With less than three weeks to go until the 2010 Western States 100 (WS) and the big dogs are wrapping up their training. With some much excitement in the air, iRunFar caught up with a few of the top men’s competitors to see how their training has gone. We start off with two-time defending Western States champion, Hal Koerner, who is putting off his taper. Next, we check in with Anton Krupicka, two-time Leadville 100 mile champ, to see how his training has gone in Boulder. (iRF video interview of Anton before 2009 Leadville 100) Finally, Geoff Roes, who obliterated the Wasatch 100 (and nearly everything else in the) last year, shares his recent unstructured training with us. (Click on a runner’s name above to jump to his interview.)
After (trying) to follow Kilian Jornet around the Tahoe Rim Trail last September (iRF report), we’re excited to see how he performs at Western States. Despite this, we failed to contact Sr. Jornet for this article as he’s been very busy training in the Pyrenees. Over the 9-day span from May 31 to June 8, he ran over 700 kilometers (435 miles) from the Atlantic Coast of Spain across the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean Coast. During his trek he climbed more than 40,000 meters or 131,000 feet. [We’ve since heard rumors that Kilian’s final tally for his Quest was 525 miles and 137,795 feet of vertical climb! Thanks, Xavier.] Kilian will either be exhausted or very fit for Western States. For more on Kilian’s Quest: Pyrenees Crossing, there’s a TrailRunningSoul.com article that provides background and summarizes the first 6 days.
If you’re reading about the men’s field at this year’s Western States 100, you may also be interested in the women’s race. Fortunately, we’ve interviewed top contenders Nikki Kimball, Devon Crosby-Helms, Joelle Vaught and Meghan Arbogast.
In addition, we invite you to enter our Western States 100 prediction contest. There’s fame as well as some great prizes up for grabs!
Hal Koerner: I’ve been bringing a bad ankle back to life, but I hit 120 miles this week and will stay there until next week. [That’s] probably more than I would like [to run] at this stage of the game, but since I got a late start after Miwok I needed to gain back a little confidence.
I ran our Lithia Loop Marathon course twice and then threw in a few 10-15 milers with 3,000 ft of sustained climb. It’s all trail and it’s steep just like the canyons.
I’ve had to hit the sauna as the temps here have been less than ideal, but 1-1.5 hours at a time begins to get the mind ready for the onslaught.
iRF: How has you approached change to this final large week over the past few years, if at all?
Koerner: As I mentioned earlier, my taper has usually begun the first week in June, so I have probably stretched that out 7 to 10 days, but I still feel good and I know I can be rested in time.
I usually run pretty big or large aggregate miles over Memorial Day weekend and that seems to be a nice “last push.” This year I couldn’t risk injuring my ankle any more and decided to break up the mileage and rest after a long spring season of running. For the most part, June is a couple hours on the trails with 2,000 ft of climb. It’s mixed up and down for the most part, but I can throw in some sustained stuff, as well. I find it’s just good to be on trail to mix up the foot falls and to try and build up the quads on the uneven, steep down hills.
iRF: You ran very well at Miwok. Nearly 40 minutes faster than you’ve ever run it, if I’m correct. Do you think your Western States training season has gone better than the previous two years? How has it been different?
Koerner: I have had a pretty stellar year all things considered. Miwok went well and, yes, a huge PR. I have usually raced Miwok as part of a successive build-up in late April and early May, ergo I am pretty beat up by that point. Other times, I have run too hard and blown up, so to have completed such an all around effort this year was pretty special. I was on top of my pace, nutrition, and course knowledge and, with the fast field, we were able to push all day.
I imagine that will bode well for WS, too. I think it’s too easy to get caught up in all the miles and forget how fresh one needs to be for the big day. Recovering from a tough spring takes time and I think getting that dialed and listening to my body has been able to get me over the hump. If you are going to have anything left at mile 60, you better be well rested.
I didn’t enjoy being behind Tony for most of the day [at Miwok] and that helps with the mental aspect should that happen at States. I feel there will be a small pack up from, but that there will be some shuffling of the leaders. All that experience [WS] should be helpful.
iRF: Howdy, Anton. I saw your post about last week’s training (5/31-6/1). Will that be your final big week of training?
Anton Krupicka: I would say last week was my “peak” week in that, at 208 miles and 30 hours, it’ll probably be the biggest week of the build-up, especially with a 58 miler thrown in there. However, this week will also probably be in the 190-200 range and then I’ll cut it down the last two weeks before the race, really tapering the last 10 days or so.
iRF: Although not by choice, you drastically tempered your training volume the first 3+ months of the year and kept the volume significantly below your normal 100 mile training volume except for what I’ll assume are the two most recent peak weeks. Do you feel fresher than usual? Do you feel strong despite the reduced volume?
