I’ve known for months that The North Face Endurance Challenge Series in California 50k was going to be my big goal race of the year. I ran it 2 years ago, missed it last year because I was traveling, and couldn’t wait to be back this year.
I started “officially” training after we returned from our honeymoon at the end of August. My training plan was very unstructured – I just knew I wanted to run trails a few times a week, get in as much vert as I could, and run with Robyn and behind Dan whenever possible. I wrote a post in October about how training was going well. Sure enough though, not long after publishing that, I had a complete crap week of running. I hated everything that had to do with running, so I just didn’t do it for a few days. I squeaked out 23 miles for the week, rested a bunch, and then bounced back the next. I had one other down week when I took three days off because my foot was bothering me. I had a stress fracture in my left foot last year, which is healed now, but it starts to flair up after I’ve been walking too much. After taking those days off, I managed to have the best long run of my life with Robyn at Magnolia Road, so that took away worry that my foot was going to be a serious issue.
Some training details, if you’re into that sort of thing:
- Duration: 14 weeks, not counting race week
- Average weekly mileage: 43
- Average weekly elevation gain: 5,240 feet
- Highest weekly mileage: 57.5 miles with 8,146 feet of climbing
At times during training, I was second-guessing the amount I was running. I felt like I could have fit in more and that my mileage was low for the race I was preparing for. But, the runs I was doing were such high quality (for me) that I think the lower mileage might have benefited me. I wasn’t running “junk miles” and never felt burnt out. I also was more focused on elevation gain than I was on mileage and had 4 weeks with over 6,000 feet of climbing. And something that is new for me that I think was key is that I ran back-to-back days with my long run. I tried to make my weekends focused around one LR day and one day of either short with climbing or short with tempo-ish efforts.
Robyn and I ran together SO much, which was incredible. I felt like we were truly on a team. I didn’t run in school, so I’ve never had the opportunity to train with a team that has a shared goal. Between the two of us and all of our friends that were training for the same race (or longer), we had so much support.
Also, Dan was as focused (if not more) on this race as I was, so training sort of became our lifestyle. We kept it “boring” and did most of our runs on the Front Range on trails that we knew so that we didn’t have to drive far or worry about getting lost and wasting time. We slept a ton, we ate a ton, and we talked about our goals. Dan inspires me so much as a racer. He works really hard and sets huge, ambitious goals but then at the end of the race, he is happy regardless of the time on the clock or place because he always gives it his all.
- Best long run: 25 miles with Robyn on Magnolia Road. My longest training run ever. We did this 4 weeks out from the race and it was such a confidence booster. After this, I felt like nothing else really mattered with training. I normally would do my biggest run 3 weeks before the race, but I think this worked out well because I didn’t freak out about trying to squeeze big efforts in in the weeks leading up to the race.
- Best race-specific workout: 1.5 mile repeats up Green Mountain access road. This was my secret weapon. I only did this specific run twice, but that was enough time to mentally prepare myself for the up-and-down beating of the fire roads on the race. From the parking lot, up to where the trail crests is 1.5 miles with about 750 feet of gain. Perfect.
- Best weekend: Hilloween followed by Lair o the Bear. This was killer! On Saturday, a bunch of dorks in costumes ran Hilloween repeats and I got in 12.4 miles with over 3,000 feet of gain and the next day Robyn and I ran 18 at Lair with 2,500 feet of gain.
- Races during training: In September, Dan and I ran the Endurance Challenge Series Utah marathon relay together and won and then we both raced the half marathon the next day. That was fun! And the day after the 25 mile long run mentioned above, I ran the West Side Best Side Cross Country race with a bunch of friends. I may have set a 5k PR during that race (should probably race a 5k soon) and our ladies team came in first!
A couple days before the race, I was telling Dan and Robyn about how excited I was and how training had felt so fulfilling and fun and just natural. Going into race day, I didn’t feel burnt out by what I had done in the past few months; I felt energized by it. I didn’t feel ready for a break after the race. I think this played a huge part in how the race went for me. Which I’ll get to in another post….