Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Extending the limits

The runs are getting longer and faster, it's getting warmer and windier, and my trousers are getting looser: it must be April. 
While the first week of May is peek training before tapering, for annual participants in the Calgary Marathon it is April that sees the hardest work. 
Training is all about getting in better shape, for race day or otherwise. Going about it the smart way involves runs that challenge you, and get you to go a little further still. Each time you do this, the body adapts that little bit extra. Come race day, your limit is beyond where it used to be. 

Gearing up for a 50k, my extreme endurance ability needs work. Last year I trained using Hanson's method. 6 runs per week left little space for core work, or any other work. It also puts the longest long run at 26k. The point is more about accumulated fatigue. 
This year it's the First/ run less run faster program. The 3 easy runs (out of the total of 6) are replaced with 2 cross training workouts (rowing machine and exercise bike in my case) and a core workout. Each of the 3 runs in the program is a challenge - a truly long run, a tempo, and punishing speed work. The thinking is to work harder on the runs and include one that's closer to race conditions, all while promoting fuller recovery between them (though still working hard on non-run days). 
In each of the 4 marathons I've done, my right hamstring (or both) has seized up. I PB'd last year by 5 minutes due to managing that problem smartly, even though it did still happen. Still, this time around on my way to my first 50k ultra, sundays feature more 30k+ runs than ever before (5 to be exact, along with 2x 29k, 2x 26k, a 27 and 2x tempo half marathons). 
The length of these sunday outings allow me to link together old routes from before I moved house with current ones. From brush, to streetscape, to alpine. I like the sound of "I ran Fish Creek Park in its entirety." 
My legs tend to feel toasted by about 27/ 28k. Changing to a more shuffling style to protect the hamstrings, I've found I can keep going at target race pace. It's at about my fat-burning pace I have found: legs feel awful, but I can keep going. It has often produced a mental image of a steam train fireman shovelling coal as fast as he can. Or buckets of fat. 
Speed runs have me running, or for the first month of the plan flailing and gasping, at higher speeds than ever before. Despite using a gps watch, it's hard to get the right speed. Frequently, I start off too fast. For example, a recent 6x 800m: I'd do the first 500m 20 seconds per km too fast, then cling on. Misjudgments like that make the final intervals hard to complete, but if it's difficult, it's doing you good. 
My tempo runs are less strenuous, though the shorter ones are rather high speed and burn a little at the end.
Amongst all of that, and moving house at the end of this month, I've still found time to make it to a few Calgary Marathon events. Honorary Chair Chandra Crawford, an Olympic gold medallist in cross country skiing is tackling the Half, and has a strong message about perseverance with fun. That is what it is all about - every runner is a case study in the triumph of the human spirit. 


  1. What are you doing on the other two days? Strength training? It's fun to try new training plans, right? I dropped down to 25K for my first race of the year. It's the day before Calgary. My hammie/foot are not feeling it. Better to drop early in the season. Are you feeling good with this plan? We're so lucky with the weather so far this spring!

    1. Yes, the other 2 days are strength/ core.
      Is it working well? It might be. The 30k+ runs are getting less difficult. I'm hoping this is the winning formula for marathon training, others have fallen short.

  2. BEAST!! looking good and strong. This will be an exciting race for you for sure! Hope to see you out on the paths soon!