50k Trail Training

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been spending a lot more time running trails lately.  Here’s a look at my current training plan!


Race: North Fork 50k

Goal: Have fun!  My girlfriend Corrie is turning 30 and wanted to run her first 50k to celebrate.  We’re heading to Colorado together…she rocks!!

About the race: 

  • It takes place in Pine Valley Ranch Park outside of Denver.
  • 100% trail.  Mostly single track.

Elevation: 6,700ft. to 8,100ft.


Training: Nashville sits around 600ft. elevation.  I expect the altitude to be the toughest part of this race.
Current Fitness: My last race was Boston and I consider myself to be in road marathon shape.


  • Continue with my regular weekday miles…on the trails if possible.
  • I’m paying more attention to elevation gain during my runs…seeking out the hills!
  • Long runs are on the trails, and I’m running for ‘time on feet’ versus mileage.
  • **Note: this is such a freeing and fun way to train.  I don’t worry about pace or distance.  I just spend the hours moving.

Saturday: 3 hours trail
Sunday: recovery run

Saturday: 4 hours trail
Sunday: 30 minutes trail

Saturday: 3.5 hours trail
Sunday: 1 hour trail

Saturday: 2.5 hours trail
Sunday: 2 hours trail

Saturday: 5 hours trail
Sunday: recovery day (easy run or rest)

Saturday: 1 hour trail
Sunday: 45 minutes trail

Saturday: Race Day!

16 Reasons to Run an Ultra!
I wrote this list last year and this seems like the perfect time to revisit it.  As you’ll see, we have a great Ultra Dirtbag trail running community in Nashville and I’m super proud to be a part of the group!

1.  Fun Food.  The aid stations have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, potatoes, soda, pretzels, candy, etc…


2.  You won’t have to fight crowds for parking or a porta potty.


3.  Beautiful Scenery!


4.  Great way to reconnect with your love of running.  You don’t have to worry about paces or splits…just keep moving and do your best not to fall!  Trail running makes me feel like a kid again.


5.  Awesome People.  Ultra runners are a small, super-friendly community.  Everyone is laid back and encouraging.


6.  I feel like I’m competing with myself instead of others.  It’s very possible that you’ll be alone for some of the race leaving you to focus being your best self.


7.  Big bragging rights for “only” going a few miles longer than a marathon.


8.  Power hike the hills.  Walking is encouraged!


9.  You are regularly reminded to slow down.  The race is long.  If you go out too quickly, you will pay for it later.


10.  Age group awards.  Fewer runners means a much better chance at placing in your age group!


11.  The post-race hang.  Everyone brings lawn chairs, drinks, and eats more food.


12.  Buckles are so much cooler than medals.


13.  Starting lines aren’t near as stressful.  Everyone is hanging out talking and the race director just says “ready-set-go.”  It’s very chill.


14.  Training is often based on time instead of miles (like I mentioned above).  I love the idea of just spending the morning in the woods without worrying about pace.


15.  Water crossings to cool off and refresh.


16.  Most people don’t even ask about your finish time.  Every ultra is so different that it’s hard to compare finish times from one race to another.  You get big respect just for finishing!


Anyone else have trouble adapting to higher altitudes?  Just breathing trouble or altitude sickness?
Do you ever race “just for fun” or are you always going all out?
Do you ever train based on time instead of distance?


Join the Conversation

  • thesimplepeach

    I can’t wait to read more about this! I just ran my first full in Denver on Sunday and it was beautiful. I’ve never seen so much open space in my life. I wish I would have timed our arrival a little better to account for the elevation, but it was a great day! Can’t wait to see your pics so I can talk my hubby into another visit!

    • jenchoosesjoy

      I’m pretty sure the altitude will kick my butt!

    • jenchoosesjoy

      And, congrats on your race!!!

  • [email protected] Feet In Faith

    I’m waaaaaaay jealous! Colorado is on my bucket list as well as an ultra. If I had the funds set aside I’d pick Colorado. It looks soooooo beautiful! I like the idea of just running for the shear pleasure of it. I’ve been running trails on the weekends with my best running pal. Just wish we had a bigger group here. This July I will be running a 6 hour race on trail where my parter and I take shifts running. I think that’ll be loads of fun! Then I’ll race for real in the fall. Summer I think is just for fun running. :) can’t wait to read all about your ultra!!

    • jenchoosesjoy

      That race sounds like a blast! I’ll buckle down for training later in the summer for NYC. I’m with you…summers are for fun runs!?

