Oh man, I've been slacking again. Fortunately only as it pertains to blogging and not in the the running department. Things are moving right along as far as that's concerned. Rather than a day by day account of what I did the last few weeks, I'll just summarize.
As I think I've mentioned before, I've got my ultra training plan laid out in four week blocks, with the first two weeks of each block being high mileage (80+), the third week being moderate mileage (70-80) and the fourth being a cutback week (50-55). The latest block worked out almost perfectly in that regard with two weeks of 84-85 miles, a week in the mid-70s and then last week with 52. I've read numerous times that the rest days are really where you improve as a runner because it gives your body an opportunity to repair the damage you've inflicted upon it during training. I only take one rest day per four week block (the Monday of the cutback week), but I really did notice a difference during the cutback week itself. My legs felt fresh and I was running faster at an easy effort level than I normally do.
I felt so good, I decided to run a 4 mile road race the Saturday of that week, the Fools 4 Mile race put on by the Black Hills Runners Club. This is somewhat remarkable because I've recently (in the past couple of years) developed an aversion to short road races. As I began to delve deeper and deeper into the world of trail running and ultras (deeper and deeper into The Abyss, some might say), running a hard 5K or 10K on pavement just seemed less and less appealing. For one, it hurts. And I'm not really referring to the pounding of the pavement. I still do the majority of my training on pavement because it's just not logistically possible for me to get to a trail for every run, or even most runs. I'm referring to the physical pain of pushing that hard. Yes, there is physical pain involved with running for 30 or 50 or 100 miles, but it's different. At least after you've run an ultra, you have 30+ miles to show for it. After going through all that pain in a 5K, you've only got 3.1 miles to show for it. The cost/benefit value just isn't there for me anymore. But, since my legs were feeling good and I only had a 4 or 5 mile run planned for that day anyhow, I decided to run the Fools 4 Mile to see how the legs would respond. Turns out, they responded fairly well. I averaged 6:25 pace, faster than I've raced in awhile (although, like I said, I don't have many shorter races to compare to) and finished 3rd overall in a fairly small field (maybe 40-50 runners). For my effort, I got a $10 gift certificate to the local running shop. So, overall, a worthwhile experience (although I still don't have much desire to run another short road race anytime soon).
Despite hitting my weekly mileage targets, the one thing that's been missing thus far is some overly long long runs. Last year while using the same general plan while training for the Lean Horse 100, my longest long run was 40 miles. I don't plan on going that far this year since I'm only training for a 50 miler (two of em, actually), but I was hoping to get in a couple of 30 mile runs. Up until last week, I had only gone 25 miles once with a few 20 milers thrown in. So, last week I made it a goal to get in a 30 miler during the weekend. I was hoping to be able to do that on some trails, but the logistics of that just didn't work out due to kids' soccer games and the weather, so I ended up running 30 on mostly dirt roads. As usual, I started out with a run/walk ration of 10 minutes to 2 minutes and maintained that for the first 25 miles. At that point, I was feeling really, really good, so I just said to hell with it and ran the final 5 and was still feeling great when I got done. Best 30 mile run ever. Now I just need to get one of those done on some trails with significant elevation changes and I'll be set. I've been getting in a decent number of shorter (4-6 mile) trail runs and Ryan and I ran 20 on the Centennial a few weeks ago, but I really need to get something longer to prepare my body for being on the trail for several hours. Lucky for me, I'm planning on doing just that with Ryan and Nathan this weekend. We're hitting the first 30 miles of the Black Hills 100. After that it'll be time to taper a bit for Collegiate Peaks.