Monday, April 11, 2011

How to get better?

Ever since the Moab Red Hot 55k, I've been thinking about what I can do to improve in races.  Don't think that I'm sitting here grumbling about my performance in any of them.  In my first four ultras, I've finished in the top 30 in each.  I have an enormous amount of contentment with these races and consider it an achievement just to start/finish them.

I have always tried my best and will continue to do so in any race I run.  But I know I have room to improve.  The issue I struggle with is what it will cost me to improve.  I'm having too much fun with running right now to make it a chore.  I can fit running into my family life, and won't make sacrifices that will negatively impact my ladies!

So, where does that leave me?  I've come up with a few tangible things that will help me (I hope!) improve as an ultrarunner.

1.  Double Sessions - I've always been intrigued by having an AM & PM running session.  That's about how far I've gone with it.  Time and energy have never cooperated to make it happen.  But recently, I picked up on a tip from Footfeathers, who said he builds planned "fast walking" sessions into his training.  This is something I've neglected in my training, except when the terrain on a long run demands it.

To that end, I've started hitting the treadmill 2 nights a week to practice my walking.  I crank it up to 10% and set the speed at 4.7 mph.  At first it seems easy, but by the first mile, I'm drenched in sweat and woozy in the head.  The farthest I've gone is 2.5 miles and by the end of that workout, my feet were barely staying on the mill.

The best part is that I have my girls join me in the basement for this workout.  They play while I walk.  I crank up the kid tunes on Pandora and watch the show they put on for me.  M & Z run around doing flips on beanbags, flips on the couch, dancing to the music....all while I huff and puff away for 30 minutes.

2.  Midweek run with elevation -  Last week I started heading to the foothills for a 10-12 mile run during the week.  I plan to keep this going into the summer with the goal being to get some additional elevation that I just can't get on my local trails.  Scott & I met at Mt. Falcon last week and ran 12 miles before 7:30am.  Nice!

3.  Strength trainings...sort of - I have always had an aversion to lifting weights.  I've never enjoyed any form of strength training, so I simply avoid it whenever I can.  Bandera made it clear that I need to do something in this area.  I had moved some furniture a few weeks before the race and was left with a sore back (had difficulty putting my socks on).  During the race, my back and shoulders were really aching.

I'm committing to 60-65 push ups and sit ups twice a week.  I'm sure I can hear a few chuckles out there as this commitment is nothing earth shattering and most people could bang that out in one shot.  Not me!  It is a heck of a lot more than I've done in a long time!  Hopefully that number will slowly grow as I build strength, but it's taking all the willpower I have to do them.  Oh yeah...and no furniture lifting/moving close to raceday!

4.  Fix Your Feet - I'm reading it right now.  I want to be ready for the next time I encounter foot troubles during a race.  Hopefully, some new knowledge will help prevent the blisters and other junk from even starting.

5.  Diet - Haha!  Yeah right.  I've thought about making changes to my diet (ie. cutting out the junk), but I'm not quite there yet.  Maybe that'll be a sacrifice I'll consider next year!

I know there are many other things I could (or should) be doing to improve, but this is a start.


  1. No, no...these are things that I'm not doing already. I've got your suggestion down pretty good.

  2. Good post, Woody. That's the fun of doing this stuff. Always trying to find the ways you can improve. The treadmill hikes are great. They don't do much for the weekly mileage total (which is way overrated imho), but build a LOT of strength without much in the way of impact. The foot problems are huge time suck, definitely do whatever you can to get that dialed in. Good luck!

  3. "...without much in the way of impact."

    Chris - you hit the nail on the head. I love this workout because I can do it regardless of what I ran that day...or what I plan to run the next morning.