My training “year” follows a December to December pattern due to a transition from trail running to skiing right around late November- early December. It is a good time to tally the numbers, do some critical review, compare with 2012, and put together a training plan for the coming year.
Note: I am putting up this post primarily for my own use as an easy to access depository of the information and analysis. Writing such a post requires that one go through the exercise of analyzing, reviewing, summarizing, and deriving some sort of direction from the year of training and racing results. This analysis was typically in my training log journal but since there is a chance that others might find some value in this, I am putting it up here. If you have any questions/comments feel free to post such in the comment section.
This summarizes the second year of focused training and racing for ultra running and Nordic skiing. Progress is evident but there is much work to do.
I once again targeted about 700 hours for the year, not because this value has any definitive basis but rather that about 700 hours is what I have found to be functional for me over the 35 or so years that I have undertaken serious training. The total this year is about 640 hours which is within the expected variance and amounts to about 1 hour per week less than what would have totaled 700 hours. The total training volume in time is only of value when viewed with other, more important, aspects like the training zone distribution for this volume, which will be reviewed below.
As far as distance, I logged almost exactly the same running mileage as last year (2065 vs. 2067) but with more sessions this year (221 vs. 202). In skiing, conditions deteriorated in March so I logged significantly less mileage this year (1796 vs 2120) and, of course, fewer sessions (122 vs 136). Those lost skiing sessions were replaced by running sessions since the trails opened up much earlier than usual.
In vertical ascention the total is lower but within expected variance (476,518 feet vs. 532,480 feet) and amounts to about 1000 feet less per week for 2013 compared to 2012. I had plans to up the 2013 total significantly but decided that it was not a good idea as will be discussed later.
I have extracted out the interval session data and presented it separately at the bottom of the table. This is something that in the (distant) past I noted to ensure that I had sufficient volume of interval work for the year. I am not calibrated yet with respect to what is an acceptable volume for my age. When I was younger I was doing about double this volume of intervals. Currently I am supporting a once a week protocol. There are plans in the works to significantly increase this interval work for 2014, at least according to the initial review of my coach who, this coming year, will be taking more than a consultant-type role as in the past, i.e. I am committing to following the directives rather than taking them as input and doing what I think is best. More on this in a future post.
I have used a derivative metric training impulse (“TRIMP”) to determine training load. Although this metric nicely incorporates both training time and intensity (i.e. a measure of the “quality” of the training session), the metric differs significantly in magnitude for different sports. Specific to my training in the sports of trail running and Nordic skiing, the magnitude of the TRIMP is quite different for the same training load. It seems apparent that this is the case due to the amount of time one can run versus ski. I find that, on average, a 2 hour ski is about equivalent to a 1.5 hr run which equates to an approximately 30% difference in TRIMP. This is likely due to the significant incorporation of the upper body in skiing. Given this empirical and functional difference in the two sports w/r/t TRIMP, the training seasons must be evaluated separately and with different metric magnitudes. Periodization, of course, will not be substantially different.
The 2012 training year helped establish a base from which training specifics could be designed. Specifically, I was able to determine three important factors that guided the 2013 plan:
- magnitudes – what are the magnitudes of TRIMP, time, distance, and vertical ascention that make sense for me?
- capabilities – what are the magnitudes of training variables that I can consistently “support” through a season?
- combinations – what combinations of sessions are effective and supportable?
With these inputs and with the consultation of a coach I designed a training plan for 2013 that was generally followed with a few significant modifications due to a major forest fire in our area (unhealthy air) and an injury (bruised right foot) near the end of the season. The plan was to keep the volume the same as 2012 but to increase the ‘quality’, i.e. shift the training zone distribution to lower the amount of zone 3 in favor of, primarily, zone 4 volume. As is evident from the data below, I did not succeed in this but still had a reasonable race season. I have been advised from numerous knowledgeable sources that if I wish to progress much further, I must increase the amount of zone 4 and zone 2 work and decrease the amount of ‘junk’ zone 3 volume. The current plan to accomplish this is to increase the interval sessions, on average, to 1.5 to 2 per week. I am not sure I will be able to support this but I have been encouraged to give it a try as my inability to do two-a-week intervals this past year may be due to too much zone 3 and not enough zone 1-2. We shall see.
