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This post is for Rachel, Rachel asked how can my body endure such high mileage without injury? High mileage is relative, I think my mileage lies somewhere in the middle compared to others ultra-runners.

Let me first outline my training that I have used the last couple years.

My principal race the last four years has been in June and consisted of a mildly hilly 50 Mile (80 km) or 100 km race (or both). I also try to run a fast marathon at the end of August.

I have a base building period, usually from January to March where I build from around 35 miles a week (4 runs/week) to 65-70 miles (5 runs/week). During this time I usually use sandwich training, whereas I run X miles on Saturday and X-minus-3 miles on Sunday - these runs are "sandwiched" between two rest days on Friday and Monday. This year I have also added two swim nights, usually Tuesday and Thursday.

From April to the end of May I run at least on hilly long run a week and start cycling.

In June I taper, race, and recover. This year I will be doing more swimming and cycling in preparation for my first sprint tri on July 11.

During July and August I run an average of about 45-50 miles a week (including one long hill run) and try to bike as often as I can, usually 3-4 times a week. This seems to work in preparing me for a fast marathon.

In September I start cutting back on the mileage. From October to mid-November I rest, reducing mileage to 15-30 miles a week. Mid-November to December I gradually build up for January's training.

So back to your question, here is a list of thoughts I have on why I can endure such high mileage:

  • I follow the 10% rule, I try not to increase my total mileage or long run by more than 10% a week.
  • I run my long run distance for two weeks before increasing it, for example 16 miles for two weeks, then 18 miles. I think this allows the body to adapt more easily to the increased mileage.
  • I don't do any speed training while training for my June ultra race(s).
  • I vary my pace based on how I feel on a given day. Since I am training for a 100K race where my average pace is 11:25/mile, even a 9:30/mile pace is speed training ;-)
  • I warm-up with military style callisthenics (jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, etc.) before a run and stretch afterward. I also run the first mile at a warm-up pace.
  • For long runs beyond two hours I eat and drink like I would during a marathon.
  • I watch my diet, take a daily vitamin, use calcium/magnesium tablets (reduce cramps) and try to get adequate sleep (hard to do).
  • I vary my running surface as often as possible: trail, asphalt, hills, gravel/dirt.
  • I don't race every race, last year I ran 7 marathons and 3 ultras last year, but only 3 at a competitive pace.
  • I make sure that I have one rest day a week where I really rest.

The most important consideration for me is the PACE. Speed training is really hard on my 50 year old legs, since I have replaced speed training with hill training I have no trouble maintaining high mileage, and my race times have improved significantly.

Will this work for you? If you speed train and have significant injuries you might want to try cutting the speed training back and start running hills. It has been my experience that running a long run at a reduced pace (1-2 min./mile) on a demanding hilly trail is at least as good as running a flat long run at marathon pace - and I recovery more quickly.

Managing the End-of-Season Blues

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"Post Marathon depression is a common phenomenon for marathon runners of every experience level. The excitement of the marathon season is over and the intensity of preparation is behind them." - Doug Kurtis at RunMichigan.com

For many in my running club the Baden Marathon (or half-marathon) was the highlight of the year and marks the end of race season. For some runners, there is a sense of relief and they welcome the opportunity to relax for a little while and basically to do less over the winter. For others, like me, if there isn't something to replace all the hours on the road, the lull of TV boredom sits in. My sense of focus and purpose fades.

I run enough races a year (this year 14) to where I basically ride the endorphins from one race to another. I know from experience that when the endorphins are no longer released, there is a greater chance of depression setting in.

I was reading an article by Doug Kurtis at RunMichigan.com, where he likened this to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which affects moods especially in winter when darkness last longer. Many of the same depressive symptoms occur except increased sleep and daytime drowsiness are more likely. Also, increased appetite, especially for sweets and "comfort foods" such as carbohydrates, which may cause weight gain.

So with no marathon or longer race on the near horizon to train for I know that I have to find a solution so that this depression doesn't get the best of me. Here are a few things that I have done or will do to help get me through post-race season.

- Start cross-training. I pretty much stayed away from swimming, bike riding and weight training (Crossfit) during race season. I have already started getting reacquainted with these old friends.

- Run for fun. I am looking forward to some quiet runs through the woods, but also more runs with my running club. I am also looking for some mountain and cross-country fun races to celebrate my love of running.

- Work on my training/race schedule for next year. I love planning, this is therapy for me.

- Catch up on other hobbies. I also enjoy woodworking, I already have some projects in mind. I also am interested in genealogy, which is a project that never ends.

- Take a vacation. In two weeks we are flying to the USA for a three week vacation!

Of course work, wife, church and other things in life will fill the gap. At this point I am a bit sad that marathon season is over, but on the other side I know my body needs time to rest before next season. I only need to watch my diet, run a bit to keep the joints loose, and try to be productive in other parts of my life until its time to fire up the race machine in 2009!

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