3/12 - Rest.
3/13 - 7.0 miles. 1:00:04. ~450'v. Stagecoach. PM. First after work run this year that started and ended before the sun went down. After a little more than a mile of warming up, I pushed it a little hard for the next 6 miles and felt great. Especially solid effort on the last hill at the end of the run. My route went from the house down to the far end of the South Shore neighborhood and back to the house, primarily on dirt roads with a little asphalt in the beginning and end of the run.
3/14 - 4.71 miles. :58:09. Burns. PM. Katy and I drove down just north of Burns to run some dry trails. It was fun and great to be running on dirt again. We took it easy but ran some pretty hilly terrain so the effort and time on feet was more like a full 5+ miler. I wish I had brought my altimeter so that I could've calculated the altitude change, as there was certainly a few hundred feet of ups and downs. Just a little scouting mission to see if I want to come back down there this weekend to do my long run on trails and dirt roads.
3/15 - 7.59 miles. 1:03:29. Stagecoach. PM. Half-mile warm up before running 6.5 miles up-tempo on a really hilly route (CR 16 to CR 14 going towards Oak Creek and back). Finished 7 miles in :56:37 before cooling down and worked pretty hard on the uphills to keep the overall pace around 8:00/mile. I was glad to have some cows keep me company as I ran by them while they grazed. I'm thinking my full on race pace for 10K is probably around 7:15-7:30/mile these days.
3/16 - Rest.
3/17 - 24.01 miles. 3:52:37. 1,810'v. Stagecoach. AM. Decided against driving to Burns to do my long run and, instead, ran from the house out towards Lynx Pass (same as last weekend) on a county dirt road. The morning was a little on the cool side (high 30s/low 40s) and a bit cloudy but the sun eventually came out a couple hours later when I was turning around. I had the dirt road almost entirely to myself the entire time (saw one biker, one skunk, a couple of vehicles and some folks saddling up some horses) and it was sufficiently dry or muddy or frozen or rocky enough to keep it interesting. I ended up turning around after the Morrison Divide (Muddy Slide) trailhead where the road is no longer maintained in the winter. This run felt incredible and I have to credit my friend and nutritionist, Bronwyn Rittner (and my fiance, Katy, whose daily diet is impeccable and keeps me on track) for making me realize the importance of eating on a regular schedule while going on a long run and how beneficial it is to an endurance athlete. Since I started running ultras, I always knew that it was necessary to eat and drink to fuel the body for the work of going further but today's run was the first time I actually told myself, "OK, eat a gel every 45-55 minutes, sip some water every 20 minutes or so, eat more food (I made my own mix of cashews, pistachios, chocolate chips and raisins, and carried it in a small 4 oz. container) at least once an hour and drink some electrolyte replenishment (I just went with Gatorade and carried about 15 oz. in a bottle) whenever necessary." The difference it made could not have been more obvious. At no time during my run did I feel tired or a lack energy. In fact, I took a split time every 6 miles (1:02:56, :57:37, :57:41, :54:22) and ran a negative split for the second half (granted, the return was mostly downhill) and the last 6 miles nearly 9 minutes faster than the first 6 (also granted, I ran the first couple miles slow in order to warm up). I still contended with a little soreness in my core muscles toward the end, which I think is understandable over 24 miles, but really had no other physical problems and, mentally, I think I could have gone several more miles. (Of course, I don't want to imply that running this distance was effortless. As I sit here and write, my legs are getting tighter, my hamstrings and glutes are getting sore and it's getting hard to walk the first few steps every time I get up!) I cooled down over a half mile to keep my legs moving for 4:00:07 and then immediately started replenishing electrolytes and ate a small meal within an hour of finishing because it helps the body to recover faster (it's actually recommended to eat within 45 minutes to allow best/quickest absorbtion of nutrients) . Bronwyn has let me borrow her copy of "Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook" by Nancy Clark, MS, RD, which I've found very useful and informative.
3/18 - 5.40 miles. :48:55. ~400'v. Stagecoach. PM. Easy five miler around the neighborhood and back to the house with the usual hills that entails. Windy and high clouds as some weather is supposed to move in tonight and hit us with some rain and/or snow.
Weekly Total: 49.20 miles.
Finally got the mileage I was shooting for thanks to some nice weather, the time change and the discipline to go out and make it happen. Numbers aside though, the biggest breakthrough of the week (and possibly of all the endurance training I've ever done) had to do with nutrition. For the first time, since I ran my first marathon in 1992, I had a long run where I never once felt tired, physically drained or mentally fatigued and it was, quite simply and honestly, because I took the time to eat and drink on a regular schedule while I kept moving. In a six, eight or even ten mile race this isn't much of a consideration, you just need to stay hydrated, mostly. As the distance and time increase beyond that, however, it matters very much. In my past ultras and long runs, I have refueled, but never with the consistency that those activities actually require. In the past, I would go until I felt tired or hungry, then push through it for a while and eventually, eat or drink something and, sometimes, bounce back to keep going. Or, more often, just keep pushing through and finish tired, hungry, exhausted, sore and generally lucky to be alive. Finally, after years of struggling through events, I've realized that there is no reason to bonk and that "hitting the wall" is actually avoidable. To me, this is nothing short of a breakthrough and makes me look forward to really pushing my endurance to a new level.