The last two weeks were the longest in terms of mileage in a couple years when I hit 100 miles each week twice. When I did that I almost broke myself, having the shin splints return. This time I topped out at 75 miles each week and felt much better for it.
My regime which I borrowed from www.halhigdon.com and used for almost all my road races (the site has programs from short distances through the marathon and even one specifically for Comrades, which I've been following for a few months now) has emphasized back to back long runs which I've never really done in any of my ultra training. I always found it was too much at once. I understand that the first day is to tire you for the second to simulate the latter stages of a long race and hopefully to get you though it. Whenever I've tried this I find that I'm mentally not into the second day's run and the fatigue seems to be more of a block than I can hurdle. Two weeks ago my long runs consisted of 5 hours at Chuckanut in the trails, then a 4 hour run the next day. Chuckanut started out really well. I planned two, two and a half hour loops of lots of steady climbing, mostly on well-groomed trails. When I went to start my second loop my legs felt like they weren't into it. I managed to run all the hills like the first loop but at a slightly lesser pace. When I was about 4 hours into it I did the math as to how much time I had left and realized I wouldn't be able to run the last bit of the second loop because I needed to get home. Also that section of the loop was pretty steep and technical in spots and I'd be walking a lot of it anyways. Not really beneficial training when getting ready for a road run. I still ended at 5 hours and the Garmin read 32 miles. The next day I started running along 0 ave again through the hilly section, eventually getting to a rolling stretch of about five miles where I'd turn around and run it in reverse. When I was close to an hour and a half I felt a deep ache in my knee and started freaking out that it might be something bad. I decided to turn around at the 90 minute mark and hopefully make it back to the car. As I kept running on the return route something hit me: I remember that I had this same discomfort a few years ago. I stopped, stretched the quad of my left leg really well then started out again. What do you know there was no more discomfort. I remember going to see Active Release Therapy ace Colin McKay one time with the same ailment and he said it was tight quads. Here we go again.
After fifteen minutes I had to stop and stretch again. It wasn't debilitating but it was definitely bugging me. Luckily I had a massage later that day and that seemed to help a bit. I ended this run with 24 miles done.
A few shorter runs over the weekend and I was on to the last week of long runs. This time I decided to do a 5 hour run on Wednesday and a 4 hour run on Friday with Thursday being a rest day with another massage in there, too. The 5 hour run consisted of starting in Maple Ridge at 240st and Dewdney Trunk Road, right along the old H2H course. I intended to head east to the Mission Municipal Hall, refill the bottles, and head back. As I've been staying off the roads as much as possible the last few months, this would be a test of the legs. I've been trying to stay on routes that have a dirt or gravel shoulder to run on to minimize impact. Lots of times the ground is soft and probably makes me run with greater effort because of the absorption of energy when running. However I thought this would only make me stronger and hopefully reduce the chance of getting hurt again. I couldn't remember if the H2H route had much of a shoulder as along this section it's always been dark and I stuck to the road surface. Turns out that about 75% of the stretch I ran along had a decent shoulder.
The run started reminiscent of the actual H2H race: about 4 degrees and raining. The shoulder was quite often full of puddles and muddy but I stuck to the plan and ran through it all to avoid the asphalt. I had everything that day - rain, sun, wind, hail. I don't think it was the best temperature training for S. Africa but I'll deal with that by hitting the sauna from now to when I leave. I even went the first half with no music but treated myself to the tunes on the way back. My ears end up bleeding if I listen to the music for too long. I ended up the run at 5 hours and 40 miles. 7:24 minutes per mile average. I was pretty happy with this because the route was very hilly in stretches and I felt strong on the return trip. The knee was aching for most of the run but it got to a certain point then didn't get any worse so I could ignore it.
Two days later I went out to Aldergrove Lake for the last time (thankfully). I'm getting to know every inch of that loop and the only thing that changes is the amount of horse poop along the path. I felt excited to do the run and the legs felt peppy as well. This is what I was hoping for. I did one loop of the trails then headed out around the neighbourhood roads to switch things up. I came back and ran the same trail route in the opposite direction in the same time as the first loop, only in a new pair of shoes to break them in. I still needed about :40 after this to hit the 4 hour mark so changed into the racing flats I want to use on race day and cranked out some 6:45 minute miles to finish off the run. Everything went really well on that day and I wasn't even dead tired. I'm beat the nights after the run and the next day but the day after that I'm ready to go again. Confidence is high for the run that's only, holy crap, 27 days away. Now time to taper with some shorter, speedier runs and quick hill repeats. Knock on wood I don't break before the race.