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Building Up

January 6, 2012

It’s week two of true training for the Michelob Ultra Challenge at the Gasparilla Distance Classic the first weekend in March. When I commented about how much I was looking forward to this race, a good friend remarked, “wasn’t that the race last year where your legs cramped up and your friend pushed you across the finish line in a HoverRound, and then you couldn’t walk for three days afterward?” Yup, that’s the one!

He’s not far off–last year, at this race, my training partner Little G had to talk me through the last race, a five-miler, and we finished together, just over 51 minutes. We are, therefore, committed to training better this year. We want to arrive at the start of that last race with better legs, and finish that last event with  more endurance, more energy, and a better finish than 10-minute miles.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m proud of my finish last year. I was coming off an injury that had kept me from running for the last six weeks of 2010, and my first time on the roads was New Year’s Eve. Even after I returned to running, I did so fairly gingerly, and our training was understandably intended to avoid injury and simply get us to finish the event, not to do so with any grand notions of being fast. This time, we have bigger dreams.

Last week, we did six repetitions on the bridge, sprinting up and then taking our time walking down. (Though downhill running is important, it’s the uphill running that builds strength and speed, so we’re mostly worried about that for now.) We were aiming for eight repetitions this time, and will build up slowly each time until we do twelve. At that point we’ll be one month out from race day and will lay off the bridge until race day.

My pace was slower this time around, and my absolute slowest repetition came at #4, which was interesting. Usually my slowest rep is the penultimate one. But there were many things I probably did wrong. We did this workout in the morning, around 7, and I didn’t fuel well the night before or the day of the of run, even though it was late enough that my body probably could have used some food. And workouts like that are difficult in the full light of day, at least for me. The reps were all at full effort, and we completed the eight reps, so I was content.

A cold front–the first of the season–blew through Tuesday night, just in time for my next scheduled easy run Wednesday morning. I couldn’t reschedule it because our workouts are pretty structured right now, so I had to do the best I could at bundling up before I set out into the upper-20s, temperatures we’re not used to seeing here in southeastern Florida. It wasn’t an unpleasant 8 miles for much of me except for my fingers, which remained cold. My little Target gloves, it turns out, weren’t meant to cope with such frigid winds.

I was back on the road today, in much more merciful temperatures, in the low 40s, which felt much more pleasant not only due to the temperature change but also because of the lack of wind. I did an easy six as a prelude to our long run of 18, planned for tomorrow.

Little G and I are knitting our own training plan for this event. Though we’re seeing more of these events where runners can sign up for more than one race over a weekend, there’s a dearth of literature on how to prepare for them, so we’re doing what we feel is best based on what’s worked in the past and what we know about ourselves as runners. Since the event requires that we run on back-to-back days, we’re doing a lot of back-to-back long runs. At the same time we don’t want to ignore speedwork, especially our second year at the event, and of course some of the work needs to be a steady buildup of miles so our legs don’t come crashing down like a house of cards.

Double Long Runs: Last week, we did 5 on Friday and 16 on Saturday. This was a progression since we’d already trained to 18 miles as a build up to the half (this is a correction–I’d earlier said we’d only run to 16, and checking my log I realize that was a mistake, but I’m not going to go back and change it). This week, it’s 6 and 18. We’ll take a cutback week every third week, and take mini tapers for the weeks we’re racing half marathons (Miami and A1A), so we can race them (though we’re reserving the right to run them as part of our doubles if the weather conditions are not conducive to a PR).  The last double long run we’ll do is a 10-miler on a Friday and an 18-miler on a Saturday, about three weeks before race weekend (which requires 12.3 miles Saturday, 18.1 Sunday).

Speedwork: We’ll do bridge sprints, like I said, building up the number of repeats until we hit 12. The mileage goes up, of course, each time–doing our 8 this week meant 6 miles, once we added warm-up and cool-down. We’ll take turns between the bridge and interval work. Little G is partial to mile repeats or 800s. I’ll do a workout I call “the crazies”–1 x 2mi @ half marathon pace, 2 x 1mi @ 10k pace, 2 x 800s @ 5k pace. This workout is perfect for the Ultra Challenge because I get to practice all the speeds I’ll need to hit on race weekend. By February, though, we’ll really not be running a lot of structured speedwork, both of us being firm believers in Coach Bob Glover’s advice to lay off it in the month before a race. We’ll do some short tempo runs, and of course we still have the A1A Half two weeks before race day, which will be speedwork enough.

Easy Miles: To separate the hard work and give our legs some rest, we’re doing our speedwork on Mondays, with a recovery day Sunday, the day before. Long runs don’t tax us much since we can both take it pretty easy after the run and are pretty serious about ice baths and eating well post-run. Little G does Pilates and Zumba for cross-training on Tuesdays; I bike. We do one easy run Wednesdays. I’m trying to keep it to a distance of 8 miles, just so my body gets used to that distance being a standard easy run and keep my weekly mileage at 35 miles or so. Thursdays is a day of total rest to get ready for the hard work of the double run Friday and Saturday.

In Summary: Mondays are for speedwork, either hills or intervals. Tuesdays we cross train. On Wednesdays, we do an easy run. Thursdays are total rest to get ready, because Fridays and Saturdays we’re doing double runs, building up the distance until we get closer to the 12-18 required by race day.

That’s the plan! I’m hoping writing this down will be helpful.

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