Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Next Phase

The North Face 100 marks the end of my strength and endurance phase of my training periodisation for Western States and I now enter the sharpening phase as happy as I can be with how the build up has gone. Most pleasing is that I am feeling very strong and very fit. The body has held up really well; not without a few scares mind you, mainly with my right achilles tendon, but even this has come to the party and settled down a lot and rarely causes me any more discomfort.

All the big racing and training blocks are now behind me and I have entered the sharpening phase full of eagerness to get the zip back and just bring down the cruising pace a couple of seconds per km less. This will mean that I'll be hitting the road and flat trails a lot more over the next couple of weeks and looking to get a bit more speed work in at the track and in the form of some shorter races. It may sound a bit absurd to concentrate on speed for a big 100 miler but to be honest, this is one area that I think will serve me well on the very runnable Western States course.

When I backward planned my training phases from Western States, the first thing I did was work out when the appropriate time would be to start my big endurance blocks in order to ensure I wouldn't do 'death by volume' too early in the year. For me, it really started with a race - the Tarawera Ultra in early March and since then my weeks went from around 110km a week to over 160km a week. I wasn't at my best there but this was just part of the deal. Since then, I have used specific races as key performance indicators for different training aspects. For example, I made sure I got a big block of strength training in prior to the Buffalo Stampede and that race really complimented this phase nicely. The endurance and strength aspects of my build up really melded together and culminated with UTMF. It was a brutal race but it gave me so much back both physically and mentally and the important confidence boost I needed.

The first Penrith Lakes parkrun
was my first 5k of the year
The North Face was really about bringing it all together on a course that was probably the closest I'm going to get to Western States in terrain terms. I was using it as almost a 100k training race. Again, I realise it sounds totally absurd, but I'm sure you all know what I mean when I say I'm no different to any other runner who can justify all the decisions they make! Sometimes it doesn't always makes sense unless you're the person making the decisions! It was all for a greater purpose I thought. When it comes to TNF100, I always feel the pressure to perform on my local trails and it was a great opportunity to run fast amongst a quality field. Perfect practise for Western States!

So now I start sharpening, and it's actually a phase I enjoy for the variety it offers. I get to run short, sharp races at threshold pace and I hit the track more often and with more purpose. It is also a time to lower the overall volume and the length and difficulty of the long runs. So in the next month, I've decided I will only be doing one more run of +30km, with most of my longish runs around 20-25km but at a higher than normal intensity on road or flattish fire trail.

To kick it off, last week I ran the inaugural Penrith Lakes parkrun on Saturday morning and then went around again at the SMC Half Marathon on the Sunday. There was a bit of easy running before and after each event, and this type of thing will be my routine for the next couple of weekends. I was slightly surprised how little speed I have lost over the last couple of months, given that I haven't been a regular track attendee and my training has been much more endurance focused than it's ever been. But to hit my targets of sub 17 for the 5k and sub 1:15 for the half a week after TNF was very pleasing. In my mind I can only get a little faster an fitter if anything by the time WS rolls around. 

It was great to be back racing at SMC. A new venue but
the same friendly atmosphere!
It's been quite the journey and definitely the biggest lead in to a race that I've ever done. Now all that is required is a little icing on the cake, an appropriate taper which will include some beneficial course familiarisation runs with Beth Cardelli and I am race ready to rip into the big dance. I'm not leaving any stone unturned. I feel I've laid a great foundation to give this most prestigious of races a good shake. I was very fortunate to get a spot in this race and there is no way I'm going over unprepared. I will be going over there with the mindset that I can race my best and that I'm be the most prepared I've ever been to do something special.