Friday, December 14, 2012

Hundo Stairstep Week (Or: My 100 training schedule, sortof)

      So this running blog started out as personal diary of sorts for me and almost nobody read it except my late Aunt Nancy and my mother. Slowly, a few other relatives started reading it and life went along just fine. Then I started down this ultramarathoning (specifically the 100 miler, known as a ‘Hundo’) path and I seemed be quite successful. More and more people started asking me for advice on what I did since it was working, and so this blog is now my test bed for my specific training advice. While my race entries give a hint as to the work I do in between races, I thought it time to start explaining in a little more detail what I do day to day to achieve the success I have have found.

     I have no silver bullet for hundo training, and many people who train for hundos do so in a very different way than I do. I also know many people who have DNF’d hundos by following some other method of training. As with any training schedule or advice, I subscribe to the ‘to each his own’ theory. I will simply say that as of this writing I have completed seven hundos with exactly zero DNF’s. What you are about to read is the core training piece of what helped go from a career personal worst (PW) 100 mile time of 21:02 in January of 2012 to a personal record (PR) of 15:27 in August of 2012. Feel free to take or leave it, but I promise, if you can do this workout. your chances of finishing a hundo go way up.

     First, we need some motivation. The DNF is the worst thing to happen to a distance runner, not for only the immediate dejection of the resultant race but because of the more permanent damage: the memory of a DNF and how great it felt. I talk more about DNF’s and its negative connotation elsewhere, but at this point just trust me, DNF’ing is a bad thing. Recovering from one is really tough, so lets just avoid it in the first place, m’kay?

     There are two basic reasons that people DNF. The first involves something tragic that happens race day such as breaking an ankle. Urinating blood is also a good reason to stop. These DNF’s do not count (in my mind) as the ‘bad’ kind as they lie outside of your control. The other reason DNFs occur is because of lack of preparation. Leg cramps, exhaustion, and upset digestive system are three of the most common reasons people bail in a hundo, and all three are completely preventable in my opinion. It simply requires better training and this 1-week training schedule will help because it will prepare you physically and more important mentally for the journey that is a 100 mile race.

     Let me give you the punchline first. This is called the Hundo Stairstep Week or HSW, for short and it is a simple 7 day script for daily mileage, 0 - 30 - 0 - 35 - 0 - 45+ - 0. That’s it. Now go do it.

     Ok, if your jaw just hit the floor because the thought of doing 110 miles in a 5 day stretch scares you, then I assume you will have a hard time doing 100 miles in under 30 hours. If you are wanting to run a 100 mile race, marathons should be very easy to you at this point and doing a 30 mile run should not even make you flinch. This is not something you do 4 months before the race nor is it something you do every other week for 3 months. You must have a solid 60-70/week base before you pull this off and doing it only one time 4 weeks before the race will make a notable difference. As with any hard workout, the more often you do it the better. I can’t handle it much more often than every 3 weeks myself.

     Many people in preparation of ultra events will do the ‘back-to-back long day’ workout where they do a 20ish mile day followed immediately by a 30ish mile day. I think these are a great idea, but still too short. The crux of the HSW is the 6th day, the long day. But before that, we must get through days 1 through 5.

   Day 1: Rest. Don’t run. How hard can that be? Well, this week is gonna be long, and days off are when you get the rest (pun intended) of your life in order. Most of us have personal lives, family, and work that takes up time. On the 0 mile days (1,3,5, and 7) is when your ‘real life’ takes precedence. You might be carbo loading and planning for the running days, but rest days are when you run (more puns!) your errands. You make dinner for your family, you get caught up on work. You are getting rid of any excuse you might have to cut your actual workouts short. Run days should be as clear as possible. I am happily married and have 3 kids and not a one of them complains about how I don’t spend enough time with them because I am out running. I take good time management skills of course.

   Day 2: The 30 miler. This short day is meant to just be another long run. You carbo load, take your electrolytes and fuel during runs, and do it gently and relaxed. You should use run as a test case for new things, beit clothing, location, pace, or whatever. This is the best day to try completely new things. These can also be specific types of long training runs such as carb-depleted runs or sleep-depleted runs. You want to pay very close attention to problems as they come up, including (especially) mental ones. Did you get mentally tired at mile 20? What did you say to yourself to get through it? Leg cramps at mile 15? Did you take anything for them or did you just try to gut it out? Did that work for you? When you get home, write what you learned down or you will forget it.

  Day 3: Rest. See day 1. Remember, your family wants to see you too. See a lot of them today.