I am still seeing in the 2013 season a supportable 7-day rolling total training load of about 2500-2700 TRIMP on average for skiing and about 2000-2200 TRIMP on average for running without any over-training symptoms and new and/or recurring injuries. Although it is important to challenge these established boundaries, one must be careful to not go too far.
For running, I have averaged about 60-70 miles per week. Based on 2012 data I expected to be able to support about 80-85 miles per week but with increased interval focus I found that this was not productive, i.e. in order to assure a quality interval session I needed to cut back on the mileage a bit. Coaching input indicates that I need to shift some zone 3 work to zone 2 so that the interval sessions are of optimal quality. So perhaps with more zone 2 mileage the total mileage will go up. It will be interesting to see what happens in 2014 when I substantially increase the interval focus. I have heard some accomplished ultra runners say that, provided the correct volume of intensity is extant, mileage becomes much less important for peak performance, particularly if one has a substantial endurance training base (which I do). Some speak about training 50 miles per week or less and still being very competitive. We will keep these thoughts in mind.
As far as skiing, given the lack of impact damage, I can easily handle 100-120 miles (160-200 km) per week without any negative side effects. Once again though, quality is king and this is even more important in Nordic skiing where the races are much shorter than ultras (the longest Nordic skiing race will be about a maximum of 2.5 hours). So some super high intensity intervals and hill repeats are very important to maximize performance for the shorter races (10 km-30 km). I have no focus on distance in skiing, just time, particularly early in the season. The other element that plays in here is that the snow conditions can radically alter the pace and it is distinctly possible to cover twice the distance on a fast snow day than on a slow snow day, so there really is no basis for using distance as a primary metric for Nordic ski training. Distance has much more influence in trail running.
I will now present the detailed training data. There is a lot of data here- two sports, 4 input variables, and a derived metric (TRIMP) for an entire 650 hour year of training. You may not have the interest to go through it but it might be worthwhile to do a pass through if for no other reason than to see how another athlete is evaluating their training.
Detailed data graphics
The following 12 graphics present all of the training data in a format that includes graphical representation of 7 day rolling total (blue), 7 day rolling average (red), and daily (green) data as well as training time zone analysis (and comparison to 2012) over the training period for the ski season (18 Nov 2012- 29 Mar 2013) and, separately, the running season (29 Mar 2013-28 Nov 2013). The data presented are TRIMP, distance, time, and vertical ascention. Also noted with red arrows are the race events.
Last year (2012) I ‘returned’ to ski racing and produced some reasonable results without focusing on actual ‘racing’. In 2013 I approached the races with much more intensity (and expectation) with, once again, only reasonable results. My placing has been significantly affected by skiing skill as I crashed twice in one race but still managed to keep the leaders in sight, however without the ability to close the gap in the last 5 km. I will be spending much more time drilling on the downhill skills this year as I clearly have the engine to be competitive in the overall in regional races, even at age 57. Not being a natural with good downhill technique, this is a real challenge.
You may note the large gap in races between early January and early March. Unfortunately there are only two local races in this time period and one is a net downhill 32 km skate race and the other is a rolling 10 km skate race. This past season I concentrated on racing classic. This coming season I will include skate races as well and we plan on doing a bit of traveling to other races including a pursuit (15 km classic/30 km skate) in late January. Should be fun.
Presented below is the training zone analysis for the ski season and a comparison of 2013 to 2012.
