How I Structure My Training

(on snowy Baden-Powell with Billy on Saturday)

April is almost over and it went by in a flash. Mostly in a flash of good running, but a flash nonetheless.

Tomorrow marks 12 weeks until Badwater, and thankfully this is yet another post where I talk about how happy I am with the current state of my training. Things have been great, I’ve been mostly nailing my long trail and road runs and getting good training sessions in during the week. I did have a pretty serious bonk the other week during one of my mid-week long runs, but I think I know why that happened (too many hard workouts in the prior days) and anyway, a bonk is a good thing every once in a while, right?

My weekend long runs have been going very well – usually hitting the trails for 4-6+ hours on Saturday with friends and then getting up Sunday and banging out 20+ miles on the road. In recent weeks, on Saturday we’ve run Mt. Wilson, Mt. Lowe and Idlehour and the first 26 miles of AC100 (including Mt. Baden Powell). That was yesterday – As a pre-birthday run for Billy, he and I ran on the AC course from Wrightwood to Islip Saddle, 26 miles with about 7,000 feet of gain, including the big climb up the Acorn Trail and then up the Baden-Powell switchbacks. The extra fun thing about that run was that Friday night it dumped snow on the course. Pretty much everything above 7,200 feet had at least a couple inches (and much more than that up higher) and nearly the entire run is above 7,200 feet.

(on the PCT headed towards Baden-Powell in the background; photo Billy)

Thankfully, the snow had stopped sometime a couple hours before we started. The temps were chilly (30s and maybe low 40s) and it was pretty windy at times but in general the sun was shining and I never got too cold. There were a few sections of the run where we were the first people through the fresh snow. It was stunningly beautiful but made for some hard sledding at times, especially during the climbs.

Training Plan

If you’re on Strava, you can follow all my running there, but here’s what I’m doing:

My rough plan for April, May and June is to run three building weeks in row (with each week 5-10 miles longer than the previous week) and then one back-off week where I decrease my overall weekly mileage by 15-25% from the longest week and then do another three week build period. Each successive build period will start with longer week than the prior build period started with. This is the idea, but I don’t follow a strict plan and always allow “life” to dictate training to some degree. If a build week coincides with something big going on personally or at work, I’ll adjust that week and maybe make it up somewhere down the line. Or maybe I won’t. But overall, I’m steadily and reasonably carefully increasing mileage and taking rest weeks every four-ish weeks. There’s nothing revolutionary about this structure and I think a lot of people follow something similar. It’s worked for me in the past so I’m giving it a go this time as well.

As an example, today I finished the second week of a three week build. Last week, I ran about 80 miles, this week I was planning to run between 85-90 (ended up a little over at 91.5) and next week, I’ll hopefully run somewhere between 90-95. Then, the week after that, I’ll shoot for 70 or 75 miles. For the next build, I’ll hopefully start with about 85 miles and work from there. If things go as planned, I’ll get in two more full building cycles (and maybe another big week or two) before I start to taper. For Brazil, I maxed out at about 108 miles. I’d like to have a couple weeks right around (or just above) that number for Badwater as well.

Each of my training weeks has been pretty consistently structured as well. It goes something like this:

  • Monday: No running. I usually go to the gym and do some easy cardio and strength and core work
  • Tuesday AM: BOC trail run at Temescal. For now, this run is 8-9 miles and I usually push pretty hard during the climb up. 
  • Tuesday PM: Evening intervals at Pan Pacific Park. It’s about a three-quarter mile loop, with some mild little rollers. I do a 2 mile warm-up running there and then do a combination of 800s and 1200s at 6:30-6:40 pace with an easy 400 in between. I’ll admit that I don’t really love this run, but I know that working on turnover and a little anaerobic running will pay off huge during my races. And it’s only an hour once per week. Usually this is an 8.5 mile run, giving me at least 16.5 on the day. 
  • Wednesday:  Easy 6-7 miles on the road. For a few weeks, I was doing some decently intense hill repeats on Wednesdays, but my Thursday long runs started to suffer (including my bonk the other week), so I decided to keep Wednesday easier. I get in plenty of hills on Tuesday, Thursday and during the weekend. I prefer to do this run around lunch, but it’s smarter and less stressful for me to get this run done in the morning before work.
  • Thursday AM: Coyote trail run. Usually at least 9, recently I’ve been doing more like 13 and will probably increase this to 15-17 when I’m working towards a really big week.
  • Friday AM: Easy peasy 5-6 miles on the road. 
  • Saturday AM: Long trail run with a lot of climbing. This run should always be at least 20 miles. This weekend, Billy and I did 26. Some Saturdays will be 30-35. I shoot for 5,000+ feet of climbing. This is a classic long, easy run.
  • Sunday AM: Long road run with moderate climbing. I’ve been doing 18-20 miles. This week I ran 22. I’ll hopefully get this up to around 30. I’ve been getting 2,000+ feet of climbing during this run. I’m not killing myself to run this fast, but I want to keep leg turnover up and run some faster miles.
That’s seven runs in seven days. I’m sure there will be weeks where I run on Mondays and weeks where I get in extra doubles. But I doubt I’ll ever run more than 9 times in a week. I’ve found that I need some rest days! 
I also try to mix in a day or two of swimming and maybe another strength training sessions here and there. And I usually get in the sauna at least twice a week. Cycling has gone by the wayside for now. 

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