Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day: back to play and... work!

It's a common theme, I did blog about this opportunity to use this 3-day weekend to work (aka run) harder in 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014!

Well, this year, it wasn't much about mileage but speed. I took only one day off after last week's Tamalpa 50K Nationals, and logged 106 miles since. Nothing extravagant compared to when I was logging close to 100 miles in a 3-day weekend back then when preparing for States in particular, but I don't feel my body can take on that load anymore. And neither can my mind/motivation. As much as I refuse to age (!), there are some physics and physiologic laws you have to abide by... mind me! ;-)

As a matter of fact, there are more articles around how intensity is more important than just mileage when you, well, age. For the simple reason that intensity is a way to maintain muscle mass and that's what we tend to lose when we get older.

With that, although I didn't feel fully recovered from the hilly Tamalpa course, I couldn't resist when Bob pinged me on Monday to get back to the track on Tuesday morning for some speed workout as we used to do very consistently a few years ago! Bob is recovering from a minor knee surgery and has taken on the goal to run a mile under 5 minutes. While this is really not my goal, with my focus on ultra racing, it can't hurt to regain some speed and motivation to work on my leg turnout in particular.

Our speed workout consisted in a 2-mile warm-up (perfect opportunity to chat and catch-up), 8 400s, 2 800s and a 1-mile cool-down before some stretching and driving to work (we start at 5:45am, which is already soon enough to watch the stars in the sky). Our 400s were between 1:29 and 1:22 and our 800s, respectively 2:53 and 2:47. Quite far from 5 min/mile pace, but I was pleased how light my legs felt for the rest of the day, it's really good to change stride and pace for once.

On Thursday I logged 11 miles at Alviso. On Saturday, I surprised Agn├Ęs with a round-trip to the Avenue of the Giants in a convertible, a dream she had had for more than 10 years. After driving 580 miles in 24 hours, I could only run 12 miles on Saturday evening.

This Sunday, I set a PR on my 16.6-mile out-and-back along the rail track, across Cupertino, Saratoga and down to Campbell/Los Gatos. This isn't an official trail all along, but there is barely a train a week on these tracks, so no danger at all.

Then, this Monday, Labor Day, I worked harder by climbing to the top of Black Mountain twice, for a total of 28 miles. Passing quite a few cyclists on my way to the top on Montebello Road, while I was pushing the pace thinking of the upcoming climb to Rose Peak at Ohlone 50K in two weeks!
Yes, I'm always training for something, barely have the time to recover and taper... Which, to conclude, leads me to training planning. I read with interest how Scott Dunlap used Strava's canned training plan before Tamalpa. Scott has run so many marathons and ultras, he certainly knows how to train, but he is also a geek and wanted to test that Strava feature (yes, I did resist for a few years, but you can find me on Strava too! ;-).

Personally, I was a big advocated of following a training plan when I was focusing on marathon and didn't know much. My running bible was Gordon Bakoulis Bloch's book, "How to train for and run your best marathon":, I loved all the pragmatic advice, the structure and in particular the holistic view from pre-race to race to post-race tips. That provided me with a very strong foundation to improve while staying injury free.
For ultra marathons, there is such a variety of format, distance, terrain, profile, weather, and ultra is still such a personal experiment, I doubt there is much room for generic training plans. For sure, you'd better be ready to run a marathon but, beyond that, you'll have to do very different things between getting ready to run a hilly 50K, a 100-mile on a technical and rocky course, or a 24-hour event on a flat 1-mile loop. But Strava is collecting so much personal data, they have the opportunity to apply some start analytics (hint: IBM's Watson Analytics can help! ;-) and create course and race-specific training plans, customized for every individual!

After almost 10 years of ultra racing, my best training advice now is variety! Various distances, various terrains, rotate shoes, various intensities, various social settings, various locations, ... the limit is your imagination and flexibility! And you, what are your training strategies and tips?

With that, I hope you had the opportunity to not work today to celebrate what our parents and grand-parents have fought for but, instead, could spend time running or doing whatever else is playing for you!

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