As far as training analysis, what I am taking away from these data are the following points:
- Training load was quite consistent and perhaps close to ideal if more zone 4 work is added
- missed on the goal to increase zone 4 work and reduce zone 3 ‘junk’- need to follow through on this in 2014
- zone 4 + zone 5 total is about the same as in 2012
- I succeeded in increasing the total zone 5 time- very important for Nordic ski racing
- only two days off, both of which were for travel to races
- one-per-week intervals are easily accommodated and I will be going to twice-per-week for 2014 (this will significantly increase zone 4/5 work)
- need more races
- may have concentrated on climbing a bit too much as most races do not have very much climbing
Going into this season I plan to do every race (except the net downhill race) that is available locally/regionally; this should be a 10 km classic and 15 km skate in late December, an 18 km classic in early January, a 28 km classic in early January, a pursuit (15 km classic/30 km skate) in late January, a 32 km classic uphill ‘fat ass’ in early February, a 10 km skate in early February, and a 25 km classic in early March… and (maybe?) a 90 km ultramarathon skate in late March. I think that I am ready to get back into true racing-mode and see what happens!
It was a pleasurable second running season with 3 races which included my first 50 miler and a ‘real’ mountain 60 km race (with over 10,000 feet of total climb, a 3500 foot/1100 m climb at 45 km, and a 10 km downhill to the finish). In general the training went well although I only did 4 long runs (20+ miles) aside from the races. I still managed to compete very well in the overall. The biggest disappointment has been an inability to fuel efficiently and effectively for entire races. The inability to take in fuel mid-race substantially affected my ability to perform to expectation in the later stages of two of the three races. This may be linked to the lack of long runs where I could practice fueling. I am still figuring out what fuel works for me and have tried a number of approaches- perhaps 2014 will be when I find what works. So far this is out and this seems to be working.
The 50 mile race went very well. I ran in 5th position for the first 30 miles and turned the 50 km in 4:35 (including 5000 feet of the 7000 feet of total climbing) and right on target for a sub 8 hour finish (my goal for this race). From there things went not so well. I was climbing strongly and pacing the flats at 7:30 pace right up to the 30 mile point where a long 7 mile downhill section begins. Within about 2 miles I had developed an IT band insertion issue at the right knee. This became worse and eventually lead to an inability to run any downhill from mile 37 onward. Frustrating, as I watched 10 competitors pass on the downhills over the next 8 miles whilst I had substantial energy and the engine to actually start pushing at that point. On the last climb I managed to pass 5 of these competitors back only to have 4 of them pass me back again on the downhill towards the finish. I accelerated in the final 2 mile gradual uphill to the finish and timed in at 8:51. Still a reasonable finish but I now know where my capability lies and that is about 7:30 for such a mountain 50 miler with 7000 feet (2200 m) of climbing. I am looking forward to attaining this in 2014. The ‘IT band insertion at the knee’ issue was recurrent, has occurred in both knees during races, and I needed to figure it out if I expected to ever perform to my ability. After some analysis, I realized that I was not running the downhills in a bio-mechanically sound fashion. I was not using my quads enough and depending upon my lower leg musculature too much for the deceleration and push off. This realization came from the fact that one hears a lot about how competitors have ‘blown quads’ after ultras- well I never did, in fact the only thing that did not hurt was my quads. A bit of gait tweaking and a mindful focus on loading the quads on downhills has resulted in elimination of this ‘issue’ replaced by a new knowledge of what ‘blown quads’ are.
The other two races were strikingly similar- very efficient and measured, good position (5th or so), and then an inability to fuel and a struggle. In the 50 km race (with 8000 feet (2400 m) of vert) my stomach was sour from the beginning but I managed to keep fueling until about 20 miles in. After that, essentially nothing other than some Coke. Managed to hold on to finish well and beat my time by about 10 minutes from last year in the same race. In the 60 km race a similar result- I fueled well to about 20 miles and then could not get anything down until about the 50 km mark whereupon a rejuvenation occurred and I was able to push at 7-7:30 pace on the 10 km downhill into the finish. Not being able to fuel before the crux 3500 foot (1100 m) climb at 45 km was debilitating and I experienced some significant light headedness as I approached the 11,200 foot (3400 m) high point- held it together and got down to the aid just below the pass and was able to put some solid food down (watermelon and apple slices) that carried me through to the finish. More learning. Also, in these two races there was no ‘IT band insertion’ issue as discussed above which has been resolved with slight changes in loading on the downhills.
