Ultra Marathon Training 2015

It’s now the second week of February and I’m two weeks into ultra marathon training. This will be my second 50k ultra marathon in as many years, but I feel like I learned a lot from my experience last year. I think the break from running last summer did me a lot of good because I’m going into training this year totally recharged and super motivated. Training also started over a month later than last year so I really only have about 6 weeks to run through the bitter cold and snow – although the first few weeks have been brutal so far.

In terms of footwear, I’m alternating between my trusty Vibram Komodosport LS, Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove and barefoot running (on the treadmill.) The majority of my outdoor runs have been done in the Merrell shoes with wool socks to stay warm. Once it warms up a bit I’ll be running more in the FiveFingers – my toes feel too confined in the Merrell shoes. I ran last year’s 50k ultra in the Vibrams but that was mostly on a paved path. Not sure how I’ll fair in them on an actual trail so I guess we’ll see how training goes. I also splurged on a new winter running jacket and some warmer gloves.

Fuelling an ultra marathon

I’m still taking the low carb high fat (LCHF) approach that worked so well for me last year but I’m eating a lot more just to maintain my weight. All of the vegetables really help with recovery time, but to up my caloric intake I’m eating a lot more eggs, avocados, sardines, nuts and nut butters. Not really snacking, just making my meals bigger.

Ultra marathon training plan and weekly breakdown

The schedule this year is more of a traditional ultra marathon training plan, instead of the Frankenstein approach I took last year. In trying to make training more fun, I’ve assigned a theme to every day. There is no such thing as junk miles if every run has a purpose.

Monday – off or strength training
Tuesday (Speed) – mile repeats, intervals, or fartlek
Wednesday (Hills) – hilly run or hill repeats
Thursday (Double) – 4 miles in the am, followed by 4-6 miles in the evening
Friday – off or strength training
Saturday (Long) – peaks at 26 miles
Sunday (B2B) – ranges from 6-10 miles

I’ve also added a few new moves to my dynamic warmup routine (thanks to Kinetic Revolution) and my foam roller is always within arms reach.

Week 1 Summary

Total distance: 55km (34 mi)
Time on feet: 5h 28min

A great start to the program! Kicked it off with treadmill speed intervals, followed by a 45min hilly run and lots of easy miles. The long run this week was 10 miles followed by 6 miles on Sunday. Had to wear the Yaktrax on the long run due to snow.

Week 2 Summary

Total distance 58km (36 mi)
Time on feet: 5h 38min

Decided to do my interval run outside this week and probably shouldn’t have. Roads were pretty slick and slushy so it was hard to maintain a steady pace. Hill workout was 3x 600m hill repeats on the treadmill building to an 8deg incline. Double run Thursday was all on the treadmill due to the cold. Saturday long run was 12 miles and I stayed indoors on Sunday for an easy 6 miles. The cold this week is almost unbearable!

Week 3 Summary

Total distance 61.2km (38.5 mi)
Time on feet: 6h 3min

Another freezing cold week. When will the madness end!? Back indoors for intervals this week (400m, 800m, 1200m, 800m ,400m) and felt really good. Rolling hills on Wednesday and a double treadmill run on Thursday. Was tough to get out of bed for the 6am first run but managed to get in 3 miles. Long run in the snow on Saturday. Wore the Yak Trax and I’m glad I did because the snow got worse the longer I was out there. Ended off the week with an easy 6 miles. Roads were ploughed so I went with the Vibram/Injinji combo. Rocked it! Ran over 60km this week for the first time in a long time.

