As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I signed up for what is likely my most difficult virtual race – the Badwater 267 VR Elite. This is a 267 mile even spread over 16 days, or just under 17 miles per day. It is a race in the sense of total cumulative time as well as being difficult to actually cover the miles.
90 Mile Running Week
For me, I was excited and anxious about this challenge. This last year of pretty much nothing in terms of races has made it difficult for many to plan for. That includes me! I always do more consistent running when I have an event on my calendar. Without it, things always manage to get in the way, I sleep a little bit more in the morning, etc. I like having a challenging event to train for and this Badwater 267 VR Elite is certainly challenging!
The last time I did a 90+ mile week was when I was training for my 6 marathons / 6 continents / 5 day event. I took it very easy – for one month, I did 100+ mile weeks but at slower paces than normal training since I just needed time on my feet. That was the last time I did a 90+ mile week. In fact, the week I actually ran those marathons, it was 157 miles in 5 days!
For this event, I knew I needed to ramp up the miles slowly and steadily. The rule of thumb is normally a 10-20% increase per week, but not every week! It needs to be done incrementally or else you risk overuse injuries. The same is true if you start doing too much speed work when you had not done that in weeks before.
So, my plan had been to incorporate a little bit of walking with my kids into the weeks since walking counts for the Badwater VR as well – you just have to be on your feet and outside for it to count (and being tracked by GPS). This way, I can get some slower walks in with my runs.
My Impromptu Marathon
Last week, I had mid 70 miles and this week I had targeted 90 miles. My plan had been 15 miles each day with a couple of lower mileage days – with a few walking sessions thrown in.
Well, on Monday, I headed out for a 15 miler but ended up feeling so great that I kept going and ended up doing a marathon – my fastest solo marathon yet! With a two year old marathon PR (personal record) of 3:29, I was very pleased to see this marathon clock in at 3:58 – with a 300 foot climb for the last mile!
My mileage splits were pretty decent and my heart rate was quite low for me throughout – around 140bpm. I did a good job of being consistent every 6 miles with GU energy gels and a bottle of water and it went well! I took the next day off, just to give my legs a brief rest, and then did a 17 mile run the following day. Again, I felt so good that I would have gone the full 26.2 miles again if I had not had an appointment I needed to get back for.
I am definitely not saying that this is great – just that it is good for me! Desiree Linden, an elite marathoner, clocked off a 2:36 marathon this week – just for fun!
Why This All Makes Me Feel Good
Here’s the thing – in January, I was just trying to get around 40 miles in per week. Some of the miles were coming hard and my pace was not where I wanted it. But, when I started ramping up the mileage, I actually did something I had avoided before. I started running hills – lots of them.
I have some pretty good hills around me and normally go very slow or walk them. But, this time I went at them with the goal of not walking any of them and to keep a consistent pace. It seemed to work as I did this for several 15+ mile runs for two weeks. It built up my endurance by adding the hills in and that has managed to help my heart rate to stay lower and my legs to feel better when running on the flatter ground.
So, here we are just less than 2 months later and I am so very grateful to have completed a 90 mile week – while still feeling great! Believe it or not, I could go for more miles this weekend but want to keep it easy so as not to injure myself. I come back from a 16 miler feeling not that sore at all and ready to go again on the same distance the next day.
What this has shown me is that it is indeed good to have some very challenging goals, especially during the Covid-19 lockdowns. For me, running is really the only way to get around since the latest round of restrictions (I am currently in Greece) restrict everyone from going outside of a 2km radius for any kind of shopping and the only way to go beyond that distance is on foot or bike. So, if I want to head to the city or anywhere else, I need to go on foot!
Pushing Can Help Progress
But, I am feeling stronger – mentally and physically – with my running than I have in a long time. It is great to see the progress and things come together beyond what I thought possible a month ago. I would never have known about this if I had not signed up for a difficult challenge.
So, I encourage you – find something to really challenge yourself! You may be surprised at how much further you can go than what you think right now. Plus, it is always good to keep yourself in shape when you may not be able to get involved in the activities you are used to.
For me, I am hoping to stay healthy and to have a successful virtual race! What that means right now, I am not honestly sure but hope to find out in just over a month!