How to Run 100 Miles: The Art and Science of Endurance-Week 12

It’s COLD in the North East! Awesome opportunity for learning to THRIVE in any environment!!

It’s a cold week here in Maine. As I gear up for some longer runs I find myself thinking back to some of my most memorable training and racing experiences. It must be the process of layering on winter gear that jolted my memory back to the Beast of Burden ultramarathon in Lockport, N.Y and the countless winter runs in the White Mountains that took place in the sub zero wind temp range.

White Mountain wind chills are NO JOKE!

There’s a reason that these runs stand out-they were consequential. When we look at the neuroscience of consequence, deep focus, and commitment to something that we care deeply about we get the neurochemical cocktail for making memories that stick. Sloppy preparation for a day long winter mountain adventure has the potential to take a life. This is a potential that we’ve met with on a regular basis for most of our evolution-braving elements that could kill us if we aren’t careful. As we become farther removed from real danger every stressful event associated with modern life appears more dangerous as we’ve lost any of the critical comparison points that place our lives in the light of history.

This close relationship with our physiological limits is what I love about 100 mile training. It brings us close to tasting our own potential while expanding it’s limits with every training session.

The months leading up to the Beast of Burden were memorable for many reasons. For one, I has just moved out of a tent that I’d been living in at a local state park. I was dead broke, virtually homeless, and desperately in need of a solid foundation to build my business and aim my life in a new direction. I remember training for the Grindstone 100 in October on far too few calories due to my financial limitations at the time. The race ended up being cancelled due to a brief government shut down, so I opted for the Beast of Burden as a transition to the next summer’s adventures at Eastern States 100.

I met a local farmer who operated a stand at the public market and told her that I was training for an ultramarathon. I asked if there was any chance that extra produce or meat that wasn’t sold might be available for a discounted rate, or free, at weeks. end. It was a hard thing for me to ask anyone-but I knew that the winter temps and the additional load on the body from burning so many calories would eventually catch up. I ate my pride so that I could eat well that training cycle-and I will never forget the generosity of Wolf Pine Farms who helped me tremendously as I prepared for a January race on the Eerie Canal.

I ended up placing 3rd in the 50 mile distance. I was originally training for the 100 and put in every ounce of the work and effort to succeed at the distance. On the week of the race I got incredibly sick-the first time this has ever happened during a training cycle. By race morning I was still feeling terrible and I made the decision to talk with the Race Director and officially switch to the 50 mile distance. I was concerned that the midnight temps on the Eerie Canal that I has prepared for-mentally, physically, and logistically-would become too dangerous to weather while still shaking from the flu in my warm hotel room before the race. It ended up being the right decision-and it taught me a valuable lesson.

Aim high.

Over prepare.

Not over train.

Over prepare.

I learned so much about layering, fueling, and protecting my eyes, fingers, and toes in cold weather adventures that lent itself to not only a successful race, but to many winter mountain explorations where this knowledge came in clutch.

Below are some thoughts on cold weather training:

Multiple wicking layers are a game changer. I have had some great wicking shirts that still ended up soaked after a long enough endurance effort. Packing a few layers and taking the time to strip off wet clothes and put on dry ones-even mid run-even if it means being exposed to the cold for a bit (unless you’re on a mountain where exposure can mean cold weather injury) is so worth it.

Doubling up on Darn Tough socks has been a game changer. They are the winter sock combo that works best as a double layer for me and a long pair/short pair with the short pair on the outside provides enough protection against both the snow and the cold without causing you to overheat.

I’ve experimented with various cremes and lotions to avoid chafing and windburn. I can’t say that I have a favorite but I can recommend applying liberally-some of the roll on types like Body Glide apply a very thin sheen that could use a bit more volume when cold, wet, thick clothes rub against the body all day.

Tuck your under layers into your shirt. Keeping your core cool is critical-and it’s easy to head out the door with your layers on but “unstuffed” into a waistband and not want to take the time to correct the mistake, only to pay for it later.

Fingers need to touch one another for warmth or they will FREEZE. This makes mittens an awesome choice. I’ve bought some expensive gloves only to find that they worked too well to actually work. By separating fingers from one another you will find that they are painfully frozen while now trapped in tight fitting gloves that do not allow you to ball your hand into the palm section to restore warmth. Packing several pairs of gloves is critical so that you can swap them out before they get too soaked, especially in the mountains.

Invest in buffs, glasses, and a number of hats that are still copacetic with whatever you might use for tech/music. It’s easy to forget that your bone conduction headphones don’t fit underneath your hat and to simple ditch the hat to hear your tunes-only to find that your ears are frozen. Take the extra time indoors to ensure that the outdoor training not only “works”-but absolutely kicks ass.

If you’ve ever experienced chilblains, the inflammation of blood vessels in the fingers or toes after being exposed to a rapid shift in temperature-it be excruciatingly uncomfortable and make you want to jump out of your skin to avoid the combination of itching, burning, and aching pain. Witch hazel or lavender oil can provide a much appreciated sense of relief while keeping hands and feet moisturized throughout the day is a preemptive move with a MAJOR pay-off.

EAT. The literature on calories burned during cold weather training can be confusing. An exploration of the interpretation of the literature by runners and endurance athletes who clearly haven’t read the data can be even more so, with many people claiming that you do not burn more calories when cold weather training.

As opposed to a long dissection of the research on brown fat activation, thermogenesis, and what happens to the body when we actually warm up to training after the initial shivering phase I like to ask our athletes-do you FEEL hungrier after winter runs. The answer is, unequivocally, yes. What do you think accounted for this? Learning to feel our own physiology is a much more high agency way of adapting to changing seasons and modifying recovery and nutritional strategies intuitively.

