Back-to-Back is…

In December of this year, I will be running in my third North Face Endurance Challenge Gore-Tex 50 Mile Championship. (Yes, it’s a mouthful.)

My primary goal? Beat last year’s time. I want to set a personal record in this race for the third year in a row and show myself that getting older doesn’t mean getting slower. At least not yet…

My secondary goal? Hmm…avoid being so fatigued mid-race that I fall and break my collarbone.

But how to reach those two lofty goals?

For the past eight years or so, my training schedule for any marathon or ultra marathon has been essentially unchanged, looking a lot like this:

Monday – Run
Tuesday – Run
Wednesday – Weights
Thursday – Run
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Long Run
Sunday – Rest

Perhaps, I thought, my goals are outstripping this particular schedule? Or was my DNF at the Miwok 100k (and the broken collarbone) just a product of being undertrained due to work schedule and several nagging little injuries throughout my training? Maybe it was just bad luck…

Whatever the reason, it seemed a good time to reassess.

In 2014, I ran the North Face 50 mile in 11 hours, 14 minutes. In 2015, I ran in 10 hours, 46 minutes. In 2016, I want to break 10 hours. That’s a significant improvement. One that probably won’t come from maintaining past training strategies. So, I turned to the Internet for some tips, thoughts, ideas, and alternatives. Here was my biggest take away:

Back to back long runs.

I had certainly heard of this technique, but had also steadfastly avoided it for two main reasons:

  1. It sounded hard
  2. Sunday was the ONLY day I could sleep late. Monday through Friday I awoke early for work and Saturday was even earlier for my long run, but Sunday was blissfully free of a beeping, pre-dawn alarm. Doing that second long run on Sunday would mean getting up at 5:00am and that is definitely NOT my idea of sleeping in.

But in the wake of my broken collarbone I was changed. I was determined to come back from this DNF a stronger, more capable, more dedicated runner. I vowed that never again would I reach a point in a race where exhaustion caused me to lose my footing and take a header. I wanted to charge up every hill with power and charge down with confidence. A new man!

Putting the absurd fantasy aside for a second, running 50 miles in less than 10 hours did, and still does, seem realistic.

With only a tiny bit of hesitation, I hopped on board the back-to-back plan. My training now looks like this:

Saturday – Long Run
Sunday – Long Run
Monday – Rest
Tuesday – Run
Wednesday – Weights/Run
Thursday – Run
Friday – Rest
So far I have done six weekends of running both Saturday and Sunday, with each run getting progressively longer. As of this writing, I am up to 21 miles combined.

They say that the benefit of this approach is teaching your body and your brain to run when you’re tired. It simulates those late race miles. And my experience so far bares this out.

When the alarm chimes on Saturday morning, I am instantly awake, excited to hit the trails and get some dirty miles in. I am motivated, ready, excited!

On Sunday morning, however, I awake in a haze, confused by the sound of the alarm. It takes a few moments for reality to sink in and remind me that this is NOT Groundhog Day.

On Saturday, I’m like a thoroughbred. I literally have to hold myself back from charging out too fast too early. My Sunday runs, however, invariably begin with a mile or two of, “how in the hell did my legs get filled with lead and what are the odds that I’m going to make it eight miles today?”

But things work themselves out. Soreness disappears slowly while fatigue waxes and wanes throughout. This past Saturday, I ran 9.5 miles. On Sunday, when I was about 9 miles in, I crested a sort of fatigue hump and cruised the last three miles, going much faster both up hill and down hill than I had the previous miles. I felt good.

I think these back-to-backs are working.

And here it is Monday. Rest day. And you know what? I want to go running.

I feel FANTASTIC! No soreness, no fatigue. But…

I’m going to follow the schedule. I have a long way to go until I toe that starting line in December and I want to be healthy, ready, fit, and free of any little niggling injuries.

Gotta run smart before you can run wild.

Run on, Sisters and Brothers!



#trailrunning #run #runner #running #TheNorthFaceECS #Goretex #collarbone #training #50mile


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