February brought with it the excitiment of a bit more structure in my training. With Desert Solstice well in the rear view mirrow and Comrades four months away I began to start looking at what I need to do in training to best prepare for Comrades. Despite being on the roads of South Africa, Comrades has plenty of climbing and descending. This, coupled with having Lake Sonoma on the calendar as well, has me focusing much more on climbing and descending than I traditionally have in the past. I can honestly say that February was the first month of training that elevation gain and loss became one of the primary focuses of my training. I have done training blocks in the past that put a heavy emphasis on hill repeats, but never quite like this month. This is partly due to the relative ease of access I have to long climbs and descents, but also in part an effort to deversify a bit from what I have been racing tha past couple years.
I knew going in that longer climbs and descents would bring a new challenge that I would need to be patient with, but was not quite expecting how much different it actually is than running flat. I have always had a healthy respect for the specificity required for optimal performance in an ultra race, but I was definitely a bit shocked at how much respect I needed to give recovery and the way I structured my training when incorperating more climbing and descending. The first couple weeks almost felt like the first couple weeks back to running after a prolonged break or injury. That starting from scratch mentality and feeling was definitely present. I think the mental side of this was a big portion of the transition; as in the past I saw long climbs as more of something that I had to "get through" and didn't entirely understand why people sought them out for fun as apposed to a means to an end in preperation for a race. This mind set lingered on the first couple weeks, but as I began to adapt and see improvements in my uphill running I began to look forward to it. There was definitely something intriguing about recognizing that you would be pushing uphill for a couple miles and just grind it out. It became motivating and exciting. Certainly some of this came as the act became more comfortable and natural, but it was also something quite new.
The newness and intrigue has been a welcomed mental shift in training. It has become refreshing as it is different. My mindset of running has a new fresh approach. This experience has been exciting in that I strongly believe these types of changes and alterations in training focus help greatly in retaining the love to train and push limits.
Along with the new found focus on elevation I structurued February with a healthy dose of base training, which for me includes plenty of threshold training. I strongly believe that when fit and healthy a base phase should not discontinue or neglect threshold work. It can be quite natural at the early stages by just letting it happen somewhat unstructured when you feel good, but eventually near the end of the base phase I like to start hitting benchmarks and incorperating it a bit more in a variety of forms. For me this tends to be planned tempo runs, progression runs, and occasionally long intervals or what Jack Daniel's would call a "cruise interval". This month was mainly tempo and/or progression efforts.
Key Workouts: Links to detailed workout description/analysis at bottom of page
Feb 1 - 7 (108.7 miles): No specific paced workouts, but instead a number of efforts on climbs that "felt" like tempo on the flats. I would definitely describe this week as a transition week of getting comfortable with an uncomforatble stimulus. This was enough of a stressor at this stage in training to take the place of any of my traditional threshold workouts.
Feb 8 - 14 (114 miles): One set of 20 x 20/40s, a six mile tempo run, and long run on the last 22 miles of the Western States 100 Course where I picked a couple spots (Jack Daniel's Cruise Interval style) to push a bit harder.
Feb 15 - 21 (111 miles): One six mile tempo, hybrid workouts (3 mile progression followed by 8 x 60 sec. hard w/30 sec. recovery jog), and one steady climb and descent on tired legs.
Feb 22 - 28 (136.4 miles): One 3 mile higher end tempo, one six mile tempo, 2500 ft. treadmill climb, and one long run of 4000+ ft. climbing.
Feb. 29 (15.5 miles): end of month short week (one day)
Total: 486 miles