long runs on the trails
By far the most important component. Since the general opinion on ultra training is "time on your feet" over specific mileage, I'm going to aim for time out on the trails for my long runs. Since I'm a total newbie when it comes to trail running, it's especially important for me to spend as much time on them as possible. These long runs are going to be a challenge for me in several ways, however. First, finding the time to fit in a 2-4 hour long run out on the trails (requires driving to location) is going to be tough to fit in with my work schedule (working most weekends). Not to mention that I can't exactly do these solo, since I'm not familiar with the trails and because it wouldn't exactly be safe. My coworker, Diane, is training for the Western States 100 this summer and is a great trail running buddy but our schedules often don't match up. I've got a couple key long runs planned, however, and actually requested the entire days off. First up is a WS 100 training run in February of approximately 20 miles of the course. Then, of course, I've got the Way Too Cool 50k in March, which will be my first official ultra and also my longest training run leading up to AR 50. The rest of my long runs I'll sort of be winging it from weekend to weekend.
There is definitely some debate as to the benefit of back-to-back long runs for ultra training. The idea is to follow your main long run with a shorter (but still "long") run the next day so your legs get used to running fatigued. After talking to Diane and also thinking about my schedule, I'm not sure it's best for me, nor would I have the time to do real back-to-backs. Instead I plan on doing a recovery run of anywhere from 6-10 miles following my weekly long run.
tempos and hills
Although a lot of doing ultras is about slowing down and going far, I think it is still beneficial to incorporate some faster runs. Therefore I will be incorporating a tempo run, ranging from 5-7 miles (total, 3-4 miles being at tempo pace) at least once every other week. On the alternating weeks I plan to do some good 'ol hill repeats (probably on my freeway overpass? haha). Most ultras have lots of hills, and although many of the big ones get walked I want to strengthen my legs so I can power up at least some of them!
Although I'm going to be upping my mileage more than I ever have, this is one of the most important components that I will not sacrifice! It is so crucial, especially for ultra training. I'm going to continue with hot yoga and my Jillian Michaels circuit workout, doing each at least once a week (I'd like to build up to Jillian 2 days a week but we'll see). This may mean doing some two-a-day workouts since I also need to fit in my miles. Of course my runs on these days will be kept on the shorter side and at an easy pace.
midweek medium-long run
In an effort to increase my weekly mileage I will be incorporating a medium long run into the middle of the week, ranging from 8-10 miles. I'm going to keep these at a relatively easy pace and will run most of them on the parkway bike path (the first section of AR 50 is on the bike path after all).
recovery runs and rest days
While I do want to focus on quality runs during this training cycle I know that short recovery runs will be important, too. And sometimes, they may be all I have time for. So as much as I want to start running more mileage and running longer distance, I have to remind myself that if I can only fit in 4 miles one day, it's better than nothing and may be just what my body needs. On the flip side, I will be taking at least one full rest day per week. This training cycle is going to be, by far, the most challenging one I've taken on, and I don't want overtraining, injuries, or burnout to get in the way. This means, in addition to resting, I need to get a lot better at my active recovery! Note to self: this means more foam rolling and trigger pointing, stretching, ice baths, compression socks, staying hydrated, and smart refueling after hard runs/workouts.
So, there you have it. I'm really hoping this plan will get me to the start line in April feeling ready and healthy! I'll be posting weekly training recaps (hopefully every Monday) to help me keep track of my training so feel free to check back in and see how things are going! Speaking of, here's how week one of training went.
Rest. Still a bit sore from my hike and trail race!
4 miles, 9:23 avg pace. Another early morning run before work. Temps here have become frigid in the morning!
8 miles, 9:49 avg pace. My first midweek medium-long run, I actually felt pretty good!
90 min hot yoga. Was going to be a two-a-day with an easy run before, but lost track of time : /
9 miles, 10:58 avg pace. Met up with Diane and friends for my first official "long" trail run of this training plan. I only had a couple hours since I had to work, but I figured I would just fit in as many miles as possible. Better than nothing, right? Anyway, we were supposed to meet at 7am but Diane's friends were running late so we didn't get started til 20 minutes later. We started from the Sac State Aquatic Center and hopped on a section of the trail that I'll be running for AR 50. I just have to say that I'm pretty lucky to be able to train on the actual course of my 50 miler! Hopefully this will end of being an advantage for me : ) It was a little muddy but I felt SO great! I finally bought some trail shoes (Mizuno Wave Ascend) and I love them! It was great to finally have some traction on the muddy trails, and they were just as comfortable and functional on the paved road. I'll post a full review soon! I was also trying out a fueling supplement called Vespa (will post on this soon, too) and I just felt really energized and focused.
bike path along Lake Natoma
6 miles, 9:31 avg pace. First back-to-back run and legs felt a little tired but managed to get faster with each mile!
Total: 27 miles