Friday, 1 March 2013

Western States Training Plan

From the moment I found out I'd been drawn in the Western States lottery, I knew I had to make the most of the opportunity by committing myself wholeheartedly to the most specific training plan possible - try to train to my peak without getting injured. I don't normally struggle with motivation in actually getting out the door to train, but my track record with using the training plans I've spent time writing is not brilliant. After all, aren't plans meant to be useless, but planning essential? I've spent hours writing detailed plans and sticking to them for a few weeks but then opting instead for running to feel and balancing mileage and type of session out in my head very roughly based on what I have done already. If I want to run the best race I can in June, I have to take a more disciplined approach and ensure I get the required specificity into every training session. I guess its transferable to work in a way - would you spend weeks/months working on activities or projects without keeping to or continually referencing a plan or strategy? Answer should probably be no.

To get me into the disciplined state of mind that my winter certainly lacked, I gave up alcohol in early January - something I seriously regretted this week after a decent dose of stress at work! Nevertheless, it is amazing how quickly you adapt and accept and it already feels more than worth it.

Its fair to say I overdosed on Western States race reports, blogs, participant info and podcasts to help build the bare principles of my training plan for the Big Dance on 29th June. I even read Dean Karnazes Ultramarathon Man again - a different experience the second time round! The recent film  Unbreakable on Western States was by far worth the pricey download for pure inspiration about taking on the race - it follows the battle for first place in 2010 that took place between Geoff Roes, Killian Jornet and Anton Krupicka. Incredible to see a film about running that is so gripping!

Roes and Krupicka running the Western States
I digress....stellar training and race prep advice also came from Adrian Stott, who knows a thing or two about endurance training, and generous others like Ellie Greenwood and Lizzie Hawker, who Adrian put me in touch with. Tim Lambert has been a great source of info and advice on the actual race and logistics - he crewed Jez Bragg at the Western States last year and may be heading out to California again himself this year. By far the best specific training advice blog I read was Ian Sharman's - who has run the Western States several times, consistently finishing top 10.

So here is the finished plan for June - I may tweak a few sessions here and there as I go along but in general I'm determined to stick to this balance of specific sessions, the main priority elements being: 
  • 1-2 weekends per month of long back-to-back runs on difficult, hilly trails like the West Highland Way, or in the Pentland Hills. 
  • 1-2 x interval speed training sessions per week of 1 hour each  
  • 2 x tempo runs per week of 1-2 hours each 
  • Strength/core workouts using suspension belt 
  • Training in a specialist heat & altitude chamber at Napier Uni’s Sports Science School for 1-2 hours (March - June)


As you can see I'll be training 60-70 miles per week. My main concern is staying healthy and recovering well after each session, especially the long back to backs and downhills. Super high mileage of 100+ is not for me - I know my body and dont want to take the risk of not recovering properly/fatiguing ahead of June, meaning my peak fitness will have passed and I won't be as fresh as possible by the time I'm on the start line.
The finish line I will be visualising (but not with this finish time!)
 
Obviously without the luxury of being nearby to the actual Western States trail it is tough to train with totally specificity. I am hoping that flying out 10 days prior will help more with my body acclimatising to the heat as well as give ample time to familiarise with the course - hikes in the midday heat will be the agenda! I'll be doing this from either end, staying in Auburn for a long weekend then Truckee (near the start at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe) for the week before.
 
I've also recently had my VO2 max and metabolic efficiency tested at Napier, the results of which have really helped inform my plan in terms of training in the right heart rate zones and increasing fat utilisation - an absolutely fascinating experience to go through and one that is worthy of a post all on its own, at the risk of boring folk with too many stats from the report.
 
And after all this talk of planning - last week I impulsively signed up to run the Northumbria Ultra this Saturday! Mark Cooper is running and I was persuaded by it only being 98% full, so I blame it all on him. The route heads from Alnwick to the coast and along what looks like a beautiful dune system up to Bamburgh, before a final loop around the town to the finish. It has to be a training run so I will be practising my displine with that! Happy weekends to all :-)


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