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My running journey towards Northface 50

December 1, 2010

I realized I haven’t updated my running in a while (besides race recaps), and seeing how I’m running my FIRST 50 Miler this weekend, this would be the perfect time to reflect and think back on my training. I ran my first 50K 2 weekends ago in the Santa Monica mountains and had a blast out there even though I was nearing 7 hours on the trails. The 50K was really a “training” run for me because I had the Northface 50 MILER in 2 weeks. Crazy how fast it’s all coming. I remember when the thought of running a marathon crossed my mind. Could I really run 26.2 miles? My first marathon last Feburary, Surf City, around Mile 18 when I started to hit the wall (poor nutrition and fueling), I told myself that I would never ever run a marathon again, only the crazies and the mentally insane people do this kind of stuff. A year and a half later, I’m training for a 50 miler. Time sure goes by fast and I realized how much our bodies can do if we just put our mind to it and dedicate time to this sport/hobby/obsession. I’m not going to lie, it isn’t easy. Many times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel. I more or less forced myself to ‘bandit’ the Nike Women’s Marathon this year. I was signed up for the Half, but decided I needed the miles and jumped to the full. Nike was only 2 weeks after my St. George Marathon, but I want to go into this 50 miler as prepared as I can be. I don’t want to wake up race day and wish I had trained better.

Thoughts on training

I really had no clue how to set up my training plan for this 50 miler. I was originally scheduled to run the 50 in January in Catalina, but later found out I had a wedding to attend to that weekend, so instead of finding another 50 after January (what normal people would do), I decided to move the race up a whole month and a half for the Northface Endurance Challenge. I said, why not end the year with something different? Secretly, I love the whole training aspect of ultra running. Sure you have to sacrifice many nights to be in bed early to wake up before the sun comes up to train or give up drinking for a little bit, but the payoff is so worth it. I love the feeling of completing a 20+ mile run and throwing myself down on the couch in pure exhaustion, but with the hugest grin on my face. Sure my legs are trashed and every part of my body hurts, but it’s the kind of pain that I secretly enjoy. Sick, no? The night of my 50K, I couldn’t sleep because my legs were so restless, so the next morning I went on the treadmill and banged out 6 miles. Honestly, this was the best thing for my legs. It sounds crazy, but moving your legs after a big race is the best thing you can do.

I started my official training plan after I came back from China in late August. I was off the ‘training’ wagon for pretty much this entire summer. Hence, the bad time in San Francisco in July. I needed this summer to take a break from training hard. I still ran and worked out to keep up my fitness level, but I wasn’t particularly training for anything. Come Fall, I was more than ready for all the fall races. My first couple of weeks, I decided piling on the miles was the best way to approach this training plan. I wanted to hit 50-60 miles a week. 2 weeks in, my body was burned out on all the mileage and I was questioning whether or not I could even do this. My trainer stopped me and asked why I was running all these ‘junk miles’. Junk miles? But I’m training for 50 miles! I came to realize that I didn’t need to run 60 miles a week to feel prepared for this race. Instead, my training sessions involved a lot of hard interval training (i.e. lactic threshold training, metabolic interval training). We would get my heartrate up to working 90% then back it off for a few minutes, then repeat and repeat. We would do this on the spin bike or aerobic steps, coupled with weights and dynamic stretching. When you feel like you can’t give anymore, you do another set until your muscles start to remember how to function when it is fatigued. That was the kind of training I needed. Every session was used to improve my performance and build upon what I had done the week before. There was a lot of muscle memory involved. So instead, I ran an average of 35 miles/week, with 2x training, 1-2 90 min yoga, 1 day of x-training and 1 day rest. My runs were all about quality over quantity. 1 tempo run. 1 trail run. 1 long run. 1 hill run. I stopped doing track workouts closer to this 50 because I would rather work on my endurance than speed. Although, some weeks I did sub out a hill workout for track just to give my legs a break from long hilly runs. I will go back to track once this 50 is over and I can focus on qualifying for the NY Marathon…but that’s another story for another time.

Here are some tips that have helped me train:

  • Mind over matter. So much of my training has been all about mind strength over physical strength. I know I am fit enough to run 50 miles, but the mind controls a lot of what we do. Our mind controls our pain levels and how much further we want to push ourselves. Of course my body is not going to feel it’s best 5 hours in, so I’m counting on myself to push my body through the last 5 hours of the race. I’m going to prepare myself to be out there for 12 hours this weekend. I would love to come in at 10 hours, but I don’t think it’s realistic based on my 50K time and how tough the Northface course is. Really, my goal is just to finish.
  • Get rid of junk miles-They lead to more injury. Take your workout somewhere else that doesn’t put too much strain on the legs and joints. After a long run (20+ miles), I would hit up a 90 minute yoga session and an hour with my trainer. I would do the same after a marathon. It’s all about teaching your body to function on tired legs. You end up building up a tolerance for how much your body can handle and every time you push it a little further. I wanted to add more hiking into my routine, but never got around to it. It would have been good to learn how to speed walk up hills during hikes, maybe for my next 50 (hah)
  • Rest-It took me a while to accept the fact that I could rest even though I was training for such an endurance sport. My body needed a rest day every week, my muscles needed to rebuild itself and on the days before rest days, I would take an Epsom salt bath to get rid of any lactic buildup. I swear by these baths, just don’t do it before a run. Your ankles will feel like weights, trust me.
  • Weight train, x-train, yoga, etc.-All these are so crucial to a proper training plan. A training plan should not just rely on piling on the miles. You are more likely to get hurt and it doesn’t efficiently work all parts of your body. Weight training is important to help build muscles in areas that might not get worked on as much when running. It is also important to build a strong core, when your legs are tired, your body tends to rely on other parts of your body to help you. Yoga helps for balance, core and strength. It is also a great way to meditate and reflect back on all your hard work.

“Pain is temporary, pride is forever”

Here’s my complete race essentials that I am bringing with me. Prepared much?

L to R-CamelBak, 2 arm warmers, 2 hats, reflective vest, 2 headlamps, Aquaphor, Body Glide, gloves, iPod, Garmin, Tylenol, Band-Aid, IBU, 5 Powerades, 3 drops bags, Northface long sleeve, Salt tablets, 2 energy bars, beef jerky, Almonds, Chia seeds, 2 pairs of tights, sports bra, Nike pullover, Honey Stinger…, GUs, Shot Bloks, Sport Beans, Protein Powder (recovery), 2 pairs of shoes.. (still to add compression socks,windbreaker & directions!)

…And off to San Francisco I go!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2010 11:21 am

    50 miler?!?! Whoa – good luck!

  2. Derrick permalink
    December 3, 2010 4:54 pm

    Good Luck tomorrow! You’re going to do fantastic! I’ll be out there but only doing the 50K 🙂

  3. December 6, 2010 2:01 pm

    Admirable, AT! And I enjoy your running writing most.
    But for me this amount of running, training and investment of my life time would only beg the Question of – Why??
    Hope you did well!

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