Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I'm Building a Better Base

I ran 269.3 miles last month.  That’s the most miles I’ve ever run in February.  The 247.65 miles I ran in January was also a personal best.  I’m off to my best start ever with 516.95 miles in just two months.  By contrast, last year I ran only 12 miles in the first two months.

I’ve never been a high mileage runner.  Over the last 10 years, I’ve averaged 42 miles per week.  Even when I’ve trained for ultramarathons, my mileage has generally topped out at about 65 miles per week.

I’ve had good marathon results on moderate mileage, but I’ve always wondered if I could take my training to another level with more mileage.  I’ve also always felt like I was doing just enough to get by when I trained for longer ultramarathons.

Two years ago, I decided to try building up to 100 miles per week.  At the time, I was running about 50 miles per week.  My plan was to build gradually, adding one extra mile each week.  I’ve learned from experience that most “overuse” injuries stem from ramping up too quickly.  Your body can adapt to almost any training load, but you have to give it enough time to adapt.  A friend once advised me to ramp up at two percent per week.  That worked well for me the year I trained for my best 24-hour run.

Unfortunately, I never got past the 60s two years ago.  That’s when I had the groin strain that started my downward spiral.  I don’t think that had anything to do with my training load.  I hurt myself while moving some furniture.

Last year, I stopped running completely for seven weeks.  After that, I had no base.  I had to start training from scratch, and that meant I had to be careful not to ramp up too quickly.  Here’s a graph of my monthly mileage since last March.

At times, my mileage actually dipped.  That’s because I was starting to feel like I was overtraining.  When in doubt, I held back.  I wanted to have a firm foundation, even if it took all year to get there.

I expected to have a big breakthrough in December, getting a boost from all the race miles I was doing.  Breaking a rib on the first day of the Four Corners Quad, was a setback, but I got back into training as quickly as I could.  Instead of surging above 200 miles, I dipped to 179.6 for the month.

While I was recovering from that injury, I could only run on the treadmill, and I had to go at a slow pace.  Still, I had a breakthrough.  I finished the year with two consecutive 50 mile weeks.

I began this year with another 50 mile week.  Since then, I’ve extended that streak to 10 consecutive weeks with at least 50 miles.  I also started setting the bar higher.  Each week, I had one mile to my minimum goal.

Here’s another graph.  This one is my weekly mileage since the start of the year.  There are two weeks that I exceeded my goal.  Both times, it was the result of race mileage.  In January, I had a week that included three marathons.  In February, I had a week that included the first 70 miles of the Rocky Raccoon 100.  (I use a Sunday through Saturday week, so my mileage for that race got split between two different weeks.)

In both of those weeks, I ran only 10 miles the rest of the week.  I wanted to be careful not to overdo it.

Right now, I’m emphasizing endurance over speed.  Eventually I’ll add some speed work, but I want to make sure I’m ready for it.  That might make it harder to qualify for the 2018 Boston Marathon, but I’m more concerned with being able to finish the Bighorn Mountain 100 in June.

Despite my lack of speed work, I had a surprisingly good result last weekend at the Cowtown Marathon.  My average pace of 8:45 was faster than the pace of most of my recent training runs, and I still felt strong in the late miles.  Mileage counts for something.

I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep building my mileage.  I’ll taper for a few weeks before the Bighorn Mountain 100.  After that, I’ll probably pick up where I left off, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to 100 mile weeks.  By then I’ll be in uncharted territory, and I’ll have to see how my body reacts.

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