Last month I set myself the challenge of getting 50,000' of gain in 30 days. The challenge seemed to be a good one, and although initially it didn't seem very "challenging" over the course of the next 30 days I found out just how hard it can be to get that much vert this time of year. In the summer, it is easy to bang out peak summits every other day or so and rack up that much gain, but in the winter, when the peaks and high trails are covered in a couple feet of snow, the challenge is quite hard. Despite this, I gave it a solid effort and am pleased with my results: 41,650' of gain in 30 days. All of this was done between 9,000' and 12,000' in elevation.
Now, the real question though, is will this focus on vert help? So far, I've had a few positive indications that it will. Obviously, it will help with climbing and keeping a good pace up hills, but I think it will also help with staying fast on flats and moderate grades. I've done two 14 mile runs (one last week, one yesterday) on relatively flat courses (only ~900 of gain) and have been able to keep my knees high throughout the run. On both runs I've pushed to a degree or two below race pace (both runs were around 7:20-7:30 pace), and have been happy with how I have been able to maintain that pace over the entire run. Yesterday, for example, I was able to keep my pace on the last 500' climb at mile 12 and my legs never developed that heavy feel. All of the vert I believe has really helped with my lifting muscles, which has translated over to being able to keep a better stride and pace during runs.
I've got a half marathon coming up on March 23 which will be an interesting indicator of my fitness. Given that last year my first day of running occurred on April 1 after a 6 month break from any running or cardiovascular activity, I know I am already in better shape then I was last spring. However, although I've maintained some fitness this winter, I have not worked on any speed, and am not really expecting anything remarkable out of this first race. Rather, I signed up to just race again, as racing still is a major psychological challenge for me.
My plans now are to continue with getting in as much vert as possible, but also incorporating one speed day per week (as well as to bump up the mileage on the long runs). This will hopefully allow me to continue to get in good shape for this summer's races and planned mountain runs, but also allow me to get a bit faster. Time will tell, but so far I think the challenge has payed off and positioned my fitness at a good place for continuing to develop and grow, without getting burnt out or peaking too early.
Looking at Grays and Torrey's from this mornings run