My RunJunkEe family may remember I announced around the new year that this would be the year I chased down the title of "Ultra Runner." And as part of that, I promised to share as much of the experience as I could. And this is part one of a many part story. This is in no way an attempt to stroke my own ego or call myself a badass. This is simply me sharing what it takes to make my ultra a reality.
I have been running through the winter. You've seen the pictures. I get a good ice beard. It's safe to say this is the best shape I've been in after the first week in March since my last competitive hockey season. The running has been going very, very well. My goal for January was to simply keep running and log 20-30 miles/week. (Nailed it.) February launched the first month of my training plan. This plan goes through May 2 and a 50K.
The 50K training plan looks very similar to the marathon training plans I've used before. This plan has two big differences. The first is back-to-back long runs. The idea with this is to learn to run tired. I will get to that in a bit. The second difference is the one that I have has caused me the biggest challenge - Monday rest day. This one took some mental adjusting. For as long as I can remember, Monday was the day everything started. If you have a "typical" 9-5 job, or attend school, you get this. My solution was to simply reformat the training plan a little bit. My running week now starts on Saturday with the first long run, and ends on Friday with a rest day. I understand the shift is merely something to address my mind and it doesn't change a single thing, but the way I vizualize the layout really helps the mental anguish. And that's enough.
The back to back long runs are interesting. So far they aren't quite as bad as I had expected. And in fact I seem to be able to go faster than expected. I wasn't ready for that. After 16 miles yesterday, I did 10 miles this morning starting out running down my mountain, and then five miles back up. Usually I take the trail, but today I took the road. I've done this a couple times, but this one felt great and the clock shows it as a PR on the climb. (Again, not stated to stroke my own ego. Just demonstrating what I'm going through.)
Another slight difference in the plan so far is an emphasis on hills, trails, dirt roads, and jeep roads. My usual weekday runs tend to be on either well groomed dirt roads, poorly maintained pavement, or this one piece of pretty nice road. And as the snow melts (please, let the snow melt eventually...) I will add in some very regular trail loops. My weekend long runs are supposed to focus on trails and "off road" components to better match the big events. The 50K doesn't have a lot climbing, or a lot of technical trail, but the 50M a month and a half later does, as does the 100M in September. With the road marathons the trail running was just a nice way to mix things up and keep the knees happy. With this plan, the road is to be avoided when possible. With the road marathons, most of the hill training was there to build strength and speed. Now, the hills are there to prepare me to head straight up the ski slope (both the 50M and the 100M are at ski areas).
As with my last marathon, I am taking extra steps to keep myself healthy. Part of this is addressing small, irritating pains before they become big issues. I am not heading to my usual accupuncture and massage guy. And I kind of miss him. But it's a simple matter of geography. He's 45 minutes away. I simply don't have 1.5 hours of driving in me often enough to make it worth the trips. Instead, I'm checking out a much closer chiropractic office that offers massage and "dry needling." We haven't gotten into the needles yet. I have been receiving ART treatments and minor adjustments from the chiropractor. All of this is focusing on lower body pains at the moment. The good doctor has also diagnosed yet another muscle imbalance centered on my glutes. But it's the other side this time. So I guess I worked the former weak side into a dominant side. I have also been receiving deep tissue sports massage every other week. It hurts so good...
I've been working to dial in my nutrition and hydration strategies. The cooler months are focused on finding things I can digest well while running without causing cramps or other issues. It's not perfect yet, but it's getting there. Next up is trying to figure out more precisely what I need to do in the heat. I'm confident we are on the right track and will get it figured out.
And that's the ultra training (so far) in a nutshell. To borrow a phrase from a former coworker, it's like marathon training, only more so.
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