Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Less than 3 weeks to the Gate River Run: Last week's training

Another gorgeous week of weather in Portland means another enjoyable week of training. The unusually warm and sunny February has made for unexpectedly ideal running conditions. A year ago, Portland received an uncanny week of snow which forced me into the University of Portland indoor track, and eventually a train ride to Seattle in order to continue training for the London Marathon. That was followed by the normal cold and rainy February Portland days. To all those in the midwest and northeast, don't worry, we will surely pay dearly with a cold and wet March and April, but I'll enjoy it while it's here. At least the Jacksonville weather won't be quite the shock it has been in the past for the Gate River Run.

Speaking of Gate River, the elite fields are out, and the men's startlist is as strong as expected. I'll certainly have my work cut out for me, but I am happy with my fitness, and I'm looking forward to mixing it up with some of the country's best on March 14th over the 15km USA Championships. I'm also looking forward to running with two former Oklahoma State Cowboys, Shadrack Kipchirchir and Girma Macheso. Shadrack is beginning his young post-collegiate career, and Girma will look to build off a solid year on the US road circuit.

All three training sessions went well last week, although none of the three were overly intense. The long term goal is looking at the US Outdoor Track and Field Championships which are not until the end of June, so my coach, Dave Smith, has decided to back off the intensity for a little longer so I can make it to the summer feeling strong and fresh. I am the most pleased with Saturday's workout of 10 x 1 mile on the road with a minute rest. While I started conservatively, I was happy to see the times progress into the 4:40s and finish in 4:35. I felt strong and smooth the entire way, and I'm looking forward to testing myself a bit this week with fewer repeats and longer rest. The miles took place on a segment of road with gentle hills, going out a mile, stopping, and returning a mile. As you can see by the times, the return mile had wind at my back with a very slight net downhill. Overall, I'm feeling strong and fresh, but not quite sharp. There is still plenty of time for that.

Make sure to check out all the indoor racing starting Friday with NCAA conference meets and the USA Indoor Championships. I'll be cheering for all the Brooks Beasts in Boston, the Cowboys and Cowgirls in Ames, and the local UP Pilots in Seattle. Thanks again for reading, and feel free to check out last week's training below. Follow me here on Twitter for more updates.

Week 14 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Monday 11.5 5.5 50 minutes 17
Tuesday 5.5 4 mile tempo @ 18:45 + 6 x 200 meters @ 28-29 17
Wednesday 14 Off 40 minutes 14.5
Thursday 15 x 200 meters @ 31 down to 28 w/200 meter jog recovery 5.5 15.5
Friday 11.5 50 minutes 17
Saturday 10 x 1 mile w/ 1 minute rest (4:54, 52, 48, 51, 47, 52, 46, 47, 35) on road Off 15.5
Sunday 18.5 Off 18.5

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Less than 4 weeks to the Gate River Run: Last week's training

A little over a week has passed since the USA XC Championships, and I'm happy to say that I'm feeling fully recovered. I took a day off after the race, and then bumped the mileage back up pretty quickly, but there were easy miles and were taken completely by feel. I did a few sets of 150 meter strides to loosen the legs up during the week and then jumped into a 10-mile tempo for my first workout back on Saturday. I wasn't sure how my legs would feel after coming down from altitude and following the 12km XC race the weekend before, but they responded surprisingly well. I ended up running 49:23 for the 10 miles (4:56), but more importantly, I felt smooth doing it. The unusually warm and sunny February weather here in Portland makes it easy to get out the door and get pumped up for training. I feel a little guilty even mentioning it with the East Coast and mid-East taking a pretty solid beating again, but I'm sure we will pay for it with a rough Spring in the Northwest. You don't get a beautiful February like this here for free.

Over the next few weeks we will start upping the intensity of workouts again in preparation for the next several races (Gate River Run - March 14th, IAAF World Cross Country Championships - March 28th, and Payton Jordan 10km - May 3rd). Gate River is the US Championship for 15km in Jacksonville, FL. The large prize purse and fair weather attracts a deep elite US field every year, and I expect this year to be no different. My best finish thus far has been 3rd place in 2013, and I hope to improve upon that next month. This will leave me with 2 weeks until the IAAF World XC Championships in Guiyang, China where I will represent team USA over a 12km cross country course. The rest of my season will likely be completely track oriented through mid-summer before making a final decision on a fall race plan in preparation for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials a year from now.

Thanks again for reading. Feel free to check out last week's training below, and follow me here on Twitter for more updates.

