Base Building, Training Plan, and Fundraising for the Big Basin 50K!

As I mentioned earlier this year, my big goal for 2015 is to run my first ultramarathon: the Big Basin 50K.  Even though the race seems far, far away, I’m starting my official 16-week training plan in early April – in just 4 weeks!  This post is basically me rambling about my recent training and how it fits in with the big picture, and what my training for Big Basin will look like.  It will probably be very boring — don’t say I didn’t warn you!

My plan, which I’ll get to in a second, isn’t super-duper mileage heavy as far as 50K training plans go.  The weekly mileage ranges from 33 to 51 miles, and my longest run will be a trail marathon in June.  So, it’s not that much more intense than the training I did for Marine Corps Marathon…which I’ve been told is pretty much about right (i.e., that 50K training basically the same as marathon training with longer long runs).

However, I’ve been lagging behind on base building.  My original goal was to hit 25 miles per week (mpw) for January, then build to 30 mpw in February, and get to 35 mpw in March — keeping my runs slow and aerobic.  Despite my best intentions, my weekly mileage kept stalling out in the low 20’s for most of January and February.  The one positive development is that, since switching to afternoon runs in Berkeley, where hills are unavoidable, my fitness seems to be improving rapidly.  For instance, after 2 weeks of running in Berkeley, I ran my usual neighborhood loop with an average pace 30 seconds per mile faster at the same heart rate!  So, the hills have been a great, though tiring, stimulus.

One of the trails I've been running on.  Almost 1000 feet of climbing in 3 miles - a great workout!

One of the trails I’ve been running on. Almost 1000 feet of climbing in 3 miles – a great workout!

To increase my weekly mileage, I finally decided to write actual numbers down on a calendar so that I would have a concrete goal in mind.  It worked: last week, I finally got over the 25 mpw hump by hitting 26.6 miles!  It was an especially intense week physically, as I also got a stand up desk at work AND had to put some big pieces of furniture together (computer benches don’t build themselves, you know).  By Saturday morning, the day of my planned long run, I was exhausted despite getting 9 hours of sleep.  As I grumbled about how tired I was, the Gypsy Runner talked some sense into me and questioned why I had to do my long run that day.  Wouldn’t it be better to rest?  I heeded his advice… sort of.  I decided to do a gym workout — 30 minutes bike, 3 miles on the treadmill, and some strengthening exercises — instead of a long trail run, which I would do on Sunday.  It ended up being the wisest decision, since I probably wouldn’t have done the gym workout on Sunday after a tiring run on Saturday.  By the time I hit the trails late Sunday morning, I felt refreshed and happy.

Instead of a long run, I decided to eat a huge breakfast.  Best decision ever.

Instead of a long run, I decided to eat a huge breakfast. Best decision ever.

This week will also be a struggle (same story, different week) because the GR and I are going to Tahoe with my new colleagues. (Can I still say “new” even if I’ve been working here for 5 months now?)  I’m not sure I’ll get a run in on Saturday, but we should be back early enough on Sunday for me to go on a decent trail run (i.e., ~10 miles).  Since I’m not sure about my weekend mileage, I’ve been trying to pile up the weekday miles, adding a run on Wednesday morning to my usual Tuesday/Thursday runs.  I figure I better start getting used to running 5 days a week sooner rather than later, since that’s what my training plan calls for.

My plan for the rest of the base building goes something like this:

  • Week of March 9th: 30 mpw
  • March 16th: 30-35 mpw/5x a week
  • March 23rd: 35 mpw/5x a week
  • March 30th: 35 mpw/5x a week
  • April 6th: 1st week of official training!

