One of the most important things I've learned from ultrarunning is sustainability. The sport is far from a sport of tough guys slamming their muscles against the dirt (at least for me). Though there are a lot of people out there that come into the sport for 1-5 years and grind out finishes until they get nothing more out of the sport, there also are calculated, smart, talented, and sustainable runners that avoid unnecessary knuckle dragging. I've definitely made a change in the past couple years from the former to the later.
A perfect example was last weekend when I ran a PR through Cooper Canyon at conversational pace on tired legs. I ran well fueled, paid attention to my breathing, relaxed to a hike when necessary, and felt much less pain than I did on my previous PR. I could have started the segment with an aggressive push down highway 2, short of breathing all the way to the creek, and then struggled up the first climb, unable to pick my feet on the flat sections, finishing with a crawl to the top at Cloudburst. However natural that might have felt, it would've been unsustainable for the day, and I would've spent the next 18 miles cramping, tired, and heavy. Either way, I would finish, but each scenario would've been drastically different for a long term outlook.
What matters in the sport, is the sustainable pace on race day and in everyday training. I started doing 10 minute intervals this week and found them to be a great vehicle for teaching pacing (besides the obvious getting your body in great shape). Running fast for 10 minutes is hard: it's a long time, it's hard to gauge how much longer you can push hard, and it's a faster pace than a simple 30-45 minute time trial. Even harder, running 3-6 times 10 minutes requires the duality of focusing on the task at hand during the interval and learning where your edge is as far as ruining the workout and finishing it poorly. A time trial is easy and singular in focus: go hard until you reach the top and deal with consequences tomorrow, but long intervals require sustainability to avoid the embarrassment of slowing down a ton on the last reps.
100 mile races aren't just won by the most gifted individuals, and now not even 50 mile races are won by youth alone. The sport demands sustainability in moments like the last 10% of a race when the calculated runner reels in leaders in dramatic fashion. It's not something that always happens in a contrasting fashion, but it is something that appears in heart rate data and segment data when a runner appears "to endure" but is really just pacing themselves better and sustaining a consistent pace with less pain. In the long run, the runners that practice this sustainability best, win more races, enjoy more miles, and become the best at riding their edge with less risk of blowup.
So, with that I'm glad to say that I feel like my training is sustainable right now. I don't feel the need for a rest week of minimal miles, I don't fear the race schedule, and I don't worry about how my fitness is progressing. This is uncharted territory for June.
Monday: 3 miles over the course of a photo shoot on Mt. Williamson
Tuesday: Easy 3 miles on Edison Road
Tuesday PM: Busy day left just a little time in the evening to do the first workout of the tempo phase. Ran 3x1mi just to get the rust off the legs from the weekend and feel out my edge.
Wednesday: Converstional pace up Temescal with PMR, enjoyable morning
Thursday PM: slept in an went for an evening tempo workout. 3x10 min up Sullivan ridge was successful, not too easy but no epic blow outs.
Friday PM: Ran up Mt. Wilson Toll road at sunset and met Katie at Eaton Saddle. No headlamp, no rush, just enjoyed the idyllic night over the city. Dreamed about hitting Sam Merrill at sunset... Someday.
Saturday: Went out with the intent of hiking strong on my long run, but forgot my poles. Everything went fine out to Baldy, but rolled the ankle on Devil's backbone twice. I pushed the 110v3 proto I've been running in to it's very limit (this is why proto's are done before releasing a shoe), and wore out the grip and fit. The next one due in soon should make rolled ankles less likely, but for the time being I had to stumble and hobble down to the Notch and nine and a half miles back over the technical backbone trails, bruising it a few more times in the process. 19.5 miles and 9,000 ft of gain in 5 hours wasn't so fun due to the heat and ankle, but in the end I was happy to be able to look at it as perfect UTMB training (although Baldy backbone trails are probably more technical).
Sunday: Slept in a bit and got out for another 3x10 min workout on the Blue Ridge trail. The Pine Pollen was visibly flying off the trees in big gusts and made the altitude and incline as challenging as it could be. I threw in another 2 minute rep at the end to see if I had some firepower in the legs, but alas the previous day's effort was legit.
Week Recap: 71 miles, 13:45, 20,700 ft.
It felt good to do some longer intervals and get back in the saddle for week 1 of tempo. I am optimistic.