Last week, I started training for the Leadville 100. It's a race I've wanted to run since I was a sophomore in high school. More concretely, I've been training specifically with this race in mind since early 2009, when I pretty much re-started running from scratch (I was well over 200 lbs at the time). And I like to plan. So I've had a training plan set out for this three month stretch for a long time.
And then, last Thursday, just four days into the plan, I blew it up. I had set out to go on about a three-hour run. Up Chimney Gulch, down around Apex, and then back. But my body wasn't responding. Just two miles into the run, my pace was two minutes a mile slower than it had been on the same loop just two weeks prior, and my heart rate was just as high, if not higher. I'm not sure if it was because I recover slowly from races (true), that it was a little hot, or that I had been sleeping badly, but regardless, I didn't have it. So I turned around. The next day, I didn't have it either. So I went on two easy four mile runs, rather push a longer run and delay my recovery further.
Yesterday, I ran for two and a half hours around lair o' the bear, and I felt great. So I went on another easy run yesterday afternoon. I'll go on a couple of easy runs today and then do two hours tomorrow morning if I still feel decent.
What's the conclusion behind all of this? Not sure, but this is what my gut is telling me. To be successful at ultras, you need to run a lot. A lot a lot. The more volume you can do without injuring yourself or overtraining, the better. But when and how to do that lots of running should be dictated by how your body feels, rather than the calendar. Some days you'll have and some days you won't.
From now on, I'm just going to put my ear to my legs before and during every run and see what they can give me. Because between now and Leadville, they're in charge.