Wed- 4miles- jog/walk (sore foot)
Okay first off thanks for the huge volume of comments and emails...I feel better. Living here where 2 miles is a long run for most and running for "fun" or for "training" is a foreign concept I often feel quite a bit more like a freak than normal. So writing to the masses of those that do similar running and then hearing from you all makes me feel good. And yes, all you gotta do is email about 2,000 people on a list serve pleading for comments, and whammo you get 10!
Anyway very interesting exchanges with some folks; thanks. I think all it really settled for me is that different strokes for different folks. I think my brother Tim might have expressed it best when he said:
"There are absolutely limitations that will be placed on performance by "fitness" - aerobic enzyme efficiency, lactate threshold, hemoglobin concentration, fast-twitch/slow-twitch muscle fiber percentages, etc. But once someone has built those to even a moderate level, I think their own viewpoint and pre-conceived notions about their ability to perform plays a huge role."
Sure, LONG long runs will build up the level of fat mobilizing enzymes, teach your body efficiency, build capillary networks in the muscles, accustom the body to the shear enormity of being out and moving/processing energy/taking impact/ect for hours on end, but I think their value most importantly may be improved confidence.
When I was training for the grand slam in 2002 I ran 11 runs of 24-40 miles in the month of March. I was trying something new, and believe I lost a bunch of my speed doing that type of training, but one thing became clear. I was 100% confident I then had the ability to finish the slam. So much so I even threw in MMT and Big Horn 100's as well. The Ultra distance no longer scared me as I knew my body could handle long slow slogs in the mountains, AND that I could recover quickly from such efforts.
I also have, in the 8 years I've been doing ultras, almost always used other ultras as preparation for my bigger more "focus" races. Only on a few occasions have I not done at least a 50 mile race in the 2 months prior to an attempt at a 70-to-100mile race. And all but one of those times when I did not, ended in a DNF. Was this due to my body not being prepared for the distance? Or was my mind not prepared? What is more important?
Again my brother has some good insight:
"Of course, right now you are looking to get back to running top performances in the ultrarunning community, and you will have to have the physical training behind you to do that. But just as importantly, you have to have the confidence (no doubts allowed) that you can do it."
He is absolutely right...and part of this is how far do I need to run in training here in the desert to mentally FEEL CONFIDENT I can run well in the Vermont 100? Since, again, I will not have any pre- 100miler races to both test myself physically and mentally. No RACE opportunity to get that "fix" of confidence that...Yes! I can not only complete the distance...but, I can run well.
For me a big part of my confidence in ultrarunning has come from the fact that I used to be a good deal faster over shorter distance races than the majority of the folks competing in ultradistance races. And interestingly when I was fit enough to run a 5K in sub 17min, I was able to run a 100 under 17 hours. When I was in 19min 5K shape I ran a similarly flat 100 in 20 hours(despite getting lost for over an hour). Thus, knowing myself and knowing that in order for my stomach to be able to process food and even coke/energy drinks I have to be running at a pace that is considerably slower than my current 5K race pace. So for me now the focus is on first getting the speed back. For me to feel like I have a shot at holding 9:00mile pace in Vermont I need to be able to feel like 7:00 mile pace is EASY. As the race comes closer, I will also need to get comfortable with that "exhausted by the shear distance" feeling in training prior to the July 21st race date.
In any event, thanks for the comments and debate...keep it coming!