Trail Running Challenge Blog (Ethan Banks)

Sleep Is Half Of It

Yesterday's workout...wasn't. I spent two days with ~5.5 hours of sleep each night. Too much on my mind. Stress related to work, some other stuff I do, etc. I wake up to use the bathroom, and brain decides it's time to problem solve!

Shut up, brain. Go to sleep. We'll work on that problem in the morning. Nope! I wanna solve it now!

Yesterday rolled around, and the workout just wasn't going to happen. I checked with Coach K, she agreed I should move things around and focus on sleep. Last night, as luck would have it, I slept well. 8.5 hours solid.

Still not 100% today, but felt pretty good. The assigned run was a 1 hour moderate (zone 3) run, plus a leg workout. Sadly, it was a treadmill day. Lots of snow blew through, and the storm continued most of the day. No outside for me.

I find the treadmill incredibly boring, even with YouTube on a sorta decent screen right in front of me. So to amuse myself, I switched between two different treadmill configurations. I started with 5.5+mph at 3 or 5 degrees. Then up to 15 degrees at 3.4mph. Either put me around 147-150bpm. I ended up with 1,552 vertical feet.

And then it hit me. The tedious treadmill is way more interesting when I'm working on vert. This is important to me, because I know I'm giving up time on the uphills. I'm not slow, but I know there are more tenths of a mile per hour to be gained if I can improve trunk strength and stamina.

By contrast, I don't know that I can get much faster on steep, technical downhills. I'd have to run with someone experienced to figure out if I just suck or what the problem is, but running technical mountain downhills is barely controlled falling to me.

Technical downhills are also what I consider the riskiest element of mountain running. Falls happen suddenly due to a bad choice. I'm not scared of falling. I'm built like a tank, and I've fallen several times after 15 years in the woods. It happens, and I've never been hurt too badly. Even so, I know I'm not invincible--I'm not sure I can get much faster safely. So, I don't think downhill is where I'm going to pick up a lot more time.

I think more time comes from uphill, the flats, and terrain that rolls gently. Uphill is a combo of strength and cardio. I have all the cardio in the world at the moment. Not elite levels of cardio, but my resting HR is low 40s. I have good recovery after a workout. It requires what I think of as maximum effort (repeated sprints or running uphill) to get into the 160s. At my age, my max is in the low 170s.

But strength? Who couldn't use more of that? The trick for me is balancing volume and effort when weight training. If I lift too heavy, lately it seems I'll strain a tendon--behind my right knee most recently during a 5x5 heavy session. Today I did lighter weight and changed to a 3x8 protocol instead. I feel okay so far, so maybe I got it right.

But anyway...strength is what I think I need to improve to get up the hills faster. In addition to weight training, on treadmill days I can max the incline and go as fast as I can stand it. Maybe next treadmill session I start working on 2,000 feet, then 2,500 feet in the next session, etc. Get really efficient at vert by improving my vertical feet per hour.