Originally my mission started out to run an Ironman which is something I have not done and know would be an incredible challenge. But as I started gearing up for the training portion I just wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t as excited by it as I thought I would be. This was disappointing and obviously took a mental toll on the preparations for my training. At the same time however I started (and finished) a few books that talked about ultra endurance! One focused solely on running (Born to Run) and the other was focused on double Ironman’s, or more (Finding Ultra). Either way, these both got me really excited about the idea of running a double marathon and a 100 mile run! This might sound crazy, but the idea of running from Syracuse New York to Buffalo New York (173 miles) was more attractive to me than running an Ironman. So I started looking into training for ultra endurance and scratched together a plan quickly.
The three days leading up to my planned Day 1 training were not easy. I was participating in the Spartan World Trifecta Championship Virtual. A 5k, 10k, and 21k with body weight workouts in place of the obstacles over the course of three days. This would have me run more in three days than I have before by itself, but when my watched died at the 11 mile mark of my first attempt of the 21k, I surpassed just about every weekly total I had logged in about 48 hours. Over 30 miles on my feet I thought I was going to be hurting, but I wanted more! This was great motivation for my ultra prep. I felt great and wanted more.
One of the problems I faced was finding time to run safely. With the sun going down at 530 in the evening and being pitch black by 6:15, my only option was to run in the dark… on roads… with a headlamp. Not ideal, but I have done worse.
I was also planning on conditioning my body and heart rate, so my runs were to be at 130bpm which is much slower than my normal pace. I would do this for the majority of my runs throughout the week and mix in a few speed days where I could let myself fly at least once if not twice a week. This way I could still work on my speed but also condition myself for the long haul I was trying to prep for.
Things were going well on my first run. It was a struggle, but I was patient and kept my heart rate down and felt great. I was moving at about a 10 minute/mile pace, which is about 2 minutes slower than I am use to for my daily runs of 3-5 miles, but I kept thinking to myself that I could run like this all night! I was even upset that I did not have enough time to go for a long run of 10 or more miles that night because I had to meet up with some people in about an hour. Then it happened!
My sole of my left foot was practically vertical even though I was standing upright. The pain shot through my body instantly and I was screaming before I hit the ground. My foot caught the edge of the newly paved road that rose about 6 inches up above the ground with no curb. I rolled my ankle and thought I had broken it. I stood on my right leg for a minute and gauged the oncoming traffic to ensure they were not going to hit me and assessed the injury. Within a few moments I realized it wasn’t broken but still could barely put weight on it. I attempted to use my headlamp to flash down a passing sheriff, but he did not see me. Suddenly I was alone in the pitch black dark on the wrong side of a blind turn without the ability to jump out of the way if a car was coming too fast!
After a few minutes the immediate pain subsided and I was able to walk. Knowing that I had a few miles to go I decided to just take it easy. After a few steps though I was not in any pain. Knowing my pace was slow I figured I could run at my slower pace again. For the next 2 miles I ran at my 10 minute pace keeping my heart rate in check and feeling pretty good. I knew I was pushing my luck, but I wanted to run and felt pretty good! By the time I finished the 2 miles back to my home I was feeling so good that I figured I would hit at least 4 miles on the day, still falling short of my 5 mile easy run plan, so I continued. This is not advisable obviously and I knew it would be a potentially bad move, but onward I went until I saw a few guys working out in their garage. After a quick stop to chat I took a few steps and realized just how bad of an idea running had become.
Walking the remaining distance home I made a few phone calls and talked to a friend about what had happened. She insisted I get it checked out, but as usual I just wanted to get home, ice it and go about my night. The pain was fairly incredible until the ibuprofen kicked in and allowed me to sleep a little. The real pain however was knowing that I was going to need to take at least a day off. That would be two days this week, during an amazing streak of beautiful weather that I would need to be off my ankle (second day I get to be home all day with my daughter since neither of us have school). I was antsy and felt like I could scream!
Over the course of the rest of this week (finishing up my week on Friday for the purpose of this post) I took it pretty easy. I really only had one opportunity to run, but the circumstances were similar to the night I wrecked my ankle and I won’t lie, I was nervous about it. I knew though that I needed to keep working. I spent some time getting back into strength training, but differently than I am use to. Rather than seeing how heavy I could go, my new mission is endurance so I wanted to see how long I could go. This meant I needed to drop weight significantly, but in a way that would still build muscle as well as endurance.
