Ultra Training vs. Marathon Training


Week #4 Training is Complete!

In case you are a new reader, I am currently training for Cayuga Trail 50.  Tons of elevation gain, so it will be a tough race.  I have completed one trail 50K (Ironmaster’s Challenge), last April.   I have also done a lot of local trail races from 15K to 13.1 in the past two years. Before that I was a road marathoner.  As I made the transition to trails I fell in love.  It feels like a completely different sport to me.   The training philosophy is different and so are the experiences you need to get your body used to.

Here are some things I do for ultra training that I never did for marathon training:

  1.  Run trails.  (This is an obvious one, but I honestly didn’t even do this enough for my 50K last April).  Also, run trails that will allow you to experience the same stress of race day if possible.  I’m trying to get a lot of elevation change in my long runs.  I think it’s working, as Saturday’s run did not even make my legs sore at all 🙂
  2.  Eat every 45 minutes and eat real food.  I never did this for long runs on the road. I’d pop a Gu gel every 6 miles (bleh I can’t even fathom eating one of those anymore)!   Now I take peanut butter crackers, Honey Stinger waffles or chews, granola bars, Fig Newtons, bananas, etc.  Still experimenting with food but notice it’s all FOOD!  Ultras obviously take a long time on your feet and there is no way I will get through with just gels or chews.  My stomach would seriously hate me.
  3. Slow down.  In marathon training it was a different mentality for me.  I always had a time goal or pace that I was striving for.  Now I just take what the trail gives me.  If there are climbs, I power hike.  If there are downhills, I fly.  If it’s flat (haha when does this happen?)  I cruise.  This constant change of pace is what I need to put my body through because that’s how race day is going to be.  Long runs on trails are unpredictable and depend on the terrain, so that is how I run!  You can feel the different muscles being worked during each of those scenarios.
  4. Hydrate smart.  This is where Nuun comes in.  I take plain water too but now that my runs are getting longer, I always have a 12 oz bottle of Nuun Active along with me.  It is the perfect balance of electrolytes to keep you going.  Even in cold weather, you will sweat a lot and need to replace those electrolytes.  Today’s flavor of choice was fruit punch.  I always feel good when I drink it on a run.  So thankful to be a Nuun Ambassador and run for Team Nuun!
  5.  Be prepared.  I always have my hydration vest on for any trail run over 4 miles.  This is because I like to carry things in case of emergency.  You just never know.  Do I really need water for a 5 mile run?  No, but I like to carry extra food, a light windbreaker, and my phone for trail runs. These things have all come in handy so it’s best to be prepared.   Plus, I’ll be running my 50 miler with my vest on, so I like to simulate as much as I can.
  6. DOUBLE LONG RUNS!  This is the big one for me.  The other 5 things are a choice you make and stick to.  Double long runs need to be slowly introduced so that your body adjusts to not having a rest day after a long run (as in marathon training for most plans).  I started introducing my body to this in October.  I worked up to two 10 mile runs back to back before my plan started a month ago and it was a great idea.  This weekend was an 11 and a 16.  The plan I’m using has me resting the day before the first long run and the day after the second.  I try to stick to the rest day on Friday and Monday, but sometimes things happen with our busy schedules mid-week and I need to rearrange.  I just make sure to run easy so my long runs take priority.


Some Pics from Today’s Run (16 miles on the A.T.)

My awesome Hubby helped me drop my car off at Pine Grove and took me to the spot that I ended my run yesterday.  I planned to stay on the AT and get up to Sunset Rocks for the extra mileage.  This stretch of trail was not very technical except for a few rocky areas and some gentle inclines.



Lots of creek crossings today .


Once I passed the Pole Steeple trail intersection, the AT was downhill and then flat along a wide road. Not my favorite.

I kept heading South once I was through the park and ended up off the trail for a mile to explore Camp Michaux (see the sign below).  It was kind of creepy and intriguing since there is a lot of history there.  It was a secret WWII camp for interrogating Prisoners of War.  I want to take my family back to check it out.  Some of the building remains are still there and marked.  I feel like places like this leave behind a certain energy that was not the mood I was aiming for today, so I turned around and headed back to the AT.  When I hit a total of 13 miles on my watch, I turned around and headed back to my car.


I ended up running 4 of my miles under 9:00 which typically does not happen on a long trail run, but that’s because this section was fairly easy.  A few small inclines but nothing major.  Last mile back to the car was an 8:16 so it did feel good to finish strong.  I was surprised it was that fast because it didn’t feel like it!

Week #4 Run Down

Monday:  rest

Tuesday:  4 easy road miles with club & lifting and core @ the gym

Wednesday: 6 trail miles

Thursday:  busy day so rested

Friday:  easy 4 on roads, some with pup

Saturday:  11 miles on the trail (more elevation change)

Sunday:  16 miles on the trail (fairly easy jaunt)


Happy miles this week, readers!

What is your favorite food, gel, or chew to eat on the run?



One thought on “Ultra Training vs. Marathon Training

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