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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Training for Ultras On a Treadmill


I totally take back this meme I made a year ago.

If you’ve been a follower of my blog, you’ll know that I’ve struggled with deciding what the heck I’m running this year. Well, I registered for the entire PA Triple Crown Series for the third straight year. With the decision made and me being committed to running the PA Triple Crown Series this year, I knew it was time to get serious about training. Whether I opted to run the series or not, it was time to quit giving in to excuses and start building up some mileage for whatever I decided I was going to run this year. In the past two years I felt like it wasn’t my overall fitness level that took away from my finishing time at Hyner, but rather the big climbs and my lack of being prepared for them. So, I intend to change that this year. I got myself a membership at the local Planet Fitness so I could start training earlier, lose less fitness over winter, and train on some incline rather than just running pancake flat South Jersey. I’m also putting in some time on that stair stepper machine thingie in an effort to help build the quads.

My training for both years leading up to Hyner was pretty similar in mileage and terrain (see Table 1 below). Not surprisingly, my results were pretty similar as well. In 2017 and 2018 I finished in 5:36:36 and 5:42:02 respectively (race reports here 2017 and here 2018). This year has already been a bit of a change with the treadmill workouts allowing me to more readily and comfortably increase volume, mix in continuous 15% incline reps, and increase intensity. I feel these three aspects of training on a treadmill may work to my benefit as I concurrently train for Hyner 50k and the Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon.

Table 1 shows my monthly mileage totals leading up to the Hyner 50k in 2017 and 2018.

Month
2017
2018
January
164
136
February
80
128
March
128
164
Total
372
428

The first benefit of the treadmill training I’ve felt is just the ease of increasing volume. With January almost over I have about 180 miles for the month, a pretty big increase over last year. Surprisingly, it felt pretty painless to go from two months of lower than average mileage to a higher than average month on the treadmill. Maybe the primary reason is because I’m not a fan of cold weather running. And the main reason I’m not a fan of running in the cold is because the cold, dry air tends to trigger my asthma while running. I’m a fan of running for 24 hours in the heat and humidity, but once it gets too chilly I just can’t breathe which makes running miserable. And no, for the most part I don’t think of running for 24 hours as being miserable. The treadmill takes away the “sucky weather excuse” altogether for not getting a workout in which has helped me increase my volume of running this past month. I readily admit that I have fallen victim to using that excuse. After getting home for work, cooking dinner for the kids, doing homework, and getting the kids ready for bed it can be tough to be motivated to get out for a run in the dark even if it’s just cold. And if it’s rainy, cold, and windy, the “sucky weather excuse” sounds even better. Thanks to the gym and the treadmill, it’s no longer an excuse.

The second benefit of the treadmill is the option to run some incline. Granted, the maximum 15% grade of the treadmill is nothing compared to the final climb (SOB) at Hyner, but it is still better than the average route I run in South Jersey. I do have a few areas I can run where there is the option of doing some short hill repeats, but I am not aware of any area in South Jersey where I could train on a long, continuous climb.

A video showing the hills I use for hill repeats at the Egg Harbor Township Nature Reserve.

The third potential benefit I hope to eek out of this treadmill training is more quality workouts with higher intensity. We’ve all heard the old phrase that “quality is more important than quantity” in many situations, including running. Heck, there’s even a podcast that plays on this concept (Ten Junk Miles). Although I would argue that there is no such thing as a “junk mile” as long as I enjoyed running it, I am also well aware that not all runs provide equal training benefits. For reasons I mentioned earlier (that whole asthma and not being able to breath thing) my cold weather runs tend to be at a much lower intensity than I can maintain during the summer months. Not only am I able to do some higher intensity runs on the treadmill, I’m able to do it in an extremely organized fashion. Whether it’s half mile high intensity followed by a half mile recovery or three quarter mile easy pace with quarter mile sprints, I just set the treadmill and run it.

So, what does my treadmill incline workout look like? I set the treadmill to max incline at 15% for a mile which should be 792 feet of gain. I do three sets of max incline after three faster sets of 5 miles at 1% grade (264 feet of gain each). If my math is correct it puts me at a total gain of 3168 feet. Which I’m hoping will have me better prepared for the 7500 feet of gain at Hyner in April that has been a major shock to my quads for the last two years.

A video showing how I feel on the treadmill.

Scott Snell
January 31, 2019

1 comment:

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