I’m also participating in a friend’s 30-day plank challenge.  We’re currently only at 40 seconds, but on day 30, we’re supposed to do a 5-minute plank!! Egads.  Part of the reason I agreed to do it is because I’ve been TERRIBLE about committing to any kind of core workout.  I thought this might get me on the right path at the very least, even if I don’t nail a 5-minute plank at the end.10989957_10205283261472624_4064905757852103972_n

Moving on to the training plan!  How did I come up with this plan?  (How did I get in this nutshell?)  Two main sources: Google and Hal Koerner’s Ultramarathon Guide.  The most useful training plan I found online was EB’s plan for her first 50K.  I think a good training plan should look doable, but also scare you a little bit, and that’s how I felt when I looked at EB’s plan.  Hal Koerner’s plan scared me A LOT, but also emphasized the importance of balancing weekday to weekend mileage.  So I plotted the plans on to spreadsheets (as you do) and then combined them to look at the different variations.  This is what I ended up with:50K plan

The keys to this plan are:

  • Having Monday and Friday off, with the option of doing cross training or strength training/core work on those days.
  • Trying to get as close to (or over) a 1:1 ratio of weekday to weekend miles.
  • Midweek medium long runs to get used to running 10 miles at one go.
  • Saturday long runs followed by Sunday recovery runs on tired legs.
  • Alternating weeks between hill repeats and long midweek runs.

The biggest challenges that I can already see:

  • Being committed to doing any kind of strength or core work on Monday and/or Friday.
  • Fitting a 10-mile run in on Wednesdays.  I still can’t decide if I want to get up super early and get these done before work, or just run after work and get home later than usual.  I was originally going to do doubles, but then KP persuaded me to try to do them in one go, if possible, to get used to running 10 miles like it was nothing.  (Well not nothing, but not hard either.)
  • I’ll be in New York for the first 2.5 weeks of the plan.  Two of those weeks will be spent attending a very intense course for work, basically 12-15 hours of classroom + lab time every single day.  Then, I’ll spend 3 days in Manhattan with friends, which will hopefully allow for some fun runs through Central Park.

If anyone – especially 50K veterans – has any suggestions or advice, please let me know!

And last but certainly not least… if you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I’m using the Big Basin 50K as a platform to raise money for Running for a Better Oakland.  The whole story is spelled out on my fundraising page, but the TL;DR version is that it’s a great charity and I’m excited to be fundraising for them.  24 hours after I sent out the initial emails, I’ve already received $361 out of my $1000 goal.  At this rate, I might have to increase my goal!  I’ve been blown away and very touched by people’s generosity.  Hopefully, the fundraising will serve as a well of motivation when things get tough: Do it for the kids of RBO!

Me and my RBO mentee Alejandro in 2013,  showing off our Oakland Half bling!

Me and my RBO mentee Alejandro in 2013, showing off our Oakland Half bling!


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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20 comments on “Base Building, Training Plan, and Fundraising for the Big Basin 50K!
  1. Hillary says:

    I’m so impressed by and excited for you! As you probably know, I’ve never done an ultra, but I have done similar weekend running for marathon training. It’s great for fitness, but mentally it really took a lot out to get back out post-long run and log those 8-10 easy miles on Sunday. Something to consider (at least for the weekends you think might be challenging): Pick a trail that you love but rarely run, and label that your “treat” trail and only let yourself run it on Sunday’s. Having a treat trail to look forward to wasn’t something I had the option of doing, but I think it would have helped with the general “do I have to…?!” feeling I often got (especially towards the peak of training when all I wanted to do on Sunday was sleep). 🙂

    That being said: You’ll kick ass. Is there any other possible result? 🙂

    • Jen says:

      Thanks, Hillary! I’ll keep your “treat trail” tip in mind, though we’re really super spoiled out here. I’ll probably plan more social runs on Sundays if I can – running with a friend is always a treat. 🙂

      • Hillary says:

        Good idea! Yea, I feel really bad for you and the monotony of your trail runs. So mountain, much ugly. I look forward to following your training 🙂

  2. heatherihn says:

    You’re going to do so well! Don’t let the training plan scare you, as long as you commit to doing most (if not all) of the runs at an easy pace it shouldn’t be nearly as bad as it seems. My best runs actually tend to be my Sunday runs! My best advice from my training so far would be to cut back on sugar and really focus on a low inflammation diet. I seriously give it most of the credit for the training, as my recovery is way faster than before. Good luck, I’ll be watching your progress!

