Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Offseason

Hello again. I'm back. I know it's been a while. Since Western States, almost 2 months ago now, I've taken a little down time from running as well as blogging and twittering and such. The occasional mental and physical break from running is a good thing, and my online presence just kind of naturally followed suit.

So, yeah, I guess you could consider the last couple months my "offseason." I know that may sound odd to some of you, especially those who mostly stick to the mountain trails. It seems that many ultrarunners – in particular trail ultrarunners – view the summer as the heart of the racing season. This makes a lot of sense if you live at altitude or run up high in the mountains. The snow has melted, the temperatures are comfortable, the wild flowers are blooming, and the views are spectacular. But having lived in the South and Midwest all of my life, summer is not really the ideal time of year for racing on the trails. Most of our trails have become overgrown and irritating, the weather can be oppressively hot and humid, and so naturally, there just aren't many good races nearby this time of year. So while others are peaking for their prime races of the year, I’m resetting and looking forward to the start of a new racing season.

With the IAU World Championship 100k (race report) and Western States (race report) runs having taken place relatively close together, this summer was also just a logical place to take some time for recovery. Being my first 100 miler, I wasn’t sure how Western States would affect me, so I didn’t want to plan any big events races soon afterward. I still have been running every day, but the volume has been lower than normal, and there really wasn't a specific training plan. I took a little more than two weeks after WS100 of just easy running, but toward the end of that period, I began pushing my easy runs again simply because my legs wanted to run fast. This is how I know I’m recovered and ready to roll again. I have no problem taking more downtime if needed, but I feel recovered and the desire is there. I want to run, so why not?

So how do I restart a training cycle? Many of the training systems that I have read about and learned from coaches I’ve had in the past started with a high-volume base phase early in a training cycle. In subsequent phases, you would gradually run more faster workouts culminating with a sharpening or peak phase. Since I began focusing more on ultramarathons, I’ve sort of turned that idea on its head. I like to start a new training cycle with the short, fast stuff and then work into the longer stuff later. I spend so much time doing “base” work when preparing for a big ultra, I feel the need to touch up on my leg speed in between training cycles. Plus, it’s just fun to get on the track and crank out quarters occasionally when all you’ve been doing is running slow. Variety is a good thing. But you have to be careful when switching the focus. Jumping from a 100 mile race to 200s on the track can be tough on the body, so it may not be a good idea for everyone. And I always recommend listening to your body first and foremost.

As if I needed any more motivation, a friend of mine challenged me to an 800m race during my offseason speed phase. Long story short, he never was able to race me, but I was so set on doing it that I went ahead and ran the 800 solo as a time trial.  2:06.1. I'll admit it, I'm pretty proud that I can still run that fast when required. That was a couple of weeks ago now, and I have since moved on to longer intervals like mile repeats.

After a couple good track workouts of the longer intervals, I decided that I was ready to jump in a local 5k this weekend just for fun. Fun meaning no pressure, not that I wasn't going to run hard. So yesterday, I went 15:37 for 3rd place on a rolling road course with weather conditions being quite good for August. After a 10 minute break, I added a little more quality to the workout doing 2 more 5k's right around 17 minutes each with 5 minutes rest in between. All of that was followed by another 6 miles at JFK race pace. Today I returned to the trails and did 19 miles in 2:40. My legs were definitely a touch sore, but I could have felt a lot worse. My energy levels felt good for about 2 hours,  but then I started feeling a little weak ... kind of like how you feel toward the end of an ultra. And I'm really pleased to hit 95 miles this week with that kind of quality.

These guys actually make really good road racing flats. Ran the 5k and 800 in them.

So hopefully that gives you some idea of what I do in my "offseason" and what kind of shape I'm taking into this fall. I expect you'll be hearing from me more frequently as my racing season heats up. I'm starting it off next weekend with a really fun event, the Hood to Coast relay in Portland. I'll be running with the GE corporate team (GE Meatballs) like I did 2 years ago. This is just a super-fun event and a great opportunity to visit the West Coast even if it's not for an ultra. From there, I'll be setting my sights on UROC 100k in Virginia on September 29th. That's shaping up to be another hyper-competitive ultra and I'm really excited to see what I can do on the course that favors no one.

1 comment:

  1. I've been doing about 40-60 miles/week on the trails around Cincy this summer. I don't mind the heat or weeds as much as all the damn spider webs. Running while holding a stick in front of you for 20 miles gets old.