Pete says: My training for running Superior 100 in late September of 2015 an entire year ago, all the way back in early September of 2014, where I was running 5 miles as my longest run on Saturdays. Back a few years ago when I was running marathons, I came up with a plan that slowly ramped me up to a long run of 30 miles (the marathon is 26.2 miles) that I ran four weeks before the marathon race. This worked very well for me, so that I was both mentally and physically prepared for the marathon distance.
In 2007, I became interested in running a 50 mile race, based on the great things I had heard about the JFK 50 miler, a terrific race in Maryland that has been run annually now for over 50 years. I had no idea how to train for this, so I just extended my marathon plan, but added a Sunday run of half the distance of my Saturday long runs. At the peak of my training, again four weeks before the race, I ran 30 miles on Saturday, and another 15 miles on Sunday, which together was about 90% of the total distance. These so-called “brick runs” supposedly train you to run when your muscles are fatigued–and boy are they, especially getting started on Sundays! Anyway, this again worked really well for me.
In 2010, I finally got up the nerve to try my first 100 mile race, which eventually became the totally flat and paved Philadelphia 100 in 2011. Here, I really had no idea what it would take. I soon found out that unlike for marathons, there aren’t (or at least at the time, weren’t) any published training schedules. So not knowing any better, I again just extended my training schedule to eventually get to 50/25 miles on Saturday/Sunday long runs. After one failure where I was clearly training too hard, I adjusted the plan and was ultimately successful. This worked again for me in 2012 for the much tougher Pinhoti 100 in the mountains of northern Alabama (yes, there are mountains in Alabama, who knew?).
So now I have a schedule that seems to work for me. Just one problem–to avoid injury, it is really important to increase weekly running mileage very slowly over time. A general guideline is no more than 10% per week. That works great for shorter races, but it takes FOREVER for ultras. So when I got the idea to run Superior, I had to start out almost from scratch, a whole year before the race! This ends up being about 2000 miles of training, which I started all the way back in September.
I broke my training into four stages:
1. Be able to easily run 12 slow miles, by adding a mile a week to a Saturday long run each week.
Check! I accomplished this by early November of 2014 without much problem, and along the way found a new weekday running partner, Melanie, who is as crazy as I am to get up really early on weekday mornings. She really helped with motivation.
2. Get up to 4 hours of trail running at a time, by adding 20 minutes per Saturday run every other week (and running only half as much the other Saturday).
Done! Got this accomplished by mid-January, again with the help of Melanie and her weekend running buddies Tom, Joe, and Beth. They have dragged me through very tough Sunday runs with great cheer and conversation.
3. Trial race in late June, the storied and epic Laurel Highlands, which is 70.5 miles in length in the Allegheny mountains west of Pittsburgh (Ohiopyle to near Johnstown for those who know the area). Peak run for this training is 6 hours on Saturday and 3 more on Sunday.
4. Ramp up to Superior with a peak run of 8+ hours on Saturday and ~4 on Sunday.
Can I do it? This will take a lot of luck to avoid injury and a lot of patience and support from my family and running buddies. Let’s find out!