  • cupcakesandmiles

    Ah!! There you go again! I love love love this post! Wow! You make it sound like so much fun!

    I kind of feel like all my races are done just for fun…for now.

    And, I thought about doing a training program that focused on time but decided otherwise. Something about time and trails sounds pretty awesome though!

    • jenchoosesjoy

      It’s just nice to take a little break from pace goals! ?

  • seepaigerun

    I have never felt comfortable trail running. I love the freedom of it, but I always have a big fear of getting lost–so much so, that I can’t enjoy the run. In the few trail races I’ve done, there are parts of the course(s) that aren’t well marked. It just makes me nervous. Also, I am guilty of not picking my feet up enough when I run. This has led to some gnarly falls during trail runs. Reading your post makes me want to give it another shot! It would be a shame if I didn’t, because there is an awesome trail about a quarter of a mile from my house!

    • jenchoosesjoy

      I’ve definitely gotten lost during trail races. Last fall, I ran an extra 2 miles…oops!

  • Melissa

    I am running my first 50 km in September! I am in my 4th week of training and I am really loving it! I appreciate that you run Ultra’s and write about them. I love hearing about other people running or training for them, makes me feel extra excited!! Thanks so much!

    • jenchoosesjoy

      It’s such a fun distance!! Good luck with your training. ?

      • Melissa

        Thanks so much!! It will be an adventure :)

  • Gretchen | Gretchruns

    Great post! I love running on trails (in fact my post today is all about trail running as well!). I don’t know if I could do an ultra on trails, but that would be amazing! Good luck in training :)

    • jenchoosesjoy

      I’ll head over to read your post!!

  • Maddie @ Dixie Runs

    How exciting!! I think trails are so fun! My fiance just got a mountain bike so I hope to get out on the trails with him soon. I never have really run on them too much because I’m scared to run by myself, mostly because I’m injury prone and I’m afraid I’ll break my leg and get eaten by a bear.

    Can’t wait to hear more about your training!! p.s. that stick figure picture cracks me up haha

    • jenchoosesjoy

      I have definitely had a few bad falls on the trails! It’s smart to run with others and it’s a lot more fun. ?

  • I’ve been thinking about incorporating a trail run at least a couple times a month. Do you have a favorite trail run shoe to run in? Do you feel like your regular running shoes are fine?

    • jenchoosesjoy

      I like the Nike Terra Kigers. Road shoes work fine…especially when you’re new to trail running. If you love the trails and want to run them regularly, it’s worth purchasing a pair of trail shoes.

  • Jason

    Awesome post :)

    SO much altitude sickness. I’ve only done one race at altitude and it destroyed me. I couldn’t move once I got about 12,000 feet. Such a fail.

    I’ve been trying to train more based on time and/or elevation. Miles/kilometers are fine, but they really don’t tell the whole story. I think it’s easier to “train specific” using time, elevation, etc.

    • jenchoosesjoy

      I’m definitely nervous about the altitude!! Hopefully I’ll be able to push through it…eek!!

  • Jamie

    So cool! I’d love to do an ultra one day – 50K, don’t know if I could do 50 miles! I really like your perspective on this! It sounds like you’ll have an absolute blast : )

    • jenchoosesjoy

      50k’s are definitely doable if you’re a marathon runner and it’s great to just have fun with it!

  • suzysuzyheather

    Ultrarunners really are the best kind of people. My favourite ultra training book is called Relentless Forward Progress. If anyone is interested in ultras, I had many ultrarunners recommend this book to me and I used it for my 50 miler and really, really liked it.

    • jenchoosesjoy

      I can’t believe I haven’t read it. Thanks for the recommendation!!!

  • Running ‘N’ Reading

    My running group has just started its weekly trail runs and I can’t wait to join in! The last time I ran at altitude for any significant period of time (about 6 months) was in 2005; I was living in Guadalajara, Mexico, which is at 5,200 feet. The first day I ran on the track there, I passed out in the kitchen when I returned to the home I was living in – ha! Lesson learned…be careful out there!

    • jenchoosesjoy

      Oh my gosh!! Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen to me!

      • Running ‘N’ Reading

        Jen, I’m sure you’ll be fine; just be very aware of your body, how you’re feeling, etc., and be sure to take a short break if anything seems “off.” I know you’re a smart and informed runner; I was nothing of the sort – ha! This is going to be such an exciting adventure!! Some of my local running friends are preparing for Pikes Peak – whew!

  • Rachel Denler

    I love running the trails here… and I’m hoping that all my training at higher elevations will make running at sea level better. I’d love to do this race someday!