Krupicka: Yeah, I would say that I feel fresher than usual. I have a couple days each week where I’m moving very slowly and definitely tired, but it’s pretty predictable that my energy levels bounce back after that and I’m able to get in another two or three days where I can run long and inject some good intensity, especially on climbs.
I feel the strongest I ever have, without a doubt. Right now, my body just feels very, very comfortable and natural with the running motion. It’s not even second nature; running is first nature at this point.
iRF: How would you compare the overall quality your training season to that of your runs at Leadville?
Krupicka: This is easily the best training block I’ve ever had going into a 100 mile race. The only other one that would come close was when I was preparing for the 2008 WS that was cancelled, but I just wasn’t as strong or fast back then. My overall training mileage was higher then, but I’m just a better runner now, without a doubt.
I trained for Leadville 2007 (when I ran 16:14) primarily in Colorado Springs (COS) and when I was down there this last weekend I was easily hitting splits for climbs that during 2007 I would’ve considered tempo runs and on Saturday were just a standard 8+hr training pace. I’m just way stronger now.
Most importantly, though, after this week I will have had 24 weeks in a row of virtually uninterrupted, extremely consistent running. I’ve NEVER gone into a 100 mile race with 6 full months of solid training behind me. Usually, the best I’ve had is only six weeks. I think that is probably the biggest factor for why I feel I’m probably in the best shape of my life right now.
Additionally, over the last six months here in Boulder I’ve really emphasized vertical gain in my training as I never have before. That’s mostly a function of living so close to big climbs (20 minutes run to the hill vs. a 50+ minute run when I was in COS), and for a race like WS what’s probably even more important than running up all those mountains is that literally every day for the past 6 months I’ve been doing a minimum of 3000′ of DOWNHILL running, too (gotta get back home!). I really noticed it at Miwok (quads were never blown up, even late in the race) and really noticed it this past weekend: even after 8 hours my quads still felt great on the downhills. So, hopefully that bodes well.
Geoff Roes: I think last week (ending with a 7.5 hour run on Sunday) will end up being my last big training week, although I suspect I’m still going to get in some long runs in the mountains the next several days because the weather forecast looks great and there are dozens of places I’m anxious to explore right now.
iRF: I think you may have focused more on intensity (i.e., your recent Juneau Ridge run) than on sick mileage. What’s the thinking behind that philosophy?
Roes: Didn’t think about it much. I just ran a lot and then last Tuesday I was feeling pretty good and ended up throwing down a fastest known time on one of the most often run ridge routes here in Juneau. It felt nice to run a hard one, but most everything else has been slow and all about enjoying the time out there.
iRF: After Wasatch last year you mentioned having a much less structured approach to training last summer? Are you still training with less structure and enjoying it?
Roes: Pretty much training with no structure nowadays. Every once in awhile I do a run that I feel like I need to do, but mostly just going out running and seeing where that takes me. Last week was a bigger than usual week for me (about 115 miles), but not because I really planned it that way but because the weather was great, the snow has mostly melted, and the mountains were calling. Of course, I wanted to get in one last solid week before Western States, but nothing that I’ve done in the past several weeks has been with much of any kind of serious structure or plan.
iRF: Two weeks ago, you wrote “I couldn’t be more pleased with the way my training and racing has gone this entire year.”? Would you still agree with that statement? What’s been your general approach?
Roes: Yeah. I thought it would be hard for me to enjoy my running more this year than I did last year, but so far it’s been even more fun this year. My general approach: run when I feel like running. It sure feels nice to go out in the mountains for 7 hours and enjoy every minute of it. Not something that was happening for me a couple years ago when I was feeling like I needed to do certain runs at certain times in my training.
[We thought we’d share the concluding paragraph to Geoff’s most recent post as of publication.
I was thinking a bit during my run today about my training leading up to this race compared to one of my main competitors on June 26th, Tony Krupicka. He’s run almost twice as much mileage for the year as I have; His most recent week was almost 200 miles; and in the month of May, which he called his “worst” month of running in ’10, he ran about 200 miles more than I did. It’s amazing to me sometimes to see how different two paths can be to come together at the same place. My approach has clearly worked for me and his approach has clearly worked for him (if I’m not mistaken I don’t think he has ever been beaten in an ultra that he finished!). In many ways that seems to be the end of the similarity between our styles of training, and yet we’ve both been able to find large amounts of success. Just an interesting thought. Nothing more to say about that now.]
Call for Comments and Questions
So what do y’all think of these guys training seasons and final weeks? Isn’t it sweet that nearly all of them have had their best training season to date? Looking forward to watching the race (or following it on iRunFar)?