Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ultrarunning and Periodization Plans

2013 Plans coming together and a ramble on Periodization planning for ultrarunning. 

Well, the running plans are starting to materialize a little better thus far....

  • Groundhog Day 10k Snowshoe Race (cancelled - see Dirty Love 10k race report coming soon). 
  • Fools 50k
  • O24 (directing)
  • Cleveland Marathon
  • TNF Endurance D.C. (50mi) -or- Mohican 50mi -or- Laurel Highlands 70mi or 50k. 
  • Lake Health Distance 1/2 Marathon
  • Burning River 100
  • Fall Road Marathon
  • Oil Creek 100
  • TNF Endurance Madison, WI (50mi)

It's a skeleton plan at the moment but we'll see what work travel, family, and life brings to the schedule....

Training ramble: 

Training is going very well....I'm at the stage where I am toying with plans that I have used in the past vs. higher mileage and structured weeks with plenty of speed work, hill training, cross training. Ultimately, I've modified my micro cycle weekly plan to a slightly modified plan that allows me more mileage and still get in the cross training...the last plan was successful in the fact that I arrived at the starting line for Mohican 50mi, Leadville 100mi, Oil Creek 100mi, and Bills Badass 50k healthy and injury free with a good amount of speedwork under my belt and quality training hours but I felt like I could use some more miles...

It's hard as an athlete, whether as a cyclist or a runner to not focus on your miles for the week/season....in the last year, I felt like I had really increased my core strength, speed, and overall fitness. I tried to focus on training hours and sort of cover one eye when looking at my miles each week....knowing that I was doing the "equivalent" work in hours was reassuring, but I still felt like I needed to log more miles. Sport specificity no doubt has merit, so if you want to be a good runner...then run, right?! If you want to run fast, then run fast in training....get it? I struggle with this simply because I came from a background in multiple sports (soccer, lacrosse, cycling, etc) and I love to get out on the bike which was my true passion for many years. I figure if I'm tired of logging miles and need a little break....I hop on the bike in lieu of a medium run...it's mentally refreshing and keeps the injuries at bay.

Experiment of one, right? The one thing that has always worked for me is periodization training;  macro, meso, & micro cycles. I don't do well on the "just go out and run" plan...So, if you look over the course of a year which could include a few macro cycles (2-3mos) comprised of mesocycles (4-6 weeks) made up of microcycles (individual week) you can begin to put together your season, month, week, & day...

Most periodization plans will have some sort of structure like this (I've added my personal take on it):

  • Transition Phase (4-8weeks +/-): where you focus on form, technique, recovery from injuries, etc...this is the time of year you chill out and get fat. I don't do this well....I'll maintain 40-50mpw regardless as well as lots of cross training. 
  • Base Phase (2-3mos +\-): more focused than the transition time frame but lasts much longer....ideally, you spend some time in this phase building a strong aerobic base, efforts are easy, nothing crazy, etc... and in some plans this lasts a couple months or more....I do this okay, but I tend to start speedwork early and hill work, I get anxious to get long runs in...usually a race helps...Good time for higher mileage
  • Building Phase (4-8wks +\-)- think the controlled increase of speedwork, hills, (both intensity and duration) and increasing mileage/hours, back to backs....preparing the foundation for the next phase. By the time I'm doing this, I am usually doing tough efforts...mileage is working it's way up and having fun with it. 
  • Peak Phase (4-6wks+\-): hard work, speed work, strong efforts, long runs, back to backs, with rest to allow for the body to reap the benefits of the efforts you are putting in. This is what I like the most....long runs, speedwork, high mileage weeks, followed by step back weeks....I ride the fence on fitness vs. injury in this time frame. This is where you are stressing your system and with a well planned step back prior to your event, you should reap the benefits and be able to repeat the efforts during a race. mileage peaking 90-100+ mpw. 

The problem that a lot of us have is that we are not elite athletes paid by large sponsors to just race with an elite coach telling us exactly what to do....I have a career, family, and there has to be a lot of compromise and adjusting to train for ultras and not take away from what is really important in life...not that ultras aren't important...but you know what I mean (hopefully).

