Ultra training: 21 miles strong

I seem diligent at training for races.

I’m usually pretty good at sticking to schedules/training plans but that typically just means running the appropriate times per week and maintaining a certain number of miles. And, doing strength and core in between some of those runs.

I don’t pace well during training runs. This is because I usually just go with the “run how I feel” method. If I am feeling crappy, I will run slow. If I feel great, I will run fast(er). I won’t unnecessarily push myself to just run faster when I am running by myself.

Two Saturdays ago, it was different though.

I’m currently training for my first 50K so I have no expectations in terms of a finish time or overall pace. I just want to finish the darn trail race in one piece—and within the race cut-off time (8 hours).

But, in the back of my mind while I am training for this 50K, I am also thinking about building myself up, both physically and mentally, for the Anchorage Marathon in June. This road marathon is my “real” goal race for the year. I’ve been chasing a sub-4 hour marathon time for two years and Anchorage is where it will (hopefully) happen.

I had no reason to run fast that morning. But, I did.


I started off running five solo miles down and back up Magnolia Boulevard from Discovery Park—my home base for the morning. Then my friends, Julia, Mo and Shannon met up with me and we ran two park loops together. I checked my watch off and on during the run and always saw we were around 9’s and sometimes dipped to 9:30 on the hills. I didn’t really care since I was with my friends and we were enjoying catching up with one another since we all hadn’t seen each other in a while.

Julia continued on with me to get me to a total of 16 miles. She’s so kind and isn’t training for anything but ran a total of ~11 miles with me! We talked life stuff along Government Way. I was getting tired but it was nice having company. We attacked a hill together. We were knocking out miles at sub-9 pace. There was one or two miles at 8:30 pace as well!

I was stunned when I looked at my watch after my total 16 miles and saw I had averaged 9:05 pace.

Maybe I can keep this going even on my own now, I thought.

I said good-bye to Julia and half dreaded, half looked forward to taking on my last five miles alone. I hadn’t clearly mapped out a route ahead of time so I did the same out and back I had done at the beginning of my run.

I passed many dog walkers and other fellow IMG_4775runners. I was sure to smile at each one of
them. I was in a great mood! The endorphins were kicking in. I surged on the downhills and really made a conscious effort to kill the uphills by pumping my arms and leaning in.

By no means were my legs feeling great, but my heart and my mind were both elated. Those two pieces of my body felt very strong that morning.

When I arrived back at the parking lot with my Garmin beeping to signify I had reached 21 miles, I looked down and was surprised that I maintained the pace. I averaged 9:05 pace for the total 21 miles.

To give you a better perspective, I would need to maintain an average 9:05 pace to finish with a time of 3:58:09 in a marathon. This is my goal race pace.

The beautiful Seattle weather we had during that run probably had a lot to do with my mood. Let’s be real, has anyone ever had a great 21-miler in the Seattle rain? And, I know having friends for the middle miles also helped me out a lot.IMG_4777

I’m training for my first ultra. But, I’ not losing sight of my June marathon.

I feel stronger than I ever have before. And, it’s a great feeling.



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