A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thoughts - June 21 - "Anti-Tempo" Runs

I've always wanted to try running around the perimeter of Staten Island for years now.

I figure Staten Island is small enough to make the run possible, but long enough for it to be a real challenge.

The route that I took is about 35.5 miles, according to Gmaps Pedometer.

The big question was the logistics. Everything would need to be self-supported. But the beauty of Staten Island lies in its many bagel shops lining the main roads. I didn't need to carry a Camelbak full of food and water with me. All I needed was a bottle that fits into my hand and a small pouch.

Inside the pouch was a cell phone (for emergencies), a Metrocard (in case I needed to bail and take the bus back, and $20 (for buying the essentials at the shops).

I started at the God-awful time of 3:30AM, which, perhaps was the toughest part of the run. No, I'm not kidding. Waking up was probably harder than actually running the 35 miles. I guess once I got moving I was OK for the rest of the run.

The course that I took is here... http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=4591041 .

I need to get a good diet of these long runs in. Although there is a good dose of physical benefits that I get when running 6+ hours, it is mainly the mental benefits that I'm focused on.

I come from a triathlon background. And any triathlon up to and including the Ironman distance is speed based.

That means I get a bit antsy when running at such a sloth-like slow speed. In fact, I feel there is a tug of war going on in my head, with one side trying to get me to run faster. It's always been a huge fight to reign in my long runs and keep it at when feels to be a "ridiculously easy" pace.

Yesterday was no exception.

For the first 15 miles I had to be very conscious about keeping my pace slow. After hitting the 30 mile mark, all that effort to keep it easy started to pay off.

My legs did start to stiffen up at that point, but I still had the strength to maintain the pace that I was going. Indefinitely. In other words, I didn't burn out my legs in the beginning by going fast.

That is what got me through Vermont, and this is what is going to get me through Leadville.

It's basically a different approach than Massanutten in May. And although my toe killed my race, I still am not sure if the more aggressive strategy would have worked there.

This is what fascinates me about these 100 mile races. All my training, all my methods, my strategies that I have learned from other races, mean nothing at this distance. And in some cases, I need to do the OPPOSITE of what I've learned in training and coaching in order to do well in the race.

I think that is why I call these training runs of longer than 30 miles "anti-tempo runs."

Normal tempo runs are run at a pace faster than the comfortable pace so that one can condition himself for that pace in competition, whether it be a 5k race or a marathon.

"Anti-tempo" runs are run SLOWER than the comfortable race, but for the same reason. So that I can condition myself to run at that pace over the 100 mile distance. Whereas most people try to condition themselves over their maximum comfortable pace to prepare for shorter races, I have to condition myself to comfortably run UNDER my MINIMUM comfortable pace to prepare for the 100 mile distance.

It's certainly fascinating how polar-opposite these 100 milers are to shorter conventional races, and to conventional wisdom.

But it drives the point home. I do not want to go out too hard in Leadville. I have to be really conscious of my pace and keep it really easy for the first 30-40 or so miles. After that, the fatigue will take over the pace and I should be OK (it'll be safe knowing I cannot go faster at that point). The long training runs will help me be mentally comfortable with the "ridiculously easy" pace.

I got about 2-3 of these "anti-tempo" runs left (as well as a slew of 20 milers and some mountain hiking) before Leadville. After which I *should* be ready to feel at ease with this "ridiculously easy" pace.

And just like the story "The Tortoise and the Hare", this Tortoise is going to fare well in Leadville if he sticks to his plan!

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Let me keep this short and sweet...

Friday Night is the short Group Trail Run at High Rock. 7pm. Come join us!

Saturday morning is the group bike ride into the Palisades. Meet at the ferry at 6:30AM. Hopefully we'll start at Battery park at 7AM.

Sunday is an 8-10 mile trail run along the White Trail at 8AM. Please park at Willowbrook Park (Richmond Ave. entrance). I'll see if I can fill up a 5 gallon jug with water for after the run. I'll also have some food available.


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