My final long run for the Toto 50k is done. I'm through with the core of my training and I'm on to taper. Wow. It honestly feels like I just started training, but it also feels like I've been doing this training forever. It's been a pretty positive experience training for this race. I've gotten faster, I've gotten stronger, I've gained better endurance, mental toughness, and discipline. I feel, for the first time in a very long time, quite confident in my running and my fitness. When I decided to sign up for the race, I set out a plan for my training and I've followed it. I started with training for 13 weeks for the Pilgrim Pacer Half Marathon, then another 13 weeks of training (starting the day following the race) to train for the 50k. Why do it this way? Two reasons. First, I hadn't decided to run a 50k yet, my goal was to run the half. I wanted to train well for the half marathon. Second, I hadn't run further than 13.1 miles since Nov. '12, so I needed to build back to longer distances.
Training for the half went quite well and I was feeling strong on race day. Heck, it must've gone pretty well since part way through I was signing up for a 50k. The race wasn't as fast as I'd have liked, but it was a great day. I got to spend the time running with my good friend, Katie, at a run organized by my club, the Trail Nerds, with the support of many friends volunteering. To me, that's a great day. From that road race, I started my 50k trail training. The very next day, I met up with a great group of friends from the Trail Nerds to run the 10.35 mile loop at Wyandotte County Lake Park where the race will be held. It's a tough loop. We ran the loop in 2:39:52, which is a 15:23 avg pace. That was my starting point. I felt good about it because I finished the loop feeling strong and I did that just one day after a race that was equal to the longest run I'd done in 10 months at that point. I would use this run as a measuring stick for the rest of my training. A decent starting value.
From there, I ran that loop almost every weekend, often on both Saturday & Sunday, and often with additional miles after the loop. My normal weekly schedule was pretty great, surrounding myself with friends. Mondays: Mud Babe Mondays at Shawnee Mission Park as a recovery for my two weekly long runs - Tuesdays: Rest Day - Wednesday: Trail Nerds run at Shawnee Mission Park - Thursdays: Trail Nerds B.A.R. run at WyCo (Wyandotte County Lake Park) - Fridays: Rest Day - Saturdays: Long Run at WyCo, generally the shorter of my two weekly long runs - Sundays: Long Run at WyCo, generally the longer of my two weekly long runs. Also, during the work week, I did approx. 5.24 miles of fast walking per day throughout my workdays, and weight training on Wednesdays. I was also doing some hiking, yoga and indoor rock climbing.
The great thing about these group runs, which almost all of my runs were, was spending so much time with my friends. It also gave me the opportunity to try to run with folks much faster than me. How do you become a faster runner? The almost stupid sounding, easy answer is: run faster. I would hook up with someone much faster than me and they would run an "easy pace" as I would be running as hard as I could just to keep up. As training went on, it became easier and easier to run with those folks as I got faster and faster. That certainly made me feel good! That was true even on my long runs. Four times during my training I actually managed to run the race course loop in 2 hours or less. Before my training, I thought that would be impossible for me. Turns out, it was definitely not impossible. I started thinking about the race differently. The original goal was to finish the race, but it eventually evolved into a goal of setting a new 50k PR. My current PR is 7:00:29. I was losing weight, getting stronger, getting faster and getting more confident. I was even training my Husky, Katya, to run with me. Add to that, my good friend Danny offered to pace me for my last 10.35 miles of the 3 loop course. Pretty great to have good support from my friends. I don't know how it'll work out, since Danny is still fighting to recover from his recent 100 miler, so he may or may not be able to pace me, but I love that he was willing to make the offer.
After all the training, it finally came to my last training run. My friend Leia & I decided we didn't want to do yet another run at WyCo. After so many loops out there, we were both tiring of it and it is such a tough course that we didn't want the extra pounding. We decided to move out run out to the Clinton Lake trails instead. My original plan was to do this distance at Coleen's Annual Frozen Ass Run so I could have some support and aid out there, but for whatever reason & without announcement, the event never took place, so we were on our own. No worries, I really love the Clinton trails and I love running with Leia. We were just going to do an easy pace; I was mostly doing the distance to let Katya experience 26.5 miles before the 50k. I didn't feel like I needed more than a 20, but a 26.5 wouldn't hurt.
It was a gorgeous morning to spend out on the trail with a good friend and my Husky. We went out on the white trail and came back on the blue trail and planned an out-and-back to get the additional miles (the white & blue together are about 21 miles). We made it through the 21 mile loop strong. Leia & I, along with Katya, were all running pretty strong, taking our time and enjoying one another's company. I was really feeling confident with how easily I was covering the distance with little effort, even with how slow we were taking it. We stopped at our cars after the loop to grab a snack and refill our water packs, then we were back off for our 5.5 mile out-and-back. We were still going strong and both of us were pretty positive. Unfortunately, Leia took a bad step and twisted her knee. I convinced Leia to turn around and we walked back to our cars. Her training had been really good to that point and I saw no reason for her to injure herself for a few extra miles right before taper. Luckily she didn't argue much and I walked back to the cars with her and continued out with for the rest of the run with just me & Katya.
It was a great run and an awesome way to end the core of my training. From that run it would be three weeks to race day. I will spend this time tapering. I feel like my training was really excellent and I'm in a great position for race day. Of course, I am nervous about a PR attempt on the toughest race course I've ever run, but my training was good & I will have a lot of friends out there for support. I think race day will be a fun, successful adventure.