So I am taking the summer off from racing to make money and train for the “A-list” races coming this fall. The big one for me is obviously WTM (I want 100 miles), but leading to that I will be running the Killington Spartan Ultra Beast and Tahoe Spartan World Champs. I’m excited to run the Ultra Beast, long distance OCR’s are my forte, I’ve never run the UB, and I think I can do well. The Tahoe Championships, well, I have the time off, so why not. If I make the top 50 I will be stoked.
So onto this summer’s training. What have I been doing?
Since I’m not racing, I have been upping my running volume and running 6 times a week (sometimes 2x a day). Each week I am throwing in at least 1 speed day and 1 hill day, in that order and hardly ever back to back (unless I skimped on one). If I am doing a high mileage week I may combine the 2 and do fast hill repeats, and I’ll do that at the beginning of the week so I can slog through the remaining days. I mostly run by feel and hardly ever force myself into a workout. This may hold me back but it keeps me sane. Some weeks i’ll mix it up and do multiple hill days going for max vertical gain per week. That’s always fun and a good break from tracking miles, doing the old 15% incline treadmill shuffle….I recently did 10 miles at 15% incline. That was mental!
I’m still stuck in the 50-70 miles per week range and every time I try to break through that and do 80+ mpw, I feel like the rest would be junk miles and I skip them. Am I keeping myself from improving? I don’t know. I just feel that if my pace drops significantly from one run to the next, I am wasting my time and possibly overtraining….Then again, maybe I’m just psyching myself out and calling the “breakthrough” training “overtraining”? Who knows. I have a little over 2 months before WTM and I may need to make some changes to the running plan leading to that. The problem I need to solve is: How am I going to run 100 miles on an obstacle course in 24 hours when I can’t even run a “good” 100 mile week in training. Come November, hopefully I’m there. Running in the mountains should do the trick, doing a 100 mile week on the treadmill is probably what’s holding me back.
Sadly, most of my running has been on the treadmill. I’m currently living in a flat location and it’s 100+F outside everyday. I don’t get the excitement of running outside on a mountain or the opportunity to work on running over technical terrain and going downhill. What I do have is heat training (the desert) and a never ending uphill (the treadmill). The treadmill gets a bad rap but I love it. I can look at the elevation profile of any race and duplicate that on the treadmill. In the past I have run the Mount Washington Road Race, several Spartan Races (sans the obstacles), and started the Pikes Peak ascent (quit that one, wasn’t my day). Go on Strava, look up a race, map the profile noting the average incline % and distance of each, jot it down on paper, and hit the treadmill. I can run for 2+ hours on the treadmill and I do it all the time. I pride myself in being able to shut off my brain and function as normal. Time disappears and 15 miles later I’m done. I wasn’t always like that, I ran myself retarded and you can too…….but seriously, I think a study needs to be done to see if high mileage training reduces cognition.
Anyway, for weight training, I’ve had problems sticking to a solid plan as most of my energy goes into running. I squeeze my remaining energy into weighted pull ups, weighted dips, heavy squats, and heavy deadlifts at least 1x (each) a week. Those 4 are my priority and everything else is just fill in. I’ll do the deadlifts and squats on separate days, but usually combine the dips and pullups. There’s not enough days in the week for me to break my weight training down farther than lower body and upper body.
Whenever I am tired from running but know I need to lift, i’ll set a running clock on my watch and ill walk around the gym doing 10 reps of whatever on the minute (an EMOM). It takes no planning and allows me to get creative. I like to switch between pulling, pushing, and core every minute. For example, i’ll do 10 ring dips, then next minute do 10 pull ups, then 10 leg raises, then 10 handstand pushups, then 10 towel pull ups, then 45 second plank, etc. I’ll just keep doing that EMOM until I run out of ideas, get tired, or get bored. It’s a good little mash up for days you don’t have the mental energy to conjure a strength workout. Try to mix in some plyometrics and power building movements. Some of my favorite movements are jumping squats, hand release pulls and pushes, kettle bell swings, and jumping lunges.
For grip training, I don’t have a rock gym so I use the weight room. I have seen good results from towel pull ups and finger curls with the olympic bar. When I started I was sliding down the towel fighting for grip, and now I am doing weighted sets with my pull ups failing before my grip. That’s in 3 weeks. Adding the towel was a great stimulus and I slapped myself for not doing it years ago (literally). Those finger curls are great as well,. I’ll do heavy sets with up to 135 then take all the weight off and do 30-30 with the bar only. That is 30 seconds of finger curling the bar into 30 seconds of a squeeze hold. For your pinch grip, plate pinches always prevail.
For my core training I am still searching for that next breakthrough, kind of like I found in the towel pull ups. Deadlifts and squats are easily my strongest core workouts. The plank endurance holds, TRX strap planks, leg lifts, and halo holds are all great, but I’m getting sick of doing them.
Race specific training is important IMO. Obviously for running you can match the race profile on a treadmill like I stated above, but for the obstacles, I think it’s good to get out there and actually practice the techniques. What are the 3 biggest obstacles that mix up a race? The platinum rig, the bucket carry, and the double sandbag carry. So what should you be doing? Practicing those. They are all pretty easy to set up. I like to take my 5 gallon bucket for a 1 mile walk. I hold it by crimping the bottom and when my grip starts to give out i’ll rest by bear hugging the bucket (still walking). For the double sandbag carry, well I’m still working on that. For the rigs, straight arm swing the rings and bars, bent arm traverse the ropes, nunchucks, and balls.
When the days running and lifting session is over I spend most of my free time reading books and scouring internet for more information on training. This is also my source of motivation as I train alone. Ryan Sandes recently wrote a book. Forgot the title but look it up, it’s a great read.
My diet sucks, but my hydration is good. I burn 2,000 calories a day working out but I eat pancakes like I drink water so my weight is a constant 180. To address that, I’m currently juggling 2 ideas:
1) eating clean and dropping weight (maybe 170) to get faster. Dropping 10 pounds means I’ll be carrying 10 less pounds up that mountain. Ryan Atkins mentioned in a podcast that he was considering dropping weight to become a better mountain runner, as he already has a lot of upper body strength. Cutting weight is hard and I believe it sacrifices training to an extent (try to run 20 miles without stuffing your face first). I’ve never been one to constrict myself of eating. This option is not attractive.
2) staying at my comfortable weight of 180 and hoping that consistent training will continue to make me faster. Hunter has managed to go stride for stride with the best while having a build similar to mine, he actually might be heavier. What’s his secret? probably that he has more years training and the help of a coach. Someone programming your training has a lot of benefits and coaching is something I have considered, but to consider that I’d have to consider myself a serious athlete first. But that’s no fun. I don’t want people expecting much out of me. It saps the enjoyment from it all.
That’s about all for now. Sad to see BattleFrog go, but I’m sure Savage Race will fill the void. I’ve been waiting for them to spread west, correction, NorthWest. It looks like a fun race series. BFX is gone, but Tough Mudder just took over for the 8 hour format for 2017 🙂