Monday, September 01, 2014

So How Do You Train to Run Two Marathons a Day Over and Over Again?

I can hardly believe I actually have something to say on this topic. 2 Marathons a day? Are you crazy? Before this adventure I had accomplished very little that would qualify me to have an opinion on the matter. 

For several years, a few friends and I would do "the 40" a grueling one day 40 mile trek on the Appalachian Trail from Fontana Dam to Newfound Gap. In Colorado I climbed Uncompagre and Wetterhorn in a day. That was like 23 miles and up and down two fourteeners. I competed in several marathons and one forty mile race. But nothing really comes close to two marathons a day through the mountains. That's insane. 

And now that I've done it, I now know how insane it is! Ha! But MAN was it fun. 

So a few of you may be wondering how I did it. How did I prepare? How did I train? How did I pull it off? Well, for the next couple blogs, I'm going to tell you. Now, this might be the right place to insert the "do not try this at home" line. I'll leave it to you. But it's worth noting that our bodies are amazing things, and they can rise up to the challenge when we ask them to. 

At the same time, be careful.

For this blog, I'll focus on the training. 

First of all, I got good shoes. I tried on a half dozen or so before I landed on these N2 Pearl Izumi's. My recommendation isn't necessary to go out right now and buy yourself some Pearls. What I would do is go to your local running store and try on a whole bunch of shoes. Every foot is different, and if you are going to be spending a lot of time on yours, find a pair that suits you. Spare no expense. 

My friend Gary Miller told me that there were two things that could keep me from finishing: feet and nutrition. So protect your feet. We'll talk nutrition in a later installment. 

As far as training, there is no replacement for the trial of miles (if you don't know what that is read "Once a Runner" by John Parker). Miles and miles and miles. 

I did I start from a solid base. In March I could have run a sub 1:30 half and probably a 3:10 marathon. I was in shape. The challenge was 469 miles. I didn't need to go fast; I needed to learn how to go long.   So I focused on one thing: ramping up the miles. 

My friend Donnie introduced me to the idea of running two-a-days. That was big. Because finding the time to run 20 all at once was not easy. Eventually, I took two-a-days to the next level and did three and four-a-days. 

In April, I went from my base of 25 miles a week to 60 miles a week. My biggest and hardest (and most painful) jump. 

In May, I went from 60 to 80+ miles a week. 

In June, we ramped it up to 100+ miles a week. 

And finally we maxed out at 120+ miles a week in July. 

I think my highest mileage week was 136 in early July. 

I tapered down to 90 then to 60 the week of the run. 

So what was a typical day? Say if it was a 20 mile day. I might do 5 in the morning. 8 for lunch. Then 7 before dinner. Or maybe I'd do a long run in the morning, like 13, then a quick 3 miler for lunch and a 4 miler after dinner. 

Speaking of dinner, that was another thing I practiced: running on a full stomach. Usually, if I eat right before I run, I want to hurl. I pretty much always cramp. It rarely ends well. But I knew if I was going to be able to run 52 miles in a day, I was going to have to learn how to eat and run at the same time. To be honest, I never mastered simultaneously eating and running. But I did learn how to load up and then go. Back to what Gary Miller told me - feet and nutrition. In his words, "if you can't keep food down, you're done." 

So I'd run right after dinner. Or I'd eat a handful of almonds and chug a Gatorade while walking then immediately go back to a jog. It sounds crazy, but it paid off on the road. I never cramped. Not once. 

What I've learned since (which I'm incorporating now) is to add in more warm up and cool down into my training. To warm up the muscles before I run. To Massage. Stretch. Massage. Stretch again after. And Ice. I did very little of this the first go around. For the second leg, I'm hoping to be a little smarter and kinder to my body.

I should add that I did a 52 mile practice day in July. 
I also did three 30 milers back to back as well.
These helped more mentally than anything. 

I was fortunate not to suffer any injury during training other than your usual soreness and stiffness. I learned a few tricks along the way, like rolling a golf ball under your foot to loosen up the plantar and the achilles. I learned ice is nice. But for the most part it was miles. Miles and miles and miles. 

All in all, training meant teaching your body to expect to run everyday. This physical expectation made the ultimate difference. At night, I'd go to bed worn out and weary. In the morning, I'd awake ready to go again. That was the success I'd say of my training. My body learned how to recover, and I learned to trust what my body was telling me. 

So how did I actually pull it off? I'll tell you in the next installment.

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