It was -8 yesterday with a wind chill of -25 or -30. I went X-C skiing for an hour but my fingers ached when I took my gloves off for only a few seconds to start my GPS. I think I will be smarter and stay inside today, despite how fast the snow was and how empty the ski trails were.
That bright sun today sure is deceiving!
Despite how bitterly cold it is outside, it is time for me to start thinking seriously about training for my spring ultras. My main goal for spring 2008 will be to run the Rocky Mountain Double Marathon (52.4 miles) on Memorial Day weekend. At over 8,000 feet, it will be the highest altitude ultra that will have attempted to date.
A few weeks before that, I will do the Greenland Trail 50-k in Colorado as "training." These races still seem like they are a long way off. However, according to my training program, beginning this week I will begin increasing my mileage and become more serious about my running.
After taking a few weeks completely off from running after my fall 50 mile ultra in Chicago, I have been only running 3 or 4 days per week to maintain over the winter. During the off-season, I cut my distances and the length of time by 50% or more compared to what I normally do during the spring, summer and fall. My mid-week runs have only been in the 4 to 6 mile range and my every other week long runs only in the 12 to 14 mile range. I have rarely gone further than 20-25 miles as my weekly mileage for the last several weeks. The off-season is a nice break from the rigors of more hard-core training during the rest of the year.
This winter, I have also been doing quite a bit of cross training by X-C skiing two or three days a week. X-C skiing is excellent for cardiovascular conditioning. Unlike running, it is low impact and thus a good way to maintain fitness while minimizing injury. It also trains a slightly different set of muscles. Perhaps someday I may attempt a X-C ski ultramarathon such as the American Birkebeiner in northern Wisconsin. However, with our upcoming move to South Dakota, this year is not a good time to think about training for a X-C ski race too.
I really like the Santa Clarita Runners Training Program below because it allows you to put in the date and length of your race (50-k or 50-m). Then it calculates an individualized training program for you.
However, one limitation of this program is that it does not specify which day(s) you should do your "speed" training nor what type. That's actually OK because I prefer to individualize that part of my training based on my needs. I find what works best for me is if I do one day per week in the middle of the week of either 1/2 or 1 mile intervals or instead a moderate distance run which also includes 3 to 5 miles of tempo running. That has seemed to be adequate for me without resulting in overtraining.
Another limitation of this training program is that I have found it difficult to do back-to-back long runs every weekend without risking injury. I feel the Sunday semi-long runs are optional. I will not hesitate to cut the distance or to not run at all if I need to. Instead of doing a back-to-back, sometimes I just may do a longer run on Saturday than what is specified per the schedule and take an extra rest day on Sunday.
I also find it better to not go long every single weekend but instead go long for two out of every three or four weekends. It seems to work better for me.
Also, even though this is a mileage-based training program, later in my training I tend to focus on the number of hours on my feet instead of the actual mileage. I try to do as many of my long runs on the trails as I can. Although running on trails is a greater effort, because of the softer surface and the irregularities of the terrain, I do not get overuse injuries as often as I did when I trained entirely on the road.
Of course, you do have to be more careful and pay attention to where your feet are… once I tripped on a log and got a stress fracture! I was looking up admiring the scenery when I should have been paying attention to the trail.
When running long on a trail, I don't exactly follow the mileage as specified for the training program, Instead, I estimate about how long it would take me to go that distance if I did it on the road. Then, I run for at least that time duration on the trails. It doesn't matter to me if I only went 20 instead of 24 miles, as long as I ran for an equivalent amount of time.
I also use my long trail runs as an opportunity to experiment with new gear, energy replacement, hydration, and to perfect my ratio of run to walk breaks that I will use in my race. Never try something new or for the first time in a race is a great piece of advice that I always try to follow.
Besides all of the potential training benefits, running on the trails is more fun and relaxing. I prefer to not breathe in the exhaust of motor vehicles and hear them rushing by at 70 miles an hour. I'd rather enjoy the peaceful quiet and aroma of the forest and listen to the birds sing!
What's the point of running anyway, if you are not going to enjoy yourself?
Besides all of the running, I do some resistance and strength training as well. Earlier in the season, I usually do 2 or 3 sets of 10 reps for strengthening 3 days a week. Then later I change to 3 sets of 15 reps at lower weight once or twice a week to maintain strength endurance. I do vary my exercise program every few weeks. Some might find the early season fewer reps of higher weights to build too much muscle mass but that has never been a problem for me. I tend towards an ectomorphic rather than mesomorphic physique.
I always do single-leg squats, calf raises and some variation of lunges- all while holding dumb bells for extra weight. Anterior toe curls with dorsiflexion using a resistance band have worked well to treat and prevent shin splints. Lateral leg raises with ankle weights help keep away ITB problems. I do a variety of crunches and other core exercises. Strength and stability of the lower extremities and the core is essential if one is going to maintain good running form and continue to run for hour after hour.
