The Experiment: 80 miles

I mentioned it briefly on the blog a few weeks ago, but never really elaborated on my plan (or experiment, if you will). I’ve been running 55-60 mpw comfortably for the past few months and have been wondering how my legs would respond to an increase in mileage. The Philly half is 6 weeks away, so this seemed like a good time to try running 80 miles in a week.

But zomg, isn’t 80 miles a lot? Especially when you’re not even training for a full marathon? 

This definitely isn’t something I just decided to do on a whim – over the past 5 years or so I’ve been gradually increasing my mileage. In college, I regularly ran about 40-45 miles per week, increasing to around 50 by the Spring track season of my senior year. Back in 2008 while training for my first marathon, I reached 60 miles for the first time. And then last October, I maxed out at 72 miles. And I’m definitely looking at this week as an experiment. Will I run 80 miles regularly? Probably not – it takes up a lot of time! But I am willing to do whatever it takes to race well in the Philly half next month and with 6 weeks to go, now seems like a good time to amp things up. Worst case scenerio – my legs feel like %^$# by week’s end and I scale things back for a week or two. Best case scenerio – I alternate high mileage weeks (70-80 miles) with lower mileage weeks (50-60 miles) for the rest of my training cycle.

I’m a huge Pete Pfitzinger fan, author of the classic training book “Advanced Marathoning”, and I’ve found his lab reports to be not only helpful, but easy to understand (especially for a non-scientist!). In his lab report on increasing mileage (How High Should You Go?), he enumerates the following positive physical adaptations that result from running more:

Increased capacity to store glycogen (carbohydrate)

Improved ability to utilise fats

Increased capillary density in your muscles

More mitochondria in your muscles

Beyond the exercise science explanations, I’ve found through personal experience that increasing mileage works. To become a better runner, you have to run. If you’re injury prone, that’s another story, but you probably aren’t going to nab PRs if you’re replacing runs with yoga and bootcamp classes. These types of exercises certainly have their place – improved strength and flexibility are important! – but if your goal is to become a better/faster runner, personally I feel that miles are the best way to do it.

Here’s how the week has played out thus far (and what I plan to do):

Monday, October 3 – 11 miles a.m.

Tuesday, October 4 – 4 miles a.m., 9 miles p.m. including a track workout of 4 x 1200m @ 4:57, 4:49, 4:48, 4:47 (~6:25 pace)

Wednesday, October 5 – 12 miles run commute to work

Thursday, October 6 – 10 miles a.m., 4 miles p.m.

Friday, October 7 – 7 miles a.m., easy

Saturday, October 8 – 16 miles a.m., long run

Sunday, October 9 – 7 miles a.m., easy

As of Thursday morning, I’ve got 46 miles down, 34 to go!

I’ve received some inquiries on how the week has been going so far –

How much are you sleeping? Eating? To be honest, I haven’t really noticed too much of a change. I’ve noticed that I’m a little more tired than usual, but I’m still getting about 7-8 hours of sleep a night. As for eating, of course I’m eating more than I would if I were running 40 miles or 20 miles or not at all, but the types of food hasn’t changed – just the quantity. I’m eating bigger breakfasts, bigger lunches, more snacks in the afternoon, etc. I’m pretty much just eating whatever I crave and thankfully I’ve been gravitating towards healthier stuff. I actually decided to have Fage greek yogurt and berries instead of ice cream the other night. Strange for me. But you know what? If I want a giant cupcake from Crumbs, I will eat it.  Running 80 miles a week averages out to about 11-12 miles a day – there’s certainly room for some treats!

Have you become a complete hermit? Running that much must mean you have no life! Lolz, it is true that I do enjoy chill evenings at home on my couch, but I promise I’m not super boring. On Monday, I met Page and Lindsay for margaritas and Mexican food at Dos Caminos, I had a work related cocktail party on Wednesday evening, and tonight I’m headed to an evening event at Lululemon. It’s definitely a struggle sometimes to fit it all in – working 40-50 hours a week, commuting to the office (45 mins each way), blogging, making time for friends, etc. but training is something I enjoy doing, so it never seems like too much of a sacrifice. Some days it means waking up at 5:30am for a run or not getting back to my apartment till 9 pm, but I’m okay with that. I’m at a point in my life where I’m only responsible for myself (no husband! no kids!), so I feel very lucky to have the time to do exactly what I want to do.

Spicy food = spicy red cheeks, apparently.

Totally ganked this photo from Page's blog...hehe.

Spicy margaritas and guac!

I also had a deliciously crispy and awesome pork fajita dish (cochinita pibil), but alas my iphone ate the photo (I do not blame it, yummm), so I am using a stand-in that I found on the Vegetarian Foodie. My margarita was a little weak, but this pork dish was a-w-e-s-o-m-e. Go get it.

Pork fajitas with spicy pickled onions, corn tortillas, Mexican corn, and beans.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got. No big cooking projects this week because I’ve been, you know, running and stuff. I will report back this weekend on how the miles are progessing (think positive thoughts for my legs!).

Do you have any mileage goals for this week? For this year? Just a few years ago, I couldn’t even fathom running 40 miles in a week, but you’ve gotta start somewhere!

