Ultra-Training – Week 1 Recap

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Week one of ultra-training is done and I almost got all of my miles completed. It was a successful week and I was feeling really good until today. My training plan called for 26 miles this week—I was able to get 21 miles completed.

Today some of my running tribe and I “ran” King’s Mountain off Highway 6. This trail is part of the Elk King’s trail run that happens every October. I had no concept of how hard it would be to run this trail, and you know, I didn’t end up running much of it at all. I think it was more of a stumble, crawl, and slog than a run.

We were supposed to run 10 miles today but ended up logging 4.8. After reaching the summit, I think we were all a little tired and sore. At least I was. I had grand ideas of finishing the rest of my miles on the road when I got home but instead opted for smoked turkey and a few IPAs.

I got to the summit feeling discouraged and amazed that anyone would be able to run over 2,000 feet elevation gain in less than two and a half miles. I’ve hiked the Gorge a lot. I’ve run up and down the mountains above Molalla. But King’s Mountain is straight up, and I’m a lot older than I used to be. So here I sit questioning my sanity and my intelligence.

I scheduled this run to get a baseline that I can measure my progress against through the next six months of training, but now I’m wondering if I’m going to be able to run 31 miles within nine hours in such rough terrain – training or no. Instead of a baseline, I’ve created internal doubt and anxiety. I have to hold onto the thought that this is what training is all about. It’s week one, and I need to relax.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing squats and calf raises daily, but that did not stop my muscles from burning on the way up the mountain. Numerous times I had to stop and catch my breath. Really, what have I signed up for? Road racing is one thing, but this is definitely next-level insanity. The lesson here: more squats. Way more squats.

I have put off purchasing trail running shoes. They are expensive, and it’s hard for me to find a shoe that won’t anger the tendonitis in my hips. I’m embarrassed to say that I wore my Nike Frees over the mountain, and they were not even the slightest bit adequate. The soles were slick and I found myself trying not to slide all the way down on the return to the car. As soon as I got home, I went to REI.com and purchased some trail shoes.

Before the run this morning, the week was going great. I did all of them on the treadmill due to insane rain and time constraints. Do I feel bad about ultra-training on a treadmill? Yes, but oh well. I got most of my miles done. I’ve promised myself that I will get out on the road for some hills next week.

I chose Hal Higdon’s 50k training plan, which is free and can be found on Hal’s website. There is some great information on there as well. I felt like this plan worked best for my schedule, and I am confident that he knows what he’s talking about.

Also, I went out and bought a new planner—because planners are very fun and motivating for me. I went through and listed each run for the next six months. I also write down little details of each run that I can refer back to later. I list things like what I had to eat that day, what shoes I wore, where I ran, how I felt, how much sleep I got that night, and what my resting heart rate is for the day. I get pretty nerdy with data and journals.

I also found a new ultra book at my local library, and I’m really excited to dig into it. It’s called Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons by Bryon Powell. It seems that after today’s demoralizing trail run, that this book may give me a few pointers on what I need to focus on.

Overall, it was a good first week of training. I know I will improve over the next 25 weeks, and I should quit being so dramatic and hard on myself—but I can’t help but think, “What has this slow, injury-prone, middle-aged runner committed to?”

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Liz Ward

Liz Ward is a running fanatic, avid reader, and amateur farmer. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband, three kids, and a small herd of animals.

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