Welcome 2013!

Ok, we're now well into 2013, recently I summarized how I did with my 2012 goals so now it's time to reveal my goals for this year.

Usually I'd have a number of goals for the year. This time I only have one, but a big one: to finish a 100 miler. Ideally below 24 hours but I'm not going to swear by that. By now I'm almost sure that my race of choice will be Rio Del Lago on 5th of October. And all the other plans will just be secondary to this main goal.

Ok, maybe I'll have one more un-quantifiable goal: to enjoy Californian running heaven. It's been 3 months now and I absolutely love the running opportunities that living here presents. This was also the main reason for postponing my plans of triathlon training. I'd still like to do it one day however, possibly I'm missing something, but it seems to me that I'll have comparable cycling and swimming opportunities in Europe. But for running California and its parks are just amazing, so I want to get the best out of it, while I'm here.

Running 100 mile long race is not an easy feat and it requires training of multitude of skills. I plan to have the following core running routine:

Day of the weekMorningEvening
TuesdayFast run (~10K)Easy run
ThursdayHilly run (~10K)Easy run
SaturdayLong trail run
SundayLong trail run

The idea is simple: twice per week two runs, heavy one in the morning and a recovery run in the evening. And then the weekend left for long, trail running in the parks.

The heavy runs would be a relatively fast run, to work on speed, which I'll mostly be doing on the Baylands Park Loop and a hill training that I'm planning to alternate between Mission Peak and the Black Mountain. Those are the only two trainings during the week where I'll be pushing hard.

All 3 routes have Strava segments which should help by giving me the extra push to improve my results. In fact I'd like to be in the top 5% for all 3 segments. This is how things stand as of today:

RouteBest time overallMy best timeTarget time
Baylands Park Loop29:1535:10 (14/77)32:05 (4/77)
Mission Peak29:3642:40 (28/98)34:57 (5/98)
Black Mountain44:03<1:12:22 (10/20)44:38 (2/20)

As you can see reaching this goal would require massive improvements on all 3 routes (I don't really have a good personal best for Black Mountain, as the only time I run it, I wasn't really racing). But it doesn't matter so much whether I'll reach those particular times or not; what matters is that I'll train and try hard as hell to do so ;)

Also I'm fully aware that I'll deviate from this core plan, often a lot, I imagine. That's ok too. It's just a rough guideline to give my trainings some structure but I'm not going to try too hard to stick to it. What's more important is that I'll address all the training needs of a 100-miler. And the way I see it, they are as follows:

  • Mileage. In marathons mileage is important. In ultra-marathons: it's paramount. With 6 runs per week, including two longer ones on weekend I should be able to regularly chalk up 100 kilometers and more. Which is the plan, by the way. I don't want to put a number on yearly mileage but if everything goes well I would say 4,000 km should be doable.
  • Trails. Many people say that specificity is key in ultras. If you're going to run an ultra on trails; train on trails. Trail running is quite different than, say road racing. I'm going to do all my weekly runs on trails and while most of them will be on well known routes, I'll always try new things on 2 weekend runs, which should give me plenty of opportunity to explore different types of trails.
  • Hills. Most of the ultras are organized in serious hills. Rio Del Lago is no exception. With some 3,700 meters of total ascent I better be ready for the hills. And admittedly it's not my strongest suit. But with one weekly training dedicated specifically to this aspect and with plenty of hills on the weekends I hope that this will change. Last year I did a total of 27,000 meters of ascent, most of it in the last 3 months in California. This year I hope to at least double it. To put it in perspective: that means climbing Mount Everest over 6 times over the year ;).
  • Night running. I hope to finish the race in under 24h. And that's a super optimistic estimate. That quite simply means running through the night. And I have next to none experience with that. I mean, I did some running at night, and will continue to do so with the two evening runs, but on well known routes that hardly counts. I hope to experiment on weekends and, once it gets warmer, do some runs by night then.
  • Nutrition on the run. Properly eating and drinking during the race is key. I'll be able to experiment with that on longer weekend runs, when I always go with a backpack with food and stuff to drink. But I also hope to frequently replace weekend runs with 50K races, where I'll be able to experiment further, see what works and what doesn't for me and get used to the business of eating & drinking on the run.
  • Running on empty. Some swear by "back-to-backs" and "bonk runs". The former means two long runs close to each other, like day after day or, taking it to extreme even on the same day, in order to train the body for running once tired (as it won't get sufficient recovery). Bonk runs take this a step further. "Bonking" is the experience of the body running out of glycogen stores. That usually causes what's commonly called "hitting a wall". Bonk runs are designed to cause this condition (by not restoring glycogen stores after the first run) and training the body to deal with it. My weekend runs will essentially be back-to-backs, but for now I'm not planning on doing any bonk runs.

Did I miss something? Do you guys think I should add/change something? I'll be super happy to hear opinions, especially from more experience ultra runners. Otherwise, wish me good luck :).

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