Over the past few years of marathon and 50k training, I've learned that it's nearly impossible for me to follow a specific training plan written by someone else. The strategy I've developed over several training cycles is to review a bunch of plans and pull resources from each one to set up something that will work for me. Thus, I decided to use the same general concept while training for the Stone Mill 50, my first 50 mile race. The training plan will look a lot like my 50k training plan, but will include more miles and back-to-back long runs. Below are the basic strategies I'll be utilizing for the next 18 weeks in order to prepare myself for my first 50 mile race.
1) Increased Mileage
During 50k training this past spring, my weekly mileage peaked at around 51 miles. I listened to my body, and truly felt this was the farthest I could push myself without risking injury and overtraining. Over the past month off from structured training, my weekly mileage has hovered around 20 miles per week, so I'll definitely need to ease my way back into higher mileage slowly in order to prevent injury. This season, my goal is to slowly build up and peak at around 60-65 weekly miles. Of course if my body says different, I will decrease or increase that number as I go along.
2) Back-to-back Long Runs
Every resource for 50 mile training plans speaks to the importance of back-to-back long runs. During road marathon training I would often rest the day before and after a long run, but during this training cycle I'll need to work in double-digit runs on both Saturdays and Sundays. The plan is to run longer on Saturday and a bit shorter on Sunday (i.e. 4 hours Sat. and 2.5 hours Sunday).
3) Hill Training
The Stone Mill 50 miler is not a hilly fifty by ultra standards, yet still has around 5,000 feet of elevation gain. Additionally, my tune-up race, the Vermont 50k, is held on a mountain and will be the hilliest race I've ever run. At around 5600' total elevation gain, it's still relatively "flat" compared to a lot of other mountain ultras, but as a flatlander I'm definitely intimidated by this course. I was fairly consistent with incorporating a weekly hill training session early in 50k training this spring, but after becoming
busy lazy I fell off track and only ran hills when I came across them on easier runs. This fall I'll be running up all the "real" hills I can find, and will also incorporate artificial hills like bridges, overpasses, treadmills, etc. in order to build up my leg strength for tough mountain hiking.
Climbing a hill at the Tyler Trail 10k
4) Cross Training
I always vow to incorporate more cross training every time I develop a training plan. Usually, I end up running as much as possible every week, and maybe throw in a few crunches or a yoga session here or there with no real plan. This season will be unique since I'm currently playing in two summer ultimate frisbee leagues, and play 2-3 games per week. Until mid-August, I am not committing to anything besides running and playing frisbee. If I don't lift a single weight or do one pidgeon pose until frisbee season is over, I won't be upset. After frisbee season ends, however, I plan to focus mainly on strength training 1-2 times per week as my main form of cross training.
5) Morning Runs
Since vowing to run early at least once a week, I've managed to get up a couple of times and have felt great each time. I would like to make this a more frequent habit as training gets into swing, if anything just to free up some time in the evenings for other activities.
50 Miler Training Resources:
^ I highly recommend this book as a great introduction for anyone thinking about running an ultra (50k and beyond).