Friday, August 15, 2014

Training Plan for Tunnel Hill 50 Miler

Now that I'm done with Howl at the Moon 8-Hour ultra, it's time to train for my next ultra: Tunnel Hill 50 Miler on November 15. I do have a half-marathon on October 19. Plus, a "Last Man Standing" ultra on September 6. Those are both training runs rather than real races. Need to keep my eye on the prize...the November 15th 50-mile race.

Based on what I already knew, and now experienced at Howl, I definitely need to alter my training for Tunnel Hill. No skimping on long runs. Also, my aerobic threshold will now be based on Joe Friel's HR zones instead of Maffetone. I still plan on lots of easy running, but with a slightly higher heart rate limit. I also need more variety in distances. The last few weeks (months?) have seen me running very consistently, but in the same small range--lots of 5-7 mile runs. Do those runs every day and you end up with good weekly mileage...but nothing long. Time to alternate short and medium runs. In addition to variety in distances, I'll incorporate one harder run per week, but it won't be driven by heart rate, it'll be a "free for all" (do whatever I want) type run. Probably accomplished as part of my Thursday group run.

Let me explain each of these changes.

More long runs. I failed to do regular long runs for 2 months before the Howl ultra. It killed me! To do well at an ultra, you need those long runs. For me, that means one really long run per month (20+ miles) and several 13-15 mile runs each month. These runs will build endurance and strengthen my legs so I can finish 50 miles feeling OK throughout the race. Also plan on testing my eating/drinking strategy on these runs.

Slightly faster easy aerobic runs. The vast majority of my runs (and miles) will be easy aerobic runs, but they will be determined by Friel's HR zones (zones 1 and 2) instead of the lower HR Maffetone zone. My Maffetone limit was HR=137. For me, Friel's Zone 1 = Under 137, Zone 2 = 137-147. Still a pretty limited HR zone, but 10 beats higher than Maffetone. Essentially, I'll run easy and be able to ignore my HR monitor (the HR alarm will still be set, but I'll reach it much less often). Over time, this change should allow me to run a bit faster, but still recover quickly. Slightly higher risk of injury, but worth it. I'll listen to my body and keep it super easy if needed.

Greater distance variety. Instead of daily 5-7 mile runs, I'll add shorter and longer runs to my weekly repertoire. I'm thinking M-W-F three milers, Tu-Th ten milers, and weekend long run (13-20) plus a short recovery run or day off. This change will provide a mental break and challenge my body to adapt to a variety of stresses.

One harder run. Similar to the variety in distances, I need some variety in effort. One day per week I can run as hard as I want. I imagine this being my Thursday group trail run. I usually get caught up in group dynamics anyway, so why not give myself permission to "break the HR limit" each Thursday? The effort will not be guided by heart rate, but rather feel. I'll run whatever pace and effort my body wants. Most often, I figure it'll be a progression run that starts fairly easy and builds momentum throughout the run.

Time to refocus and keep the real goal in sight: 50 miles in 8 hours at Tunnel Hill ultra (9:36 pace). I'd actually be happy with breaking 9 hours at Tunnel Hill...but 8 hours would be super sweet!

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