I'm now more than halfway through the training that should prepare me to run my first-ever 50-mile race, just over a month from now. Ultra training is difficult, but not quite as hard as I thought it would be. You put in an awful lot of very long, very slow miles. Every time, you are a little surprised you could really go that far.
This past weekend was a good example. On Friday I was feeling a little sick and even opted to skip my morning run and strength training. But on Saturday I felt better and so went ahead with the planned 18-20 mile run. I ended up doing 19.3 -- it was tough, because I was running with folks who aren't training for ultras, and who had no intention of going for another tough run the next day. The pace was around 8:00 per mile, which is WAY faster than I need to be going. But when you are running for 2+ hours, running with company is the best way to make the time pass faster.
At the end, I was spent. My calves were especially sore, and I hobbled around for much of the rest of the day. Somehow, by evening, I was feeling a little better.
Good thing, too, because the next morning I was heading out again for a preview of the trails where I'll be racing at the end of March. The Leatherwood 50-miler is designed to be super tough, with steep climbs and descents on very rough trails. Tim Worden, one of the race directors, had organized a preview of the first 16 miles of the course, and I was the only one who signed up. Here I am about 6 miles in to the run:
The course was as challenging as advertised, with over 4,000 feet of climbing in 16 miles. My 19-miler the previous day had taken just over two and a half hours, and this run took 4 and a half! But amazingly, my legs really didn't feel too bad. I guess all the training I had done already was starting to "take," suggesting that I will really be able to do this. Tim's pace was a bit slower than I think I would have done on my own, so maybe it would have felt more difficult in that case.
The trail was very steep, with several sections exceeding a 30% grade, but there were also a lot of sections that were quite runnable and relatively flat. I'm not sure how interested I'll be in running much of it after about Mile 40, but I guess the only way to find out is to try. One nice bonus is that the trail was not especially rocky or rooty. It was pretty comfortable to run (and walk) on.
In the end, I'm not sure if ultrarunning is going to be my primary type of running. I am liking this new challenge, but I also like to run fast, which is something you really don't do in ultras at all. I'm not liking how much time it takes to train -- especially if you are going to find trails to run on, which means driving an hour or two before your run even gets started.
Below is the GPS of last Sunday's trail run.