10 TIPS TO GETTING READY FOR THE ULTRAMARATHON 10 TIPS TO GETTING ACROSS THE FINISH LINE
READY FOR THE ULTRAMARATHON? Here's how you can prepare.running-tips-to-finishing-a-first-100-mile-race.html I'm a doer. And I mean a doer in a learning sort of way. For example, when I get something in my head, something that requires a learning process, I don't put to use suggestions from others to whether it's a good or bad idea. I don't ponder over hints or recommendations; I pretty much just jump in and start learning it through my actual doing. Some may call it impulsive. Others, Attention-Deficit. In some ways my doer personality may become a hitch, a stumbling block to my desired success. For, without an understanding of the feat in front of me, the different snags and hurdles or even the simple acknowledgment of the proper tools and data needed for accomplishment, I may find myself running through an exhausting path that causes vexation and annoyance. There might even be financial disappointments--physical, mental, or spiritual. Regardless, it's just the way I'm wired. Present to me all my good choices with the bad, my successes and my failures, and I would still choose to be designated as a doer because I don't regret my experiences I've taken from experiencing.
Take for instance my nine-year stance as an ultra-marathoner. I have learned through trial and error. I have learned through doing more and more 100-mile races. In fact, when I completed my first 100-mile distance, I was as oblivious as they come. In my head and via the Internet, I came across the ART100 and thought to myself, "I wanna do this." Enough said. I had no idea of the friends I would make or the lessons that I would learn along the way. Beginning somewhat of a training regimen and preparation, I tried to get my body ready for what I imagined was ahead. I was clueless, needless to say, and I'm pretty sure that my furthest training run that summer was an informal fun-run known as the Cat Smacker. This trail run was approximately 22 miles. I did set out to make the highly recommended and race-directed training runs, but couldn't even find my way through the maze of dirt roads to the start. Fortunately, I did make it to the 2009 ART100 starting line (without much gear I will admit), and off I went into the woods feeling like a champ. I fantasized about finishing with 4-hour splits, which would have me finishing within a 16-hour time frame. Ha. Was I way off course. Not only did it take me almost all of the entire allowable time (I finished in about 29 hours and something), it had been the most challenging and bizarre experience I had ever put myself through in my entire life. I vaguely remember coming back on Forest Road 212, tripping and cussing my decision to try the thing. But I finished. And so was started my journey on this ultra-marathon train. And while I've gotten off-track many times, I haven't stopped boarding back up, learning while doing to improve my performance.
Fast forward to 2016, and I have lost count on how many ultras I have completed. I've won some and DNF'd some. I trained well for some and not so good for others. I've met some of the most remarkable people, some runners and some not. I've watched the ultra-marathon racing field grow tremendously just in the last nine years. As its grown, so have I, adopting many tips that have been shown by my doing to be beneficial come race day. Most of it concerns preparation and suggestions on how to improve my times. Among my favorites: "just keep moving," and "you gotta eat," or "while on the course, don't ever sit down."
I have found that ultra-marathoners are a unique group of athletes to include some that insist on training by the book and others that train to their own little drum. Those trainers following the book worship their weekly training schedule usually allowing for rest days and a couple of back to back running days. They nit-pick their diets and ask a lot of questions to the veterans on the course. The others will train a little differently, usually training long and a lot; rest days are almost too uncomfortable to take, and while they'll listen to your advice, come race day it won't really matter. But in the end, both groups will emerge to find that a 100 miles will more than not come with many ups and downs no matter the training put-in. It will be a very personal experience, and what works for one runner at mile 90, may not exactly work for another. And no matter how prepared one runner may be over another (some may even be over-prepared) they will all, ultimately learn, the process to their 100-mile feat through the process of their 100-mile doing. Despite my findings, I have formed a list as to what I have learned as a doer of ultra-marathons. The list is specifically related to 100-mile courses. It's just ideas to take into consideration whatever your training method, and certainly many items that have helped me find success on both the road and trail. Take what you want and leave the rest. Your comments or additions are always welcome.
10 TIPS TO GETTING READY FOR AN ULTRAMARATHON
10. STUDY AND PREP. Review all of the race information,including lodging options, instructions for race morning and parking. Familiarize yourself with the many course logistics beforehand. Include in your preparation active participation with the official race-directed training opportunities that more times than not are run on portions of the actual course. Consider all suggestions on the race website, and make every effort to follow them on race day. For example, indications to carry a light rain jacket or the requirement of having a reflective vest and the time to put it on should always be observed. Determine how to have these items available on your body or somewhere on the course that is easily accessible. For those running crewed races, having imperative items such as these may be somewhat easier to manage, but those running solo should always acknowledge their importance, and plan in advance.
