1000 miles to go – Time for Hill Work

Posted: May 23, 2013 in Training
Tags: ,

After posting my workout on Thursday morning to my training plan spreadsheet I glanced at the “Completed” area on the bottom right portion of the document.

We have completed 15.90% of the total mileage on the plan so far and 17.95% of our scheduled runs.  As our daily mileage increases and our Sunday long runs move from 16 miles up to 22 miles, soon the mileage % will surpass the number of runs completed % and then finally during the taper they will normalize and equal each other.

It is interesting to think about a training cycle along those terms, but one that is well put together really is about consistency and periodization.  Build the strong foundation (number of runs, consistent approach day after day), then force the adaptation (higher mileage, tougher and faster workouts), then recover and get the machine ready to peak for race day (taper period).

I don’t usually look too far ahead when it comes to these things as I have found that it is better for me to simply focus on what is immediately in front of me instead of some workout 8 weeks away that right now might look pretty daunting.  Just stay the course, run the workouts that you have scheduled and leave the door every morning with a purpose.

Jack Daniels, PhD is one of the strongest believers of that tenet – every run should have a purpose.  Even if that purpose is simply active recovery from one tough workout prior to another.  But you should never run a workout without knowing specifically what you are trying to accomplish.  Akin to Coach’s comment about not boarding a plane to Baltimore if you want to get to New York …. you want to be sure you are dialed in and aware of what you are trying to get from each session so that you end up in the right place on race day.

Thursday’s workout was my first hill repeat session for Cottonwood.  Due to the downhill nature of the course, Cottonwood in many ways will be the most challenging marathon I have ever attempted.  That is not to say that a fast time is not possible on such a course.  In fact, if run correctly, the downhill elevation change can produce a fast marathon time.

But just like everything else about the marathon – that will not happen by accident.  If runners do not prepare for the grinding downhill course – late in the race, all of that “braking” that is being done by the large quadricept muscles will take their toll and it will be impossible for the runners to hold pace over the final 10 kilometers of the race.  This is something that happens in Boston to runners year after year after year.  Everyone worries about the “Newton Hills” and “Heartbreak Hill” – but the reality is that for many competitors it would not matter if those hills vanished from miles 16-21 of the course.  The downhill start from Hopkinton to Newton for 14 miles is what sapped the strength from those runners.  By Heartbreak you can just stick a fork in them because they are done.

That was us in 2010.  I had plenty of “want to” at that point – unfortunately, I just didn’t have the strength left in my legs.

Ever since, we have incorporated hill work into our training and that has never been a problem since.  But for Cottonwood, this preparation is even more important as we will be losing close to 4,000 feet of elevation from start to finish.  About 3X that of Boston.

Big Cottonwood Elevation

Big Cottonwood Elevation

Today’s workout called for:

3 miles warm-up

8X downhill at 10K pace (Half-Marathon effort) followed by a recovery jog back to the top

1 mile Marathon Goal Pace home.

Our repeats with a target of 1:40 (6:08 pace) came in at:

1:41,1:40, 1:41, 1:41, 1:41, 1:42, 1:39, 1:39, 1:39

After our final recovery jog to the top our Marathon Goal Pace Mile (Target of 6:47 as it was slightly downhill), came in at 6:41 – which looks great on the training log, but actually frustrated me as I needed better restraint and focus to not run that mile :06 fast.  That will come with time.  I will do better on the next one.

All in all just another brick in the wall so to speak, but an important one as we prepare with great focus and specificity for Cottonwood.

As it turns out we are exactly 1,000 miles away from the starting line on September 14th.  Not that I am counting or anything.

But with only 15-20% of the work done to this point – I have to say that I like where we are right now.  An enviable position with 16 weeks remaining until race day.

  1. Andy B. says:

    My legs hurt just reading that. Memories of the last 4 miles of Boston no doubt. If you ever want more hill work, feel free to come on over to Lost Creek.

  2. joerunfordom says:

    Ha! No thanks Andy 🙂 I’ve got all the hills I need right here. Seriously though – that downhill stuff is brutal. Hoping this will do the trick. Another devilish workout concocted by Carmen for Saturday – you coming out soon?

  3. Dave spell says:

    Looks like you will be running down a ski slope! You are gonna kill it this training cycle

    • joerunfordom says:

      Technically Dave – I think we are running down a ski slope for 17 miles. I’m glad I won’t see it until that morning. I have enough trouble between my ears when it comes to this distance. But we will be ready 🙂

  4. Awesome training. I didn’t feel the Boston downhill, but that’s because I ran it so slowly (I ran Boston in broiling 2012) – so I wasn’t even sore after it! Since I live in a flat area, a course like Big Cottonwood would kill me.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Gracie – I was on the same boat at Boston in 2012. I trotted it in and ran the next day after the race actually. It was just an extended training run. But in 2014 if we make our time in Salt Lake, I plan on racing the heck out of it ….

  5. Brad T. says:

    Wow, that’s one heck of a downhill course! I’ve raced one point-to-point net downhill race, the Trolley Run four-miler in Kansas City, and thoroughly enjoyed it. So, my first thought was that Joe is going to destroy this course. However, your concern with quad fatigue is a point well taken. The spectacular elevation loss combined with full mary pounding on the legs is certainly a concern.

    Still think you’ll bring it home in two fifty-something, Joe. Remember how great that cool Utah air will feel after the sweat-fest we’ll endure the next twelve weeks here in Austin.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Brad! Thanks so much for the message. You know there are a lot of moving parts with this one, which is making my preparation for it so very interesting.

      I’ve never gone from 70-80 degree long runs to a race at 45-50 degrees literally the next day. That is going to feel amazing early on in Utah.

      I’ve never done any track work at all to help improve my economy and efficiency – that should bode very well on race day.

      Elevation drop – wow, running 7:10 effort should produce 6:50 results on the watch.

      Elevation drop – wow, all that downhill is really going to tax the legs – specifically the quads as you noted.

      Put that all in a pot and simmer it for 180 minutes – hopefully I’ll be getting my medal at that point. But if I’m not, I’m betting we are awfully close 🙂

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