Friday, October 24, 2008

Looking back at my Spartathlon training...

(photo by Glenn Tachiyama: Lisa, Stacy Bunton, Stephanie Ehret at the start)

As many of you know, I don't run a lot of miles. It's because I don't have time. My job keeps me busy, and even my time away from work is pretty much accounted for. However, I knew for the Spartathlon that I had to sacrifice something because I had to get in the miles for this tough race. So, I did. Unfortunately, I ended up sacrificing sleep and that worked only for a period of time. Still, I managed some of my best training in the three months leading up to the race.

Remember please, that this is MY best training. I'm not advocating or promoting what I did. More miles and more rest would do anybody better, including myself, but I worked with what I had and this is what I came up with.

Looking back to baseline mileage from January through June, I ran the usual 25 miles per week on average for January, February and March. In March, I ran the Pacific Rim 24-hour race as a training run for Umstead and did 63 miles there for a soft win. Then I picked up it up to an average of 40 mpw for April and May. In April, I ran my best 100-miler at Umstead in 19:42 and started to get my groove on for feeling good about breaking out of my usual comfortable zone of "just have fun and don't push too want to recover without any problems." Umstead made me realize that I could push harder, run better, and still be ok. I was able to run the Spokane River Run 50k in about 6 hours (which is slow for me) a couple weeks later, and I ran the Ice Age 50-miler in just under 10 hours a few weeks after that and the 20th Century 100k three weeks later for a PR and a win. Still, including those races, I averaged only 40 mpw for those two months.

Then June came. I managed to squeak in only 19 mpw on average for the month. I was looking for a new home and my dear friend from high school visited and I spent time cruising around on my new beach cruiser Red Betty. Call it busy, lazy, but whatever happened, I just didn't get in the miles. I did run Bighorn 50 Miler the end of June and it was a fun race. It was a trail race, so I took it easy. Save the ankles, right!

THEN, on July 2, I got my Spartathlon entry confirmation. Yikes! That shook me silly. I knew I HAD to get serious or I would condemn my race from the start. This was important. I somehow had to find a way to increase my mileage. I had to find a way to incorporate some weekly runs despite my 12-hour work days. That's when I started trading my warm bed for my running shoes.

In July, I started doing "bricks." I still did most of my training on the weekends and was a little concerned about upping the mileage on my feet too much. So, I would run long on Friday, then bike long on Saturday, and run longer on Sunday. I got my first 52 mile week (of running). The next week, I prepared to go to Death Valley for the Badwater Medical Coverage. It's quite a lot of preparation with ordering supplies, etc. I lost the weekend of longer running due to travel and managed only 28 miles. The good news is, it was in Death Valley that I really started training for the Spartathlon. There were moments when a couple of us from the medical team could break away and run, so we did. It helped to keep us sane in the midst of very hard and long work. It helped me kick off my training. I managed 33 miles there (including the Mt. Whitney summit) and another 25, followed by 15 on the two remaining weekend days when I got home. So, that week was a glorious 73 miles! I was tired because we we hardly slept at all during the entire 60 hours of the race.

Nevertheless, I was determined to keep up the miles. I felt strong. I continued to include some "bricks" so that I wouldn't get myself injured from increasing the miles so quickly. I really thing adding the bike was the right thing for me to do. Sure, it took from my running time, but with the little sleep I was getting, I was set up for injury and I needed to avoid that. The bike worked. I still managed another "high" week of 65.5 miles.

August was filled with more moving issues, the usual, finding the right house, getting a mortgage, signing 5 million papers that I have no idea what they said. And "spare time" was supposed to be spent packing up a whole house! I've got a lot of stuff! So, once August hit and my chronic fatigue was interfering with everything I did, I dropped the miles down a bit, running on average 51 miles per week for that month. I felt a little better, like I could manage my life. For a few weeks the end of August and into September, I incorporated the "Mt. Spokane work-out." This is one of my favorites (and now I was living close to it). I would either get a ride to the top of the mountain and then run the 12-mile road to the bottom. Or I would park my car half-way up and run up and then down. These were key workouts for me. The 12-mile relentless downhill is one of my more rewarding workouts. It beats up my quads over and over till it no longer beats up my quads. And because it's all downhill, it's a quick work-out. ...and it's tons of fun.

I closed on my house and started the move in September. That was hectic. With work and moving, I had little time for anything else. My taper necessarily started too soon, and I ran 49 the first week, which included Uncle Joe's 50k in 5 hours as my last long training run before the Spartathlon 3 weeks away. The next week was 19, and the next week was 16. The last 4 miles of that were in Greece when I screwed up my ankle. My next running steps were at the start line.

So, in sum leading to the Spartathlon on September 26:

January 23.5 mpw ave
February 27.3 mpw ave
March 29.7 mpw ave
April 41.0 mpw ave
May 39.0 mpw ave
June 19.2 mpw ave
July 56.6 mpw ave
August 51.0 mpw ave
Sept 28.0 mpw ave

As you know, I started the race a bit handicapped, but when I look back at my pace and splits, I am pleased with them. I think, when I go back for my DNF redemption I will use these splits again. I like them. They worked for me. If it weren't for the ankle, I would have finished in a decent time....I think.

(picture by Glenn Tachiyama: Lisa and John Price around the marathon mark)

The race, in sum:

Checkpoint Distance km/miles time elapsed
10 Megara 40/25 3:40
22 Hellas Can 81/50 8:26
35 Anc Nemea 124/77 14:17
43 Lyrkia 148.5/92 18:20
52 Nestani 172/106 23:44
60 Alea 195/121 27:35 DNF

I like the numbers. Ok, granted, I didn't finish the race, right. But that had nothing to do with my pace. I ran very comfortably. It was the mountain decent that killed me.

So, next year, I'll shoot for similar splits. I will train a little harder IF I can. I will certainly not get injured in the days before the race, so that should help. :)

And now, I'm back to running, but starting slow but will build up quickly. I have to. ATY is really just around the corner. Last year, I did ATY on very little training and wore new shoes right out of the box, which caused some problems early into the race. This year, I'll be better prepared for the exceedingly tough second night of running. The extra miles I hope to get in will yield their rewards too. I'm very excited and so looking forward to ATY and a chance to test the will against the body once again. Maybe one of the days, I'll figure it out! :)

Hope y'all have some good running this weekend.


olga said...

I think you're genetically blessed. Seriously. And now that you (eventually) will settle down in a new routine and practice all-around happiness (:-)), you will flower like an Edelweiss - a rare but beautiful and with much power.
I wish I lived closer, may be you'd motivate me to do what you do (after you motivate me to rest and heal).

Runner Tammy said...


Just reading all the activities you did this past summer made me tired. One or two of these major milestones would have been enough for us mere mortals! And yet clearly you did spend some time with your critters and training as well.

I have observed/read your less-is-more running technique and am curious about how much time in your practise as a physician is spent on your feet. If you do spend alot of time walking around, have you ever used a pedometer to see how far you have travelled on a daily basis? Having met you briefly at Umstead, I am sure you are an excellent physician and spend lots of quality time interacting with your patients and perhaps in doing so you are "training" more than you give yourself credit for.

Take care,