Thursday, February 9, 2012
How I Trained for my 2011 Badwater Double
As you read it, keep in mind I was training for a double crossing, not just the race. As a result I did a lot more long consecutive (back-to-back-to-back) days than would be necessary for just the race itself. And my strategy in the race was to take care of my feet and hydration, and get enough rest so that I had something left over to do another 135 miles afterward, so I didn't push myself anywhere near my limit in the race.
If you're training for the race only, you'd want to add a bit more intensity and perhaps not so many long days. My goal was to finish in under the 48 hour time cutoff. So this would be a good guideline for someone who is a first-timer, and solely interested in finishing. If you're a speedster, there are lots of other places to look for guidelines on training.
Feel free to comment, or write me at sherunnoftatgmaildotcom if you have questions. I can't put a lot of time into answering specific training questions and I DO NOT coach, so please do not ask me to give you specific advice on your training routine. I will try to answer your general questions about Badwater as time permits.
2011 Badwater Training Notes
People ask me how I train for the races I do. They think I do mega-miles, which is not true at all. When I'm approaching a big race, I do a lot of miles on some weeks, but I don't sustain a high mileage routine week after week, all year. I probably do a lot less than many ultrarunners who are running shorter races.
I consider myself an athlete, not an addict, which means I respect my body and treat it well, as I ask a lot of it, so I do not overdo it. I'll be 48 years old this year, I have been running for 28 years, and I hope to be running into the future for at least another 28 years.
Keep in mind that at Badwater I am not going for any records or places. I am not running this race in competition with others, I am only trying to do the best I can so essentially I am competing with myself.
I won't put my entire training log in here but I will put the basics in, as the weeks go by.
When training for Badwater, you have to be ready to do the race distance before you even put your application in.
By the time you get notification that you're accepted into the race, you have less than 5 months until race day. So if you're not already seriously fit, you're going to be in trouble.
Fortunately the Badwater application process takes that into account. If you haven't done the equivalent of at least a couple or three serious (100 mile+) ultras in the year leading up to your application for the race, you won't get in.
A Little History
Let's backtrack for a bit: I ran Badwater for the first time in 2008. After that I took it pretty easy for over a year. I needed a break from training so hard, plus I had other things going on in my life, like a miserably stressful job, that made it hard for me to train well and consistently. So I basically took 2009 off from doing ultras. I ran a few 50K-ish runs and kept a base of 30-40 miles a week all year just for fitness, but that's all.
In 2010 I began to train again, with running Badwater in 2011 in mind. I changed jobs, which helped more than anything. I knew I was going to have to do a few long runs. I planned for 3 races: the Keys 100, the Lean Horse Hundred, and Across the Years 48 hour. I ran a few other short races (Old Pueblo 50 and Leadville Marathon) but that was it.
Racing can often set you back, if you work really hard, you will need a break from training. I try not to race too many long ultras each year, which keeps my training more consistent. My goal for the year was to set a PR at Across the Years, I wanted to go over 150 miles.
I unexpectedly set a PR at the Keys. I had no idea I was going to feel so good in the heat and humidity. I ran Lean Horse as a training run for Across the Years, in a relaxed 28 hours. And then I did get a PR at ATY, with 151.3 miles, even though I feel like if the weather had been warmer, I would have done better.
After ATY, I took a couple of weeks off completely. I did not exercise except for a few very short walks with the dogs, ike a mile or two, and not even every day. Two weeks after ATY I began riding the bike on the trainer indoors. I rode two hours a day for about a week, then I was sidelined with a cold for a week, so I cut back to an hour a day.
In February I began running easy, short runs. I also resumed my three times a week weightlifting and core strength exercises on the exercise ball, and five days a week situps. The longest run I did in the month of February was 11 miles. My total mileage for each week went from 30 to 50 miles the week before Florida. I went to Florida the last week of February and ran the LOST 118. I DNFed at 114 only because a bout of diarrhea had caused electrolyte problems, causing me to cramp and slow down. So I ended up with a 114 mile training run, in a 125 mile week.
