I’ve called my last two training cycles “maintaining” cycles for the reason that I didn’t feel what I was doing was actually training.  In training, you steadily add stress and training load to your body in the hopes that you get stronger before you reach the point of injuring yourself.  Each of my last two cycles started with recovery from a 100-miler that I felt really good about performance wise.  So my goal in each block was less to build my body up to be stronger and more to just maintain what I’ve already built up.  The primary limiting factor was time between races – 9 weeks between Umstead and OD100 and 10 weeks between OD100 and ES100.  I’ve only been running ultras now for 3 years now and didn’t feel like that gave me enough time to really fully recover and then hit out a large block of training.  So it’s really about doing no harm.

The last time I provided an update, I was gutting out a 20-miler that went from oof to argh in about 4 miles and was then followed by 5 miles of “Please, Lord, just get me home.”  I hadn’t run anything more than my normal 1 and 5 mile runs the past 2 weekends so was not sure what today would bring.  I had been dreading the run all week long.  I wasn’t sure what to expect and was quite fearful I would have a repeat of my last long run.  I changed up my route and was planning on running entirely on trails in Cheslen Preserve rather than the 50/50 roads/trails my last time out.  So more trails + more hills + more technical terrain = lots harder in addition to the extra 5 miles.

I ended up doing two different variants of the same loop six times with each loop being either 3.5 or 5 miles.  I was hoping these section of trails would get me about 150 feet of elevation gain per mile.  Eastern States is sick with hills (about 20k feet total) and I needed at least one long run to be somewhat close to its elevation profile.  Last summer I ran a section of trail that gave me 210-220 feet of elevation gain per mile, however that caused me to walk a lot more often which I’m not sure is the best way to do my long runs (note: it’s quite possible I’ll flip-flop on this opinion several more times over the next couple years).  By targeting 150, I would still get a lot of hills, but would run much more than I walked.  Turns out my route gave me 148.8 feet per mile or almost exactly what I was hoping for.  I hadn’t done the math before heading out so am lucky I got as close as I did.

The temperature was still hot (low 70s increasing to 83 degrees) and I was sweating buckets throughout the whole run.  I brought along five 20oz bottles of water and ended up going through them all during the 5 hours I was out there.  I ran the entire first loop except one short steep hill section.  The second time around, I started walking more hills, but not too much more.  Loop three was about the same and I rolled back to my car right at12.5 miles.  I tweaked my loops a little, but didn’t know how far each was going to be until I had run them so it was very odd to reach the halfway point exactly at the mileage I needed.  I swapped out my bottles, chugged an Ensure Plus, and hit the trails again with an elapsed pace of 11 minutes 15 seconds.  I was kinda sorta hoping to do the run at a 12 minute pace, however didn’t think this was probably going to be doable.  As I progressed through loops 4, 5, and then 6, my pace slowly crept up and my elapsed pace was 12 minutes right on the nose at mile 24.  Unfortunately, I had slowed way down to 14 minute miles by this point so finished up just over at 12:07.

And I couldn’t be happier.  Three weeks ago I ran did a half road course with 90 feet of average elevation gain per mile at a 12 minute pace and today I busted out an all trail course with 50% more vertical only 7 seconds slower.  Oh, and it was five miles longer.  I felt good throughout the entire run and while the hot temperatures really seemed to bother me three weeks ago, I didn’t wilt much at all today.  This is important for ES100 as it’ll be 90+ and humid next month in Waterville, PA.  So two of my three long runs are now in the bank during this maintaining cycle.  I’ll do 50K next weekend, however I haven’t settled on a course yet.  I’ll probably do mostly roads to practice running long, yet still need to figure out how/where to stash my water and aid since I’ll likely need two stops.

It’s funny how training typically ends up mirroring ultras with highs following the inevitable highs.  Hope you’re on an upswing, too.  Stay cool.