Stuff like this is not really suppose to happen. After running for 37 years and at my age , you just aren't suppose to improve like I have the past year and a half. Of course I can't even imagine coming close to my prs at the shorter distances which I set in my late 20's and early 30's. That is just impossible, but since I only began running marathons and ultra's back in 2002 at age 46 I had a little room for improvement. Well that improvement came in 2006, eight years ago and at that time I was training hard and putting in a lot of miles and being age 50 then I knew that I would soon be slowing down. And I did after my pr 100 in Feb 2007 at Rocky Raccoon.
A few years and an injury had caused me to slow down but after a strong comeback in 2009 I began to train hard for another marathon pr and BQ. Although I did BQ twice in 2010 it was just barely and nowhere close to my pr. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never be able to improve at the marathon or shorter but I felt that I still had one more shot at the 50 and 100 mile pr's. I set my sights on going for it at Umstead in 2012 and was in really good shape for that race but bad weather de-railed that effort.
It was shortly after that race that one big thing changed that had a big effect on how my running would improve over these past two years. I began training Amy for a Boston qualifier. We had been running for a couple of years once or twice most weeks but as we got into the training some weeks we ran 4 and 5 times together. I had no desire to run Boston again at that time as I was focused on still trying to get a 50 and 100 pr. Well, in the process I learned a lot as I tried to get her in. I remembered that for my marathon pr I had actually improved in my ultra-running so I decided that would be how I would focus my training this time.
Another thing from the experience training her was due to the fact that we both need the same qualifying time. I had always used pace calculators like Daniels and McMillan and they always had you training based on recent race times. That hadn't been working the past few years and I was finding it impossible to slow Amy down on days she felt good anyway, so with limited time to get her ready we started doing the speedwork and tempo and pace work based on our goal instead. And it was working ! For the first time in years I was seeing improvements ! Last Jan 2013 I finally not only set a new 50 mile pr but shattered it by an hour and three minutes.
So from that came confidence that I could improve and believing in yourself is a huge part of it. Another big thing is I have run consistently the highest weekly average miles for the past 4 years straight with only a minor injury late last summer that thankfully I recovered from quickly.
So then, how did I train for the pr and in the process miss a marathon pr this year due only to atrocious weather conditions and then run my fastest half since 2006?
1. Confidence !
2. Averaged about 55 miles a week over the Winter. And a lot of those miles were high quality runs 2 or 3 times a week. the more I did the more I loved it ! Ran in all kinds of nasty weather but stayed focused !
3. Mile repeats at 5k race pace.
4. Tempo runs. This is something I had not done much of for years but added a 4 or 5 mile tempo run to my regimen. They work ! I was seeing improvements in faster times at the same effort over the weeks.
5. Lots of miles at half-marathon and marathon pace. One really killer workout I would do would be 2 miles at tempo pace and then instead of a slow recovery I would do 3 miles at marathon pace and then 2 more at tempo and other variations like that. Brutal runs !
6. No long runs over 20 miles. I never have done long training runs for ultras and stuck with that.
7. Cut way back on the number of races. I did a 50 miler back in Oct and the Derby 50K in November. After that no racing until the BQ attempt at MB, then the Half and then Umstead.
8. Lots of core and body weight training , usually 30 -45 minutes at least 6 days a week.
So, there you have it. I do believe I can still improve on that 100 pr and I will get a marathon pr but both of those are another story. But right now I got a few of other things to get done between now and July. Stay Tuned ! It is going to be a fun year as I continue to try and amaze myself !