Week 4 Summary

Total distance: 66km (41 mi)
Time on feet: 6h 26min

Week 4 means February is almost over! Spring can’t get here soon enough! Increased the distance on one interval for Tuesday’s speed session – warm up, 400m, 800m, 1600m, 800m ,400m, cool down. Ran 5x 600m hill repeats on Wednesday followed by an easy, double run on Thursday. The first run at 6am was an easy 4 miles on the treadmill (watching my Simpsons season 6 DVDs) and the evening run was a cold but rewarding 5 miles around the neighbourhood. I felt so good on this run that I had to force myself to slow down at times. It’s also nice to be running after work while the sun is still shining. Saturday was a fantastic 16 miler and it was nice to run a longer route out of my neighbourhood. I actually haven’t run this far since last May and I could have easily kept going. The temperature on Sunday was fairly mild so I finished the week with an easy 6 miles in my Vibram FiveFingers.

Week 5 Summary

Total distance: 72km (44 mi)
Time on feet: 7h 5min

This week I started out super pumped but that quickly turned to frustration when rolling blackouts interrupted my treadmill interval workout. The power went on and off about five times in 30 minutes before it just went off. I did manage to get in approximately 6km of speed work (warm up, 1600m, 1200m, 400m, 400m, power out). I did manage to get in the extra 2 miles the following morning after the power came back on. Later on Wednesday I was able to do my usual rolling hill session. Thursday was supposed to be an easy double run, but I only managed to get the first one in due to other commitments. This meant that my second Thursday run needed to shift to Friday. Saturday was 18 miles and I felt great for the entire run. I really enjoy my long run route and it never feels like I’m gone for 3 hours or more. I am starting to feel mega guilt from my three year old about all the running though (daddy, ma come too!) Ended the week with 6 miles in the mid-afternoon so I could sleep in after the (unnecessary) time change.

Week 6 Summary

Total distance: 80km (50 mi)
Time on feet: 7h 51min

Not a great start to the week. Had to bail on speed session after 1 set due to a nagging chest cold. I didn’t want to make it any worse than it already was. Wednesday was really nice out so I opted to skip the hilly treadmill run and go outside! Thursday was another double run, with 3 miles at lunch and 7 miles in the evening. Saturday was another long run – 20 miles! Attempted to run at Around the Bay goal pace for the last 5 miles but it didn’t work out so well. Just couldn’t quite hit the pace. Got up earlier than usual on Sunday to get in an easy 6 miles before leaving for Sin City! It’s been a long time since I logged an 80km week.

Week 7 Summary

Total distance: 71km (44 mi)
Time on feet: 7h 47min

Vegas baby! It’s been a long, cold winter and lounging by the pool in the hot sun was amazing!  I did get up early on Tuesday and Wednesday for 6 miles on the Vegas strip. It was kinda cool because the only other people crazy enough to be up that early in Vegas were other runners. The streets were full of them. There’s a lot of pedestrian bridges on the strip which meant lots of climbing. I decided to run up all of the stairs and walk down all of the escalators. Thursday turned into a travel day so my longish run got move to Friday. It was 10 miles easy, but running on Friday makes my Saturday long run even tougher. This was a bit of a cut back week – only 16 miles – after running 20 miles the week previously. Ran another 6 miles on Sunday to close out week 7. Only one more week till Around the Bay!

Week 8 Summary

Total distance: 67km (41.6mi)
Time on feet: 6h 3min

After a much needed rest day on Monday, I was determined to get in some speed work. This damn chest cold has lasted for almost three weeks and totally derailed my last speed session. This workout was going to be the determining factor in calculating my race pace for Around the Bay. The workout was 1 mile warm up, followed by 3x mile repeats at goal pace with 400m recovery and a cool down. I’m happy to report that I nailed all of my paces on this workout and will stick with my original race plan for Around the Bay – 7:46 mi / 4:50 km for the first 20km and 8:00 mi / 5:00 km for the last 10km. The drop in pace is to account for the rolling hills in the final third of the course. This is exactly the same pace I ran last year so I’m hoping to at least do as well.

Wednesday was 8x 600m hill repeats and I did them on the treadmill (incline starting at 3 and finishing at 8). I felt great throughout the entire workout and the total including warm up and cool down was 7 miles. Thursday morning I ran a slow 3 miles and ended the day with an easy 4 mile run with the dog.

