|The hubz and me at our fave post-hike joint, Blue Mountain Brewery|
At the risk of sounding like a total self-aggrandizing idiot, let's just say that 2011 was my best year as an ultrarunner, as far as race results go. Not bad for an old lady. I set three personal best (PR) times at three distances: the 50K, 50 mile, and 100K++. I was really stoked about doing this because I was coaching myself and weaving together everything I have learned in ten years of running ultras. This gives me a lot of confidence as I stare down my 2012 race and adventure plans.
OK, enough about me. Let's talk about...me. Here are a few lessons from 2011 that I want to carry into 2012's big challenges, and that might also prove helpful to others who are seeking their own new adventures:
1. Less mileage is More (at least for me). I am 49 years old and this year proved to me that I could run fast and go long with an average of 55-60 miles per week. Granted, I am working on ten years of an ultra base, but it is nice to know that I don't have to crank out huge miles to run faster.
2. Hill repeats are the bread and butter. I ran a lot of 1:00-4:00 hill repeats on a runnable slope at least once every two weeks. These workouts gave me a ton of confidence and strength without spending a lot of time in the weight room.
3. The weight room is my friend. That said, I did go to the weight room at least twice a week for about 25 minutes. There I did classic core and balancing workouts with the Bosu ball, Swiss ball, kettlebells and planks. I know a lot of friends swear by Crossfit, Pilates, Yoga...but this works for me, and is all I really have time for.
4. Swimming and pool running keep me sane and healthy. I am not a running streaker, nor can I ever envision myself running more than 4 days in a row. I would get terribly bored and burnt out. To break things up, I spend my 25 minutes in the weight room, then I go to the pool (in the same building, very convenient), swim about 1,000 yards easy, then pool run with a flotation belt. I don't do this for long (about 15 minutes is all I can handle) but I can solve many of my problems of the day by running up and down the lap lanes in the pool. Plus, it's very relaxing and stretches out my hips.
5. I don't need a track to run faster. For years I have been doing speed work on the UVA track. This year the track has been closed for a multi-million dollar upgrade, so instead I relied on tempo runs on hilly gravel roads, fartleks such as 1:00 hard, 1:00 easy x 10, and the aforementioned hill repeats on trails and dirt roads.
6. Inov-8 shoes make me run faster. Call it a coincidence, but ever since I started running in my inov-8 Roclite 268s, my turnover has been quicker and I have been running faster times. I really think they help me run more efficiently with a mid-foot strike. Plus they are comfortable as heck.
7. Running with a group a friends also makes me faster---and it is way fun. In 2011 the Charlottesville Area Trail Runners (CATs) became an organized, inclusive group that trained together and supported one another at races by crewing and pacing. One of my key workouts for Hellgate was a "Skinny B" workout with the fastest guys in the club. We ran in the dark for 1.5 hours at my tempo pace on rooty, muddy trails and then did a bunch of tough 2:00 hill repeats. It kicked my butt but delivered two weeks later with a Hellgate PR. Thanks, boys.
|CATs at Mountain Masochist 50|
9. Less racing is more--for me. My 2011 racing season was split into two: a spring season with the three LUS 50Ks, each a month apart; and a fall season starting with the SNP run over Labor Day (not a race, but a hugely beneficial training weekend), and including Mountain Masochist in November and Hellgate in December. I did not race from the end of April until the beginning of November, but instead rested a ton, ran for fun, trained with friends, and spent time with my family. Racing from November through March seems to suit me best, and will be my routine for the next few years.
10. Remember always: Being able to run is a privilege. This is the greatest lesson. Thank you, David Horton, for reminding us all at the start of the Grindstone 100 this year, and every time we see you ride your mountain bike. Thank you, my wonderful family, for accepting my passion and supporting it. Thank you, dear friends, for your companionship on the trail and roads. Thank you for reminding me to never take running for granted.
|The epitome of privilege: on the WS100 course above Lake Tahoe with good friends, 2006|
Happy New Year!