In April, I’ll be racing the Lake Sonoma 50 as my A race for 2024. A 16 week training schedule would have training starting on December 19th. I started on December 5th which gave me a couple of weeks head start because I knew that the holidays would be a difficult time to try and manage training with life. Training was going to be interrupted but by how much?
To provide context for my training cycles, they typically fall into the following categories:
First 1/3 of training is mostly focused on speed versus time. My weekday runs are 45 minutes while my long runs on the weekend are 1-2 hours.
Second 1/3 of training is a more moderate focus with weekday efforts in Z2 for an hour and long runs going up to 3 hours.
Final 1/3 of training is focused on the long run. The weekday runs will not go longer than 1.5 hours and the weekends going up to 4-5 hours.
I typically do not race when in a training cycle because I know myself and I cannot hold back on race day. When I pin a bib on my shorts, I am going to go All Gas, No Brakes and the recovery from that can put a training cycle into chaos.
With the holidays, I figured I would be able to do the Last Person Standing at the Aravaipa Across The Years because it is an event that I can control the timing and distance of. I assumed that I could get a feel for my fitness after 3 weeks of training and gauge where I was in my training cycle.
Reflecting on the Last Race
My goal for this race was to hit 50 miles but I knew that was a stretch because the format was an unknown. The standard format for a Last Person Standing event is to run ~4.2 miles in 1 hour and then do it again until there is only 1 person left. This means that if you finish in 50 minutes you have 10 minutes of rest before the next hour starts.
At the Across The Years event, the format was that of running 1.4 miles every 20 minutes. This was a monkey wrench that I wasn’t prepared for. Would I go ‘hard’ for 15 minutes and get 5 minutes rest every 20 minutes or take it easy and get 1-2 minutes rest?
I decided that I would run until 1.2 miles and then walk in the final 0.2 miles. During the first portion of the event, I would finish the laps in approximately 15 minutes and felt great. I was gauging my training and felt that I was on pace for what my training would indicate.
Race Day Roulette
As the race went on, I realized that it would have been better had I gone slower and come in with only 2-3 minutes remaining because that was still plenty of time to get get hydration and nutrition.
Around the 28 miles mark, I knew that I would not go much further than the 50k mark. My fitness indicated that this would be the end but being competitive, I did not want to be the first person out.
After I finish the lap that pushed me past the 50k mark, I heard Taps being played. Somebody else had dropped and all I had to do was start the next lap and I wouldn’t be last. When we lined up to start the next lap, I went out and ran about 20 feet then stopped and walked back toward the tent.
My day was over but I was satisfied with my fitness and competitiveness if not the execution. I wanted to walk with Lori for her last few laps as she completed her 2nd 50k in two days but I was also thinking about my recovery and getting prepared for the upcoming training schedule:
Post-Race Recovery Strategies
After the race was over the goal was to sleep, eat and drink plenty of water. I managed to do that, but we were still in Phoenix and not sleeping in my own bed or eating homemade meals made this a bit more difficult.
Sleeping in a hotel is not sleeping at home and it impacted me. My sleep wasn’t always the best in the few days after plus the stress of running a business and having to fly home was hanging over my head.
If this were my A race, then I would not have had the stress because there wouldn’t be the training blocks that were still to come. The stress of being away from home plus having to travel to get home led to me getting sick which turns post-race recovery on it’s head.
Focusing on getting extra sleep to get well would be great, if I didn’t have a nagging cough that lingered for an entire week. Waking me up in the middle of the night along with not letting me get to sleep right away.
The flight from Phoenix had a scheduled take-off time of 6am which meant a 3am wake-up to get the rental car to the drop-off and to the gate for boarding by 5:20am. That early alarm did nothing to help me feel better and the lingering effects have lasted another 3 days.
Post-Race recovery was not going well.
Balancing Rest and Training
We got home on Thursday, January 4th with my first scheduled run for January 6th. I intended on heading to the trails for a 1.5 hour run. This would get me back into the groove of training and preparing me for the upcoming week.
My body had other ideas, as did the weather. On Friday, January 3rd I was awoken by the rain hitting the window sill and the scratch in the back of my throat. I would be awake for sometime figuring out if running in the rain with an achy body would be a smart idea.
Immediately, I told myself no but the competitor in me said it would alright. Wait until the morning to make a decision. I finally fell back asleep but when I woke up at 6:30am, my body had other ideas besides running.
I cancelled my plans and went back to sleep for an hour. When I did wake up, I could still feel aches in my legs. They weren’t tired from running but from my illness. This was not going to be a time that I was going to push through. There are 14 weeks until race day and skipping one workout after a 50k effort was not going to thwart my training. Rest was going to win.
Dealing with Training Interruptions
I would be lying if I said that it was easy to skip that first run. It was not and I kept playing mental games with myself. I would look outside and see the sun and negotiate a long walk or maybe a treadmill run. Whenever that idea would pop up, I would cough or my legs would throb. It was as if my body knew what my mind was thinking and was telling it to shut up.
The Lake Sonoma 50 is an important race to me. I had a miserable race a few years ago and I am aiming for redemption at the event. The plan is to be in better climbing shape. This will help me overcome the relentless climbs that did me in back in 2021.
Training Chronicles: Battling Setbacks and Finding Mental Strength
In addition to that, my goal is sub-11 hours. This is very lofty but it also puts me in the Top 5 for men Age 50+. I wasn’t considering that before but now that I know it, I am going to go all out. Getting that sub-11 finish has become more important.
This adds stress to an already stressful training cycle. Recovery from the Across The Years event and a major goal are sitting in front of me. It is imperative that I work on being mentally strong. If I push the recovery to the side, I can risk injury which would thwart my efforts at training.
This balance is tricky today and will only get trickier as we get closer to race day. Rest and recovery are imperative to success. Today, I choose that over pushing my body. I do not want to risk injury but also don’t want my passion turn to burnout. Burnout can immediately lead to not only having training interrupted but beyond. Burnout can lead to not racing at all
Enjoying The Journey
As I make my way toward Lake Sonoma 50, you can follow my training through the Enjoying The Journey series. I will take you through my training on the way to the start and finish line of my A race.
There will be no holding back as training is not always unicorns and rainbows. Right now, the illness and recovery are doing wonders on my mind. This is a moment where my friend Raz would say, Running Sucks.
The upcoming weeks will have plenty of obstacles and challenges. Training may be interrupted in these weeks.In order to meet them head on, I have to take 1 or 2 days to step back. The goal is to get healthy otherwise, the finish line will never be reached.