I hope you guys are not getting tired of my 50K talk. I still have lots of thoughts swirling around in my noggin about the race, but one of the things I wanted to spend a little bit of time on was my training going into this race.
As you know, I am coached by Coach Mary of Train-This Coaching. We happened to be racing together on Saturday, me at Mendon Ponds and Mary at Ironman Florida. Coach had an amazing race despite some less-than-ideal circumstances. I'm proud to call her coach for so many reasons, but Saturday in Florida and in New York is way up there.
When I told Mary I wanted to give this 50K a go, way back in the planning stages of this season, she said, "Let's do it!" I was a little concerned about the timing since the 50K was a mere 7 weeks after Syracuse 70.3. With a week of recovery after the 70.3 and a week of taper before the 50K, that left 5 weeks to ramp up for the 50K. Due to some achilles issues in June, my run volume leading up to Syracuse 70.3 was a little lower than I would have liked in light of the fact that I had a really long race on my schedule.
Just a little bit of history: I have never run a marathon. A lot of people asked me why I wanted to "skip over" the marathon straight to an ultra. I think that is a very interesting question because in my mind there is not really a linear path to an ultra. What really attracted me to this 50K was the challenge, the trail running, and the ultra mentality, which suits me to a T. My feeling for the ultra mindset is that a race is not necessarily about going as fast as you can go, but lasting as long as you can last. That is right up my alley. I've always said, "I might not be fast, but I can go for a long time." I also think of myself as being an "outdoor" person, but until now never really felt like the things I was doing supported that label, so to speak. This 50K was a chance for me to push my endurance limits, test my mental strength, and do it outside on trails that deer run every day.
So anyway, in the lead-up to Syracuse 70.3, I began doing most of my long runs on trails. My longest run at the start of the 5-week build to the 50k was 13.1 miles. Clearly, I would not be able to build up in a traditional, marathon training style to that distance.
I was worried.
Coach Mary was not.
We did have discussions about which direction my training should go in order to limit the chance of injury and enhance recovery from long runs. I had time in my schedule this fall for 2 longish runs per week, so we went with that, plus one long hike per week, and then a few shorter hikes and runs. Almost all of my training, hiking and running, was on trails. My longest run leading into the 50k was 2 hours and 45 minutes - 15 miles.
I know. I didn't really want to talk about it on the blog or around the gym because I felt like people would give me that questioning look. You know, the one that says, "Your longest training run going into a 31 mile run is 15 miles? Do you think that is enough?" I decided to wait until after the race was over to really talk about it.
I would not be honest if I didn't say I was a tiny bit worried. BUT, one of the things I believe about having a coach is that you must trust your coach. My job as an athlete is to communicate clearly to my coach how I am feeling, what my concerns are, what my goals are, and to execute the workouts she gives me. Her job is to make sure I am prepared for the event I am training for. The key on both sides is trust, and that is something Mary and I have in each other.
Now that I am on the other side of the 50K finish line, I can say Coach Mary's plan was perfect for the time that I had. I was ready. The key to the success of the training, I believe, was the combination of the two long-but-not-too-long runs, plus the long hike each week. During the 5 weeks of heavy training, I ran 137 miles and hiked a little over 30 miles. That is a lot of time on my feet, and it built my endurance and enabled me to come up with a nutrition plan that I had complete faith in.
Would I have done anything differently? No. In the time I had to prepare, the training I did was perfect. I started the race injury-free, I had a wonderful day with few issues, and I finished strong and running.
If I had had more time, I do think I would have tried to get a few longer runs under my belt. I don't know that it would have made my race day any different, but I do think that would have prepared my body better for the aftermath of running 50K. Yeah...I'm really sore. My quads feel like they are ripped to shreds. Two days after the race, I'm still not walking normally. The beauty of it all is, now I do have a long run under my belt, and that is more foundation for me to build upon in upcoming seasons.
And I will do another ultra. There is no doubt about that.