Every year, if I'm making progress on my ultramarathon fitness, there comes a time when my recovery from workouts starts to change noticeably. I will have days where I expect to be tired, yet I feel great. My average running speed will often start to increase with no apparent change in effort. And, I'll start putting together strings of days that should leave me tired, but instead, leave me feeling on top of the world.
When it happens each year, can vary a lot. I looked back at some comments in prior year training logs, to look for when I started to feel like I was really in shape each year.
Last year, it was late June until my workouts really started to click and I started to feel strong. The timing was good, because I started to finally feel fit just before I started my taper for the Vermont 100. In 2006, it was early June when I started to feel pretty good. It's kind of surprising that I hit my stride (so to speak) earlier that year, because I had a really rough winter and ran very few miles early in the year.
In 2005, the last time I was in WS, it was September until I felt really fit. I had a low mileage winter and spring, two minor surgeries in the spring, and I just felt like I was behind schedule all year. Finally, a couple weeks before Halliburton Forest, I started to feel fit. I never really had a point before Western States where I felt like I was really fit.
In 2004, I was entered in Hardrock and ran a lot of miles all through ski season. I made some comments in my log about feeling amazingly fit in late March that year, but then I had a rough April and regressed a bit. But, by early May, I was cruising again and I had some amazing workouts in the last two months before Hardrock.
I mention these past years, because I'm starting to feel like I'm getting to that point in this season right about now. In my 50K over the weekend, while I wasn't fast, my endurance was very encouraging. I wasn't sore at all the next day. I walked Sunday, ran Monday, and ran and lifted yesterday. I expected to be tired this morning. Instead, I had a nearly effortless 6+ mile run to work today.
So, if my endurance and strength are really ahead of where they've been every year since 2004, I'm very encouraged right now. After this week, I will have 4 very tough weeks of training, before one recovery week, one more tough week, and then my taper. If I can really work hard in this next 4 week cycle, I will hopefully see some good improvements in both speed and endurance in the coming weeks.
Hopefully, that will prevent me from battling cut-offs all day and night at Western States this year.