Since I started running and training for ultras in 2012 the hardest part has been consistently running high mileage weeks. The 50 mile week has become a target for me and somewhat of my nemesis to be honest. Looking back at my training history and excluding any race weeks, I only have two weeks that I was able to get in 50 mile. Why is the big five zero so hard for me?
I have a simple philosophy that I follow in ultra training. It’s not based on anything other than my own body and how it responds. If I can consistently run 70% to 100+% of the race miles during the course of a week then I feel I am prepared to race that distance. So if I am training for a 50k then I need to run 20 to 31+ miles a week. 50 miles ultra means 35 miles to 50+ mile weeks. The more often I can top the week out at the full race distance or higher the better. Right now the 50 mile ultra is the farthest I have entered but the 50 mile week continues to be elusive. I know when I register for my first 100 mile ultra that 70 miles a week need to be the norm. If I can’t get to 50 mile weeks now how am I going to get in 70+ mile training for a 100 mile race?
For me it all comes down to finding the time to get out and run. Between work and family I do the best I can any given week. I don’t beat myself up if I can’t get in the miles I need. It is what it is and I move on. Right now a 35-40 mile week is a win for me and I feel good about my efforts. Any week in the low 30’s and I know it is not enough.
I have started to think about what a solid 50 mile weeks looks like for me. I like to keep things simple so I have settled on a 25 mile weekday and 25+ mile weekend routine. I have not implemented this routine yet but after my next race this is the training path I intend to try. I don’t know if my 50/50 plan breaks conventional ultra training wisdom or not. The long run is key for ultras so a 20+ mile run needs to be the norm on Saturday or Sunday. The other weekend day needs to be a recovery run of 5 miles minimum. The weekdays need to be flexible so I can get in the miles when I have time. 25 miles over 5 days on paper shouldn’t be near as hard as it seems to be for me right now.
I can’t consistently run 7 days a week at low miles. I need one, if not two days off a week to recover. So let’s say I am running 5 days week. I need to let the 3-4 mile days go from my mind and think longer. I often feel like the 3 mile runs are just junk miles. I don’t get a lot out of the 3 mile runs to be honest. I think my week needs to be more like two 10 mile runs with a 5 mile run. Ideally this might be Tuesday 10, Wednesday 10 and 5 on Thursday. That gives me a Monday and Friday as rest days. But when do I really have an idea week? Not that often so I need to be able to work in any combination of 25 miles over 5 days. Maybe 1 rest day is more realistic. I am going to play around with this some more but you get the idea. I will also need to have a couple of weeks of hard running and then scale it back a week to help with recovery.
Looking beyond the 50 mile week, increasing weekday mileage is going to be difficult. I think the weekend miles are going to be key for me. The 30 or 40 mile weekend is a real possibility and the easiest way to get above that 50 mile barrier. Can I do that every weekend? No.
There are also some other combinations that I am thinking about. Two-a-days is a routine I have done before. Two 5 mile runs in a day is a nice way to break the routine and get my body wondering what is going on. 5 miles is around 40 minutes and something I can almost always find the time for. I have said this before but one big issue in my training is that I am not a morning running. This needs to change at some point. Maybe it is the key to reaching my 100 mile ultra goal. Even if a morning run is a once a week routine it would help at this point.
I am running my next 50 mile race in two weeks. I feel pretty good going into this event. After I get back I am going to decide on my next race and really try to implement a different routine in hopes of getting more 50 mile weeks under my belt.