Double the Fun

I knew I was going to get in one more long training stimulus prior to The North Face 50 Championships in two weeks, but I wasn't really sure what that would be.  I thought about an overdistance run in the neighborhood of 30-35 miles.  I also thought about the back to back long runs you see a lot among ultra runners, something like 25 Saturday, 25 Sunday.  In the end, I opted for what I'll consider an ultra specific block a la Canova.  In other words, a hard double workout, specific to my goal race, that is a harder effort than I could run all in one training session.  

First up, for the A.M. session, I headed out to the trail at Waterfall Glen with Rich Heffron, a U Chicago Ph.D. student whom I recently met when he won the Lakefront 50k.  This was my first time out to Waterfall Glen, and while the gently rolling crushed gravel path is great for some workouts (including this morning's), the single track at nearby Bullfrog Lake is definitely much better terrain if one desires to train for a trail race.  The plan was just to hit 20 miles or so at a solid aerobic effort, around 80% MP.  I had done an uphill treadmill tempo on Thursday and 40 hill repeats plus stairs on Friday, so I wasn't feeling particularly fresh.  We got into a nice rhythm though, and the 19+ miles we ran in two loops flew by.  We ran the second loop a minute or two faster than the first, averaging about 6:20 pace for the whole run.  

Seven hours later, back in the city, I was out the door for long run number two.  The plan was:
- 7 miles with 20 hill repeats
- stairs, 3 x 30 stories
- 7 miles with 20 hill repeats
- stairs, 3 x 30 stories
- 2 mile warmup, 5 mile tempo, 1 mile cool down

As I headed out the door, some stiffness and minor aches had me limping slightly.  So much so that I thought I would have to call it.  However, after a few miles, I loosened up and all seemed well, so I forged on.  The two seven mile loops with hill repeats were mostly on grass.  As with the morning run, I was just running a quality aerobic effort, about 6:00-6:20 pace.  When I run these hill repeats (at North Pond), I run comfortably hard on the ups, but really hammer the downs, trying to condition my quads to the impact.  It was back to my apartment building for the stairs, adding some significant vertical to the run.  

By about midway through my second set of hill repeats, things finally started to get difficult.  I gutted out the hills, but needed a bit of extra motivation for the second set of stairs, which took the form of Okkervil River's Unless It's Kicks and Elton John's Funeral for a Friend on my iPod Shuffle.  Or Nano.  Or whatever.  

Finally, after two miles moderate, I headed into the tempo.  I only made it four miles of the planned five.  I was feeling pretty rough by this point, but managed to run 5:47, 5:45, 5:39, 5:30 mile splits for the tempo.  My breathing was pretty easy, but my legs were done after nearly 40 miles and 4,000 feet vertical on the day.  An easy 2 mile cooldown capped the day.

All in all, I think the specific block was a success.  I ran 41 miles today, nearly all of them faster than 6:30 pace, and got in some solid hill and stair work to boot.  I wore my new Salomon XR Crossmax shoes, which performed quite well.  I particularly like the ample room in the toe box, along with the flexible material there, which allows for foot swelling without issue.  Now I just need to make sure I recover well and absorb the effects of the supercompensation day.

"The first thing I do when I figure out the perfect program is change it!"
Renato Canova