As a coach I often preach about training and racing consistency. In our Sage Running Secret ebook Sandi and I qualify that as having “consistent variation.” That is the goal is to train well and race routinely well, but with an upward trajectory for adaptation and self improvement (or at least a better running experience and overall health). Much like the variety and spice one needs in a consistently healthy diet, it is all about moderation (but patterns and habits of moderation)…however oxymoronic that may sound.
This challenge is where I find “flow” in running right now. The continual process of testing and retesting body and mind and searching for improvement is where I get my kicks. The new goals, pain and fatigue are constants.
Last year I ran 4 road marathons in a 10-month span and ran them all in the 2:19-2:20 range. I was consistent…but consistently too slow for my goal of running under the US Olympic Trials Marathon standard (which I need up missing by 12 seconds). I consider that both a success and a failure. It was a failure because my times didn’t improve and I didn’t meet my ultimate goal, but it was a success because I ran the best marathon performance of my life (16th place at Boston) – and I sandwiched those road marathons around a strong Speedgoat 50km and mountain training for UTMB . Any Surface, Any Distance!
This past weekend I finished 3rd place for the 3rd time at the Transvulcania Ultra Marathon. I executed a race strategy of taking the lead early on the climbs and truly believed that it was best race strategy to try to win the race and run a fast time.
[note: “Time-trialing” an ultra-trail race isn’t always one’s best strategy for necessarily placing well, but it always is for running the best possible time if it is paced/executed well! It isn’t always my best strategy or usual strategy though]
I won’t write about all the blow-by-blow race details on here as that is what the video below (my “VLOG”) recap will go into….along with the pictures and captions:
Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qInECi33XeE
While I was honored to make the podium again at this amazing race, I also will admit that I am a bit disappointed to not run a super fast time and to not improve my place by a single position!
Part of this has to do with a change in the race course which added a bit of distance and climbing (so I guess I can throw the time comparison out the window this year!).
Another part of this has to do with the outstanding and dominating performances that race champion and course record holder Luis Alberto Hernando (who I will point out WON for the 3rd Time…now that is consistent!!) churned out as well as a top performance from French runner Nicolas Martin for 2nd place. They absolutely crushed me on the descent and climbed very well too!
However, being data minded I can point out the following “improvements”: According to Strava I split exactly the same 2:23 split heading into the 15-mile aid station at El Pilar. However, for the next 1 hour uphill climb segment I split 3-minutes faster than I ever have! Comparing myself to my competitors, I also was able to reach the top of the climb on the course (50km mark at over 12,000’ of climbing) in first place whereas in the past Luis and Kilian Jornet had actually passed me before this summit. So I was climbing slightly better and leading the race for longer!
With further Strava.com data analysis I also saw that the long 12-mile and 8,000’ drop on the big descent was by far my slowest effort by over 3-minutes and my quads were totally blown out the whole way. I honestly though I would start walking the downhill! Champion Luis Hernando put 10-minutes on me during this descent alone.
The only silver lining was that near the final 700’ vertical drop to the port of Tazacorte I got super motivated to finish the downhill and was actually able to recklessly run the switchbacks enough to get a Strava CR:
I figured out I’m more “lame” on smooth/runnable downhill roads, but can hold my own on technical downhill trails where time gains and losses are more marginal.
So what does this all mean?! It means I have a lot of work to do before Western States! I need a new training stimulus and I need to work on my downhill. The challenge of trying to complete 100 miles alone in the heat will be plenty enough of a new race stimulus and one I can look forward too.
Right now the focus is on staying healthy, recovering quickly, and building up my mileage and long runs for Western States. It will be a journey and it will be unqiue experience. I’m going to try to embrace it!
Thank you for all your support on here, on YouTube, and on our “Sage Running” Coaching Website (check out our Training Plans there)! I am really fortunate and the generosity and positive energy of the running community has really all made this possible. THANK YOU!! Also, a big thanks to Sandi (my coach/crew/adventure partner), my family, and my sponsors for all their support. Hope your running is going well and see you on the trails!
Shameless Sponsor Plugs/ Gear Used:
HOKA One One: Speedgoats
Flora Health: Goji Berries, Barabos fruit snacks, beet crystals and manuka honey (overall nutrition)
Nathan: Zelos hydration pack with a LightSpeed Pak belt
Compressport: R2 Calf Sleeves
Drymax: The “Sage Runner” Socks
Julbo: Stony shades
Vfuel: Took a gel about once every 20-30min on average during the race.
Strava: for all training logs and race data (using a Suunto Ambit Peak III Sport)
TrailButter: For nut-butter snacks and recovery while training hard!
UgoBars: Excellent carbs, fiber and protein sources to fuel training and recovery!
Avery Brewing: yes, I brought two Maharajah (double IPAs) all the way to Spain to drink/celebrate with!