Leadville Training for 2015

Goals: Have the most per­son­al­ly ful­fill­ing race pos­si­ble at the Leadville Trail 100 on August 22nd, 2015.  Run a sub 12:00/mile avg pace.

Overview & dis­claimer:  These are the ideas & thoughts I’ve had regard­ing prepar­ing for and rac­ing at Leadville after 2 unsuc­cess­ful attempts.  I’m 37, 5′8″ and hov­er around 150 lbs/69 kg.  I’ve been an ath­lete for most of my life. I took a break in my ear­ly 30s, but in my 20s rep­re­sent­ed the US on the Navy Pen­tathlon Team, swam com­pet­i­tive­ly for about 18 years, ran cross coun­try in high school along with a few oth­er sports (lacrosse, wrestling, climb­ing.)

No record set­ting times, the fastest mile I’ve thrown down was a 5:10 in my late teens and I used to swim 500 free (yds) in the same time.  The last time I ran mile repeats I was hov­er­ing around the 6:00 mark.  I haven’t swam a 500 free for time in the last 10 years.

For every one of these ideas in which I believe & base my train­ing on, you can find any­where from 5–5,000 ass­holes who are doing the oppo­site and get­ting real­ly good results.  Paleo vs grains, sprints vs LSD (that’s long slow dis­tance, hip­pies!), low carb vs high carb, lift­ing vs run­ning, etc.  This is what I believe will work for me.  This is not a train­ing plan for you, just a record of what I’ve learned and incor­po­rat­ed along with what I aim to do.

I attempt­ed Leadville 2013 on a train­ing reg­i­men of run­ning 15 miles a week, thrice week­ly lift­ing ses­sions of squats or dead­lifts with pull ups, dips, and the occa­sion­al clean thrown in.  I did a fair amount of sprint­ing in the 4–800m range, with a longest run­ning dis­tance of (I think) 12 miles in train­ing.  Late in Decem­ber of the 2012 I did the Rim-Riv­er-Rim as a test run with a few friends at the Grand Canyon; that was the most I had walked/hiked/ran in 12 years. I made it to mile 75 dur­ing the race and missed the time cut off by a few min­utes.

For Leadville 2014 I dou­bled my max week­ly miles to a one time week­ly push of around 30 but most­ly in the 20s, head­ed back out to the Grand Canyon in March of that year for a full Rim-Rim-Rim push and did most of my train­ing in the 8–12 mile/run range.  Aim­ing to run only on “real” food and a Paleo diet with no test­ing, I cramped up at mile 25 or so dur­ing the race and couldn’t move for about 30 min­utes.  Once my legs unlocked (after a few salt tabs from some rad trail angels) I made slow and ago­niz­ing progress until about mile 38, when I start­ed being able to actu­al­ly run again.  I ral­lied from Twin Lakes up over Hope Pass, feel­ing strong & hold­ing a 14:00/mile pace going up & over Hope, but was so smoked from the cramps that I missed the time cut off by about 30 min­utes on the return to Twin Lakes (mile 60.)

After the 2014 fias­co, I com­mit­ted to train­ing for Leadville 2015 in a much more seri­ous way, my pre­vi­ous white trash train­ing meth­ods hav­ing failed me.  Zach Negin was right.  Hey, my meth­ods worked when I was 23 and ran a sub 6:00 pace for a half marathon with only a few weeks train­ing.  I was a king once, you know.

I kept run­ning after the 2014 race, but quick­ly over­trained and laid off run­ning entire­ly from Octo­ber 2014 until the end of that year.  I lift­ed heavy twice a week, squats and deads and bench­es and press­es, most­ly 5x5s and worked up to a 97 kg squat, 85 kg dead, 57 kg press, 72 kg bench, all for 3 sets of 5.  My form needs work espe­cial­ly in the dead­lift & I haven’t worked it seri­ous­ly.   I weigh 69 kilos.

I did that to build a base of strength, hav­ing got­ten fired up on Brooks Kubik’s Dinosaur Train­ing book.  Now, he’s a weightlifter and I’m aim­ing to be a run­ner, so as I was work­ing the lifts on the path of strength, I was research­ing run­ning in prepa­ra­tion for the 2015 run­ning year.

I’m a read­er, so I start­ed by order­ing a bunch of books off of Ama­zon.  I read Siff & Verk­hoshan­sky, Tim Noakes, Bar­ry Mur­ray, Phil Maf­fe­tone, Bruce Lip­ton, Volek & Phin­ney, Fred Wilt, Steve Mag­ness, and Jay Dichar­ry.

I also talked to most of those guys via pod­cast inter­views which you can lis­ten to here.

Ok, with all that intro/background out of the way, I’ll break down what I’ve learned into a few cat­e­gories: Train­ing, Nutri­tion, Recov­ery, & Men­tal.

For Train­ing, I fol­low Phil Maffetone’s guid­ance.  He’s a leg­endary coach in the endurance world, and while some folks write him off as a leg­endary coach from a long time ago I think his ideas are still good and they form the basis for my train­ing.  In a nut­shell, I run by my heart rate and aim to stay between 133–143 bpm, which is 180–37 (my age.)  Dr. Maf­fe­tone calls this heart rate your Max Aer­o­bic Func­tion (MAF) HR, and the basic idea is that this is the heart rate at which you can run for days if you train it up.  Once you go above your MAF you move into anaer­o­bic work and start the count­down clock for bonk­ing.

If you decide to fol­low my lead and run at your MAF after train­ing the “reg­u­lar” way your whole life, expect to run some extra­or­di­nar­i­ly slow paces.  I was run­ning a 143 and clock­ing 13:00 miles on the flats, get­ting passed by fat old men and women.  I’m run­ning clos­er to 9:00 miles now on the flats at the same HR and feel­ing much bet­ter.