I eat several hundred additional calories on cold training days as I feel my body craving the additional food intake. The last thing that we want to do is burn the candle on the calorie consumption end while adding higher volume mileage and feel weaker for our efforts. Training should make you feel like a powerful animal. Fuel accordingly.

If you’re interested in an easily digestible starting point for the cold weather/calorie burn conversation this simple piece from TIME magazine seems to cover the basis.

This piece in Nature dives into the two types of brown adipose tissue in humans and the significance of this discovery.

“The fact that different populations of brown adipocytes exist in humans is notable, as they might be differently affected by external stimuli and represent distinct potential targets for therapeutic intervention. Thus, reactivation of iBAT in adult humans may constitute an alternative approach to that of stimulation of beige/brite brown adipocytes when developing new therapies against obesity and obesity-linked diseases such as type 2 diabetes.”

This week we begin a new training cycle that shortens the strength and conditioning workouts and lowers training mileage just slightly. Each workout end with a short, spicy conditioning test. You’ll see the inclusion of some basic upper body strength development at the end of each session as well

Strength and Conditioning: Day One

Warm-Up: Turkish Get-Ups:

4 minutes to build to a heavy TGUP. Alternate between side throughout the 4 minutes.

Strength:

3 sets of 8 tempo squats with a 6 second lowering phase and a 6 second ascension. These will be a staple over the next 4 weeks. The goal is to get you to control the squat throughout the entirety of the movement and strengthen muscles through the addition of time under tension as opposed to more repetition. We will work to add weight each week if possible.

8 lateral jumps or bench jump overs per side.

3 sets of 8 incline bench. 6 seconds down. 6 seconds up.

Conditioning: 10–9-8–7- 6–5-4–3-2–1

Squat and Press Reach (Heels Elevated)+ Squat Thrust

Perform 10 squat and press w reach and 10 squat thrusts. Switch weight at the 5th rep. Proceed down the ladder to 9 reps of each, 8 reps of each etc, switching the weight at the half way mark. Use any of the hypoxic breathing exercises that we’ve learned in the program so far to prepare the body for the increase in Co2 that will occur from transitioning from strength to conditioning-and use this as a bridge between low aerobic and high aerobic/anaerobic training. Think of the moments before a race and how a simple breathing exercise emphasizing the exhalation and some light activity such as jump rope, skips, or shuttle runs can help you avoid the “second wind” and capitalize on the first.

ARMS and ABS:

If you get used to finishing every workout with and arms and abs couplet like the one below you’ll be ahead of the game on two areas of training that people miss out on performing regularly because they don’t know where to put them.

Every time that you strength train-add ARMS and ABS!

Bear Plank with Drag Tabata (4 minutes. 20 seconds on. 10 seconds rest. 8 rounds.)

Dumbbell Cycle One. 3 sets of 8.

Accessory Work: 3 rounds

4 per side hip airplanes.

30 second hamstring walk-out

https://www.dropbox.com/s/k5q75lkc2lv7vj5/Hamstring%20%20Roll%20Out.mp4?dl=0

Aerobic Base: Day One

Run: 12 miles. Nasal only breathing. Goal: Imagine head of femur and ischial tuberosity (back pockets) as two magnets. Notice what happens when they move towards one another as opposed to away. More glute engagement, less back strain, more like running in a telephone booth than falling forward with your belly button leading the charge.

Recovery:

Post run breathing: 2 minutes

Inhale through the nose. Exhale through the mouth. Repeat until heart rate is approximately 60% of Max HR or until you feel like you can comfortably return to nasal breathing.

Strength and Conditioning Day 2:

Same as Day One. Only exception is the conditioning cycle and the dumbbell cycle and core training cycle on ARMS and ABS.

New conditioning cycle.

Squat and press with reach Tabata. Use the ten seconds rest to rest in a bear plank position. Every round of 20 second work is a set of squat and press’s (alternating arms each round) and every rest in a bear plank. This is a great opportunity to dial in your nasal breathing!

ABS. Foam Roller Tabata

Sprints: Take this sprint effort at a moderate intensity and use it as an opportunity dial in the mechanics that we covered throughout the program so far and to ease back into the sprint work. Maintain a 65–70% effort this week.

One round each of:

5 x 15 meter sprints. Walk back to the start after each effort. Rest two minutes between efforts.

5 x 20 meter sprints.

5 x 25 meter sprints.

Recovery:

Post run breathing: 2 minutes

Inhale through the nose. Exhale through the mouth. Repeat until heart rate is approximately 60% of Max HR or until you feel like you can comfortably return to nasal breathing.

Aerobic Base Day 2:

Run: 10 miles.

Goal: Notice if the lateral jumping concepts are working their way into your running. Is it beginning to feel more natural to let your weight be fully accepted by the stand leg? Is the nose over sternum over knee over big toe concept making it easier to understand how rotation between the ribs and hips works when running? Use this run to tune into these concepts that learn about your body through the training process.

Recovery:

Post run breathing: 2 minutes

Inhale through the nose. Exhale through the mouth. Repeat until heart rate is approximately 60% of Max HR or until you feel like you can comfortably return to nasal breathing.

Huge thanks to everyone for being part of the program and I look forward to exploring more opportunities to connect members-possibly through a SLACK channel or Discord-so that we can connect with each other more regularly to share the training experience. If you have any ideas on how we might amplify the team training aspect of the program, please let me know. Until then, sending all the warmth your way on a chilly weekend and looking forward to hearing how your training is going!

Some pics from my training day here in Maine.

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