Monday, February 1, 2016

Western States Training Plan

Seeing as how I have a long history of not quite training -- where I desperately hope that aimless and infrequent running will miraculously turn into motivation and dedication -- I decided that I'm going to make the most of my opportunity to run Western States.  So ... I actually put a legit training plan together.

My training plan is not derived from any others out there, and has some unique quirks due to family and race schedules, but the gist of it is fairly straightforward.


  • 50-60mpw base
  • 80-100mpw peak
  • 1400+ miles before Western States
  • Run 5-6 days per week

I've never sustained legitimate mileage (outside of the mediocre running in high school), but I've always believed I would be capable of it if I dedicated myself. To make sure I arrive in Squaw Valley with a proper foundation, I'll aim to achieve my 1500th mile of the year somewhere along the course. That means I will be in uncharted yearly mileage before July -- though I've never before tracked my mileage, I've likely never broken 1500 miles in a year before.

The plan is to start out at 50-60mpw running 5x a week, and then slowly progress into the 70s running 6x a week before a final push in the 80-100 range for a few weeks at the end of May.


I fully admit that I've overdone it on the race calendar. Before making the Western States lottery, I had already signed up for a marathon and two 50 milers. Afterwards, I decided that the three spring 50Ks of the Virginia Beast Series would help me to fine tune my speed.  In February and March I'll have a fairly rough go of it with two separate back-to-back weekend race blocks so I need to make sure I don't give them everything I've got and blow out my legs halfway into my training. My plan is to focus on nutrition strategies, pacing, and hill climbing for these races.  I plan to be competitive in the Beast Series this year, so I'll need to be careful with balancing the desire to run hard and not giving up too much ground in the standings.


  • Lots and lots of hills!
  • 175K-200K in vertical gain before Western States
  • Sustained climbs and descents on the treadmill

My training plan is flush with hills.  DC doesn't have much to offer for vertical training so I have to be strategic with my workouts.  Twice a week I'll run a particularly hilly trail route -- they'll be easy efforts but I'll make sure to run all the hills to build leg strength, and occasionally run the downhills hard and fast.  I've also set up my treadmill to range from +12% to -12% grades, and once a week I will run 8-16 miles, splitting the distance between sustained 9-12% climbs and descents.  There's no other way I'll be able to build up the necessary quad strength for downhills at Western States without these frequent sustained climbs.


  • Weekly runs near Lactate Threshold
  • Infrequent speed work faster than 5K pace

Some ultrarunners eschew speed work, feeling it's unnecessary for longer races. I, on the other hand, want to continue working on my leg turnover and improving my speed and stamina.  I believe that I need this kind of workout to continue developing as a runner at this very early stage in my career.  And, I've still never BQ'd before so hopefully tempo runs and intervals will improve my comfort level with sub-7 miles.

Most weeks, I plan on a weekly tempo run, tempo intervals, or traditional intervals. This run will range from 6 to 10 miles. Tempo runs towards the end of last year went a long way to improving my marathon time and I'm hoping that continued use of them in my training will go a long way to improving my times from 100 miles all the way down to the 5K (not that I really care about 5K times, but they're a good gauge of how my comfort with faster speeds is progressing).

Weekly Format

Monday: 6-8 miles of easy hills on the trails
Tuesday: Rest Day -- yoga and strength training
Wednesday: 6-10 mile tempo or intervals (typically 1-2 mile repeats)
Thursday: 8-16 mile Treadmill Mountains -- sustained climbs and descents, but not during race weeks; yoga and strength training.
Friday: 6-8 miles of easy hills on the trails
Saturday: Long run or race on the trails (limited to 15 miles the week before and after a race), with occasional progression or negative-split road runs
Sunday: Rest Day through February, easy Back-to-Back day March through May

My basic idea is to take it easy in the days after a long run to make sure my muscles recover properly.  Then I'll compress my workload for Wednesday through Saturday, making sure to take it very easy the day before the long run.

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