Review of 2011
Looking back on 2011, I can honestly say I learned more about myself as a runner this year than any other. I took an interesting approach to training, seeing as this was the first year where I focused primarily on the ultramarathon. I began the year with a build-up phase where I ran a number of 5K's, ultimately serving as a progression towards a spring marathon.
I ran the Illinois Marathon in late April, which I ran about as good as I could have expected to given the conditions. It was interesting because the race began with 40+ mph winds on the open streets of Illinois. I didn't do myself any favors by doing a sub-par job of running the tangents, resulting in the addition of .29 miles to the standard 26.2-mile marathon distance. Granted, most marathons are a bit over the 26.2 to accommodate for any measurement errors, but .29 is nearly a third of a mile! I blame this on myself; after the race I spoke with other runners wearing the same Garmin I was and for the most part they were closer to 26.2 miles. Either way, with all things considered, my time of 2 hours, 31 minutes, 45 seconds, translates to about what I thought I could do given more reasonable winds and better angles.
After the marathon, I transitioned into ultramarathon training. I had only run one ultra previously (The North Face 50-mile Midwest Regional) and had a great experience, which had left me dreaming of running with the best. I knew then—and even more so now—that it would take a much more specific training program than what I had undertaken the summer before if I wished to make any noise on the national ultra running scene. I followed a basic training progression of building up for two to three weeks followed by a down week. I did very little racing during the summer months, which is something I want to change in my next training cycle. For the most part my high mile weeks were between 150 and 170 miles. I was happy with the number of miles I did, but would like to fit in more workouts in 2012.
I ended the year by testing my training plan on three occasions with three 50-mile ultras in a nine-week period. I won't go into too much detail about them as I have written specifically on each of the the three races. I wanted to do something that most people would see as excessive for a newcomer in order to learn and gain experience. I was most pleased with my Fall Classic race in Door County, Wisconsin. I felt pretty much everything went right for me on race day. One important thing I took away from that race, when compared to the other two, was the importance of training terrain. The Fall Classic was on concrete, while TNF 50 Madison and JFK 50 were both trail courses. I did a lot of my miles on roads because of where I live, and I think it really showed in my races. I felt like I struggled at TNF and JFK, while on the roads of Door County I managed to run the fastest U.S. 50-mile time of 2011. With that said, one aspect of my training I would like to improve for 2012 is my trail racing. I plan to focus on it a little heavier this summer by planning more workouts on hilly, technical terrain.