My training “year” follows a December to December pattern due to a transition from trail running to nordic skiing right around late November- early December. It is a good time to tally the numbers, do some critical review, compare with 2012 and 2013, 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 third year of focused training and racing for ultra running and Nordic skiing. There is good progress in most areas with one major deficiency- fueling for ultramarathons. More on fueling later.
I typically target about 700 hours as this volume has served me well for preparing for endurance sport competition over the past 35 years. At 962 hours, the year turned out significantly higher. This was not by accident. First, my coach insists that “active recovery” should be logged and accounted for in total training hours. I have not tracked active recovery in the past so that is a 180 hour adder to the total, and therefore for comparison to past years this needs to be recognized. Second, my coach also encouraged me to begin including separate specific strength workouts in my schedule and I have, to the tune of about 90 hours- another adder to the total. Excluding the “active recovery” and the strength workouts, I have a total of about 700 hours in sports-specific (nordic skiing and running) training. Of course, these volume data are only of value when viewed through a “time in zone” optic as will be reviewed below.
As for distance, it is remarkable that I have run almost exactly the same yearly total distance the past 3 years in a row- 2087 miles (2014), 2065 miles (2013), and 2067 miles (2012). The large differences have been in the zone distribution and the addition of significant (about 2 per week) interval sessions this past year (2014). In skiing the distance is up a bit 1848 miles (2014) vs. 1796 miles (2013) but still significantly less than 2012 (2120 miles). Once again the zone distribution has also changed as I added two interval sessions per week in skiing this season as well.
I decidedly went after increasing vertical ascention and succeeded in doing so and passed the 600,000 foot mark compared to a total of about 475,000 feet last year. The total this year is an average of about 1650 vertical feet per workout and 2500 more feet of vertical per week in 2014 vs. 2013, the largest increase being in the running season. This was planned as I chose to compete in very mountainous running races for the 2014 running season.
Once again I have extracted out the interval session data. These sessions represent a 3X increase in intensity work when compared to 2013. My coach insisted that I could handle the training load and that such intensity work was critical to performance and maintenance of VO2 max. This approach has been supported by a recent book by Joe Friel- “Fast After 50” , where he reiterates over and over how important the intensity work is, particularly for “senior” athletes (I will be posting a review of Friel’s new book soon). I can feel the very positive effects of committing to consistent inclusion of these sessions, both in running and in skiing. The intervals have a different impact (excuse the pun) in running than in skiing but it is all positive.
Presented below are the daily (blue) and 7-day rolling total (red) for distance (km for skiing and miles for running), time, vertical ascention, and TRIMP time series data for the skiing and running seasons, respectively.
I kept the volume in skiing at a fairly high level to ensure that my aerobic base was maintained whilst still keeping up the quality of the 2-per-week intensity sessions. This required an increase in sleep and recovery which meant making some hard choices as far as other activities were concerned. Overall I think that the focus was validated by the sense of accomplishment and the very good results in the three races that I competed in. At 58 I was able to stay at the front of the fields and finish in the top 10 in two of the three races- and, more importantly, less than 10% back from the winners in all of the races. Percentage back is a much better metric for performance than place.
Looking at “time in zone”, presented below is a comparison of zone distribution for 2014 and 2013. I successfully transitioned an overabundance of L3 into L2 and L4 as prescribed by my coach and the associated training plan- meaning I stuck to the plan and did not let passing skiers or other situations influence my pace as I have in the past. The increased L2 allowed for the 2-per-week intensity sessions to maintain quality and I felt the results, particularly in the last quater of my races where I had the depth to accelerate away and finish strong.
These data may represent close to an “ideal” skiing training season and will serve as a baseline going forward. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the intensity sessions and suggest that they were the difference in my superior performances this yaer versus last year.
Moving on to the running season, the same daily (blue) and 7-day rolling total (red) time series data for distance (miles), time, vertical ascention, and TRIMP for the running season is presented below. The tapers and recovery for ultramarathons play havoc with any sort of smooth, consistent training once the season starts. The three ultramarathon races that I participated in can be seen as the three “spikes” in each of the time series plots. I did two very mountainous (17,000 vert and 12,500 vert) 100 km races and one very mountainous (11,000 vert) 60 km race. All ended in disappointment even though I felt great about the training. The first 100 km went very well through about 50 km where I nailed the bottom of my right foot on a sharp rock on a 6 mile downhill at sub-6:30 minute pace. I have only this year been able to increase my pace on the downhills due to the on-trail intensity sessions that provide both the stimulus for the turnover and the practice with going fast on trails. But I still have some technical improvements to make to ensure that I can avoid such rocks and other perturbations. In any case I hobbled for the next eight miles and finally decided to drop rather than ruin the rest of the running season with recovery for the injury. It still took 3 weeks for the bruise to subside and allow for regular running. Lesson learned- stay within your skill limits!
The 60 km mountain race also went well through about 40 km at which point I could not get any fuel down. This is a recurring problem and one that I have worked on and still have not figured out. My future in ultramarathons is dependent on getting the fueling figured- if I can’t then I will drop down to the Sky-distance where, if the past is any indication, I will have no issues. I took a break and let my stomach settle and then continued on to finish the race strong but not anywhere near what my potential is on that course if I can get the fueling down.
The last race, a high altitude (9500-12,500 feet) 100 km mountain race, was similar to the 60 km race in that I went through the 60 km mark in position to go sub-12:00 and then could no longer fuel for about 2 hours. I recovered and finished but it was disappointing.
The running training season also shows success with transitioning a bunch of L3 to L2 and L4 as prescribed. This was due, as in skiing, to the 2-per-week intensity sessions and the commitment to ensure that the intensity was always “quality”.
Fueling is the current barrier to any continued progress and this will be a focus for 2015- either figure it out or move on.
I added specific strength to the training program this year for the first time since racing pro/expert in MTB 15 years ago. Included is a broad spectrum of units that work maximum strength, core, and what I call “stability” micro-muscle groups in the knees, ankles, and arms. The biggest impact came from the maximum strength program- a modified version of the program outlined in “The New Alpinism” book I read and posted a review of earlier this year. This program, which is designed to recruit and synchronize a number of major motor units, has made a big difference in power in double poling and core stability on long runs. The protocol involves weight vested, max ability, low rep, pull-ups building to about 150% of body weight. I highly recommend such a program as it it a “strength not show” protocol to ensure that excessive muscle mass is not developed- an important consideration for endurance athletes where power to weight ratio is supreme. I also found that garhammers and weight vest step-ups to very effective. All of these exercises can easily be done at home in a minimum of space, no need to join or go to a gym facility.
2015 goals are still in an embryonic state but I am considering some combination of US Skyrunning ultras and Sky-distance races. Many are near (within a days drive) where I live and they all involve considerable vert and scenic courses- all of which are why I do this sport. If I can figure out fueling at the first (June) ultra then I will concentrate on the ultra distance, if not then I will go with the Sky-distance. As far as training, I think I have the basis now to iterate off of for whatever racing I do do. My coach is pleased with the fitness and specific strength gains and my success in skiing, but she is not pleased with my running performance. This is the work for 2015.