(Disclaimer: this is not a training plan, don't try this at home.)
This long boring post explains how I went from "couch" (well, not quite) to finishing a 50k trail race, in a few weeks. I'll talk about the race (the amazing Golden Gate Dirty 30) in another post.
What went right
My winter training went well. In December and January I was doing long runs in the 7-10 mile range. Had a nice 9-mile run up Green Mountain with Laurel on New Years Day, an 11-mile ascent of Green at the end of the month, and 9 miles on Mesa beginning of February.
My right foot started to hurt at the end of the Mesa run, enough that I took the next week off. The following week I started back slowly with runs in the 2-4 mile range. Things felt good. I ran up Flagstaff that week and again the next.
The first week of March I did two runs with Laurel: 7 miles at Boulder Valley Ranch and 7 miles at Betasso. The Betasso run was a blast: 6" of fresh slushy snow, warm day.
What went wrong
Something happened to my left foot at Betasso. I don't remember doing anything stupid, just all of a sudden it started to hurt, so we shortcutted back to the car. By the time I got home it hurt bad enough that I could barely walk around the house. I was sure I had broken the 5th metatarsal but an Xray the next day showed no injury. Peroneus brevis tendonitis? Rx was ice, rest, and some cross-training.
I suck at being injured. I could cycle without pain but just couldn't get into it (or the weather sucked, or both). "Running" on the elliptical at the gym would have been good cross training but that's not really fun either. 10 days after injury I tried to run but had to turn back after a minute. I started to doubt whether I'd be able to catch up in my training enough to still run the race. So aside from a few bike rides (about 30-40 miles a week) I did nothing for 4 weeks (aka, "couch").
Oh yeah... around the 3rd-4th week Laurel and I visited Adam and Ashlee in Cabo. Great trip. My foot was beginning to recover enough that I was comfortable doing half-mile walks, then by the end I was up to walking 2-4 miles. I decided to start training again when we got back to CO.
Unfortunately I came home from Cabo with a horrible cold. I did two 2-mile runs and then a 4 miler that first week back, then a bunch of 2-5 mile runs the following two weeks. My cold went away during that time then came back. I took the next week off entirely and just did 2 runs the following week.
Weekly running miles, so far
Jan: 15, 13, 9, 15, 8
Feb: 13, 0, 17, 15
Mar: 14, 0, 0, 0
Apr: 0, 8, 15, 12, 0
Look at all those zeros. I thought I'd be doing 30-40 miles a week by this point.
The bad plan
It's Saturday night, May 10th. I realize the race is exactly 3 weeks away. I look on the website to see if I can downgrade to the 12 mile race (same day, same location, less distance). It looks like I'd have to find someone registered for the 12-mile race who wants to swap places with me. Ugh.
I don't want to do the 12 mile race anyway. I've had my eye on the 50k for years (the park is gorgeous) but haven't been able to do it for one reason or another. I know I can run 12 miles, no sweat. I wanted a challenge, and I wanted to see more of the park. Thus "the bad plan" was born.
Laurel thought I could do it if I really wanted to, but I might get hurt in the process. I decided to try. If I got hurt during training, game over, DNS. If I survived training but got hurt during the race, game over, DNF. Finishing DFL was my threshold for success.
Sunday morning I came up with the plan. 3 weeks isn't nearly enough time to train, so I decided to split my training into 4 weeks (5 days each) instead. Each week would have 4 runs (long, easy, speed, tempo?) and a rest day. The first week my long run would be 5 miles. I hadn't run that far in 2 months. I wasn't sure how much to push it, but was guessing my next two long runs would be 10 and 15 miles, or maybe 8 and 13 miles.
The first week went well:
- May 11: 5.0 miles @9:50 pace, flat trail, in the rain
- May 12: 2.5 miles @10:30 pace, flat trail
- May 13: 4.0 miles, 4x800 repeats @3:50 each, flat trail
- May 14: 4.0 mile hike at Chautauqua
- May 15: Rest day (flew to BOS)
The second week I was travelling to the east coast. Running flat ground at sea level is not the best way to train for a mountainous trail race at 9,000'.
- May 16: 9.3 miles @10:30 pace, on trails at the Marlborough/Sudbury State Forest. Less than 200' elevation gain. I had to keep retracing my steps and trying new paths to get a long enough run (the resulting map is pretty funny).
- May 17: 3.8 miles @11:00 pace, on pavement.
- May 18: 3.6 miles, 4x~800 intervals. I made the mistake of not reserving hotel rooms ahead of time since I wasn't really sure where I would be each day visiting people in MA. Usually it's easy to find a hotel with vacancy. Not on graduation weekend. I called hotels for 30 minutes before I found one with vacancy, an hour away. When I got there, they said they were full, despite my last-minute reservation. WTF! Long story short, I helped the woman at the front desk clear out a room, which I slept in for 8 hours and then found a local park with a small muddy trail system. I ran a 3/4 mile loop a bunch of times. Took a bus to NYC in the evening.
- May 19: 3.0 miles walking (walked to work and back), then did 5 laps of the stairs at the hotel (about 100 flights, maybe 1,000' total vert).
- May 20: Rest day (oops, except I walked a total of 8 miles around the city).
- May 21: 15.5 miles @9:45 pace, mostly on the gravel Bridle Path in Central Park. Plus 3 miles walking. I had to loop back around after running the whole park in order to get enough miles in. It was a fun run. Bill joined me for the first 10 miles, so that part turned into a tempo run for me (he's fast!). There were some little hills, I got about 450' elevation gain, ha! My legs were sore the rest of the day.
- May 22: 3.0 miles walking (took another rest day, flew home).
- May 23: 4.0 miles @9:30 pace overall, fartlek run.
- May 24: Rest day.
- May 25: 7.3 miles jogging/hiking, previewed the start and finish of the course.
- May 26: 10.4 miles total. I ran 2.5 miles to the start of the Bolder Boulder, ran the 6.2 mile course in about 54 minutes, then ran 1.5 miles back. Always a fun race. Laurel and I rode around after to watch the pro athletes race. Right foot started to hurt again, I think in the same place as in early February. Uh oh. Not too bad though, just a little nagging pain.
- May 27: Rest day.
- May 28: 0.8 miles, just keeping the legs fresh.
- May 29: Rest day.
- May 30: 1.9 miles.
Here's a recap of April's miles, plus miles so far in May:
Apr: 0, 8, 15, 12, 0
May: 10, 23, 27, 13
Not great, but not bad, and I mostly avoided injury. Game on! My goal for the race was to take it easy, walk all (or most) of the uphills, put on the brakes a bit on the downhills, keep my heartrate down and hydration up. I kept reminding myself how I went out too fast at the Blue Sky Marathon in 2011 and ran out of fuel for the second half of the race. Didn't want that to happen again.
Quick race summary: First 6 miles were great, I was moving faster than expected but it felt easy and fun. The uphills were rough given that I had done virtually no hill/mountain training and nothing at 9,000'! Still felt good through about mile 13. Switched socks and shoes at the 3rd aid station (~mile 17). I was running out of steam but got a second wind around mile 20. That kept me going for a few miles but by the time I got to the Windy Peak climb I was hurting bad. The last 8 miles were brutal, lots of walking, lots of quad and calf exhaustion. But I finished, and even ran a bit the last mile of the race! Final time: 8 hours, 53 minutes. 32 miles and 8,000' vertical gain. Yow!