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How to Train for the Carlsbad 5000 All Day 20K

Running a 5K might not be a huge deal if you’ve been running even for a little while. But running four 5K races in the same day as part of the Carlsbad 5000 All-Day 20K? That’s roughly 12.4 miles of faster running over a shorter course, and that requires both some additional training and some specific training. If you’re committed to running four races in one day, you need to think about it from both angles—four shorter and faster runs and the cumulative mileage (and fatigue) you’ll be racking up.

Running the Carlsbad 5000 All Day 20K is a similar feat to running a half marathon, but it might just be a tad more fun! Need motivation? Think of what an accomplishment that will be and the bragging rights—and cool finisher medal—that will come with it!

Here is a checklist of training ideas that can help you get through the day with a smile on your face!

Long Runs

Every runner should be doing a weekly long run—no matter what distance you’re training to complete. Long runs build your general endurance so you can run further, complete longer and more intense workouts, and help you maintain faster paces for a longer period of time.

If you’re a beginner, long runs are even more critical as endurance is the top limiting factor for new runners. Long runs increase running economy (efficiency) and help you cover the 5K distance comfortably and will certainly help you be consistent in running all four 5Ks. In some ways, the training for the Carlsbad 5000 All Day 5K will resemble the training of a half marathon, if only because the total distance is so similar.

During a 10- to 12-week training period, add a mile to your once-a-week long run every 1-2 weeks but take a “recovery week” every 4-6 weeks where the long run distance dips slightly. Novice runners should top out with a long run of about 10 miles, but intermediate runners should hit at least 12 miles during their training build-up. Advanced runners will want to run significantly more than 12 miles during their peak long run—even up to 16 miles. The benefits of long runs are undeniable and the longer you can safely run, the more you can focus on running fast on race day.

MORE: Read More about the Carlsbad 5000

Tempo Runs

Tempo runs are classic, “bread and butter” workouts for any distance runner, no matter if you’re racing a 5K or a marathon. You’ll find runners doing tempos who are training for 5K races and even ultramarathons—they’re that useful!

This is because they help push your endurance to new levels. More specifically, they increase your body’s ability to clear lactate from your blood stream, which is a byproduct of hard exercise. Tempo runs help you run at a faster pace without accumulating too much lactate, ultimately helping you maintain a faster pace for a longer period of time.

There are quite a few definitions of “tempo” but here are a few common characteristics:

  • The pace that you can hold for about an hour (10K race pace for most runners)
  • A “comfortably hard” pace (for those who like to run by perceived effort)
  • The pace that causes your heart rate to reach 85-90 percent of maximum (if you prefer heart-rate monitor training)

Beginners can start with tempo intervals which are simply 2-5 minutes at tempo pace with 1-2 minutes of easy running as recovery in between. Aim to complete roughly 15-20 minutes at tempo pace. Advanced runners can skip the recovery running and instead run 3-5 miles, or 20-30 minutes, at tempo pace with no rest.

And of course, you’ll want to run a few easy miles before and after any tempo workout to ensure you have a proper warm-up and cool-down.

Specific Workouts

Specificity is the golden rule in running: your training must be specific to your goal race.

These workouts are more advanced, so if you’re a beginner, you can just run easy mileage, long runs and tempo workouts.

But if you’re advanced and want to go after a big half-marathon personal best or running four 5K races in the same day, race-specific workouts can take your fitness to new levels and help you accomplish more on race day.

A specific workout for those types of events will closely resemble race-day scenarios. In its most basic form, you’ll run at roughly your goal half marathon pace for 6-8 miles. (Note: Your goal half marathon pace should be slower than your 5K race pace and slower than your All Day 20K pace.) Here are two more examples:

  • Two repetitions of 3 miles at goal half marathon pace, with 2 minutes of easy running as recovery.
  • Finish a long run of 10-15 miles with 3-5 miles at goal half marathon pace or a pace slightly faster than you ran for the first portion of that run. (This workout makes you run fast on tired legs, making it even more specific to the Carlsbad 5000 All Day 20K itself.)

Workouts like these should be done in the final 4-6 weeks before race day.

To be clear, these are more advanced workouts! Most beginners will see rapid improvement without these more challenging sessions. If you’re not ready yet, consider following the basics tenets of training for your first half marathon here. Being able to finish a half marathon will certainly give you the endurance to finish four 5Ks in one day.

Implement these training sessions into your program and you’ll reap the rewards: more endurance, higher fitness levels, and most importantly, the ability to cover 12.4 miles on race day without bonking at the end of any of them.

Race-Day Tips

Once you’ve done the proper training, you’ll need to approach race day at the Carlsbad 5000 with a solid strategy. The biggest thing is that you should aim to run roughly the same pace for all four of the 5Ks. Any other strategy—for example running one fast just because you want to and the other three slower—could lead to a disastrous experience. A good way to build your race plan is to back off from your best 5K race pace by about 20 percent. So if your best 5K time is 19 minutes (or 6:06 per mile) or 21:30 (or 6:55 per mile) or 24 minutes (7:43 per mile), you’ll want to make sure you’re running considerably slower. So for the 19-minute 5K runner, you might shoot for 23 minutes for each 5K (or 7:24 per mile). If you’re a 21:30 5K runner, then shoot for 25 minutes for each 5K (0r 8:02 per mile). And if you’re a 24-minute 5K runner, shoot for running 30 minutes for each 5K race (or 9:39 per mile). You might look at those times and think that’s pretty slow, but that’s the point. The goal is to run four races over the course of a few hours, all at the same pace. Trust us, the last one will feel challenging, even at that much slower pace.

  • Be sure to warm-up about 45 minutes before the first 5K with about 10-15 minutes of light jogging, followed by some dynamic warm-up movements and drills.
  • For the ensuing 5K races, you should still get your legs loose but you won’t need to warm-up as much as you did the first time. We’d recommend 10 minutes of light jogging and some light stretching. Just don’t sit around during the races in between because you’ll stiffen up and feel horrible as the races go on.
  • Make sure you’re sufficiently hydrated before you start and be sure to rehydrate after every 5K. As the day goes on, you’ll lose more and more electrolyte through your sweat, so it makes sense to drink about 12-20 oz. of sports drink after every race so you can replenish your sodium, potassium and magnesium stores, among others.
  • You might consider bringing a second set of running clothes or at least a new set of socks. If you get sweaty when you run, it might feel good to change clothes into a dry set at some point during the day.
  • When you’re done with the last race, make sure you do either an easy cool-down run of at least a mile and some good static stretching. If you haven’t been running fast for a while, you’re bound to have some muscular tightness and soreness in the ensuing days. But if you cool down properly and stretch—and keep rehydrating the rest of the day, as well as eating balanced meals—you’ll feel a lot better than you would if you didn’t.

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