Monday, June 21, 2010

Junk Miles? Do they Really Exist?

Last week went awesome.  Got in 103 miles, my legs weren't sore and no aches or pains.  I have one more hard week of training and then the taper begins.  This week I am supposed to run 100 miles just like last week but, might try for a little more if the legs are feeling good.

Of course all of this running has given me way too much time to think about tons of things.  One of the things I have been contemplating is all of the contradictory information that is out there about running Ultras and training for them.  The thing is, what works for one person may not work at all for the next person.  I totally get that.  But, for a newbie trying to break into the sport it is pretty frustrating to get two totally different answers to the same question by two really experienced runners. 

I have been contemplating once again the term "Junk Miles."  Some Ultra Runners say it is quality not quantity that matters in your training while others will say any amount of time on your feet is important.  Ummmmm.  So as I was running along last week I think I figured it out.  First off: I think that training plans vary so widely at this distance because it really comes down to what your body can handle and all of our bodies react drastically different to the distances we are talking about in the Ultra world.  One person may be able to crank out back to back 200 mile weeks and the next runner won't be able to crack 100 miles a week without getting an over use injury.  It ain't easy figuring out what sort of body you have, it is sort of trial and error.  You bump up the miles and see how your body reacts, if it goes ok you try some more and so on.  Secondly: I think the reason there is this Junk Miles term is because as runners get better and figure out how much they can handle mileage wise while training, they have to figure out how to maximise those miles.  Meaning once you are up to your threshold, be it 100 miles or 200 and can do them comfortably you have to begin to really work with in those limits.  And especially if your threshold is lower like 100 you have to really figure out how to make each of those miles work for you.  But, for the newbie just getting out there and finding the threshold is important and time on your feet is crucial.  You have to figure out how to even get your body to finish 100 miles.  So I am beginning to think that this Junk Miles/Quantity/Quality stuff is all about the level you are at, how long you have been running these things and how well you know your body and your training.  You have to get up to your threshold before you can get too nuts about every run being a quality run.  Well and I am not sure if every run can be a quality run anyway.  Don't we all have those days where it is all we can do to get our shoes on and get out the door?  I can't be the only one that struggles just to make myself put one foot in front of the other some days.  So on those days it is just about getting those miles in for me.  For now I am saying every mile counts for the mile it is.  It is a mile more you put on your feet and legs and there isn't such a thing as Junk Miles, they all count towards the goal.  I don't really like the idea of putting some of the miles in a discounted category.  If you get out there and get it done, you got it done. 

Hoping for a good last week of hard core training.  Let the fun begin.  Happy Running All!


Unknown said...

Although I am not training for ultras I can attest to those "just have to do this" days to keep some mileage going. Working to get up to a 24 mile week and will see how my body likes that.

Tracey Kite said...

I have never believed in the term Junk Miles. I think if you are out there running it counts as running. We all have bad runs and sometimes those runs count more because it teaches us to keep going when we really dont want to so if that means junk miles then those junk miles count more than the regular ones in my book.

Anonymous said...

Like your insignt, I think this applies to all areas of our lives. If we are trying it counts. XOXO

jill said...

hhmmmm...i like the way you think. i've wondered about the term "junk miles" and while i can see how for some people, squeezing in 2 more (or 8 more) miles just to hit a number might not equal a quality run, but those miles are still activity - are still running - and can't be "junk" in the same way McDonald's french fries are junk.

i'm still searching for what makes a quality run "quality". sometimes it's logging some "junk" miles just to get out there and do them that make the difference mentally.