Most people who follow my blog already have an idea of my nutritional approach to endurance training and racing. In short, I follow a cyclical approach where I use carbohydrate strategically at low levels compared to traditional endurance protocol--on average, I range from 5 to 30 percent carbohydrate intake depending on where I am at within my training cycle. I aim for 5 percent on full on recovery periods and upwards of 30 percent when peak training and racing, which typcially includes 20+ hour training weeks. It took me a while to dial in those ranges and identify what works and when.
I have used heart rate measurements periodically in my past training and racing plans, but never really dove all in with it.
This was partially due to wanting to keep things a bit more simple--I felt a bit more "free" running without the technology. I also felt that running without heart rate devices forced me to really tune into my body. I had some relatively brief data that I would use to correlate effort and heart rate, but nothing super detailed like you would see in anyone following a strict Maffetone (MAF) method of endurance training.
June was a logical month to take both a mental and physical break from structured training. There are so many quality events year round now that it can be hard to take a step back, but still quite necessary for sustainability. I find that more often than not its more of a mental break that is required than anything. I strongly believe in taking a couple blocks out of the year where you wake up in the morning with no specific training goal. It makes the ramp back up much more refreshing. With no major races scheduled until this Fall and Comrades complete this was the perfect time. I always grant myself the flexibility to shut things down completely. I rarely feel the need to as the desire and energy usually returns pretty quickly when I don't neglect sleep and nutrition, so this month still had a healthy dose of running, but never forced or structured.
This month was a mixed bag. It began with my last long tempo effort for Comrades via the San Luis Obispo Marathon. After SLO I began to scale back a tad on volume, but included 1 - 2 workouts each week in effort to stay sharp for Comrades. In retrospect post Comrades Marathon I have gleened what I consider valuable information in what I need to do for Comrades and road races in general.
My orginal plan for Comrades was a two big blocks of training leading up to the taper in May. I was very happy with the second block. The first block unfortunately was less than ideal with some dental and poison oak issues that had me spending a bit more time in recovery (in the form of easy miles) than I would have liked when looking back on things. Such is life and training. It doesn't always go exactly to script.
Nevertheless, this month inlcuded often shorter but specfic workouts and included: tempo, progression, farlek style workouts that often had a focus on rolling hills as to mimick the nature of the roads on the Comrades Marathon course.
The Comrades Marathon was like nothing I have ever experienced. Not only had I never been to South Africa before, but I also have never experienced a race environment quite like Comrades. The amount of emotion and intrigue given to the event by the locals is incredible. I liken it to some of the big city marathons here in the United States, but with even more energy from the community--and in many cases more history.
April had a much different spin on it than most of my training blocks. Last Fall, I experimented with consistantly using races as key workouts as a way to peak for a race. I really enjoyed the process and was pleased with the fitness that insued. I decided to implent a similar race workout strategy this April in effort to peak for Comrades. I won't go heavy into the details of the process on this training recap, since I already blogged in detail about the how and why here.
Last Fall I posted about using races as workouts (here) in my build up for the Fall 50 and Desert Solstice. Using races in training had been something really appealing to me, and last Fall was my first real good block of training in which I was able to exicute it properly. I was really happy with how it worked both from a physical training stimulus as well as good race day/weeekend mental and logistic practice. Recently I have reincorperated this strategy in my build up for the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. This time around I focused more on longer events than during my Fall experiment with this, but the same general principles applied: these aren't "go to the well" A races and therefore should not require extensive recovery or skipped workouts, have a specifc set of goals or objectives going into the event, and enjoy the awesome running community that is present at these events.
When it comes to running or hiking, you can get training stimulus in many different ways. Oftentimes, it's the more scenic and wide open venues that attract the most attention and desire from participants. I won't argue these places are amazing places to move in, but when it comes to gauging improvement and dialing in a workout, often the less glamorous modes can provide the best data. With this post, I want to set aside the beauty of nature for a bit and dive into the world of treadmill training.
Note: I am an employee of Altra Footwear and Icon Health and Fitness. Some of the information used to write this post was gathered while using the NordicTrack Incline Trainer 15i, which was provided to me by Icon Health and Fitness in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.