I took an easy week after LOST and ran a total of 7 miles, including a 4 mile run at Horsetooth on the big hill 6 days after the race, where I felt great!
I was tired for a few weeks after LOST. I kept my mileage low, wanting to make a full recovery. I started my Rock Repeat workouts, which are multiple repeats running a trail up and down Horsetooth Rock, minus the rock part. Each week I added another repeat and each week my legs got sore. I tried running fast for an hour on Wednesday nights with a group of faster runners, which is always difficult for me, but I managed to keep up. I call it my speedwork.
Three weeks later I did a 90 mile week. After that I was toast. I could feel that I wasn't quite ready to bump the mileage up consistently, so I took a 30 mile week afterward.
My strategy in March must have paid off because the next week I did 107 miles and felt good, like I could have done more.
I followed that with an 85 mile week, then a 101 mile week. For three weeks in a row I increased the mileage I did on consecutive days. 70 in 3 days, then 80 in three days, then 96 in 3 days. Still feeling good, I decided to force a rest week.
The 96 miles in 3 days consisted of an easy 20 mile run with a lot of walking, a 50 mile run in 10:12 in stiff wind and a lot of running, then a 26 mile day with 6600 feet of vertical gain and the same of descent, which was six Horsetooth Rock Repeats.
The rest week felt great. I did 17 miles throughout the week and that was all! I got caught up on life, organized a presentation I'm giving twice on May 5th, and did a lot of Badwater planning, a necessity. I also took several long naps each afternoon when I wasn't at work. Two of those naps lasted 3 hours each! I guess I needed it! I kept up the weight training and sauna time during my rest week, too. As of the end of May I'd be hitting the sauna three days a week.
I followed my rest week with a solid 120 mile week. Two runs of 30 and 34 miles where I felt strong, a 22 miler on Horsetooth Centennial Drive, a few shorter days, then a short three-Rock Repeat run to wrap up the week. I can feel how much stronger I am with sustaining a running pace and being able to pick up the pace when I want to, even at the end of the run.
After that I had a busy week between work and other things so I cut back drastically on my miles, did only one long run up at Carter Lake and Pinewood Reservoir climbing the hill that is like the Portal Road. The following week I went to Arizona hoping for heat training. The temperature only reached 91 but I did get some solid miles in. Got a 122 mile week with 3 back to back days. Followed that by a total rest week, because I was so tired from the drive on top of everything else, and had an extra work day, taking me up to Memorial Day weekend, when I worked Saturday and Sunday.
The week starting with Memorial Day I ran the Houska Houska 5K at a steady pace, and did 3 long runs of 32, 34, and 40 miles, for a total of 126 miles for the week and nearly 10,000 feet of vertical gain and descent. I also increased my sauna time to a full hour each day, and the sauna is 175 degrees these days. I have to get out and take a couple of 2 minute breaks, but I go back in until I have spent a total of one hour in there.
The following week was a rest week, except I did one 40 mile run of nearly 10 Rock Repeats, until I ran out of daylight, giving me 10,350 feet of vertical gain and descent. I continued in the sauna, an hour every day I wasn't working.
I followed that with a week in Arizona where I ran only a little over 50 miles for the week but did a 16 miler and a 34 miler in 103 degree temperatures, which felt relatively cool.
The week after Arizona, I worked three days, and took it as a rest week, only got about 20 miles in. I was back in the sauna, hard core.
I aggravated the tendinitis in my right leg with the 10 Rock Repeats training run, but the road miles in Arizona didn't bother it. After Arizona I backed off a little earlier than I planned, but I still ran 40-50 miles a week each week until the full week before Badwater. A week of careful stretching and icing seemed to do the trick.
The last full week of June and the week at the end of June/beginning of July, I did a couple of hill workouts on Centennial Drive, just 10 and 20 miles each and a Rock Repeat session of just three repeats. The tendon was fine. The full week before Badwater I ran only 3 miles a day for four days with the Buffaloes.
I did my last run on July 7th, 4 days before the race. Four miles easy.
Badwater 2011 finishing time: 45:30
For a recap of the return trip of my Badwater double, see the July 2011 posts in the archives.
photo credit: Nathan Nitzky