Headlands 50k training update

Pirates Cove comes just a few miles into the 50k

Pirates Cove comes just a few miles into the 50k

On August 29th I’ll be running my first 50k race. You know what that means? Automatic PR. Yessss! I’ve changed my training fairly significantly for this race, so here’s a little rundown.

After Boston I was burned out big time- mentally and physically. Training for a road marathon with a very specific, aggressive goal is all-consuming for four months. And then when the race doesn’t go exactly like you hoped, there is major disappointment. Looking back now I know I ran the best race I could under really shitty conditions, but I was in a big funk for a while. The remedy for the post-marathon blues took me to the trails. I was so relieved to be back under the redwoods. No concern for hitting 6:50 pace, or taking an extra long water break, or any of the other pressures I put on myself. I was having fun again.

In the months leading up to my next race, the Tamalpa Headlands 50k, I’ve been focusing on three of my weakest areas: strength, hill climbing, and “easy” runs.

Kettlebell swing

Kettlebell swings are one of my favorites!

Strength: twice a week I spend a good 1-2 hours in the gym building up my leg strength and power, while also focusing on core and back muscles. If I’m going to be running for 5 or more hours over very unflat terrain, I need big muscles to power me up the hills and a fatigue-resistant core to hold me upright. Typical moves include cleans, lunges, squats, and deadlifts. And I go heavy. Or I should say, “heavy,” as my loaded up bar looks pretty wimpy compared to some of the other trainers working out, but it’s all relative. These moves force my core to work big time. I’m using the transverse abdominus (see my post on Paul Chek for why you need to train this muscle NOW), which stabilizes the hips. When you lose stabilization in the core (trunk, back, hips, glutes) your form falls to shit and you get injured.

Running the PCT in Tahoe

Running the PCT in Tahoe

Hill climbing: The 50k has over 7,000 feet of elevation gain over 30 miles. That is massive! To get my legs used to the constant climbing I just run/hike up lots of hills. It’s that simple. On my rest day sometimes I go for a long walk around Potrero and choose the steepest hills to walk up and down. I make sure to call someone (hi dad!) during my walk to keep my pace slow enough to be a true recovery day. I’ve also had the opportunity to do some epically hard runs over the past few months, many that had me climbing over 6,000 feet at a time. Flagstaff, Tahoe, and the Double Dipsea all kicked my butt in a good way. In fact, I’ve been seeing such good results from my training that I ended up cutting 11 minutes off my Double Dipsea time from last year and came in 5th (3rd if we’re going by chip time). Last year that race destroyed me. This year I was out running the next day.

Easy runs: Why would an easy run be a weakness, you ask? Well… I have a tendency to run hard. All the time. Those runs end up being too slow to be a workout, but too fast to get the true benefits of an easy recovery run. So I started wearing a heart rate monitor. (The truth is I got one for free and just wanted to test it out. It didn’t chafe, shockingly, so I kept wearing it because I’m a data geek and eventually realized my HR was way too high on easy days.) I’ve been basing my aerobic HR on Dr. Phil Maffetone’s formula of 180 minus your age (ends up being 150-155bpm for me). It’s been pretty eye opening. On my non-workout runs I’ll set my watch to just show HR so I don’t get concerned about pace. It’s been a tough fight against my ego, but I feel like I’m able to handle high volume and speed so much better by slowing down at the right times.

HR zones from Strava

HR zones from Strava

Last week I hit over 80 miles. That’s my biggest week ever. I’ve done three 20+ mile runs since Boston and my body is holding up amazingly well. The dirt is just so much kinder than pavement. 75 miles a week is now starting to feel like a comfortable load, and anything under 60mpw is a recovery week. It’s crazy how good the body is at adapting. In a few weeks I’ll be lining up to run the SF Marathon (#11! What!) as my last big long run/workout before the 50k. I was able to snag a sub-seeded bib so I get to start right behind the elite cool kids. I haven’t done any long runs on the road recently so it’ll be interesting to see how my legs feel on the pavement. I’m actually feeling kind of excited about it despite my disdain for this race.

Current training favorites:

Trail shoe: Brooks Pure Grit 3
Road shoe: Brooks Launch 2
Watch: Suunto Ambit3 Sport
On-the-run calorie replacement: Rootbeer GU and Tailwind drink mix, lemon flavored

3 thoughts on “Headlands 50k training update

  1. 80 mile weeks are monsters. Have never gotten into that range and am glad to hear it’s not wearing you down. Also, some amazing photos, especially the first one.


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