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How I’m training for a 50 Mile Ultra Marathon!

This year I decided to take a break from triathlons.  I wanted to focus my effort on one big race.  Yes, I did do some smaller races I’ll never skip, like the Broad street run or Oddyseey Half Marathon.  Once those were complete my focus changed to just training for the 50 Mile race.  Time wise and for scheduling reasons I decided on the Tussey mOUnTaiNBACK 50.  

The terrain is mostly forest roads, so I won’t have to deal with an extremely rocky course.  Obviously, the biggest hurdles are the distance and the climbs, totaling about 5,500ft.

I had registered for the race last year, but because of an injury, I had to back out.  I have had the best success avoiding injuries when I am following a training plan, so I’m using this Runners world 50 Mile Plan.  I’ve done training plans before that use back to back long runs, but I tend to get burned out.  So far this training plan has been VERY enjoyable.  I actually look forward to the long run on Saturday, and I have been just doing a leisurely bike ride on Sundays instead of another long run.

This is my first attempt at this distance, and the training has been going well.  At this point I’m at the 3:45 hour mark and can complete about 2,500ft of climbing on the kind of rocky terrain of the Wissahickon.  I’ve completed two 50Ks in the past, but I still think it’s odd that the farthest you run in training is only slightly over 30 miles.  Having a 20 mile gap in the plan doesn’t lead to much confidence, but I’m going to trust it and see how it works out.  Regardless, there will be suffering that day, but I’m trying to keep it to a minimum.

I’ve made some modifications to fit my needs.  For weight training, I’m using kettlebells.  It’s the perfect compliment to running.  I have never, in my past, made such an effort to keep lifting, while I’m still in the middle of a high mileage running program.  With the addition of weight training, I’ve been feeling better at the end of longer runs, and I don’t seem to have as much pain in my legs after then run.  It’s like I can take more abuse, yet not fatigue as much.  Kettlebells don’t just work your legs, they work EVERYTHING, with a big emphasis on core strength.  From this point forward, I plan to keep it in my schedule, 2 days a week, regardless of what distance I’m training for.

Another part of ultra running, that can be difficult to figure out, is what type of food to use.  Currently, I’m using honey stinger waffles, PB and J sandwiches, and GU packets.  Eating while running is necessary, with how many calories you are burning per hour.  I also make sure to down a few Hammer salt tablets, while drinking a mix of both Cytomax and water, from a Camelbak.

My strategy for the race is mostly just completion.  Yes, it would be nice to place in my age group, but with this being my first attempt at this distance I really don’t see that happening.  The best tip I received about ultra racing is that you do a lot of walking, well at least you should if you want to see the finish line.  It can help if you actually practice walking fast on a treadmill before the race, since it uses a different muscle set than running.  Yes, I’m sure some of the uber-elite runners don’t walk as much as I plan to, but I don’t want to be in so much pain that I don’t even enjoy the race.  The other biggest tip was to have fun, and sometimes I forget about that, and just focus too much on the competitive side.

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