  Day 4: The 35 miler. This one will be a little tougher as you will not have recovered completely from your 30 miler just two days beforehand but that is a good thing. When you hit mile 20 you will be darn tired, but you have been thinking about this workout for a while. you have the route planned out, got your ‘aid stations’ system set, etc. You have little excuse but to ‘finish the darn workout’. Nobody said anything about fast. This is not a speed session, this is a time-on-feet exercise. Listen to a book-on-tape. Run a new scenic route. Embrace the difficulty by focusing on the benefits you are reaping. As with day 2, you need to be focusing on problems that arise but more importantly the solutions you implemented. Did they work or fail? If they failed, why did they fail? This is training where you work out these issues. No crew member in the world will know as much about your body and its issues than you do. Listen to the good and the bad. Do not ignore the bad news, or it shall be your undoing.

   Day 5: Rest. You might want to get a lot of sleep. Maybe spend the evening sitting on the couch relaxing with a loved one. You are going to need it.

   Day 6: The real long run of 45+ miles. This is obviously the most crucial part of the whole week and everything is focused on this day. I look at the day 6 workout as I would a serious race of marathon(ish) distance. This includes what you do the night before (what to eat, when to go to bed, etc.) when you get up and what you do immediately upon waking (shower, eat, poop…) Your clothes were picked out, route already planned, and fuel ready to go the night before. You are preparing your mind for the task ahead. Mental preparation and focus here is vitally important. . On day 6, you are doing nothing new. You are using proven techniques for clothes, fuel, routes, everything. You want to make your running conditions as perfect as possible because you are going to be out for a long time. Line up running partners to help you for part of the work out, stagger them if you have more than one. Load your .mp3 player with your best motivational tunes. This is your ‘race’ day of the week.
The first HSW you do will be tough, but each subsequent one will be easier. The distance for day 6 is 45+ which mean you want to do at least 45 miles, as it won’t start being hard until mile 30ish. Be open to going longer. I have had many a day 6 where I was planning on doing 50ish and ended up doing over 60, a decision that was made at about mile 47. The speed of your day 6 workout is the last of your worries. You are just trying to get through the day. Survive it, and don’t cut it short unless you have a really good reason. Your body will give you plenty of excuses to stop, many of which you will think are completely legit at the time. Your stomach might get upset. Your legs might cramp. When they do, solve the darn problem. Or more importantly ask yourself this simple question “Well, if this happened now in my run, it stands to reason it would happen in a similar place in the 100 mile race. What are you gonna do then?” Whatever your mind tells you, do that here, in training. Build up the confidence that you can run on a slightly sore muscle or upset stomach, or mentally exhausted.

    Day 7: Rest. Hard. You deserved it. You should not be so beaten up that you can’t walk up stairs for days, but your legs should be rough. It will take you a few days, but that is ok. After your 100 mile race, you’ll be pooped then too. The first time you do any new workout is the hardest time. Each subsequent workout of the same ilk will be easier. The first time you do a HSW it will hurt, but so did you first marathon. So did you first 15 miler. You’ll get over it. the more you sweat in training the less you bleed in battle.

  Answers to anticipated questions:
Where does my ‘base’ have to be before I try this workout? I think this would kill me.
Ideally you should be able to be doing 60-70 mile weeks comfortably before trying this. Work up to it if that help you mentally. Do a 0-20-0-25-0-35-0 week to test out the challenge.

I have small kids and a FT job, how can I find the time?
Great question. I have a solution for people in just such predicaments. In fact, you will get even better Hundo training than us people who can do our runs during the day.

What is I fall and sprain my ankle?
Stop. Call in the cavalry. There is a fine line between tough and stupid. Touch, even caress that line, but never, ever cross it. Blood in urine? Stop, no matter how good everything else feels.

I can do 100 miles a week, but only if I run 15ish miles per day. Isn’t that enough?
I will answer your question with a question. A friend comes to you who is training for a marathon. They tell you that they run (dutifully) 6 miles every day. Thats over 40 miles every week. They ask you if they can run a marathon on only that training. What do you tell them?

Do I really have to do 0 mile-days? How about some cross training?
I rarely take days completely off myself. I might do some light cross training or a long walk to work out kinks. Just be light.

Is it ok to walk during my ‘runs’?
Power-walking? Heck yeah. You need practice walking anyways as you are going to be doing that in your Hundo. Don’t worry, everyone does. That (along with why skipping and lying on your back every once in awhile is a good thing) is another blog entry.
I welcome your comments, but at my facebook page. Feel free to ask any questions!
This concept copyright Dec 2012 by Mark E. Ott. Feel free to re-post and give credit, but don’t steal it, that’s just un-cool.