Then I decided to get back into "serious" training in Fall 2010. It still wasn't with the goal of becoming a fast runner. In November 2010 I wrote - "I want to approach this winter with the goal of being in ridicliously good condition for the start of the spring 2011 mountaineering season." Funny how the goals and priorities change. I started running 100+ miles per week and did that for over 6 straight months before finally "just" running a 90 mile week the following May. During that same time period, Andrea and I were backcountry skiing for hours upon hours every weekend. In the past, this is the amount of training that would have had me injured and mentally burnt out after a month. But I was getting stronger and stronger the whole time.
The amount of activity we were doing was staggering. But you know what else I found out was staggering? - the body's ability to adapt to the demands placed upon it. I started to realize that my capacity for physical activity was much higher than I could have imagined. Even now, I'm still nowhere close to the limit of what I can handle. My theory is that when your body is always expecting you to throw something else at it... it starts to anticipate that, and figures out how to recover quicker. Highly scientific, I know. But once you start logging consistent miles and you are staying healthy, its actually easy to stay in that groove. It becomes automatic.
I would NOT recommend making a jump like I did. You can't build up mileage dramatically over a short time period because your tendons and bones don't adapt as quickly as your muscles and cardiovascular system do. Increasing your weekly mileage by 5-10 miles each training cycle is the smart approach and reduces your likelihood of injuries. That's what you should do if you want to have a reasonable chance of taking advantage of an increased training load.
I got away with what I did for two reasons:
1) I was lucky with injuries.
2) I was preparing myself for the marathon training I currently do, years before I even realized it. I lived in Vail, Colorado (elevation 8,000 feet) for those two "lost" years, from 2008-2010. I wasn't running seriously during that time period... I'd go out for long runs sometimes, but never did a workout, never thought about racing. I thought I was done racing. I didn't keep a log, but probably averaged 30-40 miles per week during those years. Sometimes I wouldn't run for a week. One time I didn't run for about three weeks (jacked up my ribs in a skiing accident!). Sometimes I'd run doubles. I basically just did whatever I felt like doing. I hiked a lot, and I skied a lot, I played recreational soccer and basketball. During the winter, before work, I'd hike up Vail Mountain in the dark (and freezing cold!), then ski back down as the sun rose.
|This was my reward for 4am hikes in Vail before work. And I got to ski back down :-)|
|Capitol Peak (August 2009). Climbing mountains was a huge part of my life.|
I think the perfect preparation of the future would include months of low-intensity concentric exercise firstly to protect the joints while getting the hours into the aerobic and cardiovascular systems, followed by months of long hikes with heavy packs and boots over very hilly courses to condition all the joint, muscle and tendon systems, as well as being at the ideal pace and power output to get the Type I slow twitch mitochondria maxing out, in order to provide the metabolic furnace that will later on strip fatty acids, glucose and whatever down for packaging and delivery to the faster muscle fibre types required for fast sustained running at the top levels.
That pretty much sounds like exactly what I was doing for two years, doesn't it? I was spending lots of time moving through the mountains (at high-altitude), and I went from being injury-prone to ridiculously injury resistant.
In hindsight, Andrea and I have talked about this, and we agree that is how I did it - how I got my body ready to handle huge amounts of running. There was no plan, it happened by accident and was a perfect storm of sorts. So my recommendation is to either move to Central Colorado, embrace the lack of oxygen, breathe in the cold, cold air, and simply be an outdoor athlete for a couple years... but if that isn't in the cards for you, build up slowly... a little at a time... add in cross-training, add in doubles. It will pay off.