Here is my training log from beginning of June through race day. Typical week is about 15 to 30 miles of running. Some weeks included some mountain biking of 15 miles or so.
2019 Goal: Small Town Montana Race Tour
For the summer of 2019, I was focused on doing lots of races all over the state of Montana. They were either races I had never had the chance to do before or hadn’t done in several decades. During June and July, I raced somewhere in the state of Montana nearly every weekend. I did 3 5Ks 4 10Ks and 2 Half Marathons.
Racing oneself into shape is usually not such a good idea.
Peak performance was not so much a goal as just seeing and experiencing different parts of the state. From Libby to For Peck to Hot Springs to Ennis to Fort Benton to Philipsburg to Geraldine I was blessed to see so much of the state. And during a pastoral summer widely regarded as having the best weather conditions in decades.
The Ridge Run was was another chance to run in a magnificent part of the state; capping off one of the most memorable summers I have had in Montana since a was a teenager the mid 1970’s!
Health Issues Limit Training
My training lacks the mileage necessary to fully develop one’s running potential. It is not what I would recommend to anyone preparing for the Ridge Run. Unfortunately, I can no longer train and run as much as I would like or as much as needed for best performance. There are two health issues that now prevent me from higher mileage training. The first is a heart condition and the second is chronic problems with my feet.
From numerous broken ribs and blows to the chest over the years, my chest cavity is compromised. Pressing on or compressing my chest triggers a heart electrical signal malfunction that has caused me cardiac arrest or ventricular fibrillation. Both potential fatal situations. Even just the simple act of bending over to tie a shoe if done abruptly and unconsciously can lead to disaster for me. I can no longer sleep on my left side. A possible label for this condition is Postural or Positional Cardiomyopathy. Standard of care is implanting a pace maker/defibrillator. Instead, I have self treated my condition by taking some common nutrients, avoiding situations that compress my chest and backing off on the long duration training if my resting heart rate drops below 50 beats per minute. A slow resting heart rate indicates the heart is enlarging. An enlarged heart does not have to beat as fast to pump the same amount of blood. Yes, it is also a popular indicator of improved fitness.
The heart adapts quickly to increased training lode. It also adapts (de-adapts) quickly when decreasing training. The heart adapts to logging high mileage at or below the aerobic threshold by enlarging with chamber wall thickening. Similar to a body builder maximizing muscle growth (hypertrophy) by high volume (high rep, low weight) weight training. Already squeezed in my busted up chest, when my heart enlarges from training, my heart condition worsens. Unlike most runners, I do not want to enlarge my heart.
Fortunately for me:
The size or fitness of the heart is rarely the limiting factor in endurance activities.
Limits to Performance
Glycogen depletion and muscle tissue damage in the legs is what limits performance in long duration (longer than one hour) endurance running events.
So instead of focusing my training on improving aerobic fitness, I focus on improving durability by doing downhill running and improving leg muscle fitness by doing tailored high quality short duration training sessions. So for the sake of my heart, I avoid long training sessions.
Smart Fueling to Maximize Endurance
Proper fueling with not just carbohydrates but essential amino acids and oils is critical in helping the body sustain long duration efforts without tissue damage and flagging energy levels.
My feet have been a weak-point for me my entire life. It is probably from growing up wearing cowboy and work boots instead of running around barefoot as a child. And then spending lots of time with my feet bound up in Alpine ski boots. From experience, I know spending much more than a couple hours on my feet at stretch leads to foot problems. So for the sake of my feet, I avoid long training sessions.
Ridge Run Training
For 2019, my key Ridge Run training sessions were 3 separate runs in the Bridgers. First was going up Sacajawea and repeating the last section from the pass to the summit. The other two Bridger sessions were going up Baldy. Each of these workouts left my quads quite sore for days afterward. A bit troubling and indicative of under training. The last Baldy training day was 12 days before the race. Other workouts were described here. It is interesting to look back and think that in years past, I have done 3 runs in the Bridgers each week for many weeks in a row, not just 3 for the whole summer!
Compared to previous years, my training was much less focused on training on the course. The biggest compromise to race performance this year was the downhill running sections. My splits between Sacajawea and Ross Pass and the Split from Baldy to the Finish were each about 10 minutes slower than recent past performances. Some slowing is probably from having a permanently damaged left quadriceps. Lack of confidence on the technical terrain is another reason for slowing on these normally fast downhill sections. That confidence is only built from experience training on that terrain. With age, I also get more cautious. Over the years, I have taken numerous falls while doing the Ridge Run or while training on the course. The memories of these falls and the resulting injuries, some serious and permanent, are deep and certainly contribute to a more cautious slower pace on the downhill rocky sections. Remember:
Uphill speed is governed by fitness, downhill speed is governed by fearlessness (or foolishness).
I did incur a couple foot injuries over the summer. First was from fast downhill running on a treadmill. A nerve in my foot got irritated. Very painful. Similar to a neuroma. Backing off running and focusing on uphill power hiking saw this issue improve in about a week. The second was an ankle injury from a yoga session. This injury is still bugging me.