Training for an Ultra Marathon – Abbreviated Schedule

Sometime around the middle of December, I was asked to be on an ultra marathon racing team.  I was honored, but I was also very worried because I had never ran more than 30 miles, and that was over a year ago.  And I pretty much walked the last 7 miles, as I was pacing a friend during the last bit of her race. During 2013, I had not ran more than 14 miles, and my last double digit run was nearly two months prior to being asked to join the team.  The next fun news was that the 50km race was going to be on February 1, giving me about 7.5 weeks to get ready for running 31 miles.

I had to get some serious mileage under my belt and fast.  But I needed to do it without hurting myself.  I had completed a 10k on Thanksgiving, and ran 7 miles just before being asked to do the ultra.  First step, go out and run close to 9 miles, which I did at a fairly decent pace.  Then I had to increase my distance, and less than a week later I went for 25km (15.5 miles), with the Dashing Dog.  I planned to increase my distance by 5 or 6 miles every other week, culminating in a marathon about 2 weeks prior to the 50k.

This was troublesome to me because I had been training during November to break my personal record (PR) for a 10km (which I did), so I had spent the last 6 weeks running fast.  I was not ready to do long distances.  I had to come up with a plan. 

Remember my recent article about how Walking Breaks are Okay While Running? Not only can walking breaks keep your legs refreshed, but by adding some longer walk breaks to your run they can slow you down if you need to.  If you are not smart enough to run slow (like me) and you will burn yourself out early in a race (like I have been known to do), by imposing walk breaks onto yourself you will slow your (my) speedy butt down.

My body likes to run between 7:30 and 8 min/miles.  There is no way I can run more than 10 miles that fast right now.  My marathon PR is just under 4 hours, around a 9 minute mile, and my half marathon pace is under 7:30, so I figured I should aim to run the 50km (31 miles) in about 5 hours. Doing the math, that is 10k an hour, or 1k every 6 minutes, a 9:40ish min/mile pace. 

Side note: most of us in the US know how to convert kilometers into miles (10k = 6.2 miles).  What about miles into kilometers? Can you convert a min/km pace into a min/mile pace?

1km = 0.62 miles

1 mile = 1.61km

1 min/km = 1:37/mi;

1 min/mi = 0:37/km

roughly 5 min/km = 8 min/mile (actually 4:58 min/km = 8:00 min/mile)

Based on my running style, I figured I would run 2km (1.24 miles) every 12 minutes.  My plan was to set my Garmin to alert me every 2k (which I figured I can do in about 10-ish minutes), at which point I would walk until it alerted me again every 12 minutes.  By doing this, I would, in theory, add to the distance covered in 12 minutes every walking step.  This extra distance would give me some leeway to use the bathroom, get something to eat, slow down, or maybe decrease my finish time. 

That said, I also decided to set a 3 min maximum walk time, at least for the first bit.  Otherwise, I will only gain a short bit of distance.  Eventually I would get to a point where my running and walking will equal 2km every 12 minutes.  While that will work, I figured that running for at least 9 minutes, it will gain me more distance, thus giving me more time to use the bathroom, fuel up, etc.  So far I have used this method on a 25k (15.5 mile) run, a 34k (21.1 mile) run, and a 42.2k (26.2 mile) training run and it works pretty well.  I have actually stayed under a 9 min/mile pace (except the marathon where I ran 9:20 pace), and if I keep it up, I might actually finish the 50k in about 4.5 hours.  I will let you know how it goes.

For the marathon distance, I did switch to 4 min running and 2 minute walking during the last hour.

And yes, I just said I ran a marathon, for a training run.  This from a guy who not 12 months ago swore that he would never run more than 10 miles without getting a medal for it.  This is what happens when you get on a budget.

One thought on “Training for an Ultra Marathon – Abbreviated Schedule

  1. […] and 10k.  I had no intention of running anything over 13.1 miles.  As I wrote about in my training for an ultra post, I had to ramp my mileage up quick.  My longest runs after my last half marathon in mid […]

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