Laying The Foundation

AJW writes about early season training and laying the foundation for a successful racing calendar.

By on January 22, 2016 | Comments

AJWs TaproomLegendary South African runner and eightnine-time Comrades Marathon champ Bruce Fordyce believes in laying a strong training foundation. In laying this foundation, Fordyce planned months in advance of his target race. About six months out, he typically began to build slow, steady momentum toward his target event and in building this momentum, his running was slow, steady, and focused.

This time of year I like to pull out my dog-eared copy of Tim Noakes’s Lore of Running and re-read the section about Fordyce. It is at once inspiring and humbling! And typically, after reading it, with it being January, I sit down and figure out how I am going to lay down my own personal foundation, in running and in life.

While I know much of the ultra world follows a year-round calendar these days, I am still of the old school with a focus on a big summer race, most often a 100 miler, that dominates my training attention from January onward. With most of the big 100-mile lotteries now in the books, runners are beginning to make their plans and outline their schedules. Perhaps they are targeting spring tune-up races or early summer training camps but in the midst of all of that they really should, and I know I am opinionated on this, be focused simply on laying that foundation.

For me, the recipe for a successful foundation is simplicity and consistency. Like much of the rest of life, in January it’s good to take stock but also get moving. Laying a solid foundation requires a steady diet of solid workouts that feed the soul while also priming the pump. In many ways, these base builders are as much about the head as they are about the body. But they also need to be treated with respect.  I have known many a runner who has pushed too hard in their foundation stage only to peak in May for their race that takes place in July. So, in addition to simplicity and consistency, this stage requires patience.

Finally, the most successful foundation builders know that more is not necessarily better. When Fordyce was exerting his dominance over Comrades and steadily lowering the course record year after year, he did so with fewer and fewer miles per year. Not by many, but subtle changes and alterations in his training allowed him to absorb as much of the training benefit as possible while also saving as much as possible for the big day. To me, that is a magical, sweet spot.  Here’s to all of you successfully laying your foundation.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Lawson's Finest LiquidsThis week’s beer of the week comes from one of my favorite beer states, Vermont. I have got to say, the beers coming out of Vermont keep getting better and better and this seasonal from Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Warren is outstanding. They partnered with the good guys at Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Florida to craft an extraordinary IPA, the Reverse Migration IPA. It’s a little fruity but also nicely balanced and full bodied. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on it, you will not be disappointed.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Are you laying your own running foundation right now? Did you take time off or time to run easily before restarting and building a base?
  • What does laying a running foundation look like for you? How important are the psychological factors of doing so, in addition to the physical factors? What else goes into your running foundation?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.