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First Trail Ultramarathon: My Training Journey — Learning How...

March 30, 2012 Comments (8) Journey To A First Ultra, Training

First Trail Ultramarathon: My Training Journey — Week “-5”

My name is Kirstin. I’m a seasoned endurance athlete — I’ve done marathons and triathlons (including one Ironman) — but I’ve never run an ultramarathon. I’m jumping into the deep end, taking on a 50-miler right from the get-go. In truth, I’ll be doing a 50K along the way, but I’ll do it as a training run rather than “racing” it. I currently have my eye on an October event: the Rock’n River 50 Mile in Auburn, CA. Over the next 7 months, I’ll be blogging my progress as a new ultramarathoner-in-training.

Because I’m a scientist and science writer — I teach at Arizona State University, write for the Highlight Health network, have been featured on Scientific American, and write a blog called SquintMom (resources for evidence-based parenting) — I‘ll occasionally review scientific research and findings relevant to trail running and ultramarathon. I’m more than happy to answer questions regarding health, nutrition, and exercise physiology in the form of Q&A blog posts. I’m not a physician, so I can’t give you medical advice, but I can definitely tell you what the science says.

If you’re new to ultramarathon, I hope you’ll follow along with me as I train for my first ultra, and I hope you’ll share your experiences as a fellow newcomer to the sport. If you’re a veteran, I hope you’ll chip in with advice (both for me and for other newbies) and encouragement.

Report for Week -5 (yes, that’s a negative sign)

I’m considering this week (3/25-3/31) to be week “-5,” or the fifth week out from the start of my formal ultramarathon training schedule. I’ve selected a 24-week training plan, which I’ll need to start on 4/29/2012 for a 10/13/2012 50-miler. In the meantime, I’m working on getting my mileage ramped up just a bit. While I’ve been running for years (with lots of cross-training thrown in), I gave birth to a beautiful little girl 13 months ago. I exercised regularly — but didn’t run — after the fifth month of my pregnancy, and it took me a while postpartum to get my mileage back up again. Currently, I’m running about 30 miles a week (Week -5 runs were 7, 6, 5, and 12 miles). I do most of my runs pushing a jogging stroller, which slows me down by about 30 seconds/mile at any particular effort level. With the stroller, I do relatively easy 8:45s for shorter distances, and 9:00s for longer distances (and, obviously, go a little faster during runs that aren’t meant to be easy). Without the stroller, I do easy 8:15-8:30s, depending upon the distance. Obviously, I’m not setting any land-speed records. Because I want to maximize my time with my family, my goal for this first ultra is just to finish; I’m not trying for any particular time goal, and I won’t be doing a particularly high mileage training plan (I’ll max out at around 50 miles a week). While I occasionally do tempo pickups, I’m not a big fan of speedwork. My best marathon to date was completed in 3:39:00, which translates to 8:24/mile. I know I’ll be running much more slowly in the 50K (and even more so in the 50-mile), but I don’t know exactly what to expect. As my long runs get longer, I’ll start to learn more about ultramarathon pacing.


Ultramarathoners, what was your novice ultra pace like compared to your experienced marathon pace?

8 Responses to First Trail Ultramarathon: My Training Journey — Week “-5”

  1. Jerry Armstrong says:

    Welcome Kirstin! I’m here for you! You can do it!! EnduranceJer

  2. mkreuzer says:

    Can wait for more info on your training! It’s be an awesome read!

  3. ynieto says:

    Welcome to the team! anything we can help, just let us know. Very cool that you are recording your training for your first ultra. You never forget your first.

  4. suzi says:

    Wishing you luck on this adventure. Thanks for sharing. My first 50 miler (north country in northern Michigan) was 10:24 and my marathon is 3:32. I did a 8:2 run walk cycle the first 25 miles. My goal was just to finish so I was very conservative. I know now I could’ve just jogged the flats and downhills and walked the uphills. I had way too much energy at the end (my last mile was 7:20). But I had tons of fun which is what ultra running is all about. I haven’t done another 50 miler yet but planning on my first 100 at burning river this July.

    • Kirstin says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m excited to know that a first ultra can feel so doable to someone whose marathon time is similar to mine! Can I ask what pace you would have felt was appropriate (while jogging) if you’d jogged the flats and walked the uphills?

  5. Great to find your blog 🙂 I’m in just the same position.

    I’m a marathon runner (PB of 3:49 so a bit slower than you) just about to run my first ultramarathons. My 50 miler goal race is on 22nd July, and my 30miler (which is forming part of my training plan) is on 7th July so not long to go! My peak mileage weeks are this week (57 miles) and next week (60 miles).

    Good luck with your training, be great to see how you get on!

  6. matt says:

    Just found this site – what a great resource ! I am also keen to step up to my first 50 miler having done marathons (3.42) and a couple of trail 50ks (4.39). Good luck !!!

  7. Tina says:

    I just started training for the TRANSVULCANIA, 83K in May 2013. I have 24 weeks to go. I am looking for a training program. Being a mother of 4, I NEED to have a schedule to get out the door! You mentioned that you had a 24 week training schedule. Is there anyway you could forward it to me?

    Thanks, and sorry about your injuries. Hope you recover soon!

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