About 2 to 4 weeks out from a goal race is an interesting time for me. This tends to be when I develop a good idea how my training has been. It also is the time to target what will make the biggest difference on race day. I have moved away from labeling periods of training with start and finish dates as I find I work better treating training as a continual evolution where elements progress rather than suddenly change. Of course you see clear differences comparing 4 months out to 10 days out, but from a week to week perspective the change is blurred or intertwined. This approach gives me the freedom to be comfortable stepping away from the more typical periodisation that is found in most generic training plans. Of course to do this I also have the confidence in understanding how I respond to different styles of training.
I've now reached a bit over two weeks out from the Two Bays 56km Trail Run. For a reality check my training over the last three months has been far from consistent, and the volume (or lack of..) clearly shows that. As a result there are some significant gaps in my fitness. Over the previous 2 weeks I tested myself with some moderate runs and got the feedback I expected but didn't want.
Typically runners will be focussing on hard and relatively fast training such as intervals and race pace work at this stage. It usually is the way to go. That style will likely lead to false speed on race day and see my race plans unravel as the day progresses. I am comfortable with running at my goal race pace and faster speeds, but only for so far. Beyond that the style of fatigue is likely to be debilitating from a race point of view. So what am I lacking?
Rather than go into an endless diatribe on substrate mix, thresholds and the like, it really comes back to basic endurance. Quite simply, I haven't developed my base endurance to the level that's needed for an ultramarathon, which as I write seems pretty stupid because it is definitely the most important element required. Technique, strength and speed only get you so far. The cost of inconsistency and low volume has sent a final payment notice.
That's where I sit. Over the next week and a bit my training will be directed at increasing this base endurance. That will give me three long runs of about 4, 3 and 2.5hrs. The intensity of each will be a bit below race pace, remembering that 56km race pace isn't all that fast. In between I'll throw in some short hill sprints and moderate running to keep some handle on the other fitness elements. It may not be traditional, but it is what is needed to bring up a weakness that really needs to be a strength in this type of event. The trick will be to keep the intensity low enough that it doesn't lead to substantial fatigue and pulling me back from a peak.
As for a taper, it will be short, really just a typical race preparation week. An extended taper will only lead to a drop in fitness without consistent volume to back it up. So I'll train up to a week out, then just some light, easy runs plus a series of 200m repeats at what feels comfortably quick 4 or 5 days out.