Back-to-Back Long Runs: Ultramarathon Training Week 3

I’ve finished my third week of ultramarathon training and it was a doozy!  It was my first weekend of double-digit, back-to-back long runs. On Saturday, I logged 20 miles out in Barrington, and on Sunday, I spent 11 muddy miles out at Swallow Cliff.  While there is some debate on their necessity, back-to-back are a large component of my ultramarathon training plan.  Plus, B2Bs make me thing of Backstreet Boys, which always makes life a little better.



(Ps… who remembers that Backstreet Boys made a movie?! LOL)


What are back-to-back long runs?

Back-to-back long runs are exactly what they sound like: running longer distances two days in a row, typically Saturday and Sunday.  The idea behind them is to get used to running on tired legs to mimic the fatigue you’ll experience on race day.
Why not just run 50 miles in a day then instead of splitting it up? Won’t that save you time and still mimic the fatigue you’ll feel in the 50 miler?  Just like doing a 26 mile training run in preparation for a marathon is a bad idea, doing a 40 or 50 mile training run for a 50 mile race is also a terrible idea.  You will increase your chance of injury, overtraining, burnout, and poor performance later down the road.  Instead, back-to-back long runs give you the physiological adaptations you need to be prepared for an ultra, but they lessen the risk of injury.  Coaching tip for the day 🙂


This first round of double-digit, back-to-back long runs went off without a hitch!  On Monday I felt fine, which was encouraging for future weekends of much much MUCH longer distances (I’m eyeing you, 25/25 weekend, woof). So far, all systems are a-ok with this new training endeavor!  I have definitely started to make a list of things that will make these back-to-backs more enjoyable (like getting a BIG brunch after Saturday’s run to refuel, thanks parents!).  Look for future posts on my discoveries after I’ve tested out what works and what doesn’t.


Readers, it’s your turn:  Have you every done back-to-back long runs?  What are your thoughts about them? Necessary or nay?


Happy Running,



Ultramarathon Training Week 3 Recap


Monday 2/6 – EZ RPE 5

Easy jog along the lakefront to see the sunrise.  In the afternoon it was warm enough to bike home from work! Total: 8.0 miles run, 4 mi bike. 


Tuesday 2/7 – Speed, 3×10 min RPE 8/9, 6 min RPE 6

Woke up to thunderstorms.  THUNDERSTORMS in February?!? Instead of dealing with lightning, I jumped on the treadmill. I warmed up for 2 miles, then varied the treadmill between 7:10 for the “on” and 8:30s for the off.  Then cooled down for 2 minutes. Normally, speed on a treadmill SUCKS, but I practiced visualization, a great mental strategy. For visualization, I looked ahead at the wall and imagined that I was running between Fullerton and North Ave Boat House on the path; I’ve run that stretch hundreds of times so I was able to mentally picture the scenery moving by at the pace I was running.  It was very meditative and the workout’s mental effort dramatically decreased.   Total: 10.2 miles


Wednesday 2/8 – Strength + EZ RPE 5

After a kick-ass strength session at the EDGE, I jogged along the 606 Trail for some easy miles.  Total: 7.10 miles


Thursday 2/9 – Hot Yoga, Rest Day

Do yoga, run faster! Total: 0.0


Friday 2/10 – EZ RPE 5/6

Ran to NP with Lydia, I was so happy that we made it in time for the hugs!  My hands got colder than normal during the workout, even though I was wearing my warmest gloves! I was glad to get to Panera afterwards so I could hold them under the hand dryer for a few minutes. Total: 6.85 miles

pic NP?
Saturday 2/11 – Hilly Long run, RPE 6

I started off with Jess and Kelly until they turned around early.  Mentally, I was struggling with the fact that I was running almost a minute slower than what I’ve done out here in the past.  There were 4 hill repeats up Windmill Hill, and my right knee over-extended on the last descent, but luckily it didn’t cause problems for the rest of the run.  Total: 20.05 miles


Slowing down is a mental barrier for me, but I’m seeing the benefits.  For example, my recovery time between runs has sped up; I met my parents for brunch almost immediately upon getting home from Barrington and they said, “You don’t even LOOK like you ran 20 miles today! You are chipper and walking faster than us!”  I didn’t reply because then the food arrived…


back-to-back brunch after

Post-long run brunch might be one of my favorite things.  Ever.  I found a hidden vegan gem- a tofu scramble at Wilde!  I asked them to bring me avocado for the toast and to add few more vegetables (I asked to add tomatoes but they just gave me a few slabs of tomato on the side, which I added to the toast, haha).  DELICIOUS.


Sunday 2/12 – EZ Trail run, RPE 5

Met with EDGE at Swallow Cliff.  It was the muddiest trail run to date! There were parts we had to walk, and most of it felt like running through sand.  Taking it slow helped- by the end I didn’t feel fatigued, just starving! I experimented with eating some homemade date-cherry energy balls on the run.  I liked them a lot, but they were a bit too sticky so I’ll have to tweat the recipe a bit more.  Afterwards I went to the EDGE and inhaled a tofu scramble and smoothie before getting into the contrast baths and boots. Total: 11.10 miles


back-to-back trail mud
Got through the back-to-back with Huma, Nuun and some homemade treats


Total week’s mileage: 63.3 miles.  Total time: 8 hours, 55 min. 

Time to taper for Tokyo!

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