Training Plans – The Trail to MMT100
So I’m supposed to be writing a training plan for Amy for a 50k that we are looking at doing in April, but instead, I’m starting this blog post. I am pretty good at writing plans, provided I have the correct information in hand. So what is needed to write a plan?
- Distance or time of goal race
- How long until race day?
- Athlete’s history and current fitness (what is the longest they have run and how recently have they run it. How long did they work up to this distance, and how much time off had they had?)
- Athlete’s time commitment, i.e., how many times per week to run/ workout
- Athlete’s schedule (are there days of the week they absolutely cannot run because of work/family etc)
- A variety of cookie cutter plans of which there are plethora of on the interwebs to draw ideas from.
My standard approach for ultras is long runs on the weekends, building up to back to backs, short runs just to stay loose during the week, and step back weeks every three weeks or so.
Most of the cookie cutter plans you find on the internet or in Relentless Forward Progress (my go to book for training) tend to be super high mileage plans. While this is good for people whose only job is to run and who don’t have kids, for the rest of us Ain’t nobody got time for that! (Unless you’re Mary Eggers!) So when those plans start expanding mileage midweek, I usually don’t. Those runs are just to keep the body loose, unless you’re doing speed or hill workouts, which those should only be once a week. I also like to incorporate strength training in people’s schedules in the form of pilates or yoga classes, and yes I’m a hypocrite because I don’t do them.
So I will give you a sample of what Amy’s training schedule looks like for Iron Master’s Challenge 50K (her longest run to date is 30K)
For Amy’s plan she wanted to look at 4 runs per week and some extra stuff with options for indoor training. She also wanted some back to back runs and 2-3 20 milers in the plan. I decided that working with Hal Higdon’s Intermediate Marathon Training Program combined with Relentless Forward Progress’ 50K at 50 miles/wk program would give me the info I wanted. Now Higdon’s Plan is an 18 week program and Bryon Powell’s is a 24 week program, so I need to alter some stuff given that Amy has 20 weeks until race day. Why did I go with these plans? Higdon’s has lower mileage during the week, but I like how Powell structures long runs and back to backs on the weekends. So here’s how it lays out:
This plan is much more in line with Higdon’s and has Amy focusing on strength because of her IT issues and 4 big weekends. Now, for me, these types of training plans are basically suggestions. We run because we like it, and want to see what we can do; we don’t run to torture ourselves. Last year I was really fatigued during my training for Cayuga Trails 50 and so I logged a 2 mile week. It was exactly what I needed. I also worked with someone who would beat themselves up every time they missed mileage on their long run… that is a recipe for disaster.
If the plan isn’t working and you find yourself hating the idea of running RE-EVALUATE the plan, maybe even re-evaluate your goal. Re-examine your motives; is your goal for going long because you think that’s the way to get respect among your fellow runners? Are you doing it because you want to prove to yourself that it’s possible regardless of injury history and prior training? Or are you doing it because you ENJOY going long, ENJOY the challenge, ENJOY long times of solitude? Remember, we GET to do this, we CHOOSE to do this, it is NOT a requirement, so if there is no joy, why bother? Find the activity/distance/plan/races that bring you joy and pursue them.
This is not to say if you enjoy doing this, that there won’t be days of training that are major slugfests just to get through.
Joy ≠ Easy.
Some of the other things you will notice are substitute ideas for training. We are both training through the winter which is not always easy, and mileage numbers can skew the idea of effort. That said, we are getting a 3 month membership (groupon deal) at our JCC, which has ellipticals, stairmasters (which are great for simulating many of the climbs we will encounter), an indoor track, and a pool. The idea through the week is the keep the engine and mechanics loose while the specific training for the long run and the course are found in the weekends. Furthermore, we are exploring the idea of snowshoeing this winter which is an amazing workout and great strength builder.
How to climb Massanutten Mountain inside
My plan is a bit more aggressive. I started the cycle last week and it continues for 6 months. I relied on Relentless Forward Progress for my plan. I combined the 100 mile training on 50 miles/wk with the 100 mile training on 70 miles/wk. I’m using the midweek mileage from the 50/wk plan with the weekend mileage from the 70/wk plan. My biggest week ends up being 61 miles. Again, as the plan is merely a suggestion, I will most likely drop some midweek runs or mess with the mileage depending on who I’m running with. I have also incorporated a Time ON Feet (TOF) range for my long runs in case I’m out in deep snow or snowshoeing. The formula I used was taking the mileage and multiplying it be 10 min/mile for my fast range and 14 min/mile for my slow range as I believe this is probably the pace range I will be covering during MMT100. For example a day that I have 20 miles scheduled, like January 17th, there may be a ton of snow, so if I go snowshoeing I have worked out that I should be out there between 3 hours 20 minutes (10 min/mile) – 4 hours 40 minutes (14 min/mile). I can guarantee, even at the high range I would not cover 20 miles on snowshoes, but a 20 mile running effort will be achieved.
So how could I enhance my training without increasing mileage? Here’s where I will say,
“do what I say, not what I do”:
- I would examine my diet and eat better.
- I would get a coach
- I would focus on speed / tempo / hill runs on Thursdays (which I do to a low degree)
- I would incorporate Yoga/Pilates/Strength into my schedule
Why don’t I do these things? First, for my goals I can’t justify the cost of hiring a coach. Second, at the present time the JOY of eating what I eat is greater than the deficit it creates in my running. Third, I do some speed/hill work but not to the extent that it burns me out.
My objective is JOY, I will never again win an ultra (yes I did once… kind of), but I enjoy going long. I will do what is necessary to capture that joy, and I will drop whatever destroys that joy. Training is not my job, it is my pleasure.
BTW, after virtually 8 weeks off of running because of my rolled ankle, I knocked out a nice 34 mile week for my first week of training for MMT! Felt slow and out of shape, but felt like a runner, and I have 6 months to get in shape! This is JOY!