Two months in. My training plan has changed substantially, and I have a few regrets with how I started out, and also a few surprises. My progression of what I’ve learned:
50 Mile Ultra run – Part 1 – beginner questions
50 Mile Ultra Run Training – Part 2 – Building an aerobic base, running slow
1) Injury prevention: Conservative mileage! If you are new to distance running, take things slow! Ease on the mileage in the beginning perhaps even less than you think that you should. The absolute worst thing to get is an injury, which can hold you back, or ruin your training. Running slow for only an hour or so at a time seemed too easy for me, and I increased my mileage substantially. Too much, too soon. I developed ITBS – Iliotibial Band Syndrome, didn’t take enough time off when it started to develop, made it worse, and now I’m stuck with an injury that makes it impossible to run for even more than 10 minutes, and not even sure how long this is going to take to heal. I have had to bike the last two and a half weeks while my knee rests and will continue to bike and slowly build up the run again. If I could go back in time, I would have incrementally added on the mileage much much slower, paid attention to my body and rested when I started to feel pain. That is probably the most important cue that I ignored. Why? I know better than that. It can be hard to gauge ‘how much is too much’. But when something starts hurting, just stop! Worse than going on a 6 hour run in the mountains before I was ready, was running 18 miles the week after, and continuing to run for three weeks on an injury. More on my experience with ITBS here
2) Running for time, not for distance: My training changed quite a bit as soon as I got a coach. We shortened the long runs on the weekends that I had been doing to roughly a 2 hour long run, and added in shorter / medium runs throughout the week. So I started running 5 times out of the week, and these runs would vary. Occasionally hills, between 30-60 mins and only ever running for time, not for distance. If I had done this to begin with, I do not think I would have an injury right now, and I would be at a better fitness level.
3) Stretching: This is something I’ve always needed to do more of to improve various sports I’ve done, and I’ve gone through phases where I would focus on this for a while, then stop. I never took it seriously. Now my life depends on it. I wasn’t taking care of myself – e.g. stretching after runs, doing run specific strength exercises for the hips, icing, proper nutrition after runs, or resting enough. I now better understand the idea behind..’train like this is the first of many ultra marathons’ I don’t want to end up with a serious injury that prevents me from running after this. It is a lifestyle. Learn to love running. Learn to take care of yourself.
4) I Love Training! I started training for this as someone who did not particularly like distance running but wanted a challenge. I now have a good enough fitness level with running that I can space out while I run, get lost in thought, or focus intensely and run for hours. Practice makes perfect. The more I run, the more I crave it. (another reason why my injury really really sucks right now) I kept waiting for me mentally to hit a wall, or to get sick of it and to have bad days of training. I haven’t got there yet. A 40 minute run / bike is an easy day. Exercise has always my stress relief, even if running wasn’t. Now it it is too! And I love that. I love that I have started to truly enjoy running. Yes sometimes getting to the gym when I’m tired is a struggle. Or going outside when it’s raining. But once I start, I feel good. I think about my workouts at night before going to bed and get excited. The most frustrated I have been is when I can’t train. When my knee started to hurt. When I sit at work wondering how severe it is and if it will prevent me from doing this race. Only the idea of not training makes me scared and nervous and sad.