    • Jen says:

      Thank you, Heather! I know you’re right about the sugar, but I’m such an addict (as I sit here drinking a glass of ginger ale…). I’ll have to better about my diet and nutrition when training is in full swing.

  3. dlubi says:

    Very excited for your adventure!!! Very inspired by your charity running too!

    I have zero ultra running experience, but have been doing a lot of tri training over the past few years and can share big lessons I’ve learned (mainly from my coach plus my countless mistakes). Please take my advice with a grain of salt, since I train for different events, but there is definitely some crossover between long course endurance races.

    Top things I learned: strength work is critical (like hill repeats – focus on the quality of the repeat part and not the mileage part for those workouts), always fuel properly, stay positive, and listen to your body (quality and consistency in workouts is important, but so is proper recovery). Be patient – don’t build too fast or go too hard too fast, as good results take time. Also be sure to consume a lot of good fuel throughout your training, especially as your volume increases. As my coach says “eat to workout, don’t workout to eat.” This is huge – really important for having good workouts and also recovery. Not every workout will be stellar, but trust your training, and keep smiling!

    You’ll do great! I’ll be cheering for you all the way to that finish line!!!

  4. Grace says:

    You are going to kick ass! I don’t have any specific advice, never having trained for anything longer than a marathon, but it’s a 50K so the training sounds about right. The midweek longish run always got to me mentally – don’t let it get to you. (Also, “early April” and “in just 4 weeks” should not be used in the same sentence. This year is going WAY TOO FAST.)

  5. Jan says:

    I am so excited to follow your progress through your training! You have a great plan it looks like. And those hills, wows!

  6. Angela says:

    It sounds like you have a solid plan–ambitious, but do-able as long as you keep on top of your planning. I’ve really felt like doing mid-week ten milers helped me out a lot. I wouldn’t say they ever became “nothing,” but it did eventually start to feel pretty normal (as long as I took my rest days & recovered appropriately). Good luck with this goal & with your fundraising!! 🙂

    • Jen says:

      Thanks, Angela! I did 10 mile midweek runs for MCM and they were tough but doable. However, my work schedule was a lot more flexible back then. I hope my new boss keeps being understanding and patient with this training schedule!

  7. Adam Mizock says:

    Hi Jen. It sounds like your training is going well. We are putting together a trail running retreat in Napa on April 24-26, coached by North Face Endurance Challenge winner Magda Boulet. If you or your readers are interested, the website is Thanks

  8. Yay! It’s exciting to hear you are getting ready for your 50k! I’m happy to hear my plan was helpful to you. I agree, the idea of fitting in 10 on a Wednesday was intimidating at first, but the longer days helped! Also, at one point during the training I became that nutty person who was like “only 8 today?” It’s crazy how much my perception of distance changed over the course of the plan. Can’t wait to follow your progress!

    • Jen says:

      Haha, it’s all relative, isn’t it? I remember recovery weeks during marathon training with long runs of “only” 12 miles — actually those were probably the worst because I totally underestimated them! 😉

  9. Cathryn says:

    I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to leave a comment but all I can do is echo everyone else. I am so excited to see you take on this challenge and then rock it. And what a wonderful cause. Good luck, lady! xx

    • Jen says:

      Please, please promise me to never apologize again for a “late” comment – no such thing! Thanks again for your support!!

  10. […] from Lake Tahoe last Sunday early enough to get a decent long run in.  You might remember from my last post that I was determined to get back on the base building horse and knock out a couple of 25+ mile […]

  11. […] 4 weeks ago, I got serious about base building for the Big Basin 50K. I even wrote stuff down. Up to that point, I had been half-heartedly attempting to run 25-30 miles per week (mpw) for […]

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4/28/19: London Marathon

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