Also, we don't just train for one race...we're ultra runners....how many of us follow something like a carefully laid out plan for just one race??? C'mon....Type B personalities need not apply, we love to run, we HAVE to run, so we sign up for too many races and when a friend says "Hey, let's run a 50k today" you say sure, why not? We run 'till we get injured then run too soon after the injury...

So as you can tell, I like structure....it works well for me mentally and I like a carefully laid out plan that accounts for inevitable variations and times when you just can't follow it. It doesn't work for everyone but over the years when I have strayed from a structured plan, I've either gone too hard and gotten injured or not gone hard and paid the price on race day....This helps me keep the balance.

Here is the change at the micro level (sample):

It allows me to get in 1-2 more days per week of running so I get the miles without crazy midweek runs but still maintain the cross training. If I'm feeling like I am running too much, I'll back off a day and cross train or simply rest.

This is a representation of my weekly mileage buildups focusing on BR100....every 3 weeks there is a planned rest week, then resume at the previous week's mileage and continue to build....with a 3 week step down to the race....Each week contains the structure (in general) from the micro chart...I'm not a high mileage guy, you'll see that there is only 1 week > 100mi, except for the race week...This, to me is a graphical representation of Stress + Recovery = Adaptation. Increased adaptation = improved running times/experiences. Improved running experiences = increased happiness and all is right with the world :)

What about multiple ultras? So, I suggest prioritizing your race schedule....using races as "training" for other races is a great idea, especially if the races fit well into your training schedule....it lessens the burden of knowing this is not what you've trained all season for, you can relax a little, test gear, food, etc...it's a race yes, but not the race....I can't afford the time to race a lot each year so I have to be careful on what I choose for my races. I try to fit them into my training schedule such as running Mohican 50 in June before running Burning River 100 at the end of July....For multiple events outside of the macro cycle, I will essentially re-create portions of my training plan with consideration of how I feel. Example: Leadville 100 was about 7 weeks before Oil Creek 100. I took the last 7 weeks of my training for LT100 and re-did them for OC100. Keep in mind that I DNF'd LT100 due to altitude, so the recovery was less than what it would've been if I completed the 100....but you get the idea. I would have probably relaxed for 1-2 weeks after LT100 before completely resuming the plan...whatever works best for ya.

The funny thing is that this is always changing, right? If I look back at my training blog comments in the past I recall having a major desire to get back on the bike....so the training plan for Leadville really made me happy as I was able to incorporate that into my weekly training....I didn't want to lose that in this year's plan but I want to play with increasing mileage....so, experiment of one....here we go again....

I think a lot of people debate over the concept of quantity vs. quality...Maybe I'm wrong here, but I think what we should aspire to attain is sort of a blend of both. If all you do is quantity, where is the quality coming from? I suggest that you need both....quality workouts in the specific periods that incorporate speed, hills, aerobic base, long runs, etc... as your mileage increases you will have the quantity but it should be quality long miles as well....it tastes great AND it's less filling, right?

I suppose I am putting this all together for a couple reasons....If it helps anyone understand the structure of how one person puts together the schedule for ultra or virtually any other sport that incorporates periodization plans (google it for many more examples) and secondly so I can look back at this next year and modify as needed for future races/events. That's one of the great things about ultra running....always learning.

Note: there is a lot of information out there, an interesting site to read is Kevin Sayers running site that has input from a massive amount of experienced runners - http://www.ultrunr.com/train100.html if you look at the Matt Mahony #1 post in that link, he cites an interesting survey he took a few years ago correlating mileage to finish rates and speed.

Coaches: I've gone back and forth on having coaches (iRunFar Coach list & article)....Overall, I have always progressed with coaching, especially with one who knows you and can push you. I am currently coach-less but I have strong training partners and quite honestly, I am going to try on my own for a while again. Bottom line, if you can afford it I highly recommend it.

By the way, I'm not a coach, trainer, or certified in anything fitness related....that's my legal disclaimer if you follow any "advice" from this blog and want to blame me for any part it....


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