Finally, I also do upper body strengthening exercises. When I first started running ultras I was amazed how sore and tired my upper body would become, especially my shoulders after a particularly long run. That should not be a surprise, swinging the arms back and forth and holding water bottles all day is a lot of work. On at least one ultra, I used my arms to pull myself up a slippery trail while holding on to saplings and tree branches. With upper body conditioning, I can run more relaxed and with a better posture, even when tired.
Many of us runners don't much like strength training and I used to be one of them. We would rather just go run. However, running can result in muscle imbalances that later flare up as an injury. Before I added strength training to my schedule, I was plagued by injuries such as ITB. It was not until I religiously added strengthening to my program that I succeed in keeping these under control.
I also try to stretch at least a 2-3 times a week but I admit that I need to be better about this. I am sure that I am not alone in being a runner who needs to stretch more. I do a better job of remembering when I am recovering from an injury. I know that stretching is for injury prevention and not only for treatment. I just have to get more consistent at it.
This is the training program that I do now and what has worked for me in the past. I am sure that I will make changes as I move up in distance or if I develop any injuries or new muscle imbalances. Every one of us is an individual and what works for one may not work for someone else. For that matter, what has worked for any of us in the past may not always work for us in the future.
Best wishes to all and good luck on achieving all of your running and non-running goals for 2008.
Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!
That's the sound my foot falls made this morning.
We are in a bit of a cold snap up here in the nort' country. It was especially cold today- four degrees below zero- and that was straight temp not windchill. I love how the snow gets so dry and squeaky, almost like corn starch when the temperatures are so low.
I have run in much colder weather before, I think my lowest was -28 degrees. If you bundle up and cover all exposed flesh it is not too bad- even enjoyable. If we didn't run when it is cold, well then we would not run much at all this time of year. Of course, a temp of -4 or even -28 is nothing from what my friends in Alaska tell me.
To keep warm I dress in layers. On my feet I had two pairs of thick socks under my shoes, on my legs I wore long underwear, my tights plus an extra layer of windstopping long pants, on my upper body I had on a cool-max long t-shirt, two thick polypro long undershirts and an outer layer of a windbreaker, on my hands I had on my running gloves covered with wool mittens and then finally on my head I wore a balaclava, a polypro fleece hat and a neck warmer.
Most mornings I can peel off a layer or two after I warm up in a few miles-but not today!
It is always hard for me to drag myself out of bed these cold dark winter mornings. Sometimes I wonder what kind of crazy fool I must be to get up out of my nice cozy bed and go for a run. Instead I could be snuggling and warm next to my lovely wife for an extra hour or two! However, once I warm up and find my rythym, I never ever regret getting out and seeing the world at a time when few others do.
It's just the getting up and getting going that is the tough part.
The sky this morning was crystal clear and the stars were brilliant. There was a crescent moon to provide some light reflecting off of the snow. The frost sparkled from my head lamp. As I passed each farmhouse, I caught a whiff of the pungent smoke from the wood stoves that many of us heat with up here. Many mornings, I see the local dairy farmers getting up to start their day. However, this morning all of the houses I ran by were still black. The inhabitants must have been more sane than I and were still asleep in their beds. Only the dogs barked to announce my presence.
The forest was dead-quiet. There was only the sound of my breathing and my foot falls to keep me company. It was too dark and early for birds to be stirring. The only other creature that I have ever seen moving around on such a cold early winter morning is our local red fox. But I didn't see him today. I guess even foxes know when to stay in bed.
At times, I felt as if I was barely moving. Layers of thick clothes and occasional patches of black ice under the snow are not conducive to a fast pace. After such runs, I always feel awake, alive and invigorated. They wake me up better than a cup of coffee (but I will still have that cup of coffee too- thank you).
We are supposed to have warmer temps this weekend- up to the 30s and 40s- with possible freezing rain. What a bummer. My wife and I received new cross country skis for Christmas and would have loved another weekend to enjoy them. If we must have winter, we would rather have it at least be cold and snowy enough so that we can get out there and enjoy it. I hate freezing rain.
Oh well, winter is not over yet, I am sure that we shall have more snowy weather to come.
I would be lying if I said that I enjoy running in these bitter cold dark winter mornings as much as I do on a sunny warm spring day. However, in running as in life, to appreciate the good sometimes we must also experience the not-so-good. When every day is warm and sunny, you begin to forget how much you should appreciate them. We used to live outside Reno, Nevada but didn't appreciate how awesome the weather was there until after we left.
running shuffling but watch out for black ice!