I grabbed my trusty “HydroRuck” sack and filled it with about 40 pounds of water and started taking it to work with me. I used it to occasionally bust out a set of 10-20 ruck swings (kettlebell swings with a ruck sack) or if I was standing at my desk I would do 10 single leg calve raises holding the ruck sack on the same side (next week I will start doing opposite side to help with balance and core). My thought behind all of this was to get my body use to being strained throughout the course of the day, not just for the time period of a workout. Since what I am planning on trying will take me 8 hours or more (8 hours for a double marathon to start) I need to be able to abuse my body for an extended period of time. The only downfall with this tactic is that it is difficult to time how long I am actually working out!
Today I started making a log of every body weight movement I do that is specifically meant to help me prepare. My upper body will be getting minimal work throughout the week since my focus will be on core and lower body strength, but I always need to incorporate some upper body into my workout. That is my goal at least. The general plan for right now is what I have laid out below. This is only my working idea over the first 3 weeks. I do this because I know things will happen and I will need to adjust.
As you can see this is an overview of what I want to do. Each week I will set up my weight training to be a little different than the last week, but I do not want to lift heavy. The heavier I am the slower and more energy I will need for the runs. So I need to strengthen for endurance, light weight with a lot of reps (100 or more). I also do not schedule my runs because my schedule is so chaotic. I set weekly goals and I will make sure to match them by the end of the week. This week with my ankle will mean long runs on both Saturday and Sunday to ensure I hit my mark. For clients, I like to be more specific, but I like to make things random or change them up frequently. Today for instance I was planning on lunges but changed in the middle of the workout to goblet squats with my ruck sack. This keeps my mind engaged a bit more from what I have experienced, rather than a scripted workout. If you do not know enough, or have enough equipment however, make sure your coach is scripting out your workouts in detail! This will be essential for your success.
After completing my first week I have fallen short on two of my three goals. The running and biking. I have until Sunday to get the miles in, which running wise I am fairly confident I can do without going too far past my prescribed pace and distance, but hitting the bike for my prescribed time may not happen.
I am also finding the challenges of running in the cold and dark more of a struggle than I thought. I knew I wouldn’t want to do this, but when I had the opportunity this morning I deferred to weight training rather than running. I did think about my ankle and wanted to make sure I was rested and healed before tomorrow, but deep down I know that I just wanted to stay warm! These are things I will have to get over.
I am also struggling to stay on the bike for longer than 30 minutes. I am going to try again tonight and find something to watch while I ride, but indoor bike riding is just so damn boring. This will be essential for me though for the endurance piece as well as quality cross training.
Strength training was not as much of a challenge this week, primarily because it is what I really enjoy. It did get “boring” compared to what I am use to however because of the lighter weights, but that is why I try to change it up a bit. All in all, it was a struggle this week but that is because I am changing my norm. I knew this would happen and am ready to adjust and do what I need to in order to hit my goals. It is only going to get harder from here so I need to push myself if I want to make this idea a reality. I also need to remember that this is not about time/pace! It is about distance. If I can break through these mental barriers I have things will go a lot smoother for me and I will find my success.
As for my diet, I plan to stay on my usual intake of food which focuses on a lot of natural/whole foods with my twice a week cheats (donut on Friday and pizza on Sunday). I do not want to change too much because I will need the fuel for the increased work load. I also know that my current diet has allowed me to maintain my weight and body fat percentage. If I increase the number of calories I am burning throughout the week but maintain my current intake of calories then I will shed a few pounds which will be key for distance running.
My final reflection of week 1 is that I need to track things better! The amount of time I am putting in workouts as well as runs and biking. I also need to track my calories to make sure their is an increase from previous weeks/months. Finally, even though I like to keep my strength training a surprise at times, I need to know what is working and what is not so I need to track my body fat percentage, water density and overall weight as well. These will be things that I put together over the weekend to allow myself to see trends based off of my workouts and runs. Since I am doing the ill-advised and going at something massive without utilizing a coach (as I usually do) I need to approach this as a scientific experiment and track data like I never have before! This will require even more time that I really do not have, but the question usually comes down to how badly do I want to achieve my goal?
I hope this has given you an idea of how to create a rough plan for your training purposes. Remember, if you are new to this you should always consult your doctor first, then talk to a trainer or a coach and create a solid plan! If you have any questions, or would like me to take a look at your plan for free or schedule a free consultation please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below and I will be sure to get back to you as soon as I can! If I do not hear from you, good luck on your goals and I look forward to writing about week 2 of my training!