Last year at this time Atlanta temperatures were below freezing, often leaving me wrapped up in a mass of layers when running. This years weather has been all over the place, but this weekend it felt like fall with temperatures topping out in the upper sixties. Like the weather from last year my running training plan has drastically changed. Now I am deliberately trying to prepare myself for running races that often excede the marathon distance, usually 50ks. For me the cornerstone of my current training plan is high weekly mileage culminating in two back to back long runs on Saturday and Sunday.
Over the last four weeks I have steadily increased my mileage, starting with thirty miles and moving up to last week where I ran my highest milege ever at sixty two miles. The high point of this last week of course culminated in my weekend long runs, two runs: one at twenty miles and one at sixteen miles. I have a tendency to prefer to head out for my long runs on technical and difficult trails, tons of roots and rocks and elevation. I realized though that while this is great to make me a smarter technical trail runner it often leads to long slow running days, I needed one day where I could go faster and work on foot turnover. So this weekend I spent my twenty mile run on a very technical set of trails that had very long steep uphills and downhills and very technical footing and my sixteen mile run on flatter less technical trails.
Saturday: 20 Mile Fort Mountain State Park – Double Top Ultra Course
Saturday’s long run was all about technical and difficult trail. I decided to run the described course of an ultra race that runs on some of my favorite technical trails to add some variety to my usual route. This included running some new sections and putting the trail pieces together in different ways than I have done previoiusly. Fort Mountain State Park contains numerous bike trails that I honestly could not see how anybody could possibly ride. But for a runner wanting the toughest and hardest trail courses possible they are perfect.
This course basically consited of running up a mountain, then down it and then back up it and then down it and up it again… you get the idea. In the end I worked on speed walking the uphills and trying not to hurt myself going downhill fast.
Sunday: 16 Mile Red Top Mountain State Park – Red Top Rumble Course Plus Some
Sunday’s run location was dictated by a gathering of my local running group to run the course for a race we are holding in a few weeks. The trails at Red Top Mountain are rolling trails that almost seem like they have been raked free of leaves. Unlike the Saturday location this park is heavily visited and the trails are heavily used, so they are very non technical. The race course pieces together several smaller trails including two loop trails that run throughout the park. This course was only eleven miles and I needed sixteeen, so I ran an extra loop at the end of the run.
This combination worked extremely well, I found on Sunday I was able to focus more on foot turnover and was running at a slow but consistent pace, a bit faster than I would have expected with tired legs worn out from a gruelling technical twenty mile run the day before. Moving forward I believe I am going to continue with this pattern for my weekend long runs: one long super technical and large elevation run and one long nontechnical trail run the day after. I might play with it a bit and mix the order up a bit, but I will see what works. Til next time.