Thursday, May 8, 2014

50k Training Plans

Update: Shortly after making this plan, I revised it. Please see 50k Training Plan version 2.0 for the plan I am actually following.

Now that I've picked out an Ultramarathon and registered for it, the next logical step is to develop a training plan (that is if you don't count the step when I freaked out a bit when I realized I am running a 50k in the snake infested deep south in August).
So the research has begun. As I read more and more, 3 main elements of ultra training keep popping up over and over.
1. Back to back long runs. From a life and scheduling standpoint this is a challenging one, but training-wise one of the most important things to get your body use to running on tired, heavy legs. Many weeks have a 20+ miler followed by an 8 or 10 miler the next morning.  Proper recovery is going to be essential in order to make these runs happen.
I need a little more time running in places like this.
2. Train on the terrain. I typically run mostly road or treadmill miles because that is what is most accessible to me, but we all know a trail mile and a road mile are very different things. In order to prepare my body for ultra trail running, I obviously need to incorporate significantly more time on the trails.  I have the luxury of living close enough to the actual race location that I can train on the trails there periodically, but there are also a lot of other great options closer to my house.  For me, the majority of my trail running will be on the weekends, but I have plans to include additional ankle stretching and strengthening during the week as well as some trail-like conditions to help prepare for uneven terrain.
Thank goodness Laura at Island Boost is helping me stay fueled! Of course I will be sharing!
3. Learn to Fuel.  Ah, my favorite topic. It's safe to say I've made HUGE strides in fueling and understanding what my body needs during this last year. I've found options that work for me for the half and full marathon distance and have started to explore new forms of hydration and salt loading.  That said, I'm not sure an all liquid and Island Boost fueling strategy will work for an ultra mainly because my stomach might need something solid just to balance it out. I've begun to investigate what solids might accompany my current fueling strategies.  Hopefully I can keep the barfing stories to a minimum. Spoiler alert: my solids list does not include donuts.

My 50k training plan

Red numbers are days I already have races planned. As always, plan is subject to change.
So here is my plan.  I've blended a couple of plans to fit my life (travel, racing schedule, what can conceivably be done with sacrificing family relationships, etc).  My main goal for this race is to finish, so I've tailored the plan to reflect that (i.e. no speed goals). There are several runs that are marathon distance. I'm on the hunt to find racing or group training options that might help get the miles in, without breaking the bank.

Big thanks to Tina over at Gotta Run Now for posting some helpful 50k training links.
  1. 50k plan based on your race date: Just plug in your distance and race date and this site will generate a training plan for you that can be exported into excel.  Plan can be edited from there as needed. There are four 20+ mile runs in this plan.
  2. Ultraladies 50k plan.  A 20 week plan designed for a first time or new ultrarunner. It uses an alternating pattern of hard and easy weeks to ease you into the increased mileage. The plan doesn't specify any speed or tempo work. There are seven 20+ mile runs in this plan.
  3. Competitor 16 week training plan. This plan is also design for first timers aiming at the 50k, but it include hill work and pace work (or differences in effort) for specific runs. Many of the runs are focused on total time goals rather than mileage. There are four 20+ mile runs in this plan.
I'll be honest, the plan scares me a little.  There are some tough weeks in there. But I think taking on a new challenge should be a little scary. Will I run every single run as planned?  Nope, I know that going in, but my goal is to stick to it as close as I can so I can finish the race. Moving outside your comfort zone takes a healthy dose of fear to help you achieve your goal.

How do you challenge yourself in new ways? Is fear a motivator for you?


  1. Your plan looks great! When I was training for the 50K I'm running this weekend, I found the back to backs were easier than I thought they'd be. The first time out I was a little concerned, but my legs were fine. It will be fun training for a new distance!

    1. Thanks Tina! The links you posted were really helpful. Good luck this weekend!

  2. Snake infested is a little scary! and Aug. heat, but at least trails provide some shade and cover. Your plan looks great :) If you were closer I'd do some long runs with you! I love trail running and I tend to relax and not worry about pace so. Enjoy the experience, I know you are going to do amazing!

    1. Trail running is a great break from the city! I might need to find a running buddy or two for all these miles!

  3. How long is the 50k going to take you vs a marathon on similar terrain? Unless the 50k is on much more difficult terrain and is going to take a great deal longer than a marathon would, I'm more inclined to train people for a 50k like a marathon vs an 50 miler. I'm just concerned doing 30+ mile weekends is a bit over-kill for a 50k.

    However I love that you're only doing real long runs every other week. Your weekly volume is a bit on the lower side, so spreading the long runs out more is a good idea.

    Are you doing any sort of quality running, such as long tempo runs? Or is it primarily slower distance volume work?