After the 60 km race in mid September, I decided that I was ready to move up to a 100 mile race. I found one in late October, took a good recovery period, and started to put in some longer runs in anticipation of the race. Unfortunately I bruised the bottom of my right foot by striding onto a sharp rock pretty hard. This was exacerbated by the fact that I was running in the Fellcross at the time. Note to Fellcross users: be very aware of the fact that these shoes are not designed for protection against sharp rocks- there is no rock plate and the lugs are widely distributed allowing for direct impact of sharp rocks upon the sole of your foot. Given the nature of the trail I was running at the time of the injury, I should never have chosen the Fellcross. In any case, the bruised foot took over 3 weeks to heal (you can see the large increase in days off in this period on the training summary graphs below) and I therefore scraped the 100 miler. I wanted to make sure that I had a fighting chance of finishing and finishing well and did not relish the idea of hobbling for the last 25 miles. The 100 will have to be another day… hopefully sometime in 2014.
I tapered significantly before the 50 miler and the 60 km races and not so much before the 50 km race. The most telling graphs are TRIMP and Distance as these show I went into the 50 miler race taper off ‘low’ TRIMP, but high mileage. For the 60 km race I went into the taper off very high TRIMP and high mileage. I felt physically fine for both races, but one was early season and the other was late season so the lead up needs to be different. I went into the 50 km with relatively high TRIMP and high mileage and a minimal taper. Other than fueling in all of the races and the IT band issue in the 50 miler, I had no physical and/or ‘engine’ deficiencies. My take away is that if I can figure out the fueling, I should be able to excel in the regional races and maybe even stay within 10% of the winners at the national/international races.
As far as training analysis, what I am taking away from these data are the following points:
- Training load was quite jittery but this seems endemic due to the required tapers and the associated relatively short training periods between races
- made some progress on the goal to increase zone 4 work and reduce zone 3 ‘junk’- need to follow through further on this in 2014 (more interval sessions)
- zone 4 + zone 5 total is up significantly from 2012
- I succeeded in increasing the total zone 5 time- very important for speed
- 38 days off- this is way up from 2012 due to 3 instead of 2 races, longer tapers, and primarily injury recovery (bruised foot in late September through mid-October)
- one-per-week intervals are easily accommodated and I will be going to 1.5 to 2-per-week for 2014 (this will significantly increase zone 4/5 work and reduce zone 3 by transfer to zone 2 to allow for sufficient recovery from the intervals)
- need to figure out fueling
- I am ready to move up to the 100 mile distance- so long as I can get the fueling figured
Going into this season I plan to do early season (March/April) training in the desert in Arizona and catch a 50 km/50 mile race there (depending on how the training goes) and a 50 mile race in Colorado in May on the way back to Idaho. The forest fire here in central Idaho devastated many of the early season trails and it is likely that there will be no real trail running in the area until mid-May. So Arizona is a good option.
I am looking to do a 100 mile race in the June-July period and I am giving serious thought to a difficult mountain 100 (the Bear? or Wasatch?) in late summer early fall.
As I have said previously, I look at training with a multi-year horizon and these first two years have provided a good base to begin to ‘sharpen’ off of. The planned increased frequency of interval sessions as well as more racing experience (in the ultramarathons) and some fueling experience should set up for competitive seasons in both skiing and running. I mentioned earlier that I am taking on an ‘active’ coach- a two time endurance Olympian who also happens to be my wife. After 30 years of marriage, hopefully we can survive the coach-athlete relationship!