Week 13 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Monday 10 5 15
Tuesday 11.5 5.5 30 minutes 17
Wednesday 11.5 5 + drills and strides 17
Thursday 11.5 5.5 40 minutes 17
Friday 11.5 5+drills and strides 17
Saturday 10 mile tempo @ 4:56 pace Off 16
Sunday 19 Off 19

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

USA XC recap and last week's training

I'm very excited to have made my 5th USA World Cross Country Team this past weekend in Boulder at the US XC Champs. The men's field was deep, and the altitude and heat completely changed the dynamics of the race. After watching the junior races and senior women's race, I knew that I would have to race conservatively in order to give myself a shot at making the top-6 and world team. I'm not exactly sure what place I went out in, but I would guess somewhere around 30th, although we weren't far off the lead. Looking back at my splits, I stayed fairly consistent until the last 2km. I felt in control and within my limits through 10km, but after making an attempt to go for 2nd place, I had to really fight on that last 2km loop. At altitude, there is a fine line between running hard, and putting yourself into a debt you cannot recover from. I think I was riding this line quite well through 5 laps and then dug in for the final lap. Had I been more aggressive, maybe I could have contended for 2nd place, but in the end I can't be upset for running conservatively and locking in a spot for the 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China.

The World XC Champs may be my favorite race to take part in as a professional. I miss the team atmosphere of NCAA cross country, so this is as close as I can get now being a post-collegiate. Cross country allows you to get away from the watch completely and simply go after the body in front of you. It's pure competition with a simple goal: Beat the guy in front of you. Times mean absolutely nothing. After achieving the team silver medal in 2013, expectations have risen, and I think the six of us will be disappointed to come home without a medal this time around.

There is nothing particularly interesting from last week's training as it was the week leading up to the race. I'm happy to be back at sea-level in Portland, and I'm awaiting my blood results from my return. I suspect I was altitude too briefly to see much or any increase in levels, but I will know shortly, and I will post the results on my blog next week.

I'm excited to announce that I will be returning to the Gate River US 15km Championships in Jacksonville on March 14th. I had the same schedule in 2013, and it worked out so well that I've decided to replicate it in 2015. Gate River is one of the most competitive US road races each year, and I hope to improve upon my 3rd place finish from 2013.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Twitter contest last week for the XC Champs! This one required a little homework, and I was surprised how close many of you come to nailing the splits and final time. I will look to get creative for the World XC Champs as well, so stay tuned. Feel free to check out last week's training below, and follow me here on Twitter for more updates.

Week 12 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Monday 11 + drills and strides 5.5 30 minutes 17
Tuesday 5 x 1k @ 2:58-3:00 w/1 min rest + 6 x 200 meters @ 29-30 5 15
Wednesday 9 5 14
Thursday Off - travel to Boulder 8 7.5
Friday 5 + drills and strides Off 5.5
Saturday 1.5 pre-race shakeout Race 12km USA XC Champs 14
Sunday Off - travel to Portland Off 0

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Twitter Contest

As you know, on Saturday February 7th, I will be racing in the USA Cross Country Championships in Boulder, CO. I've come up with a contest as a fun way to get you guys involved in the race. Here's how it works- guess my 4k, 8k and 12k (finish) times. After the race, I'll add up how far away you were from each split, and the person with the lowest time total will win a Brooks Essential Run Jacket (below). Tweet at me using my Twitter handle (@ryanvail) and include your three splits with the hashtag #VailUSA before race time on Saturday (1pm MT). 


Your tweet: "@ryanvail 12:03, 24:10, 36:41 #VailUSA"

4k- 12:03 vs. 12:08 (5 sec off)

8k- 24:10 vs. 24:00 (10 sec off)
12k (finish) - 36:41 vs. 36:35 (6 sec off)

Your total time would be 21 seconds. All official splits will be posted online at usatf.org after the race. Good luck!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Less than a week to the US XC Champs: Last week's training

We're under a week now to the US Cross Country Championships in Boulder, CO. Be sure to tune in to usatf.tv at 1:00 PM Mountain Time to catch all the action from start to finish. The men's 12km will kick off at 1:00 PM as the last race of the day. While the race is on a well-manicured golf course, the several races preceding the senior men's race could leave it somewhat sloppy as the snow from this week melts. It looks like Boulder has had a decent amount of snow this week, but race day looks to be around 60 degrees and sunny, very close to the weather the Brooks Beasts and I have been dealing with in Albuquerque.   
With another week of altitude under my belt, I'm feeling better every day. Friday I was presented with my first more challenging workout with 8 sets of (800 meters, 300 meters) with 1 minute jog rest between reps and 3 minutes between sets. Albuquerque got some snow the night before and morning of, so the grass loop at the University of New Mexico was slippery and slow. I had the company of Garrett Heath and Matt Hillenbrand for the workout, which was very helpful. Intending to start in the 72 second per quarter range, we struggled in 2:31, 2:27, and 2:26 on the grass before deciding to move to the track. There we all felt immediately better and ran the last 5 sets in 2:17-2:19 and 45-47. Without the two Brooks Beasts there, the segment on the grass would have been pretty demoralizing, but fortunately they were struggling as badly as I was. Overall, the effort was just right; 8 days from the race is too close to really hammer something of this volume.

The strong and deep field for Saturday’s race is set, and I am as prepared as I can be. My fitness is as good as it’s ever been before a US XC Championship, but the altitude still poses an unknown challenge as I have little experience racing that high. I hope that I came to Albuquerque early enough to dampen the altitude factor, let my full fitness come through on race day, and make my 5th US World Cross Country Team. 