    We’ve had a SUPER rainy spring though, so prepare for that!

    • jenchoosesjoy

      I’m sure you are such a strong runner from training there!! Thanks for the heads up on the rain!

  • Rachel

    Well now you are making me want to run an ultra! My mind is so much more able than my body. I think I’d better conquer a regular marathon before I try an ultra. Ugh.

    • jenchoosesjoy

      Baby steps! Marathon and then an ultra…not that either of those are baby steps. Ha!

  • lmicklich

    I only train based on time when I’m running trails. I’m definitely more focused on not tripping on roots or tumbling down hills than pace! I ran my first trail race last year and it was so casual and fun. I’m planning to do more again this fall. Maybe not an ultra (yet!) though.

    • jenchoosesjoy

      It’s so much fun to just enjoy it rather than focus on pace!

  • Sun

    Very exciting that you’re doing a 50k! I bet doing more running on the trails is a nice break from marathon training.

    I’ve never done an ultra or any type of trail running. I fear I’m too clumsy and would trip on the first root in my path. The aid station goodies sound great though 😉

    • jenchoosesjoy

      I trip and fall a lot!! Usually my tumbles aren’t too bad…just humbling!

  • thisrunnersrecipes

    Those photos make me want to do an ultra just for the views. Altitude always makes it harder for me to breath – even at 3200 feet last week my run felt harder!

    • jenchoosesjoy

      Running in Colorado is going to be a big challenge for me!

  • Rachel Caroline Preusser

    Jen, I follow you on IG and will now be reading your blog on a daily basis, thanks for sharing all of this, I love it! After I run my second marathon this weekend I may have to think about an Ultra in the future!

    • jenchoosesjoy

      Thank you SO much and have a great race this weekend!!!

  • Sarah @SarahRuns26

    I have run several marathons in Colorado (Steamboat Springs, Fort Collins, Vail (half), Denver, Estes Park and Boulder) and have never had any issues with altitude bothering me. Hopefully you find the same! I don’t mind running for fun, it takes the pressure off. When you’ve done as many races as I have, you can’t race them all!

    • jenchoosesjoy

      That’s such great news that the altitude didn’t bother you!! Fingers crossed, I’ll be able to say the same thing!


    wow Fun food sounds amazing.! I used to train in time when I was first starting out, it was soo nice not to worry about pace. Nowadays Im more focused on Pr’s for races, but I love to have fun while training also.
    Sounds like you’ve got great training techniques for your 50k. I never want to run more than a marathon. lol Props to you.!

    • jenchoosesjoy

      Lol…thanks!!! ?

  • charissarunning

    Those are some great points about ultra races, Jen! You’re doing amazing with all those trail runs. I’m not much of a trail runner (super uncoordinated and scared to go on the trails alone), but it really seems awesome and maybe one day I’ll be up for it. I like the fact that you don’t have to worry about pace. That’s some crazy elevation for your race though – huge bragging rights when you’re done! 😀

    • jenchoosesjoy

      Thanks so much!!?

  • Angela @ North Idaho Runner

    I live in the mountains of Idaho so….I’ve never really done a race where altitude was a factor but I have my eye on some races in Colorado so we’ll see….

    Almost 95 percent of my races are for fun. I have no fantasies of being an elite runner anytime soon – why not have a good time? Most of my races are organized training runs. I always have a couple that I consider “goal races” but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t make my goal.

    I’m an ultra trail runner but I am really loose with training….it’s usually about miles and I count miles spent hiking (which I do a lot of) because I think that’s just as important as running in a long race. The hills will be what makes or breaks you in most trail races….in reality, you are not going to be running most hills and you shouldn’t if you hope to maintain a consistent energy level.

    • jenchoosesjoy

      I’m a big believer in hiking the hills!!

  • Emily Swanson

    Wow, if my body could handle regular ultra training, I would be going for one in a heartbeat, especially after seeing all your reasons for doing it. Those are some things I love about running without a watch and just running for pleasure’s sake! :) I love just ditching the watch sometimes without worrying about time. It reminds me that I love running no matter what kind of running I’m doing.

    • jenchoosesjoy

      It’s so good to reconnect to the love of running!?

  • Heather @ WholeHeartedWife

    very cool post! i keep saying that once my girls are a little older, and I don’t do so much of my running with a stroller or on the treadmill, I would really like to try trails or even ultras. this post was super informative, thanks!!

    • jenchoosesjoy

      I’m so glad you liked it!! Trail running is so much fun!! ?