Thursday, May 23, 2013

High Mileage

So for the past two and a half weeks, I’ve been in my “Hundred Miler-High Mileage Training". My definition of high mileage might seem “average” or “low” to some other runners, but to me, running over a 100 miles a week is high mileage. I’ve thought about the crushing exhaustion and the euphoric amounts of endorphins and decided to write a post to explain why I’m doing what I’m doing, and what I’m risking.

High mileage training is akin to taking a road trip, going on a long hike, surrendering to societies expectations and living life your own way all at once. If you cross the fine line between running passionately and hurting relationships, and you must always respect it. If you show up to work exhausted (something I strongly avoid) or you bail on a good friend or family member (again, strongly avoid) you have no one to blame but yourself. The scheduling for running over a 100 miles a week is difficult, but possible for most people.

Before you say, “Dominic, you don’t have kids, you don’t have dependents, you’re talented, you don’t have as many responsibilities as me” I should state that I do work a full 40-45 hours a week as an engineer, I do commute 45-60 minutes a day, I do live with my girlfriend, I do have other hobbies and interests, I do cook a lot of my own food, and I do deal with injuries all the time. So, now that we’ve established that I’m struggling to do this just like any other normal adult, we can move on with why it’s possible.

Scheduling is effectively the entirety of what makes high mileage possible. You’re basically looking for an extra 18-25 hours a week of 168 hours. I divide my days into weekends and weekdays. Weekdays are 11 hours of work and commuting. I try to sleep for 8 hours, so I have 5 hours to relax, run, eat, shop, whatever. When I look at those 5 hours, I see a solid 2-3 hours that I can allocate for running if I don’t waste excess relaxation time on the interwebs, TV, or starting arguments with Katie. If I waste too much time, I miss out on sleep and I inevitably need to cut back on running. So, basically my free time during the week is about 1-2 hours not including eating and cooking.
I am lucky to work 4-10’s so that I have Friday-Sunday free. Friday I make it a point to run with Erik or Chris to get some long and fast miles in, and Saturday and Sunday I run with whoever I can find in the San Gabriels for more long runs (sometimes, no one). By the time Sunday night comes, I’ve got a bunch of mileage and I start preparing for the next week’s goals.

Before I go on, I should that that high mileage must be approached carefully and diligently. You have to take more control over your life and set small specific and LOGICAL goals and accomplish them. The goals must be realistically set with solid base mileage and controlled weekly increases in mileage (10-20%). Going from 100-150 is probably going to injure you, so don’t do that. Also, a decent base for me is running 70-90 miles for a couple months so that I know my legs are ready to handle more mileage.

So, that’s what it requires: hectic weekdays, long weekends, and planning. Why would you want to do that?

High mileage really, really, really gets you in shape to run 100 miles.

Running 100 miles is the romantic and fulfilling ideas that brought me to the sport in the first place. The idea of being equipped with a pair of shoes, water and food every 5-15 miles, and being able to move yourself over 100 miles of challenging terrain is just really rewarding to me. It’s absurdly long, hard, tough, dangerous, painful, and something that most people would call you an idiot for doing, but the fact that you can train your body and mind to make it a very tangible reality is empowering.
I’ve heard all sorts of training philosophies: low mileage, lots of cross training, not too many long runs, etc. etc. but they’ve never convinced me like Jim O’Brien’s approach to a 100 miler “putting in the miles, focusing on the goal.. training at elevation, preferably on the course, speed work once a week, tempo work once a week, keep moving, even when the going gets tought” –Hal Chiasson (Larry Gassan, 2003).

Running 100 miles is equal parts mental and physical, and I’ve learned in life that proving things physically to yourself instills the greatest degree of confidence. Words, theories, blogs, discussions are all just disturbances in molecules. However a long week of training is a tangible strength in the legs, a training log of evidence, empirical results of truth, and real mental and physical confidence.
Confidence. Jim O'Brien.

Besides the goal of running 100 miles really, really, really well, there’s also the sheer joy in developing your abilities as a runner. Last weekend I ran two minutes slower than the Jim O’Brien record splits over the 27 miles/4700ft+ from Islip to Chilao. I ran these splits before on much more fresh legs with Josh and felt labored, so they’re not slow splits at all. However on Sunday, I ran these splits again with 27 rough miles from the day before and 21 miles from Friday (123 miles for the week). I really didn’t expect to run well with how tired I felt, but I had a breakthrough where I ran confidently and performed regardless of pain and physical condition.

That is something unique and special in running because it defies what happens 90% of the time. If you were to ask me to run the same splits again, I feel confident that I could do it on any given day without any advanced warning. That is a special and unique feeling of freedom and confidence. That confidence is not replicated with technology or gimmicks, it’s pure physical confidence. Now when I race Angeles Crest, I can focus on being calculated and calm. I know what my nutrition goals are, I know what my effort levels have to be, and I know that I can keep going no and achieve my goals matter what doubt might creep in on race day.

That is true freedom from doubt and fear. To be on that level mentally is to feel something truly unique and special in a hard world. After 3 years of training for this race, and experiencing so much pain and failure, it is an incredibly hard earned and rewarding feeling.

May 6-12
102.1mi, 18hr 22m, 27,775ft

May 13-19
123.7mi, 19hr 43m, 22,166ft

New Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - War Zone


jameson said...

awesome post dude... keep it rolling. I'm really looking forward to seeing how AC unfolds for you!

Brad Williams said...

Thanks for the insight. Once you hit that high mileage phase, specifically for a 100 miler, how long do you stay there until you've hit your peak fitness?

Anonymous said...

scheduling for 100+ mile weeks are easy without kids. if you achieve this with kids and a job the best one can hope for is severe sleep deprivation and a zombie-like state of consciousness much of the time. at worst, one just becomes an absent parent.

Alexander Koops said...

Dominic, nice to see you last saturday on the PCT. Jo Stevic and I ended up going about 90 miles and quit at splinters cabin, just before big bear--basically ran out of time. Hope to see you out there again some time before AC. thanks for the notes--its fun and encouraging :-)

David Herrera said...

Great and motivating post Dominic!