On Saturday morning I ate breakfast and drove down to the Around the Bay race expo. As usual, I didn’t buy anything but it was nice to talk to some old Running Room friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I came home and took the dog for a 3 mile shake out run. I feel rested and ready to go! Now the only thing I need to worry about is what to wear for the race.

Around the Bay 30k

It’s Monday morning and I’m still floating thinking about yesterday’s Around the Bay 30k. Other than sore calf muscles I feel pretty good considering that beat my PB by almost 4 minutes! My official time is 2:24:51 and I couldn’t be happier.

Read my full race report for the 2015 Around the Bay 30k

Week 9 Summary

Total distance: 62.6km (39mi)
Time on feet: 6h 10min

After taking a few days off after Around the Bay, I decided this week would be a recovery week. That means no hills and no speed work. Wednesday’s run was supposed to be an easy 6 miles, but my calves hurt so bad I struggled to complete 3. On Thursday I made sure to roll out and do a full dynamic warm up before heading out for 6 miles. It ended up being way more enjoyable than the previous day, with almost no muscle soreness. I definitely felt like I had recovered. On Good Friday with the unseasonably warm temperatures I ran 8 miles, and Saturday I ended up running another 6.

The schedule did need to shift slightly this week due to after work events and Easter, so I had to do my long run on Sunday instead of Saturday. Sunday was also a scheduled practice run at Sulphur Springs. Even though it was only a 20km run, I thought it would be good to get familiar with the course. That was the plan anyway. To my horror, I woke up on Sunday to a fresh layer of snow. This depressing sight, coupled with the fact I was an hour drive away made me reconsider and I ended up running my usual 16 mile long run. It went very well and I ended up finishing quicker than usual. Back to normal training next week and higher mileage.

Week 10 Summary

Total distance: 89.5km (55.6 mi)
Time on feet: 8h 46min

Back to normal this week and it feels great! Started the week off with cruise intervals on Tuesday (15min, 10min, 5min) and my pace was pretty even. I followed this up with another tough workout on Wednesday, 9x 600m hill repeats with warm up and cool down. Felt surprisingly good for the rest of the evening. I could have gone for another run! Thursday’s double was spread out over two days – 4 easy miles each.

At 24 miles, Saturday was going to be my second longest training run of the season. It was a little cold at the start but would (hopefully) be warmer for the final 10km of the run. I also decided to experiment with some electrolyte tabs. I packed 2 Nuun tri-berry electrolyte tabs and dropped one in my water bottle after 90min. I figured I’d start with water and then add the supplements later. I was surprised with how good it tasted and made sure to drink every 20min or so. It was a really long run and it sure felt like it, but I still enjoyed it. The only unenjoyable part was the headwind that I seemed to be running into in every direction.

Sunday was the first time I’ve ever followed up a really long run with another longish run. I didn’t know what to expect, but I felt really good and ran a 9.5 mile out and back on the Humber River trail. That makes for 54km of total running this weekend. Other than the one really bad spot of mud, the run went really well. I just made sure to take my time. It was a beautiful day and there were lots of people on the trail. I’m so happy that spring running weather has finally arrived!

Week 11 Summary

Total distance: 72.5km (44 mi)
Time on feet: 6h 58min

Warmer temperatures are here to stay! Let us celebrate the arrival of spring with the packing of thermal tights and extra warm layers. Tuesday’s speed workout was a 20min steady tempo run with warm up and cool down. I took the dog with me for the warm up and am looking forward to taking him out more now that it’s warmed up a bit. Wednesday was a 70min hilly run and Thursday was an easy 3.5 miles in the morning. The remainder of Thursday’s run was pushed over to Friday which worked out well because it turned out to be a beautiful, warm day. The only downside was I tripped on an uneven part of the sidewalk and scraped up my left elbow and knee. Lucky for me I was paying attention and put my hands out in front as I fell. I went home, cleaned up and went back out to finish the run.

