Winter is a great time to spend “base” training for the upcoming season. If we break up the year into different periods of training, the base phase involves lower intensity workouts, which gradually increase in volume. We are building endurance and preparing our bodies to withstand the higher intensity phases to come. More specifically, I like to think about this phase as building my aerobic efficiency and stamina. I want to be a Honda Civic with the gas tank of a Hummer.
When I say aerobic, I mean the pathway in the body that directly converts fat into energy. This is important because everyone, including the elite athletes, have enough fat storage to run for days. When we push the pace and feel the burn in our quads, we are using a pathway that is converting sugar into energy, which is not sustainable over long periods. If you have ever hit “the wall,” you have experienced depletion of your sugar resources, forcing you to slow down to begin burning fat.
What if you could train your body to efficiently burn fat at your goal race pace? This concept is the basis of MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) training, developed by Phil Maffetone. To keep things simple, the heart rate, which corresponds to an individual’s MAF pace, is 180-age. To strictly follow Maffetone’s training plan, one would train 100% of the time at this heart rate, never exceeding it. This would exclude interval and strength training.
While I don’t follow the rule 100% of the time, I do think the base phase is the time to consider it. More importantly, we can use the MAF Test to measure our progress. To perform the test, you need a heart rate monitor, watch, and a flat road or track. After a 15-20 minute warm up, run 3-5 miles at your MAF HR. Record your time for each mile. Your first mile time indicates your aerobic efficiency, while the spread between the first and final miles is an indicator of your aerobic stamina. You can use the first MAF mile to predict your race pace with online tables easily found with a Google search. In terms of stamina, while each mile should progressively get a little slower, we want to see a minimal spread. Do not be discouraged by your first MAF test! You will probably walk more than you anticipate. Repeat this test after a month of training at your MAF HR, and hopefully you will see big improvements!
More traditional training methods use heart rate zones to describe intensity levels. Your MAF HR correlates to Zone 2 (conversational pace), while your race pace is typically found in Zone 3 (a few words between breaths), and your interval pacing is Zone 4 (heavy breathing with one word responses). USAT recommends spending 80% of your training time in Zone 2 and 20% in Zone 4. Unfortunately, most people train close to their race pace in Zone 3, which limits the amount of progress one can make throughout the season. Instead, we want to spend the majority of our time maximizing our aerobic capacity, and supplement short, focused, high intensity sessions just beyond our race pace. Save Zone 3 for racing.
For more information about Phil Maffetone and his training methods, visit www.philmaffetone.com.
Below is a map of the 50-50 race course. For those taking on the Firebreather Challenge, it will be one loop. Follow along carefully:
1) Start at the left most green star (camp pyoca) and head north east along 10.
2) Stay on 10 and loop back around to go south west toward the high-five zone.
3) At the end of the high-five zone, go left on 6 toward the aid station (green star).
4) After the aid station, go to trail 4 and follow it north east to the end.
5) Follow the road past Knob Lake and follow it to the left to the stairs.
6) Climb the stairs to trail 1
7) At the Old Fire Tower Site, stay to the right and follow trail 2.
8) At the top of your climb on trail 2, immediately turn right and go back down to the next aid station (green star).
9) From the aid station, take trail 3. Midway through the climb, take a left at the T and continue to climb towards trail 2.
10) At the top of your climb, take a right on trail 2. Follow this all the way to the Service Area.
11) Follow the gravel road to the right towards the Youth Camp area. Go across the camp to the tree line, then follow it towards trail 3.
12) Take trail until you see a sign for trail 5 on your left.
13) Follow trail 5 to the back side of Knob Lake. Take a left and follow the lake across the dam.
14) Go down the dam and follow the gravel roads in the camp grounds toward the aid station (green star).
15) Continue south west along the road to Cypress Pond (near the forestry entrance).
16) Go back on the trails toward the high-five zone.
17) At the top of the high-five zone, turn left and head down to Lake Pyoca.
18) Stay left where the trail splits and go around the lake. Follow the shoreline back to the start.
If you are familiar with the Crossfit world, then you may know about a WOD called the Filthy 50. Those who took on the 50 mile race in 2014 have a different perspective about completing a Filthy 50 workout. Below is a minimalist training plan for those who want to complete the 50 mile with a very short 2 month build. If you hit the key workouts, you will be capable of finishing. BUT, you probably won't be a top finisher and may be hurting at the end. Hopefully you are already comfortable with running more than 25 miles per week before you take on this challenge. Understanding your walking and nutrition strategies are key pieces to the plan beyond mileage build. Good luck! I'm not jealous ;)
For those of you who are thinking that 10 miles just isn't enough, then the 50K race option may be for you! In fact, if you are ever considering a marathon, especially your first marathon, trails are the way to go. The document below is my recommended build up for the race if you don't already have a plan. It is important to hit the key long workout each week before moving on to the next week (the numbers like 10/6 or 1/2/3 identify the trails). The total weekly mileage also consistently builds, but it is flexible how you decide to take on the additional run workouts. Try to keep those easy and aerobic. Feel free to join the group training runs that are planned on Sundays at noon, especially if you are unfamiliar with the race course. If you have any questions, message Nate.
Ready to take on the challenge of trail running? The DINO series has the perfect event, right in our backyard. The Jackson County 50-50 ultra-marathon trail run is on December 5. Race and registration information is available at http://www.dinoseries.com/ultra-marathon-trail-run/. We are providing some group training opportunities for you to build up mileage and become familiar with the course. The Firebreather Challenge consists of one full loop around the course, which is approximately 10 miles, with a sweet award for the fastest male and female finisher (one for Crossfit Seymour members, and another award set for Seymour Multisport Club members). The planned group runs are listed below. All sessions are planned on Sundays starting at noon. We will meet at the main office of the forestry. Message Nate with any questions.
10/6 loop at noon, 1/2/3 loop at 1:30. (4 mile options for each)
10/6/4 (4-6 miles)
1/2/3 (4 miles)
10/6/4 (6 miles)
10/6/4 plus a little extra fun (7 miles)
Full lap minus pyoca (8-9 miles)
Full race lap (10 miles)