I finally had one of those moments in this training cycle where I got it. I decided to rework my training plan to focus more on speed because I have no doubt in my ability to finish a 50K and even distances beyond that, but the speed I’m aiming for, about 10:00/mi will be the hard part. Instead of the general plan of: Monday OFF, Tuesday short speed, Wednesday semi-long run between 8-15 miles, Thursday 6 miles, Friday OFF and Saturday Sunday back-t0-back I’m not on a 6 day/week running schedule with two key workouts: Tuesday intervals (4 x 1.5mi, 3 x 2mi, etc.) and Thursday 9mi tempo runs on the trail since that’s where I’ll be running the race.
After the Hoot Half I grew concerned that aiming for 10 min/mi was too lofty of a goal considering just under 11:00/mi seemed pretty hard to hit. However, sometimes I become blind to the “others” when I can only see what’s happening right now and that I got barely any sleep between Friday-Sunday and had poor nutrition which is not something I normally do and a couple of my tried-and-true race tactics were neglected.
So the plan was reworked the following week and that next Tuesday 9/8 it would officially begin. I had 4 x 1.5 mi intervals on deck and I haven’t really been doing speed work so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I shot for 7:30-7:45 avg per repeat and ended up around 7:37 for those. But it was HARD. So hard I found myself hugging a tree for support at the end of one. I could feel my shorts flinging sweat and smacking my exposed body parts and for the first time in a long time, I was really uncomfortable running.
But as soon as the last interval ended it clicked. This HAS to be what I need to be doing if it feels so uncomfortable. I started thinking back to all the times I upped the mileage this years worth of ultras (1 50K, 1 50 Mile, 68+ mi with elevation, 100 mile) that were all in the span of 5 months and I finished every single one.
Fast forward to that Thursday and my true test was given to me. 9 trail tempo miles. I was nervous all day for this because I remembered how horrible I felt during the Half the past weekend just under 11. And my goal was to do 10:30 for these 9. Ok 3 less miles a little faster, I think I can do this.
Off I went. The first mile leading into the trail is more of a grass field than single track so I went a little faster than I’d be averaging. 9:11. “Ok, slow down quite a bit, we have 8 more miles”. I slipped into a comfortable pace and my watch beeped for mile 2 – 9:17. “Oh gosh, I’m going to run out of gas soon”. Cut it back what felt like a lot, mile 3 beep – 9:22. I’ll spare you the rest of my head conversations but I ended up averaging a 9:37 for the 9 miles on trail. More than a whole minute per mile faster than the half I did the previous weekend! I have never been so happy and my confidence has been greater than it has in a while ever since.
Unfortunately, a cold/flu hit me hard last week and I haven’t been able to replicate that great week of training but I still battled that out and we just finished The Barkley Fall Classic 50K this past weekend. If you haven’t heard of BFC, it’s running a portion of the trails that those running The Barkley Marathons do. Barkley is considered one of the toughest ultra races in the US in that it’s a largely off-trail course, unmarked, with no GPS allowed, only a compass and a map. There are no aid stations and sometimes there will be a water drop or two.
More on our experiences at BFC and sections called “Testicle Spectacle” and “Rat Jaw” soon..