Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Work With What You Have

It's been almost six months since I last wrote a blog post with my Firetrails 50M race report.  That's not because I haven't run any races at all.  In fact I did run another about six weeks after Firetrails, the Give n' Gobble 10K on Thanksgiving while visiting my parents in Oregon for Thanksgiving.  I had recovered pretty well and had plans to work on some "speed" (it's all relative for my slow ass) for 8-10 weeks before getting back to ultra-specific training, and I figured running a 10K as hard as I could would give me a good baseline from which to put together some interval and tempo workouts.  I had no idea how to pace this thing, so before road tripping north I did twenty minutes of "comfortably hard" running on a relatively flat road, and managed a couple of miles in the 8:50s.  So slow!  But at least now I knew where to start on race day.  I ran a mile and half to warm up, and then took off at the start right in that range, 8:53 for the first mile.  I felt pretty good so picked it up a bit, and then ran as hard as I could for the final mile (7:50 split!) and finished in 52:11, satisfied with the hard effort. A mile cool down and then back to my parent's house to begin Turkey Day festivities.

But later that day my calves were so trashed that I could barely walk, and that continued for a few more days.  I guess pushing the pace on pavement for 6 miles after only having done so for two miles in one training run wasn't such a great idea after all.  I took two days off and tried to run on the third day, and my right achilles was super sore.  I ran no more than every-other-day through December, never uphill (only hiking) and no further than eight miles at a time, as the achilles continued to bother me.  I was doing eccentric heel drop exercises, light stretching, and working the calves with a stick and my Roll Recovery R8, but progress was so frustratingly slow.  February and early March  training continued to struggle, with weeks of 27, 6, 14, 19, and 11 miles, but the achilles was slowly improving each week.  I did decide to bail on Way Too Cool 50K, missing it for the first time in four years, as I had no business trying to struggle through that for 6-7 (or more) hours.

With The Canyons 100K looming in just nine weeks I knew if I was going to have any chance to get it done as my 2017 Western States qualifier that I was going to have to get focused.  In terms of training and fitness, I was way behind where I was at this time last year heading into Quicksilver 100K around the same time.  The good news is that the Canyons qualifying time is 20 hours, so I have four more hours to work with than the 16 hour qualifying cutoff from Quicksilver last year.  With around 14,000' of gain (and loss) over 63 miles, it also doesn't look to have many (any?) flat sections:

The Canyons 100K Elevation Profile

I've run Michigan Bluff to the river while pacing Western States, and the part I haven't done is from Michigan down and up through El Dorado Canyon and then down Devil's Thumb and back up (miles 6.5 - 25 of the race) - so I know there isn't a ton of flat trail.  The good news is that I'm a better hiker than I am a runner normally, and with my training such as it's been that's unfortunately more true right now than ever.

Nine weeks, with a need to hit three specific areas - time on feet, power hiking, and toughening the quads to handle the downhills.  So I put together a plan that I hope will get me there.

Other than the down week being a little lighter than planned (just wasn't feeling great, and the point of a down week is to recover and absorb the training) I've been able to stick to it pretty well so far.  This week and next will be the peak weeks with 9-10 hours each before heading into a two week taper, with one final hard downhill workout scheduled for 10-11 days out from race day.

I'm trying to do some little things as well to get me ready - increased rolling/massage, some strength work, working almost exclusively at my standing desk, and I even got my bike fixed up and have ridden it twice for the first time in years.  And with the possibility of a warm day out there (avg of 71 but high of 92) I started sauna sessions today.

Will it be enough?  I guess I'll find out on May 7th, but I'm gaining confidence that I can get it done even if it becomes a long slow slog until after midnight to get that States qualifier.  But with the achilles injury and compressed training cycle, I'm just forced to work with what I have as I keep chasing this Western States dream.