Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Western States Training Update: Weeks 1-6

January was a watershed month. Between running and cross training, I took only three days rest. Under Mauka Running's guidance, I am base-building; consistent, steady efforts. We went so far as to dial back my races to a training effort, which I'm getting better at doing. The lack of rest has woken up some niggles, last year's groin pull is vying for attention once again. The tweaking of my training nutrition continues to pay off, with Master Amino Acid Pattern (MAP) leading the way. I have re-evaluated my goals for the next few months, and my Western States strategy is coming into focus.

Strava's training log view of 2014 WS training weeks 1-6

I began 2014 with a few solid weeks of 5-6 days of running with a day of cross training thrown in on the rest days. My strengths and weaknesses became obvious. My muscular endurance and downhill technique are solid. My climbing skills need work, and my hip and core need strengthening. Daily leg lifts and push ups, plus stationary lunges 3 times a week are helping to address some issues. Two hill repeat sessions per week and back to back hilly trail runs on the weekends should have me in race shape for the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in April, my last tune-up race before States. The increased training load is beginning to pay off, as my body fat % has dropped a full point since New Year's.

While my muscles are responding well, my joints are speaking up. My psoas, hamstring and upper IT band compensate for the groin injury (right side) on the longer runs. The discomfort is not enough to alter my gait, and I have been comfortable enough without needing Ibuprofen. The pain is reminiscent of the soreness I get when I ramp up volume. That satisfied ache that lets me know I am working hard. Except that it is in my joint, not my muscles. Continued foam rolling, cross training and strengthening of my core and hip girdle should keep the pain at bay. My calves are getting tight, and my lower back requires more stretching. 

 Dialing back my effort in my training races is helping. The Pacifica Foothills Trail Half Marathon was a good, hard effort. I gained a lot of confidence in my downhill skills that morning, and Tailwind continued to be a great race fuel for me. Mauka Running had me try a new race day fueling strategy before the American Canyon 25k: Boost with Carbo-Pro (sugar bomb). The race itself was an exercise in running vulnerable. My hip was sore going in, and the slick conditions had me running on eggshells. On the descents, I had to make a conscious effort to relax my feet, fighting the urge to claw with my toes. After three miles, I had over-worked muscles in my calves I did not know existed.

After American Canyon, I met with my coaches to re-evaluate my goals for the next few months. I was going for a new 50k PR at Way Too Cool 50k in March. We agreed that scaling back the effort that Saturday would put me in better shape to follow race day with a nice long recovery run. Staying healthy is key at this point, and chasing PR's will not do me any good come June. My training plan morphed into what it is currently: back to back long runs on the weekends, and mid-week strength work in the gym focused on climbing and protecting the groin.

I am glad I hired Mauka Running. Under their guidance, I feel I can continue to train and rehab my groin at the same time. Thoughtful training and continued support from my chiropractor should leave me well prepared. Finishing Western States is such a large goal, that I have abandoned all other expectations for the year. If I find myself in sub-24 hour shape, so be it. The prize is the finish line at Placer High School, nothing less. Thoughts about running 100 miles consume my long runs. The next four months look to be the most rewarding of my short running career.

So there you have it, my journey to Auburn has begun. I struggle with doubt when my groin speaks up. I wonder if I could make it 100 miles with such a niggle on the start line. Then I remind myself that the process is young, and there is plenty of time to prepare. MAP has my muscles feeling great. I'll be resuming regular consumption of Udo's Oil to mitigate the joint pain. I will continue to address these thoughts in the next installment of my Western States preparations. Now I look forward to the beautiful Way Too Cool 50k, the "most sought after" 50k in the country!

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