I have two summers of running training to go on, which means I do not have the kind of wisdom necessary to plan my own 50k training. (And arguably won’t have the physical stamina necessary to run a 50k, but we’re gonna keep it positive around here!)
What I do know is that my body doesn’t seem to like running five days a week, and that I need to be careful as I start entering higher mileage for any niggles or exhaustion. Two summers ago I pulled a groin muscle (self-diagnosed; it felt like running with a flat tire) after racing a 5k as hard as I could and then trying to run 10 trail miles the day afterward. Ah, the bravado of inexperience. I’ve read that it’s better to enter a race slightly undertrained than slightly injured, and I’m taking that to heart.
I’ve already had some achilles issues that I had evaluated by a physical therapist, who gave me some very simple stretches and exercises to incorporate, as well as some hip exercises to keep my IT bands from getting angry.
With that in mind, I’m generally using this Couch to 50k training program from Week 5 onward after my flat half marathon May 2. I like that it’s four days a week, with back-to-back runs midweek and on the weekends. It means that I’ll mostly only be giving up my Saturdays to training, where other plans put a mid-distance long run in the middle of week. If all goes well, I’ll be doing weeks 5-12 twice, since I have time, and adding an additional 2 miles to my long runs the second round.
During this training, I’ve got a few trips planned to visit family and friends, and one vacation with my husband. (We’re both vaccinated and will be following all public health guidelines.) I’ve tried to plan those around my lower mileage weeks, but I still have a 16 mile run on the books one Saturday in Hawaii. In July. (Is it possible to have preemptive heat exhaustion?)
Keep in mind I’ll be entering into this having just trained (and run) a half marathon, so I’m not actually starting from the couch. But I am starting from minimal elevation change, which is one part of this plan I’ll have to experiment with. Do I build elevation into every run? Specific runs? Long runs? I’m not sure what my body will tolerate. If nothing else, I’ll be doing shorter runs/hikes that mimic the two most significant climbs on the course (~2,000 feet and ~1,500 feet).
Also, I plan to do plenty of walking/hiking. I’ll be hiking anything more than the mildest climb, running the flats and downhills—with some speed work and hill sprints mixed in occasionally, depending on how my body copes. Ultraruns, from what I’ve heard, can be completed or failed on descents—if your quads aren’t ready for the pounding of downhills, it can end the race for you.
I’ll also be swimming, biking, and potentially walking and hiking as cross training—again trying not to overdo it and respecting the fact that I’m asking a lot of my body. I’ll be trying to mix some strength work into the week, too, but it’s my least favorite activity, so it’ll probably be bare-minimum activity to try to keep easy-to-fatigue running muscles strong. And then yoga/stretching and massage gunning my body as required.
So this is the plan. I like plans, because they give you a direction to head, but if I do this well it’s going to mean sometimes foregoing the plan—namely, backing off when I’m not recovering well. But I think the hardest part is going to be not getting caught too much on my pace, which I’m sure will be discouragingly slow.
I’m trying to remind myself that, even if I come out of this slow and unlikely to finish the race in the allotted time, I will still be in excellent backpacking shape for the season. But only if I don’t hurt myself in the prorcess.