One of the things Coach Rachel and I like to do when preparing an athlete for their ultramarathon is to give them a little pep-talk a few days before the event. To reflect back on their training cycle, reset expectations for the race, and to remind them “their why” for doing the event.
While we emphasize race-day-routine practice and visualization throughout the entire program, many, myself included, can lose sight of the forest for the trees during training. We are all guilty of thinking “my race isn’t for 5 weeks, I do not need to visualize my race on today’s long run.” So we feel it is always a good idea to have a bit of phycological rhetoric during the taper – this is when reality hits that the event is only a few days away and athletes tend to absorb message a bit better.
That being said, Rachel and I are running the Rocky Raccoon 100 mile trail race next weekend (RR100). We have recently spent some time reflecting on our own training and revisiting our goals and expectations for this event. I thought it would be fun to share a little about our thought process behind race selection, goals, and training leading up to this event. I won’t bore you with tons of details, but I wanted to be transparent with how we (Compass Endurance Coaching) have prepared for this event.
Why the RR100?
- It is a Western States 100 qualifier. We both have existing WS100 lottery tickets and need to complete a qualifying race in 2019 to keep our lottery eligibility.
- It is early in the calendar year. Historically Rachel has ran her 100-milers in the fall season and I have ran mine during the summer – Both scenarios take up a considerable amount of time during the “summer months” to train and/or recover. By checking the WS100 lottery box in February, it opens up the rest of the “summer months” to focus on other aspects of life and racing. It frees up the summer so to speak. The downside to this timing, of course, is long training days in the winter….however, we’ve been blessed with a mild fall/winter season here in Kentucky.
- The course elevation gain is relatively low – About 6,000ft. I prefer a bit more and she prefers a bit less, so this was a good compromise. It is a 4 lap, 25 mile “loop” around a lake in south Texas. Average temperatures are between 40-60F. Some very fast times have been ran here by elites in the past. Lots of exposed roots on the single track trails are the most common “obstacle” noted in race reports. Sounds great on paper, what’s not to like?
- The primary goal is to finish and grab those Western States lottery tickets. Contrary to our normal “time goal” races where you tend to bury yourself, the target here is to enjoy the adventure finish feeling “good” and not completely wasted. The measure of how well this race goes will be how quickly we recover afterwards.
- Of course, 24 hours is always a good line in the sand for a hundred….So we’ll be conscious of that timeline as we move through checkpoints as a gauge. I am confident our fitness is there, but as in any hundred miler, race day execution and that muscle between your ears is the most important factor.
- She was trained for and raced a fast 50 miler at Tunnel Hill in November. 7:58 to be exact. Her training approach for RR100 was pretty straight forward. One, recover from Tunnel Hill 50 (2 weeks off). Two, build upon her existing speed-endurance base with more trail specificity and long run volume (8 weeks).
- With limited available time to train during this cycle, there was a strong emphasis on quality over quantity. She targeted one quality strength workout per week, typically in the form of a tempo run or even just simple fartleks. The bulk of the volume came on weekend long runs and back to back long sessions. She probably did not get in as much trail specific work as ideal, but did get some good pavement vertical over the cycle.
- Weekly mileage was less than her “normal 100 training”. Over the 8 weeks, volume averaged 45 miles, peaking out at 71 miles.
- Notable long sessions: One, Tunnel Hill 50 of course…. Two, a 31 mile cross town long run. Three, a 24 hour period consisting of 16 morning pavement miles, 13 evening trail miles, then 13 trail miles the following morning.
- Lots and lots of hot power vinyasa yoga. Averaged 5 hours of yoga per week. Very good stretch, core, imbalance work, and heat exposure 😊.
- My training philosophy for this event was simple – To run a lot, mostly slow, but sometimes fast. I was rolling into this 8 week block for RR100 with a big aerobic base from consistent volume most of the year. Rachel took the quality over quantity approach out of scheduling necessity. Whereas I took the “a rising tide raises all boats” approach (referring to volume). I am typically very calculated and methodical when it comes to writing my own training plans….But for this event and given our loose race goals, I just wanted to run…. To keep it unstructured, low stress. Run what felt good, run when it felt good. I fit the miles in when I could, often running 2 or 3 times per day – before work, on my lunch hour, and after work. I ran hard miles when it felt good, hobby jogged when it didn’t, and recovery walk n’ jogged when I needed it….Really tuned into my body and let it guide me, realizing there is no perfect training block, or perfect one peak week that dictates fitness.
- Weekly mileage was more than my typical ultra training. Over the 8 weeks, volume averaged 71 miles, peaking out with two 100 mile weeks.
- Notable long sessions: One, 37 miles on trails at Bernheim Forest on Thursday, then Otter Creek trail marathon on Saturday. Two, a 31 mile cross town long run. Three, 20 morning pavement miles followed by 13 evening trail miles.
- A bigger emphasis on stretching this cycle. Additionally, I made lifestyle and diet changes which has reduced body fat and increased strength to weight ratio. The leanest and most fit I have felt in years.
Stay tuned for a post race recap to see how all this plays out… I am just as anxious as you are to learn how this ends…haha…