  • Ali

    Damn, girl. You’re going to hit 80 miles and that’s incredible. It’s so impressive that you’re awake and kicking ass, though I’m not surprised.

    Sad I won’t see you tonight — reunion soon for sure. Central Park rundate perhaps? If you can be persuaded?

  • Robin

    Your schedule looks pretty insane! Good luck with the experiment… I look forward to seeing how it goes!
    My highest ever is 61, but I’ve been running consistent high 40s/low 50s for several weeks now (yay NYCM training!) but I’m hoping that becomes my regular mileage, too.

  • 80 miles?! Goodness. You may as well be gunning for a 1:25 in Philly 🙂
    I appreciate that you noted you have gradually built up to this mileage not over the course of one training cycle, but actual YEARS. This does take time and it shows because youre times continue to improve over the years you have been writing this blog.

  • I think running more miles helped me! The most I have ever done is around 60 but am thinking of maybe increasing it a little in my next training cycle. 

  • Anne

    I run since june, so my best week was 20 miles. I do yoga also, so running is not a priority but I’m looking for more miles in my life 😉

  • Christine at These Happy Miles

    amazing! no doubt you’ll be able to do it – always impressed with your mileage and dedication to your career and still having some fun! 

    i definitely want to get up there (50-60) too, but agree with you that it takes years and many training cycles to work up to. i initially thought i’d be able to get up to the high 40s for my chicago training, but i’m happy with maxing out at 35-40. i will get there someday though!

  • sarakata

    Ok, so I’m the first to admit that I’m not a runner. Heck, I don’t even come close! I think my longest “slow jog” (hahaha) was around 8 miles. But I recently moved from Hawaii to New York, and one of my friends recommended your blog! ;D Talk about motivating. Good luck with your 80 miles!

  • Anonymous

    If you can run 8 miles, you’re definitely a runner! 🙂 Glad you like the blog – hope you stick around!

  • my mileage goal is to actually make it out of my freezing cold apartment and to the park to run 3.5 of those easy miles with you tomorrow. 🙂

    my legs hurt so much for you right now.  but this says so much about your fitness level and determination, and i think that’s awesome.  i love your dedication to this training cycle and hearing about how day after day you’re seeing it through (while still being the social megan i know and love).  i’m kind of in the process of making some big decisions that will require this kind of time commitment and perseverance (not fitness related, ha), and it’s inspiring watching you do it for the thing that is most important to you.

  • Anonymous

    i am so excited for our run tomorrow! and to hear about your plans…

  • Whoaaa you are a rockstar! I would love to get to where you are someday…it will definitely take some time to build that up though. Can’t wait to hear how it goes 🙂

  • Anonymous

    You are my hero! 80 miles = amazing. I hope I can get there someday. I wanted to top out at just over 60 for this marathon training cycle but am thinking I won’t quite get there while I take care of this injury. But next time for sure! I’ve been loving consistent 55-ish mile weeks and think i’d do well with more. Good luck, friend! Sounds like a PR in the making to me!

  • A big “you go bitch!” to you for the 80 mpw goal. YOU CAN DOOOO IT.

    My mileage goal for the year: some…any? 

    Also I haven’t heard the term “ganked” in a while but I’m so glad you’re bringing it back.

  • Anonymous

    imma gank your baby.

  • Sounds great. I’m inspired to find myself some weeknight running buddies to keep up my mileage even though the sun has set and it’s getting cold out.

  • Sarah

    That sounds so cool! I hope that one day I’ll be able to run that many miles in just seven days. I’m training for a half marathon right now and I just finished my highest mileage week (37 miles!) But I just (as in, two hours ago) signed up for my first marathon next spring and I’m looking to be running 40-50 miles a week by then. Probably a bit ambitious since I’m a college student who never sleeps, but I’m excited. There’s nothing I’d rather do with my mornings than go on a 10 mile run, even if I did go to bed at 3 a.m. the night before. And the best part of the college student life? I just don’t have to sign up for classes before noon. Score. 

  • Anne

    Oh, I have a weird question here. I cannot find good info on the net so I thought you would know. Does an increase in intensity can lead to imbalances of the menstrual cycle?

  • Anonymous

    yes, for sure. any additional stress on the body such as illness, weight loss, or an increase in physical activity can cause the body’s hormones to get out of whack and result in an irregular menstrual cycle. i’ve found that as long as i’m eating enough (esp. fats like nut butters, olive oil, avocado, meat, dairy, etc) and am at a healthy weight, then i get my period. of course, every body is different, so if you’re running a lot and not getting your period, it’s probably a good idea to check in with your doctor. good luck!

  • You are insane, in a very awesome way. I wish I wasn’t so injury prone, I love heavy training volume but my poor bones just can’t take the pounding for that much running. moral of the story, you’re an effing running rockstar. 

  • Can’t wait to meet you Philly, we have a huge bloggie group that will be running. It looks like I’ll be chasing you from about a hour back though 🙂

    A few years ago I ran 70mpw for probably 12 months and loved it. My body just relished it at that time. however, now it’s not working for me so I’m doing more cross training. 