Later this week I will be announcing another Twitter contest, so stay tuned. Feel free to check out last week’s training below. Thanks again for reading, and follow me here on Twitter for more updates.

Week 11 AM PM Strength/Drills         Mileage
Monday 9.5 + drills and strides 4 20 minutes 13.5
Tuesday Fartlek (1 min, 2, 3)(1, 2, 3, 4)(1, 2, 3) Off 30 minutes 14
Wednesday 9 5 14
Thursday 11 5.5 40 minutes 16.5
Friday 8 x (800 meters, 300 meters) rest = 1 min and 3 min Off 14
Saturday 7 5 30 minutes 12
Sunday 14 Off 14

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Less than 2 weeks to the USA XC Championships: Last week's training.

We're approaching the week and a half mark from the USA XC Champs in Boulder, CO. I arrived to altitude in Albuquerque on Saturday, and have been taking it day by day as my body acclimates. Being here with the Brooks Beasts has been a tremendous help. Not only do I have training partners for a couple of weeks, but I also have access to the group's expertise as most of them have spent their fair share of time in elevation. My general lack of experience makes me timid, but my successful month in Flagstaff last year has given me confidence to make it a more regular part of my training.

I have felt much better my first week in Albuquerque than I did in Flagstaff. The house the Beasts and I are staying sits a little over 6,000 feet, but the majority of training happens closer to 5,000 feet, which is over 2,000 feet lower than Flagstaff. I hopped into a group long run the day after arriving, and felt ok pushing about 6.5 miles towards the end of the run. My only structured workout so far has been a Fartlek in order to listen to my body and not overdue it during my first week. I do plan one more fairly tough workout on Friday, about 8 days away from the race, and almost a week into my altitude trip. I've had almost 2 months of solid training before heading up, so the fitness is there, and the worst thing I could do at this point is push too hard too close to the race.

The field for the US XC Champs looks stacked, and it should be an exciting race. After the success of Team USA in the 2013 World XC Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland puts a great deal of pressure on the top-6 finishers heading to China this year. The team silver medal in 2013 was very rewarding and will undoubtedly be one of the fondest memories of my running career; I would love nothing more than to represent the US in 2015 and chase the team podium again.

Feel free to check out last week's training below. Thanks again for reading, and follow me here on Twitter for more updates.

Week 10 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Monday 12+drills and strides 5.5 40 minutes 17
Tuesday 5.5 10 x 500 meters w/100 meter jog (40 seconds) rest, avg. 79.3 16
Wednesday 14 Off 40 minutes 14
Thursday 10 5 + drills and strides 15
Friday 5.5 6 x 1 mile w/4 min rest on muddy xc loop (4:42 to 4:26) 18
Saturday 9.5 Off - travel PDX to Albuquerque 30 minutes 9.5
Sunday 16.5, moderate from 8-15 (5:40) Off 16.5

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Less than 3 weeks to the USA XC Champs: Last week's training.

I'm down to the last few weeks of training before the USA XC Championships in Boulder, CO on February 7th. There is only time for a couple more high intensity workouts before heading to Albuquerque to begin adjusting to the elevation prior to the race at 5,500 feet. I am heading down on Saturday and will spend most of the first week adjusting to the altitude before getting a couple of quality sessions in before the race. Given that I spent all of December on base and strength work, I am pleased with how the workouts have progressed. It is still only January, and there is a long season ahead, so it's important not to get too fit too soon, but it's going to take a great performance in Boulder to make the top-6 and another IAAF World XC team. Finding that balance is key, but so far I think I'm on the right track.

It has been a refreshing change of pace to get a few mile repeat sessions in on grass and get off the road after a fall full of pounding the pavement. It's a different type of running altogether, and it's important for me to remind my legs how to run hard on uneven terrain. I've even been adding spikes to the mix in order to prep my calves before hammering out 12km in them during the race.

I plan on seeing Dr. John Howell at Portland Integrated Health and Medicine this week for some routine maintenance and also for another blood test before heading to New Mexico. Since I'll only be at altitude for 2 weeks, I don't expect to see much of a boost, but it will be interesting to compare the numbers to those from Flagstaff in the early fall (4 weeks at 7000 feet). I'll post the results when I come back down.

Feel free to check out last week's training below. Thanks again for reading and follow me here on Twitter for more updates.

Week 9 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Monday 11.5 5.5+drills and strides 40 minutes 17

Tuesday 5 7 x mile, starting 4:47 and ending 4:25. 3 minutes rest on grass loop

Wednesday 14.5 Off 40 minutes 14.5

Thursday 11.5 + drills and grass strides 5.5

Friday 6 4 mile tempo (18:55) + 1 mile cutdown (68, 68, 67, 64), no rest (23:23 total)

Saturday 11.5 6 40 minutes 17.5

Sunday 18 Off