Monday, January 24, 2011

Ultramarathon Training - Part I

So, I got it in my crazy head to try a 50K ultramarathon.  My goal race is the Diablo Trails Challenge in March.

How did this happen?  Well, it was kind of a sequence of events that got me in trouble.  It all began last February with an article by Jason Robillard of Barefoot Running University.  The article was "Can I Run Ultras If I'm Already a Slow Runner".

Now, prior to reading this article I always thought of ultramarathoners as crazy, elite runners who had some kind of special superhuman ability to run for a ridiculous number of miles.  I had read in Born to Run by Christopher McDougall about races like the Leadville 100 and Badwater in Death Valley - not to mention the fact that the book revolves around a 50 mile race in a desert canyon in northern Mexico.  My notions about ultras was built on these amazing athletes that could run all kinds of crazy distances.  So, an ultramarathon, for me, was out of the question.

In Jason's article, he talks about how being a slow runner can be a positive in long distance running.  Next, he demonstrates how this can be true for a person interested in finishing their first .  Jason asks you to look up the cutoff time for any 50K race.  Then use a pace calculator like Cool Running to determine the per mile pace you would need to run to complete in under the cutoff time.  For my goal race that turned out to be 19:18 per mile.  The seed was sown.

The day before running the Stockton Half Marathon (posting coming soon), my neighbor loaned me the book Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes. 

After completing the Stockton Half Marathon (my first barefoot half marathon), I felt a confirmation of sorts about the barefoot training I had been doing all year.  I had never before felt as good as I did post-race than I did after this race.

Now, I've heard good and bad things about Dean Karnazes.  I am not going to takes sides because that is not my concern nor is it the purpose of this post.  For me, the progression of events that Dean describes in his book fed the curiosity in my mind about ultramarthon running.  In short, reading this book helped sprout the seed sown by Jason.

Next, I looked up a 50K training schedule online - Santa Clarita Runners.  I plugged in the date for the Diablo Trails Challenge and printed out the schedule.  The schedule is based on successive runs that build through the weeks.  The mid-week runs are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; the long runs are split over Saturday and Sunday.

So, I was set!  Or so I thought.  The beginning of my training schedule started the week of Christmas.  Since Christmas fell on a Saturday this year, I didn't get in my first long runs.  The second week wasn't much better because this was New Year's weekend.  So much for serious training.

Once I got past the chaos of the holiday season, I got down to business.  While I missed a short run here or there, I started increasing mileage fast.  I was feeling great - tired, but great!  The purpose behind back to back runs is to run miles while your legs are still fatigued.  This allows your body to feel what it is like to run long miles without having to spend hours at a time day in and day out. 

All was going well until this past week.  I had just finished with a fantastic 24 mile week (was supposed to be 32) - with my longest run of 14 miles.  I started this past week with a 4-mile on Tuesday and a 6-miler on Thursday.  I had taken Wednesday off because I was just tired.  Well, Thursday night I started feeling a tickle in my throat.  By the weekend, I had a full-on dry, hacking cough.

My thinking is that I had so worn down my body with more miles than I had done in a long time that I had opened myself up to illness.  With two school-aged kids and myself being a teacher, I am bombarded daily with all sorts of germs.  Well, one of them got me.

So, I took the weekend off and slept and slept and then slept some more.  Usually when I get sick, I don't slow down.  I plow right through it.  However, in this case, since my body is physically spent from running, I'm actually listening to my body.

With a little luck and some more rest I'll be back on the road later this week, piling on more miles in training for my first ultramarathon.

Stay tuned for the next installment of my progress (post-illness).

1 comment:

  1. Good luck. I hope you're feeling better soon. Like you, I've decided to jump into ultra distance with a six hour race this summer. A trail race! I sign up on Valentine's Day. At this point I'm still planning on it....we'll see:)