The most ridiculous thing about this phenomenon is that whenever I'm actually healthy and am able to run basically whatever I'd like to, I tend to just fall into a pretty familiar routine. Run lots. Run up mountains. The details become a whole lot less important to me.
With my back giving me significant (but not complete) pause, my thinking about running has been steadily increasing. In class, I think about running when I should be more focusedly taking notes. Outside of class, I am plotting, scheming, and prognosticating when I should have my nose stuck in a textbook. My academic productivity actually has a directly proportional relationship with the amount I am running. I mean, shit, I'm writing on this goddamn blog instead of doing my homework, right?
So, what have I been thinking?
(Be forewarned: at this point, this post is about to become even more boring, full of excrutiating minutiae, and generally horifically and repugnantly self-indulgent...the shockingness of which is only surpassed by the embarassing fact that I apparently don't actually care enough to not post it.)
Right now, I am thinking that my running over the past 2+ months has progressed me to a point that it's probably time to start injecting an ever-so-slight amount of structure and planning into it. I've laid a very sound base of volume and vertical, but it would now (granted health, of course) make sense to begin focusing my efforts a little more specifically to address my desires for the rapidly approaching mountain racing season.
Mostly, this means probably a subtle reduction and re-jiggering of the week-day volume (cutting out those random 2x2hr mid-week sessions) and an increase in the weekend volume. That's pretty much it. By doing this, I hope to increase the length of a weekly long run to the 4hr+ range, and eventually start including some back-to-back weekend sessions, body willing. The counter-point to this will be more focused hillclimb efforts mid-week, probably Tuesday and Thursday. Of course, I will still allow the energy of my legs to be the ultimate arbiter of whether or not I really nail a climb, but that doesn't mean I can't stack the odds in my favor with some simple planning of effort and volume.
In essence, I will be looking to replicate (down here on the Front Range, at lower altitudes) the training I was doing last summer up in Leadville, which I believe delivered me to the White River 50 and Leadville 100 in the best shape of my life, thus far. Brass tacks of an actual week from last summer's training log, below:
Mon-AM: 17 miles (2:25) Hagerman Pass, 2000'
PM: 5 miles (:41) East Leadville
Tue-AM: 12 miles (2:26) Mt. Elbert, 4500'
Halfmoon Creek North Trailhead to summit in 1:15; 2:01
PM: 8 miles (1:05) East Leadville, 1000'
Wed-AM: 18 miles (2:39) Mosquito Pass, 3000'
Diamond Mine to top in :38.
PM: 6 miles (:50) East Leadville
Thu-AM: 17 miles (2:52) Mt. Massive, 4500'
Halfmoon Creek South Trailhead to summit in 1:28; 2:28
PM: 5 miles (:44) East Leadville
Fri-AM: 11 miles (1:30) Turquoise Lake
Sat-AM: 30 miles (5:01) Aspen Four Passes Loop, 8000'
Maroon Lake parking lot to parking lot in 4:46:55
Sun-AM: 25 miles (4:09) Hope Pass Double Crossing, 7000'
Twin Lakes Fire Station to Winfield and back to TL in 3:39:55
This was a very standard week for me last summer. Except for taper weeks and two outliers in the 180s, all of my weekly mileages last summer fell in the 150s, which actually showed mostly unprecedented restraint on my part with regard to overall volume in the build-up for a 100 mile race.
(Don't believe me? Then let me point you to these ridiculous posts from my preparation for Leadville 2007 and Western States 2008. 150 MPW is child's play compared to that stuff.)
After this particular week I tapered for five days and ran the White River 50 in Washington. Which leads me to the next topic I've been thinking about: speedwork.
At White River I was able to break 2:13 marathoner Uli Steidl's (i.e. someone with lots of leg speed) venerable course record despite the race being at relatively low altitude (ranging between 2000' in the valley to 6000+' at the summit of the climbs) and the amount of speedwork I had done in training equaling zippo.
Outside of races, the fastest I ran all summer was the occasional 6ish minute mile returning on the downhill gravel roads from Mosquito Pass, and other than my Tue/Thu 14er ascents (which I generally conducted at a perceived effort that would probably best be described as somewhere between "tempo" and "good-gawd-my-lungs-are-going-to-explode"; I tried to keep things from really getting dire until I was above 14,000', though) I never even really ran at an effort level that could have been considered anything higher than "moderate".
(Mustering some speed at the finish of White River last summer. Photo: John Wallace III)
I guess this just means that, especially when one's goal races are in the 6-16hr range of duration, Mr. Lydiard's most essential assertion that the majority of fitness comes from maximal aerobic development must contain some significant truth. Lucky for me, this type of long, generally moderately-efforted running is the very kind that I enjoy most.
So, other than the odd road race, I think I'll mostly continue to forgo the structured "speed" component of training (well, at least that's what I think right now). It's tough for me to argue with what has led to success for me in the past. Additionally, at least until the snow melts up high, I'll also be substituting charging up a 14er on Tuesdays and Thursdays with double-lap efforts on Green Mt (in order to achieve similar amounts of vertical gain and descent). Eventually, I hope to make it up to Mt. Audubon (13,2xx') and Grays/Torreys (14ers) on a regular basis.
(A recent view of Audubon from the summit of Green Mt. Audubon looms on the horizon directly in the center of the photo.)
Hopefully, all of this will be as free-of-injury and fantastically fun as I envision it being right now, sitting here at this desk, icing my back, stealing more-than-occasional glances out the window to Green Mt. and Bear Peak.