Saturday’s long run was the usual 16 mile route. A significant cut back from the 24 miles I ran last weekend, but needed before I hit peak mileage next week. Sunday I went back to the Humber River trail to finish the week off with an easy 7 miles. It was cool and windy so there weren’t nearly as many people as last week. Trail running is so much fun!

Week 12 Summary

Total distance: 94.4km (58.6 mi)
Time on feet: 9h 28min

I can’t believe that my final peak mileage week is here already. It really doesn’t feel like I’ve been training that long, but I’m in the home stretch after this week. Tuesday started with mile repeats on the treadmill. We’re back to cold, wet weather this week so I’m doing more treadmill running than I would like. Wednesday was a gruelling 10x 600m hill repeats on the treadmill. I was totally wiped after that one. Thursday was the usual double run with 4 miles in the morning and another 4 miles in the evening. Friday I got to relax and rest up for my longest solo training run ever.

I’ve never run a marathon without actually participating in an event before. I ran close to 39km two weeks ago, but this Saturday I ran 42.2km on my own as a training run. Fuelled by eggs and avocados, powered by Vibram and Injinji, this was the final long run before the 50k ultra marathon. I just made sure to take my time and not worry about the clock.

The first 10 miles of my long run route is usually the same every time. I actually plan it that way on purpose due to the abundance of rest room opportunities. Before heading south to the lake I added a Nuun electrolyte tab to my water and ate a Larabar.

I got to the boardwalk about 12 miles in so I decided to run a 4 mile out and back on the trail. My goal was to get back to the entrance to the Humber River trail at 16 miles. The trail is a little busy but its really nice running next to the water. I turned around at the Argonaut Rowing Club and made my way back west. Once I crossed the Humber pedestrian bridge, I took a short walk break, ate and jumped on the trail. I wasn’t too familiar with the south end of the trail so I followed my hand written directions and made sure to look for the signs. Once I got into Kingsmill Park I knew where I was and put away the directions.

I’ve been running this portion of the trail for a while so it actually went by pretty quick. The transition from pavement to dirt was a welcome change and running through the woods is really fun. You know what’s not fun? The hill on Edenbridge coming out of James Gardens. Its really punishing and I walked the whole thing. At this point there was less than 6km remaining to the finish.

My pace picked up a little from what I was running on the trail and I was back into my neighbourhood before I knew it. I immediately downed a big glass of water, mixed another big glass of Hammer Heed and proceeded to make a huge batch of quinoa and a kale salad.

The week wasn’t done yet with a scheduled back-to-back 10 mile trail run. I went back to the Humber trail and after a slow start I was moving along pretty well. I was actually shocked that I was able to run another sort of long run after the previous day’s marathon distance. I completed the 10 miles and felt good and ready for the ultra. I had been noticing a slight soreness in my right shin the past few weeks, but only after running on the trail and it always went away quickly. This my friends, is where the story takes a  turn for the worse.

Week 13 Summary

Total distance: 38.8km (24.4 mi)
Time on feet: 3h 49min

I gave myself a few days off before starting running again. The 6 mile easy run was shortened to a 5 mile and I had to take another few days off. I resumed training on Saturday with a barefoot 6 mile treadmill run. I felt fine the whole time with no pain so I figured the worst was over. I managed to run 21km on Sunday but the pain in my shin was definitely noticeable after 4 or 5 miles. In the afternoon the pain increased especially when tilting my foot up. Driving was especially painful. I iced and tried to prepare myself for the following week.

Week 14 Summary

Total distance: 9.6km (6 mi)
Time on feet: 57min

On Tuesday I was able to run 6 miles but started to feel shin pain after 4 miles. At this point, my left achillies is also pretty sore. I experienced the same thing last year once I ran marathon distance as a training run for the ultra. I haven’t run at all this week hoping that rest, ice and stretching will help. Only a few weeks left to the 50k and right now I’m questioning if I’m even going to be able to do it. It’s pretty disheartening.

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