Thursday, December 3, 2009

How to train for a 24-hour run

So how do you prepare your body and mind to run around 1/4 mile track for 24 hours? I don't know... Truth is, I've never actually done it. What I do know is that you have to run...a lot! In order to run a lot you have to be motivated. It is soooo much easier to stay in that warm bed at 5am on those cold Winter mornings than it is to roll your butt out and get it done. I can honestly say that I have not been this motivated to run in years. I am really excited about this run and plan to be in the best shape of my life come April and plan to put up some big miles on the track at Franklin School. I've run in some big races but there is something different about running to benefit others that has given me some added motivation. It is bigger than just me and it matters. There is no magic training guide for an event like this but based on my previous training and racing experience I have come up with a plan that I think will give me the training I’ll need to do well. The training for this 24-hour run has already begun a full 6 months before the event. The running I’ll do will be very specific to this event. There are no hills on the track so unfortunately hill training will be minimal. I really like trail running in the mountains but that's not going to help me much here so you'll be seeing me logging miles on the roads around Loomis and Granite Bay. Heat should not be an issue so no heat training either. I'm okay with that. Basically, I plan to log a lot of miles at a slow pace on flat ground. Beginning late October my weekly mileage began at an easy (and boring) pace of 45 miles per week and will slowly increase week after week until January 1 when I will be at about 90 (easy) miles per week. I know what you’re thinking…90 “easy” miles? There can’t be too much that’s easy about running 90 miles in a week right?. What I mean by that is the miles will be at a slow pace and will consist of many short runs as oppose to fewer long ones. This "base phase" of the training as it is called is the most difficult for me because it is so far out from race day and the intensity of the running is so low that it is easy to lose focus. The important part of this period is that it is all at low intensity and spread out throughout the week. The months of easy miles are not necessarily about the fitness but more about getting in the miles and strengthening of the muscles, ligaments and connective tissue, toughening the feet and every other moving part that is about to be tested to the breaking point. The past few month will have been all about getting the body ready for the heavy work I'm about to ask it to do come January. On January 1st I will change gears not just in training but also mentally. It’s time to get serious. Beginning in January the mileage will not immediately increase but the way I get in the mileage will change. The focus will be on the long runs. Every week between January 1st and March 22nd I will do a long run of over 25 miles (life permitting). Many of these long runs will be in the 35-50 mile range. These runs are tough but not as tough as when I walk in the door after running for half a day and the kids say, “come on Dad lets go play”. The efforts will become harder and longer as run day gets closer. As a result there will have to be more rest days. This is all about adaptation. I will stress the body and then let it recover and adapt. It is amazing what happens when you continue to force your body to do increased mileage and effort week after week, it responds! By mid March the training will reach its peak. The weekly mileage will be well over 100 miles per week and my life will be consumed with finding enough time to run and finding enough food to eat. I will wake up sore and tired every day in February and March but for some reason it feels like it’s a good sore and tired. The kind of sore and tired that lets me know I’ll be ready. March 22nd comes as a relief. One month out from race day things change, it's time to let the body recover from the training so I can go into the big day feeling fresh. At this time the focus will change from big mileage to speed. This is also time to change the diet from anything I can get my hands on to only what I need. In some ways this time will come as a relief that the touture is over but this is also when I have to become more disciplined with my diet and sleep. The running is much shorter but also much faster. The legs have been abused so badly over the last few months and now is the time for them to start feeling fresh, feeling strong. Something they would not have felt in several months.
In the final week before the event the running will have all but stopped and the only running I'll do would be to shake out the legs and stay loose. The diet becomes the main focus and only essential fluid and food goes in, no junk or filler. This is also the time where I loose those last few pounds that I'd rather not carry around the track for 24 hours if I don’t have to. It is just temporary as I have found those pounds go right back on after the event.
I think I'll post regular updates on my training. It will be interesting to see if my training matches my plan. Stay tuned!