Usually this would be the first race of the New Year for all the bleary eyed people who stayed up too late on New Year's Eve, partying and watching the ball drop. Is there even a ball anymore? I swear I watched Time's Square (on TV) at midnight in New York and missed seeing the ball at all. Anyway, because New Year's fell on a Sunday this year, and we are in Utah, the partying could go on in full swing because the race was moved to New Year's Eve (Saturday) instead. So all those extroverts could get in a long run, fell great about their fitness, and then go out, dress up and have a ball. It seemed like most people weren't really celebrating a new year, but the death of 2016...which by most accounts people were happy to have over. I won't lie...I was in bed and asleep by 10:30 with the excuse that my legs were really tired from running.
I haven't had any races (or blogs) in a while, but I should make up for it in the new year. I'm most excited about my new training plan, brought to me by Jason Koop in his new book Training Essential for Ultrarunning, out on Amazon (like my own recently published book Racing to the Sky). Koop's ideas on ultramarathon training differ from the commonly held belief that an ultra is just a longer marathon and the same training plan will work. He states that trails ultras take much longer, are hillier, tougher and completely different from a 2 to 4 hour marathon run. Koop advocates that speed work is very important for athletes, but should be done well in advance of the actual race. When the date actually approaches, what becomes more important is training (as much as possible) to the conditions and course you see on your ultra.
So I'm incorporating his ideas of starting with speed work first, and I've just finished a 4 week block of sprint repeats (warmup, 1-3 minutes of running very fast, then 1-3 minutes rest, repeat 5-10 times, then cool down). I did this workout 2-4 times a week each week. Yes, this is a lot more speed work than most people imagine is possible, but I saw my speed increase as the weeks went by, and I'm sure my VO2 Max went up as well.
Still, the longest I had run was about 7 miles in the last 9 months, so running for 5 hours might not have been the best idea for New Year's Eve. There was this biking thing called RAGBRAI in July, and then Jim and I hiked the John Muir Trail in August. October harvest in Iowa put us in a tractor for 5 weeks straight and I didn't run once. Ouch. So I haven't trained for running much since finishing the Antelope Canyon 50 miler back in February.
All of this recent speed training haa taught me to run fast, and then my recovery runs have been slow. So I've either been running at 6 minute mile pace, or at 10 minute mile pace. For this Revolution Run, I felt like I could pull off a 4 hour marathon pace, which is pretty fast for me. That's about a 9 minute mile pace, which I HADN'T been running at at all. Jason Koop's biggest bit of advice (train the way you want to run). Hah. Luckily this was just a "training" race for me.
It was pretty cold and snowy outside on New Year's Eve. Luckily the race is held indoors, at the Utah Olympic Oval. A 442 meter track is inside, as well as a speed-skating oval, a hockey rink and an ice skating rink. All that ice made the temperature perfect for a long run in shorts and a t-shirt, no overheating for anyone, even through 360 people were lined up alongside me to run countless laps around what would become a very crowded 4 lane oval (once the 8-lane 100-meter section ended)
The run was officially as long and a far as each person wanted it to be. Medals were given for any distance from just 1 laps completed, to the winner who finished an outstanding 139 laps...that's a lot of circles for almost 37 miles.
My first few laps were the most crowded, as everyone sorted themselves and spread out. I stuck to the inside lane and didn't have to go around too many people, nor did too many have to go around me...except for a few fast men and women who lapped me over and over again.
The hardest part was keeping track of how far I had gone. Yes, I had a timing chip and after a while the finish line screen showed the number of laps we had completed each time we crossed the mat. I had run 30 laps by the time the screen came on, although when I looked at it, my count only said 28. Was I that bad at counting? I resorted to using my fingers, as thinking and remembering obscure numbers like 47 and 53 become difficult when pushing the pace and dodging joggers.
Every 10 laps I stopped to drink some water or coke and have a couple of twizzlers. I felt really good for the first 2 hours, maintained a great pace of about 9 minute miles, and my legs were strong. Then the endless circles became monotonous, and the speed skaters whizzing by me could not longer distract me. I tried to think of a recent long run (oops, I hadn't done one!), and realized that finishing a marathon like I had planned would really trash my legs and become very painful. After 3 hours and about 18 miles, my legs were cramping from the flatness (yes the occasional hill IS nice), so I finished my 68th lap and picked up my medal.
Here's the Results:
I'll have another indoor run at this Oval, a half-marathon in late February. By then I will be finishing up with my next block of training, a series of tempo runs (8-20 minute repeats, but not done as fast as the sprint repeats). My training sessions will gradually start to get longer as I work towards preparing for the Monument Valley 50 Mile in late March. But my real "A" race of the year is the AXS 12 hour Adventure Race in late April down in Moab, Utah. I've done this race 3 times, come 3rd every time, and this year, dare I say it, I want to win. So I'll be tailoring my training schedule and my recovery to be my fastest in April.