Friday, March 13, 2009

Endurance Runs on a Whim?

So as I read through a few recent blog entries from Sherpa John from Human Potential and gIANt from Trail Monster Running, concerning their recent winter ultra running adventures, I was left with the question, "How exactly do these guys do it?".

Obvious there is a lot of toughness and mental fortitude involved in making an attempt at a long jaunt through snow, slush, and ice, as in any ultra in any season, but I continue to wrestle with the thought or question of "when is one ready?".

I recently re-read a chapter from Breakaway Books "Running Through The Wall", specifically the chapter where an ultra runner recalls her first experience training for and running the infamous Holiday Lake 50k++ in Virginia. Part of her story recalls the fact that she had been training and did her final long training run, a three to four hour run, a week prior to the race. Obviously this strategy goes against the traditional training plan philosophy of build and taper. I also look at athletes like gIANt and Sherpa John that seemingly don't have formal training plans, and when it comes to ultras they will give it a whirl.

So last weekend, as I was on a two-hour training run through the woods and over the ice and the snow, I was thinking about how crappy my winter training has been with the IT Band issues. Conventional wisdom would suggest I am not fit enough for a two hour training run, but I had an itch to get out and go long, and resolved to simply get out on the trail. My thinking was to run easily for as long as I could, walk the tougher sections, and basically run for time instead of distance. In the end, it went really well and I got about 125 minutes.

This brought me back to thinking about the Pineland Farms Trail Challenge 50k, and how, if I am able to build off of this long run, I could probably show up on Memorial Day weekend and give it a go. Yes, it wouldn't be the 'right' approach to training for a 50k, but I think with the right motivation it could be possible. People have said, why not just sign up for the 25k, but I have my eyes fixed on completing the 50k. I think I'd be a little more cautious about my lack of training if I were thinking of the 50 miler.

Obviously one does not prepare to run 100 miles in 24 hours by completing the run, but there is a great amount of preparation that goes into it, just as some marathon training programs cap long run training at a 20 mile run - leaving the rest of the race to guts and heart.

So here is the question:
What are your thoughts about running a marathon, ultra event, etc, without the 'proper' amount of training? Obviously the answers will be varied, but I am just curious what you might think?


pathfinder said...

What a great question Rob. I suspect I am not experienced enough in ultras to answer it intellegently but It seems one should try to be as prepared as possible for any race and go in with goals parralleling their specific fitness and training up to that point.

By that I mean, if a person has a solid running base and accomplishes enough training to master the distant they are racing, then the only question reguarding running the race is what time will the racer be satisfied with? If they are looking to do a fantastic time or PR, then racing may not be the thing for them at this point in their training.

The word "proper" is relative to
"goals" not wether or not they can run the distance.

As for myself, I don't remember any race reguardless of the distance that I considered myself trained to a maximum peak.

There was always a question in the back of my mind and numerous things that came up while training that caused interference (like injuries). Also I have never been coached and merely conjour up my own makeshift training schedule. I have no idea if I am doing things right.

When I ran my one and only Marathon (so far) I had been training for the half and decided just eight weeks before the race to switch to marathon, surely I did not train "proper" for that one.

After running the pineland 25k last year I realized that I was definately not trained "proper" for that one either.

As far as the 50K......well all I know is that I am trying to train the best I can and that I want to be there and finish that race. I will know how well I trained (or didn't train) after the race is over.

"It's not like I am getting paid to do this"

RunninRob said...

Great points, Kevin.

Yeah, I come from a coaching background, so there is always that little bugger that sits on my shoulder and whispers, "Hey you aren't ready for this!"

Then there is the son of a USMC vet that is on the other side that screams, "Sound of like you got a pair!" That very matter of factly believes it isn't about how fast, but rather the overall objective of getting from point A to point B.

Dan said...

I think the key word in your question is ‘running’. There is a definite distinction between ‘running’ a marathon or ultra and ‘racing’ one. I think it’s possible, and maybe even helpful, to run one without being fully trained. As long as you don’t place a time goal on yourself and just focus on finishing the race you should be ok. You just have to go into it knowing you are going to suffer more, as in sooner and more intensely, than you would if you were better trained.

I plan on using 2 or 3 marathons / 50Ks as training runs to get me ready for my first 50M. I know I won’t be properly trained at the time I run these races but I am just using them as training runs to get ‘time on my feet’. They are another training tools that will hopefully get me prepared for the 50M. The 50M is the only race I will set a time goal for myself. All the others are just ‘playtime’!

You can do it Rob. Quit stressing, have FUN!

robtherunner said...

I agree with Dan that there is a difference between running a race and racing. If the question is, "Am I prepared enough to race a 50k?", then training is going to be a huge factor. If the question is, "Can I finish the race?", then your answer may be different.

When I first starting running marathons and ultras I prepared fairly thouroughly for each one and definitely felt prepared, but there was always a certain amount of uncertainty. Mental toughness is equally as important when it comes to longer distances. Do a 3 hour run next week, then a 4 hour, etc. You'll be ready before you know it.