Back At It - Fundamental Phase Part II

Ever since my poor race at the DeKalb Cornfest 10k five weeks ago, my training had been pretty awful.  I was racing relatively frequently, and I felt so run-down that I wasn't doing much running or working out in between races (particularly after the two ultras).  In fact, in the preceding five weeks, I only worked out twice: a failed muscular endurance session of mile repeats where I had to stop mid-way through, and a session of alternating half mile segments (averaging MP) which I also had to cut short.  But the two ultras the last two weekends were a blast and gave me some renewed confidence, especially since the level of specific training I did for those was embarrassingly minimal (not the good kind of minimalism!).  Now that I've had a bit of forced recovery, I'm feeling renewed, ready to get back at it in earnest. 

Today, I had an encouraging first workout back as I begin a 6-week scramble to get fit, fast, and sharp enough to run a sub-1:05 half marathon—the Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying standard.  I went with a 12 mile tempo/progression run.  I was going to let how I felt dictate which it would be.  If things were a little rough out there, a 12 mile basic aerobic tempo around 5:40-5:50 pace would be good.  But as often happens with these efforts, I get a little faster each split, and don't want to slow down, so the pace just escalates continuously.  I ended up running 1:07:23 for the 12 miles with the following splits: 5:59, 5:51, 5:45, 5:43, 5:39, 5:37, 5:25, 5:23, 5:27, 5:48, 5:31, 5:12.  Just about perfect.  I sped things up a bit much on miles 7 and 8, and realized that I had a choice to make after my 5:27 ninth mile.  I could either speed up and finish the run at 10 miles, or back off, recover a bit, and then close hard for the full 12 miles.  (It's key to not finish a progression run moving "backwards.")  Glad I had the mid-workout discipline to reign it in a bit.  It took about 2:00 to get my breathing back where it needed to be, but I went ahead and relaxed the full tenth mile for a 5:48.  I was then able to close pretty well.

The legs by no means felt great today (doubtless there's a bit of fatigue from 113 miles of racing the last two weeks), but good enough to hit a solid workout.  I was a little worried that after the last 5 weeks of basically crap workouts, and some mediocre (shorter) races as well, that I was going to be nowhere near my half marathon time goal come November 20.  I still may not quite be there, but I think I can get close.

Over the course of the next 6 weeks of training, I hope to hit two more sessions like the one I did today.  They're great for aerobic fitness, and just for running hard for over an hour, as I will need to do at Big Sur.  I will also be progressing through the half marathon workout (starting with the second session) that Steve Magness had on Running Times a while back.  Then I'm going to hit a number of 400s sessions at 3k-5k (goal) pace (66 or so) to start to sharpen some, improve V02 max, and make HMP feel a bit easier.  I'm also toying with the idea of squeezing a Canova "Special Block" in somewhere, or maybe just a few aerobic power sessions at 10k pace. 

I'll be supplementing all this with some hill work of various sorts.  I need to work on my climbing ability some before TNF 50 San Fran.  I'm naturally a pretty good climber, and that showed a bit at TNF 50 Wisco and UROC, but considering how little actual climbing I had done in preparation, I know I can be way better.  So every week, I'm going to be doing an uphill tempo on the treadmill.  I did the following workout once a couple months ago: 1 mile (15% grade, 6 mph), 2 miles (8% grade, 8 mph), 1 mile (15% grade, 6 mph).  I liked this effort with the variations of moderately steep and very steep climbing.  So that will be my template to start, but I may vary it some.  I would also alter the paces based on how I feel that day.  In addition, I need to start climbing the stairs (30 stories) in my building again.  I did 3 or 4 sets I think twice in the last couple months.  This needs to be a mandatory weekly session (I enjoy doing it right after the treadmill work).  Finally, I'll be doing "hill" reps on the small hill next to North Pond in Lincoln Park.  Just up and down, over and over, trying the best I can to run "out of control" and thrash my quads on the downhills.  This can never really compare to descents in the mountains, but it's the best I've got. 

I'm sure there will be some hiccups along the way, but that's to be expected.  It's how you react and adjust that makes or breaks your training block.  But if I'm diligent about sleep and recovery, I think it's a reasonable schedule for me to complete.  If I can get the majority of the planned work in over the next month and a half, I should be able to at least take a legitimate shot at the qualifying standard at Big Sur, and should additionally be quite strong and ready for TNF.  Looking forward to the challenge and to running "fast" again!