Going up & over Otay Moun­tain on a 20 mil­er I stayed at an avg HR of 139 and aver­aged 12:57 with 4,600′ of gain over those 20 miles.  All up or down, no real flat sec­tions.  I don’t do any sprints, inter­vals, tem­pos, or strid­ers.  I may start to add those in, espe­cial­ly the strid­ers, but the vast major­i­ty of my train­ing is geared towards build­ing aer­o­bic func­tion.  I’m aim­ing to aver­age sub 12:00 miles at the race.  For ref­er­ence, the cur­rent male record hold­er Matt Car­pen­ter aver­aged around 9:27/mile.

I hit my first 40+ mile week in late May of 2015, feel free to con­nect with me on Stra­va if you’d like to fol­low along.  The gen­er­al aim now is to increase up to a steady 50+ mile week with a pos­si­ble run at a 70 mile week before the race.  2 runs dur­ing the week, 8–16 miles each, and a long run on the week­end that’ll top out at 28 miles and 6k of gain.  4 week cycles, 3 week build ups fol­lowed by a de-load week of around 20 miles.

I’ll be out in Col­orado (Aspen) by ear­ly August, aim­ing to stay at the West­on Pass Hut for about 10 days pri­or to the race, and will be stay­ing in town from Tues­day-race day.

For Nutri­tion, in 2013 I raced on Ham­mer Nutri­tion’s Per­pe­teum along with an assort­ment of their pills and pow­ders and had no GI prob­lems.  In fact, I didn’t real­ize how much nutri­tion was a fac­tor in ultra run­ning because Ham­mer made it so easy.  It tastes revolt­ing, but avoid­ing that revolt­ing taste led to a dis­as­ter in my “Paleo for race nutri­tion” strat­e­gy dur­ing my 2014 effort, and made re-think and study much more about train­ing & race fuel­ing.

After read­ing and talk­ing with Bar­ry Mur­ray and Tim Noakes on the Paleo Treats Pod­cast, and chat­ting with Peter Defty from Ves­pa, I start­ed think­ing more about low carb & “fat adapt­ing” and decid­ed to go for it in March of 2015, cut­ting out any food on runs, run­ning in a fast­ed state, and start­ing to real­ly cut down on carbs all the time.

I’m still using Paleo as my guide for what kind of food to eat, but need to fig­ure out this LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) thing as I real­ly think it has a lot of poten­tial.

LCHF has not been par­tic­u­lar­ly easy, but at the same time it ain’t impos­si­ble, and I’m cer­tain­ly not done tweak­ing my diet.  As it stands, I’m aim­ing to run the 100 miles of the race on lit­tle to no food, no more than a few GUs and prob­a­bly less, just stick­ing to a few dates to get glu­cose to my brain late in the race, and drink­ing water to thirst.

The gen­er­al idea (I’ve been told I’m wrong in the details but sort of right over­all by Bar­ry Mur­ray) is to run at sub-MAF pace, burn fat or ketones, and only get some quick sug­ar if my brain starts to fade.

After talk­ing with Bri­an Peter­son I’ve also set a “caf­feine plan” up and aim to have but­ter cof­fee ready at mile 75.  This is still a “maybe”, but that’s where Nutri­tion stands as of May 30th, 2015.

For recov­ery, I’ve been get­ting body­work from Hei­di Fearon once a week, usu­al­ly on a Thurs­day or Fri­day after a hard run on Thurs­day.  Hei­di is a skilled acupunc­tur­ist with Tal­iban fin­gers and lots of ath­let­ic expe­ri­ence and has been able to fix most of the aches & pains I’ve had.  I’m also press­ing my legs after runs with a VES device, any­where from with­in an hour of run­ning up to 9 hours lat­er.  I think the Nor­mate­cs are bet­ter, but a friend had an extra VES to lend me and I wasn’t will­ing to spend $2k for a Nor­matec.  I did end up buy­ing a Mar­cPro and think it’s use­ful but only if you’re work­ing super hard, which most of my runs haven’t been. I’m fin­ish­ing up Earth­ing and may buy one of these hip­pie sheets, although I walk around bare­foot a bunch so not sure how much of a dif­fer­ence a sheet will make.

Final­ly, the men­tal game.  I used to teach this stuff for the Navy and have writ­ten up a post on the Big Four here.  I was talk­ing a bunch with Bri­an Peter­son (2014 Bear 100 win­ner), Rich Airey (7th at Leadville 2014), and a few oth­ers ear­ly in the sea­son about just how far we can push some wacky stuff like believ­ing we can pro­duce more mito­chon­dria and med­i­tat­ing on that, but I haven’t put as much time into that as I have into the rest of train­ing.  Most­ly I use Big Four stuff, main­ly visu­al­iz­ing lots of the race while I’m run­ning and before going to bed.

That’s the train­ing plan and how I got there.  For the race itself I’m aim­ing to run a neg­a­tive split (faster sec­ond half than the first), go out at no faster than an 11:00 pace, and not eat much food beyond a few dates if I get woozy.  I’ll def­i­nite­ly report back post-race with updates on this blog as I under­stand & incor­po­rate ’em.  Feel free to com­ment below.

None of this would be pos­si­ble if I didn’t have the sup­port of my wife Lee, who puts up with my long runs, irri­tabil­i­ty, and gen­er­al­ly unpleas­ant resis­tance to advice with the cheer­ful out­look of some­one who’s in love & com­mit­ted to excel­lence no mat­ter its mood.  None of this can be blamed on her.

Cheers,

NFH

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