  • RunTheLongRoad

    80 miles…impressive!  More impressive is how you fit it all in!!!!  I completely agree that higher mileage works but you need to find what works for you.  High for me is 60 miles.  

    I like Pete Pfitzinger too and his Advanced Marathoning book is awesome.  

    I got to get my butt in gear for the Philly Half…

  • AR

    Go figure, if you’d talked to me in March I was hoping to hit the 80s a couple times this fall/summer but the whole fucked up knee thing kept me stuck in the 40s for weeks. I had a few 70s weeks prior to Boston and I’ll say one thing – I FEEL a hell of a lot better when I’m running more. Too bad I’m still fat.

    lolz

  • Anonymous

    let me know if you guys have plans to meet up pre or post race! 

  • Anonymous

    i think you are beautiful!! leslie and i are gonna track your race while we eat ice cream this weekend xo

  • Anonymous

    i think you are beautiful!! leslie and i are gonna track your race while we eat ice cream this weekend xo

  • we are absolutely planning a big meet up! I’ll post it on my blog probably a week before and send out an email. here’s the initial list http://www.runtothefinish.com/2011/09/philadelphia-marathon-whos-running.html

  • Anne

    Oh thank you for your answer! I do not run much as you see, but I am very sensitive to that when I do more sport, despite an excellent diet. I read that running particularly affected the cycle.

  • 80 – that is amazing! I want to be able to run that much just so I can eat a whole box of chocolate peanut butter puffins in two days — wrong? I think not.

    Hmm — my highest is 40. I’ll have to add up this week and see what it is. It’ll prob be around 40. I don’t usually add up my mileage — I don’t have a good reason why I don’t. Hmm, just laziness? Anyways, yes, 40 is my max. It’d be cool to say I ran 50 miles in one week once in my life, but we’ll see. For some reason, I don’t focus too much on my overall mileage. I more worry about if I got the 3 quality runs in…and remaining sane about those. ha!

    See you tonight!

  • Wow, good luck on completing 80 miles! I am super impressed! Love dos caminos btw!

  • I hit 80-mile weeks at least once a month, year round.  I never thought of it as all that high, knowing that some elites are out there hitting 110+ a week. 

    However, I do have a life, and a full time (50 hour/week) job, and I get my 7 hours a night (9 on the weekends).  And I usually only run 5 days a week.  How does it work?  2 long runs on the weekend, and 12-16 miles before work 3 days.  I never feel crazy time crunched.  I don’t have kids, which helps…

  • Jen

    That’s both crazy and amazing! I’d love to get to 80. Why? Don’t know….just because! I can’t run on treadmills though bc of a gait issue so I’m constantly tripping on them, once the nights get darker earlier 2 a days will get more difficult. I worry about injury, too. Any advice? Currently up to 50 a week with 3 hours of xtrainng and about 20 miles of walking. Appreciate any words of wisdom! Thank you!

  • Page

    80 miles in one week is DEFINITELY something to write home about. Super impressed! P.S. I have a photo of you that I need to text to you. Cell?

  • you are a beast. yep, i’ll say it again. go get those 80 miles and cupcakes!!

  • J (morning runner)

    80 miles a week is A LOT!! Very nice job!  I try to aim for about 30-35 miles a week for now, but I know that I will be increasing to at least 40 if I ever run a half marathon again.

  • Major props to you for increasing your mileage!  I have no idea how I would hit in 80 miles per week, or how my body would handle it, but I would love to find out sometime.  You’re most definitely right about squeezing in the miles…if you want to fit something into your life, you’ll find time for it.Especially if it lets you eat more cupcakes.

  • Manuel

    I really like your blog! The food looks always delicious. 
    But when I look at your training schedule, where is room for regeneration? If you do not let your body regenerate properly, you will not become faster! If you train too often above the anaerobic threshold your speed will not increase. On the contrary it will decrease. Speed in long runs is mainly build on an aerobic base. Check for example the work by Maffetone.

  • Yeah, I’d say you deserve that cupcake! 

  • Anonymous

    don’t worry manuel – i have plans to take a rest day on monday (and next week in general will be a lower mileage week). when i’m increasing mileage, i try to focus on volume vs. intensity.

  • Corey @ runner’s cookie

    This is really interesting to hear about! I think you’re being really smart about the experiment by being willing to be flexible and do things like alternate high mileage with lower mileage weeks. And you’ve been gradually increasing your mileage for years, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this works out really well for you! I’d say there’s room for more than 1 cupcake a day with your workout schedule 🙂

  • Lindsay @Lindsay Runs

    You are a badass! 80 miles weeks are tough to hit, especially when trying to balance work and some sort of social life. But as you mentioned, its important to you so you make the time for it. Since its Sunday, did you end up hitting your goal?

    Last year when training for NYC, I hit 67 for a high but that was on 7 days running, so rest. This year, I was able to hit 70 this past week on 6 days of running and 1 rest. It definitely takes years to gradually build it up without your body breaking down. For me as well, I definitely notice a difference in fitness off higher mileage. I’d like to peak at 75 for this week, but well see how the legs feel 🙂 I still can’t fathom how pros run 100+ mile weeks on the regular.

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