Ultra Speed

I took a pretty good chunk of time away from blogging at the end of summer in order to get myself ready for the upcoming school year.

However, the break from blogging certainly did not mean a break from running. I changed a few things in training post-Western States (WS100) to prepare for the faster 50-milers I will be doing this Fall. I plan to race Tussey Mountain Back 50 Mile U.S. Road Championships and JFK 50 Mile. Both courses are relatively fast in comparison to other well-known 50 mile races.

Once I picked up training at full capacity after WS100, something ironic happened. After running in California for two weeks on the most technical terrain I ever experienced, I managed to return to Wisconsin unscathed. Then, within days of being back on the flat dirt trails of Wisconsin, I tripped and managed to roll my ankle.

Post-icing the morning after I rolled my ankle

I thought it was much worse than it actually ended up being. Fortunately, the folks at Aurora Bay Care Sports Medicine set me up with some good advice that resulted in only 7 days off running, and I before I knew it I was back in business.

Once my ankle felt good I spent about a month building up my base with very minimal amounts of intense sessions. I wanted to ease into intensity training, while gradually backing away from higher miles. As Tussey and JFK come closer I will need a bit more speed in my legs. In August and September I have scaled down to 100-150 miles (averaging around 120-130) and started adding more intensity. My hope is to raise my threshold, making the faster average paces at Tussey and JFK seem easier. Here are a few of the workouts I have enjoyed doing.

The 20 40

Peter Defty, of Vespa Power Products turned me on to this workout, and I have incorporated variations of it into my training. After a nice, long warm-up (40-60 minutes), I break each minute into an interval/recovery block. That's a 20-second sprint followed by a 40 second jog, on repeat. Some days I do this 10 times, other days up to 40. I plan to get to 60 minutes before race day. I also use it as a warm-up for a tempo run (typically I’ll only do 10 in this case).

Road Repeats

I love this one because it mimics repeats on the track, but you don’t have to go to the track to do it. Here's how it works: I get a nice long warm-up in before I start, typically lasting 30-60 minutes. I then break my workout into 3-minute blocks. The first minute is run at a high intensity—5k pace or a bit faster. The next two minutes are recovery jogging. Currently I do about 10 repeats of this during my workouts, but hope to be closer to 20 before JFK.

5K Repeats

This workout is really intriguing to me. I learned about it from Phil Richert, a former UW-Stevens Point teammate of mine. Basically, it is just what it sounds like. You get on a track or a marked section of road and do 5-kilometer repeats. Right now I have only done this workout with two repeats, but I will do a set of 3 before Tussey. The idea, like in any other interval workout, is to pick a goal pace and try to hit it on however many 5k repeats you decide to do. Recovery between intervals should be active; I aim for a 600-meter jog.


Tempo runs are very broad in nature. The race you are training for will dictate the pace and distance of your tempo run. Since I’m training for a 50-mile race, my tempo miles usually climb up into the double digits. I aim for a pace between 5:30 and 6:00 minutes per mile. Currently I have reached 10 miles at 5:45/mile for this training block. I hope to get up to at least 15 miles at this pace before JFK.

I am really excited about this Fall's race offerings because I haven’t done this much intensity work leading up to an ultra since my first 50-miler back in 2010. I hope to see some positive effects from an improved running economy as a result of this training.

If you have any interesting intensity workouts, please post! I’d love to hear how you get your fast pace fix.


Of course I am more than happy to answer any general questions that you might have. But if you or someone you know is interested in a really in-depth analysis of your training and nutrition, please visit my coaching website or just ask me about individual and group coaching rates.