    1. Great questions Kyle! All of the marathons I have run have been on the road, so I don't have a great time comparison. The trails for this race are not super technical, but they will definitely run slower than roads or any 'rails to trails' style terrain. Would it be smarter to train for it more like a trail marathon? My main goal at this point is to finish the race as it is a new distance to me and it will surely be hot. I have a 39k trail race as part on my training in July on similiar terrain.
      I currently do tempo and speed work, but was mainly going to focus on distance and trail running leading up to this race. I'd love to hear your input if you think I should mix it up a bit.

    2. I do think a 50k is generally going to be closer to a marathon than an ultra. The only time that would not be true is if the 50k was on super hilly trails, which could potentially make the 50k take a LOT longer than your regular road marathon.

      A concern that sticks out to me is that your biweekly volume is so low that the 30+ mile weekends may be too much. Too much of a stress at once and too much of a stress to recover from.

      The 26 mile training run is half of your weekly milage at once, and a quarter of your biweekly mileage. And you're doing a moderate distance run after that 26 miler.

      Would you be able to increase your run frequency and weekly volume at all? I would say it's generally preferable (and safer) to maintain a more consistent running pattern rather than hammering it hard for a weekend and having two weeks of lower volume running between the long weekends.

      On the subject of tempo and speedwork. LSD is great for volume and all of the benefits from that, however it will lead to a lack of running specific strength. I would argue that a warm up + longish tempo run + cool down = long run is possibly the best workout for a distance runner. You still get the volume in with the wu & cd, but you have some quality miles in there to strengthen your legs. Throwing in some sorts of strides, longer accelerations, and down and up hill sprints, etc will go far to strengthening your legs and improving your neuromuscular fitness. Even for the ultra distance runs, it's all about balance in your training.

      Sorry to bring everything like this up when you already have a plan all set out, just my $.02 :)

    3. Thank you for the input! I really appreciate it! I posted the plan specifically to get advice from people that have more experience than me. I have no problem changing it or adapting it as training progresses.
      I agree that large weekend volume worried me too. While I was searching for plans, I found many that were considered ‘first time 50k’ plans that had 4-6 weekends of 30+ miles and no plans with other formats. I was worried to trim them down too much since I have no ultra experience. It seemed a little excessive to me in that most of my marathon training plans in the past didn’t have so many high mileage weekends in one cycle. Would it be better to scale back the large weekends to something more like 18/8 or 20/10 and then increase the during week mileage to a 6/10/6 or 8/12/8 pattern? Conceptually it makes more sense to me and mentally it sounds more doable. The effect of running on tired legs would still be there, but without the epic weekends.
      Changing the Wednesday or even some of the Saturday workout to a tempo workout is possible. I live in a hilly area, so hill training is a normal part of any outdoor run for me.

      Thank you so much for all the input. I think my worry has been to be undertrained, but many of the plans I found made me worry about burnout from epic weekends.

    4. What's a 50k but a marathon with a cool down?

      I honestly think you would be fine training for this 50k like you would a marathon, and simply modifying the plan a bit to get a little longer on the weekend (possibly switching between lengthening the long run on A weeks & the day after the long run on B weeks) and possibly cutting back on some track workouts during the week.

      The idea of doing shorter but higher quality doubles on the weekend is much safer than doing super long double weekends. However overall, I feel that a higher run frequency and total volume is MUCH more critical than a single weekend of high volume every two weeks.

      That's how I would do it for myself or any of my athletes anyway. I would not get into the super long weekends until the goal race is a 50 miler and/or the athlete has a high weekday volume as well.

      Now, if this 50k was in the Rocky Mountains it would be different and the longer weekends would be very important.

    5. Haha...very true. I am probably over thinking it a bit, mostly because all of the plans looked so different from the marathon plans I am used to. I expected huge mileage like that for a 50 miler.

      Thanks for all the advice. I'm going to reconfigure my plan with a better balance and a focus on quality of miles. I really appreciate all your help!

    6. I've posted version 2. Let me know what you think!

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  5. I am looking to train for a 50k. What are your thoughts on a 4 day training plan? The 5 days is too much for me. I have run 3 marathons on 3 day a week plans.

    1. I think a 4 day is possible depending on your goal for the race. One of the most important parts in my opinion is the back to back longruns. If you can fit that in with a 4 day training plan, it's definitely possible. Also some training time on race style terrain (esp if it's technical trails) would be really helpful. Good luck!

    2. Agreed, it will depend on a number of things. Mainly a) your training history and b) your goals for the race.

      People go to ultras and walk 75% of them, that takes very little training. The faster you wish to go, the more training you will require. But if your goal is to just finish it and be awesome, 4 days is certainly adequate for that.

  6. This is in fact a wonderful post, the piece of writing has really allured me, and you have given a definite idea of this issue. Nice!!
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