Monday, February 1, 2010

January In Review

January has been a relatively good month with regards to my running.  By the sheer numbers:

488 miles
71h 50min
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.


GZ said...

Love the numbers. Going ga-ga in wanting to show how the vertical has increased by about 3x, the mileage is about 2/3rds what it was with the time at 3/4s of what it was. Yes - nutty but I can totally see the correlation in that.

Did I catch you doubled Green at least once this month?

Unknown said...


Yeah, some times the scientist in me can get interested in the numbers, too. This January has been skewed by the fact that the knee is still not 100%. At 100% I would've been closer to 600 miles for the month with lots of shorter, flat evening runs supplementing the morning ascents of Green.

Doubled Green twice this month. A true "double" (two ascents in one run) a couple weeks ago, and then two ascents in two separate runs this past Thursday. The latter, despite being an hour more of total volume on the day (4hr vs. ~3hr) was easier on the knee. I missed Green yesterday, opting for a sweet run on my old trails up Bear Creek Canyon in the Springs.

Shane said...

It would be great to hear more about how your impressions of the run, the mountain, and the project as a whole change as you get closer to the goal. Having trained over the same 1.4 mile loop of trail hundreds of times while training for the Leadville 100, I find this project most interesting. Good luck!

Anton said...

Whoops, just noticed I didn't post under my own username up above...

wiglebot said...

Appreciate the details you put into this blog, it is inspiring to read.

ultrarunner (Brian Philpot) said...

Getting back in the game soon. And that's great to hear.

Unknown said...

Love the 100 day green Mt idea.

Best of luck from Ireland.

Training for a 56 mile Ultra myself and find myself applying some of your own principles on training and so far seems I am going ok.

Unknown said...

"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."

Interesting way of looking at training. Not sure I've verbalized it quite like that but I do get it. I'm just wrestling with how valuable a genuine rest day is each week as well. It seems that when I've pushed & pushed by running everyday, the ole' body has a way of letting me know it would like a brief pause.

Thanks for the insight

Unknown said...

I really appreciate your views on running and life in general. I was wondering if I could get some advice on running? After reading what you did in January it makes me think about switching somethings up. I am training for a few ultras and have done a 50K and dropped out at mile 37 of a 50 miler because of a rolled ankle (felt great otherwise). The most miles I've run in a month is 240. Typical training. Long run, hills, etc. I would need to take at least two days off a week after some longer runs. I was thinking of going down to one day off a week and keeping all my runs between 10-14 miles. Looking to hit then anywhere between 240-336 for February. Do you see this being beneficial? Or would you stick with more of a "traditional" training plan? I'm healthy now and have no injuries. Any input would be great.
Best of luck with your running this year.


Tim said...

Great observation on keeping it sane- though I guess folks would think 125 miles per week is not sane. Obviously, you are somebody who can handle Lydiard-like volumes of distance. However, the volume/intense LT running balance is probably what will end up pulling you away from everybody else in the crowd. Perhaps you're finding your niche and really, really tuning into the signs and sounds of your body. Are you sure you're not an exercise physiologist/coach in disguise?

Best of luck- thanks for the help with the shoes; things are going extremely well over here.


Anton said...


If you're interested in ultras, in general I would advise that mixing up the daily distances is more beneficial. Once I am completely healthy I will get more back into a schedule that has discernible hard/easy days and weekend long runs. However, for now, the knee seems to only happy with a maximum of 2hrs at a time so I am using Green as an interesting project to keep me committed to that kind of daily duration.

In order to finish an ultra, I think it is much more important to build the weekly or bi-weekly long run (and subsequently recover from it) than it is to worry too much about overall mileage.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Thanks for the advice Tony

Unknown said...

Do you post your individual workouts anywhere like I'd be fascinated to see how it works on a detailed level.

JCC said...


I have a totally off-topic question(I'd email you privately, but there is no email option on this site, that I can see): where did you get that basic rubber/plastic handheld bottle holder that you used during the Leadville Trail Marathon (July 09 post)? I've seen photos of Erik & Kyle Skaggs using what looks like the same one. I have the popular UD version, but don't always need the pouch. I haven't seen any like the one you have in stores/ would appreciate a link...big thanks.


Anonymous said...

How many miles do you get out of your New Balance MT100s? I can't find a store around here that carries them so I'm thinking about ordering a pair, but I'm trying to learn as much about them beforehand. Keep up the running and blogging. Thanks

Anton said...


Those bottle-holders are home-made. We take an old bike tire tube (road or mountain doesn't really matter; I like mountain tubes because they're a little sturdier), cut an appropriately-lengthed section, and then carefully cut out two pairs of holes near each section of the ends of the tube. This leaves you with two "loops" that stretch over either end of the bottle and presto you have a bottle-holder. Sure beats spending $15 on a new hand-held, it's very minimal, completely customizable, and gives you a use for a hopelessly patched and re-patched old bike tube.


I get at least 500 miles on a pair of MT100s before the upper starts blowing out a little in the lateral forefoot (but this is unique to my footstrike). However, this weak spot has been addressed in the MT101 with some reinforcement, so I expect those to be quite a bit more durable.

Collin said...

Tony, are you running solely in the MT100s? I've always completely refused to use trail shoes because I HATE having more than 7-8 ounces on my feet, but having moved to Salt Lake City has kind of changed my mind about the necessity of grippy durable trail shoes. I just completely destroyed my last pair of Saucony road flats - to the point that my foot is hanging out the side - in literally one 50 mile road run and maybe 150 miles on the slushy winter trails out here. I had been thinking about getting some of the 790s for awhile and I finally bought some MT100s online today after seeing you and Kyle running both of those NB trail shoes so much. Hopefully they'll do me well. :)

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