My 2009 Experiment

Michelle Blessing Running on Pikes Peak 2009

Michelle Blessing, 100 yards from the 2009 Pikes Peak Ascent finish line.  Michelle finished third in her age group, 3/79, in a time of 3:25:46. Michelle was the Team USA Triathlon Head Coach for both the Men & Women at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia and is a Special Guest Coach for the Bozeman Tritons.

As promised in the last post, I am going to give you some of the specific training ideas from my crazy 2009 racing schedule. Keep in mind that I did not want to be real serious this year and I did not want to get burned out (a real concern, as I am easily bored), yet I still wanted some decent results. Would that be possible?

I started out in January doing a short hill/stair work out twice a week. One day a week it was strength oriented (The Incline trail – 30 minutes pretty much straight up) and the other day a week was on the step mill (a dreadful machine at the YMCA) where I would run 15x (1:00 HARD; 1:00 easy) – the kind of work out that almost makes one hurl. The rest of the week was pretty straight forward – a long and easy run on the weekend, two spin classes during the week, and a few easy runs/swims fit in where ever I could. Then I raced stair climbs in February (14th at Empire State Building) and again in April (1st in LA) – by then I had lost a few more pounds; and as you can imagine, that is pretty helpful when you are running straight up.

After the April race, I shifted my focus to sprint triathlons. I cut out the hill/stair workouts and would do a hard run of some sort once a week – sometimes it was a splash and dash race or a 5k, sometimes it was just a fartlek. I also began really pushing my spin classes. I teach them on Mondays and Fridays, so I was able to be very true to the workout. Mondays were strength endurance and Fridays are VO2 max type of intervals. I added one longish ride (3 hours at most) on the weekend and a longish run (1.5 hours at most). I also swam about 2 days a week, but only about 1000 to 1500 a session (obviously not my favorite discipline!). Lastly, I interspersed some sporadic squash, golf and strength training for good measure. How did I fare? I was in the top 10 overall woman and won my age group in the three races I ran. I also finished in the top 3 women in the splash and dash races – despite some serious swim issues (for another post). At this point, I was already into July, and so far, so good. No burn out and decent results.

Now came the switch back to trail running – which I love. I ramped up the mileage a tad – mostly adding about 30 – 45 minutes to my long runs and trying to do most of them at a higher altitude (above 9,000 ft). I kept the spinning classes (since I teach them, I figure I better not blow them off), got rid of the long bike ride and swims (YEAH!) and filled in with trail runs, incline runs and hikes with friends. I raced in Vail – by FAR the most crazy 10k “run” I have ever done – then I did another crazy race in Durango – a half marathon – off trail, marked with flags. That race was hard – over 2 hours – and I was 3rd woman.

Then came the Pikes Peak Ascent. The last three weeks I made sure to drive to the top of the Peak (14k) and run down and back up a few times. Lots of people go down three miles, up three, down two, up two and then down one, up one (3,2,1). I always had that good intention – but I usually ended up deciding that just a 3,1 (or sometimes just a 2,1) was fine. It is a lot harder than it sounds! By the time the race snuck up on me I was a little bit stressed out. I realized that my longest run was that half marathon in Durango at 2 hours and that running a race that could take 4 hours might be a bit of a challenge. AND, many of my good running buddies were doing the race – so there was a fair amount of friendly pre-race bantering. Race day came and went – I had a good day – I did struggle a bit the last 30 minutes, but managed a top 5 masters women finish – which is amazing because old ladies (like me) always are the ones kicking butt in this race! One of my best buddies was 3rd overall woman at the ripe old age of 47! I may need to train more with her next year – but I think her secret may just be running more miles – a lot more miles. Okay, then – never mind.

Now I am settling back into the stair climb groove, which is good, as I was just beginning to get tired of all that beautiful trail running. I hope that I finish off the year with decent results – my next stair climb in late September and then another in November. But more importantly, I hope that I continue to have fun and not take all of this too seriously – that will make my 2009 year successful!

Happy training!

Michelle Blessing, Bozeman Tritons Special Guest Coach, Team USA Triathlon Head Coach for both the Men & Women at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia