increase in vertical gain this month as compared to 2007). While I don't yet know what kind of effect this will have on racing results, I do know that it more similarly reflects what I was doing this summer in Leadville (despite my meltdown at the LT100, the White River 50 in July was ample evidence that I was easily in the best shape of my life this summer) and that it more generally appeals to my personality, which is always a positive thing. I like to run up mountains.
So, where does January leave me with regards to goals and plans for the coming months? I'd like to keep not missing any days. I value the accumulative strength that comes with not missing any days of running; I think it's important that the body remain accustomed to at least a little bit of specific physical motion every day in order to not set oneself up for the strange weaknesses and aches that can come with inconsistency.
I would be very happy to average around 500 miles per month for the whole year. This would be directly in line with my "new" approach of lowering the overall week-to-week mileage in the hopes of vastly increasing the number of days that I'm running strong and healthy each year.
I think the avatar of this type of reasonable but inexorable consistency is Matt Carpenter, who, as a competitive mountain runner, I wouldn't mind emulating in other ways, either. In most years, Matt will spend eight months (January through August) where he essentially never runs less than two hours each and every day, save for a race taper or two. He's also gone five years at a time without missing a day.
(Vintage MC crushing Mount Washington in 1998.)
Kyle Skaggs is another person for whom I've witnessed this type of day to week to month consistency pay off. From when he set the then-course record at the Wasatch 100 in 2007 until he shattered the course record for the Hardrock 100 ten months later, Kyle never missed a day of running but kept most weeks in the safe-and-sane region of 120-140 miles with a few excursions to 160 mountain miles in the final weeks before Hardrock.
(Kyle, slaloming down 14er Handies Peak on the Hardrock 100 course. Photo: Olga Varlamova)
Right now, maintaining my two hour run every morning feels very doable, but pushing my knee beyond that threshold still remains tenuous as doing so seems to almost necessarily require sacrificing the ability to continue to run healthy in the following days. If I can gradually change that current reality, I think I'll be on my way to finally realizing some competitive racing goals while remaining healthy. After the past month, I'm certainly the most optimistic I've been about that in a while.