Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Western States Endurance Run Training with Jared "The Youngster" Hazen

So your name got pulled in the Western States lottery. Congrats! In six months you'll get to toe the line at one of the most iconic footraces in the world. You'll start in Squaw Valley, encounter California's beautiful Sierra Nevada high country, rugged canyons, and hopefully land yourself in Auburn. But, before you encounter all that you'll need to get to the start line healthy and fit.

Running 100 miles is hard. Training for a hundred mile race is even harder! Maybe you have hired a coach to help you prepare. If you haven't, I'm going to give you some training advice that has helped me have successful runs from Squaw Valley to Auburn.

I've run Western States twice, in 2014 I finished 14th in 17 hours 29 minutes, in 2015 I was 3rd in 15 hours 37 minutes. I wouldn't contribute either of those finishes to luck. In 2014 I trained hard and learned a few important things on my first go around. The next year I trained harder and was able to put my course knowledge to work. You can see by the result above that hard work combined with some knowledge is very beneficial. The following advice is what has worked for me. You may not follow it exactly, but I hope you can find some of it helpful. So let's get to it!

The Youngster placing 3rd at the 2015 Western States 100                photo: Bryon Powell/iRunFar.com 

Before we start talking about training, you need to first make sure you are well rested and healthy. If you recently ran a big race, be sure to take a couple weeks of rest to get your energy levels topped off, you're going to need it. If you're injured, now's the time to do rehab and get healthy, not the time to be putting in miles. There's plenty of time yet, but if you nurse an injury along from now until May, you will be sorry.

If you are ready to start training, the next 6-8 weeks are a great time to just get out and put in some miles. Maybe train for a distance you don't run often, say a 5k to half marathon. You don't need to break the PR you set when you were in college. For now, I would recommend you limit your hard workouts to 1 a week. Also, getting out on your favorite trails is a great way to get your body ready for the training that is to come. If you’re going this route, don't fall into the trap of every run being an easy run. Add some climbing in there and don't be afraid to push it when you're feeling good. This is also a good time to strengthen your hips, and gluten, core (just ask the Prez). All of that will be important when you get into the heavy training. The goal here is to prepare you body for the hard training to come, but don't kill yourself now, you'll get to do that later! Start thinking of a tune up race you want to run in late March or early April. 50 miles to 100k is the perfect distance. Lake Sonoma is a great tune up if you don't mind the travel. Also, registering early will help keep you motivated through the winter months.

Jared sharing some trail time (and practicing his Japanese) with new friend, Koji Morimoto of Japan       photo: Hayley Hagen
February is a good time to start picking up the pace a bit. I would recommend running about 80% of the volume you normally do in the final month leading up to a big race. Up your workouts to 2 a week and add in a long run every 2 to 3 weeks. I've found that doing fewer long runs, but more volume on my other days is a good way to keep my legs under me while making sure they're ready to go the distance. Try increasing your warm ups before these workouts. You'll get in a few more miles and put a little fatigue in your legs without ruining your workout. It's important to remember that your body can only handle so many big, long efforts. Everyone is different, but I would err on the side of caution when it comes to the frequency you do long runs. My longest run before Lake Sonoma 50 was a 4 hr run and the race took me 6 hrs 30 min. Going into the race I felt fresh and in good shape. I wasn't in the best shape I had ever been, but I didn't need to be. Western States was my goal race and it was still two months away.

Some of my favorite types of workouts before a tune up race are shorter intervals with short rest, and tempo runs. My favorite example would be Rob Krar's Man Maker Workout (8x3 minutes with 1:30 jog rest in between on a 6-8% dirt road). Others would be 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy, or 30-40 minute tempo runs. These can be done on a sustained uphill, flat or rolling surface. Try doing some of your workouts on the terrain you'll encounter during your tune up race, it's important to be comfortable running fast on that terrain. Adding one downhill workout every two weeks is also a good idea. Best start getting those quads ready for Western States sooner rather than later! Examples would be 10-20 minutes of hard running on a non-technical downhill or 3-4 x 5 minute intervals on the same surface.

At this point in your training you should be feeling fit, but not fatigued. A one week taper for your tune up race and a two week recovery afterwards will be allow you to have a good race without sacrificing any fitness and be adequately recovered for your final block of training.

The Youngster, running like a Rabbit
photo: Tim Bergsten/PikesPeakSports.us
Your final block of training should be your hardest. You should have about 6-8 weeks to put in your final training followed by about a two week taper. You'll want to pick up your training where you left off before tapering for your tune up race. From here you'll want to gradually build to your max volume for the last two weeks of training. It's important to remember that you still have plenty of time. Be cautious of ramping up your training too quick and getting burned out in the middle of June. I like to transition to longer workouts with longer intervals and more rest. Examples would be 3-4 x 15 minutes with 5 minutes rest or 4-6 x 10 minutes with 5 minutes rest running hard uphill or on a flat surface. Don't worry so much about pace, just focus on working hard and make it hurt. 

I like to do a hard workout every other day, but the rest you take in between workouts is up to you. I still like to include tempo runs in my training but I make them a little bit longer. I usually would shoot for about 45 minutes of work in the beginning of the training block and an hour of work towards the end on my workout days. I also recommend doing a long warm up before these workouts. Including downhill workouts into the cycle is also important. I make every third workout a downhill day, usually looking for 30-45 minutes of hard downhill running. I like to do long runs every two weeks and include back-to-back long runs, such as 6 hours on Saturday and 4 hours on Sunday. I did that combo about 3 weeks out from Western States for my last long runs. 

Right about the middle of this training block is when you will probably begin to feel pretty tired. It's called “the grind”. Everyone experiences it. Stay tough and put in the work. You're just a few weeks away from a well-deserved taper. Hopefully, by now, you know what kind of taper works best for you. I like to start mine two weeks out, by cutting back my mileage to about 70% of max volume. One week out I cut it back to 40% of max. I like to continue doing workouts until about 1 week before the race. During these workouts I try to put in about 20-30 minutes of work while keeping the intensity high. I prefer to go into a race 90% rested rather than feeling like I'm sluggish and have lost fitness. I also like to take the day before the race off.

As you begin your taper it’s a good time to start thinking about how you want to run the race. I'll post another blog with helpful tips on how to race The Western States Endurance Run along with some course insight. Until then good luck and happy trails! 

Jared "The Youngster" Hazen

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