Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ultra on Three Runs a Week? Sure.

I sit here writing ensconced in the good life of the off season - "You've gained how many pounds already?" one good running buddy asked the other week.  Yet, with dreams of 2012 starting to dance in my head, it seemed time to do a little post facto analysis of my training in the 2011 high season.

After a disappointing and pretty much non-existent 2010 season because of my too-documented knee injury, I thought I'd take a different approach to 2011 that allowed me to keep the knee happy with low weekly miles but let me do what we all love most - going long.

So, for most of the summer I ran only three times a week, slowly kicking up my long runs until I hit respectable distances of 18 - 20 miles. While it made for some rough runs as my slow-to-develop fat-burning chemistry came online, it worked amazingly well, letting me get out on some of the most memorable training runs I've ever had - documented ad nauseum in images on singletrack:photos.
At Foothills 50k Frenzy.

And as the knee showed some resilience, I took the plunge, setting my sites on a late season 50k (my first ultra since Wasatch Front 2009) and kicking up the training just a bit in September.

For the 20 weeks between early June and race day on October 22, I averaged 30 miles/week; 4,400 vertical feet/week; and 3.5 runs/week.  My biggest week ended September 18, with 52 miles, 10,400 ft vert, and 5 sessions - numbers that in the past passed as a recovery week.  Season details in figure below.

For ultra - even for a 50k - it was meager training, but it worked surprisingly well.  I had a solid race and finished feeling strong in 5:23 and 18th overall.  Not contending but not lagging, either.

As a once and (maybe) future mileage junkie, I'm always hoping for more, but I think this past season serves as a great lesson that low miles, if they're smart, can take you a long way toward your goals.

I'm not sure what 2012 will hold - I'd love to do a 50 miler - but 2011 has been a real gift - allowing me to dip my toes back into the sport I love.


cwjones said...

You should check out some of Barefoot Ted's postings about his training he does for the ultra's he runs. It shocks me how little he puts in to it.

ned barrett said...

I ran my first two 50Ks on about two runs a week, one of them over twenty miles generally. Neither of them ended well, though I was never miserable. For my third 50K, I got scared into training a little more, about 40 miles a week in about four runs for 8 or so weeks. I ran my best and fastest race, 5:50. I'm glad to see that I'm not crazy.