09. TRAIN ON LIKE TERRAIN.Practice on a similar terrain that mimics the upcoming race course. If your running a 100-mile rocky trail course, then spend a substantial amount of your training time on a similar rocky trail. This also goes for a 100-mile road race. Both require a different stance and footing. For example, a rocky trail will require a shorter stride length, and a paved road will allow for a much longer one. Try to listen for and improve your cadence as the better your rhythmic sequence, the less energy you will be spending. Learn how to scope a rocky trail for more sufficient footing, and try to make a habit of running with your head and eyes up. Remember that practice helps your strive for running perfection, and spending many hours on a similar terrain to that which you will race should be well-worth the effort.
08. 100-MILE TRAINING WEEK. Shoot for at least one 100-mile, 6-day training week(allowing one day for rest). Trust me, this is easier said than done. Honestly, I think I have only done this one time, but it seemed to pay off. In fact, I ran this high of a training week during my most successful 100-mile running year to date. While the week will seem time consuming as well as energy zapping, you will benefit. Get your miles in for the week however you want: via trial, road or even treadmill because it's not about the terrain here; it's about spending time on your feet. Try spreading your mileage out. This should not be back-to-back long mileage training runs (which will be discussed next). Mix in all different distances planning for a 3-4 hour longer run only once during this week.
07. BACK TO BACKS.Include in your training some back to back runs,those similar to a stage race. Be sure to set aside enough time for the runs to be marathon distance or greater. For example, take early Friday evening to run a 4-4:30 hour pace marathon (26.2 miles). This will require you to maintain your pace at 9:05-10:17 miles/minute, and will not only help to improve your racing performance, but will give you more needed time on your feet as well as some additional experience with running in the dark. Practice using your a headlight or hand-held flashlight. After this Friday night run, regroup and try to get at least six hours of sleep. Set Saturday morning aside, get up and out for no less than a 30-mile run at a comfortable pace. And then take off on Sunday. Try for at least 2-3 of these back to back training sessions, and while they may seem time consuming, especially for those of us with families, they will serve to your advantage.
06. SET ASIDE REST DAYS. Although difficult, adequate resting is vitalto your physical and mental health. And don't mistake a rest day for a a cross-training day. In fact, it means exactly what it suggests...rest. Sleep, watch a good movie, take a long, scenic drive, or fix a good meal. Do something other than run. This will not only save you from an injury, but it will also help you elude runner burnout. Many an ultra-runner will suffer from one or both, and most will agree that being out due to a running-related injury is no fun. Especially, if it happens close to race day. Take the advice and schedule in days to rest your bones, your muscles and your head. Finally, save the week before your scheduled race to taper. Use this week to carb-load, increase energy levels and avoid possible injury by not running at a hard, fast pace. Most experts will agree that very little can be gained during the week before race day, so put aside strenuous workouts or training sessions at least five days prior to your race day.
05. CHOOSE THE RIGHT GEAR. Gear really does make a difference. It's hard to comprehend how athletes made it to such successful levels prior to the surge of popular running products on the market today. Better shoes, light-weight hydration packs, spy belts, head lights, Ipods, runner GPS, ankle and knee support, even blister-preventing socks and non-chafing running attire all specifically designed with ultra-marathoners in mind should be used to your advantage. Trying out different products or brands and finding which work best for you is highly recommended. In addition, never try something for the first time on race day as it can be a huge slip possibly even costing you the race. As mentioned earlier on my first 100-mile race, I made it to the starting line with little to no gear. In fact, I wore road-specific running shoes for a rocky dirt trail. My ankles were too weak to handle the uneven footing, and I suffered through turning my ankle from the start of the single-track trail at mile 6. I wore a belt at my waste that held one 8-ounce water bottle, but it was nothing I had trained with, so it bounced and rubbed until I finally had to drop it. It just goes to show that gear can really make a difference in your performance as well as your overall enjoyment of the 100 miles, and practicing with it can be a crucial step.
04. THINK ABOUT CALORIES. Practice calorie consumptionon every long training run in which you participate. It's crucial to train your body how to digest while running such distances. It can be a delicate balance, and stomach nausea can come on really quick leading to dehydration, severe vomiting and possibly several hours to overcome. Practice with solid foods, liquid calories, such as Ensure, or gel items to see what settles best on your stomach and at different distances. I learned the hard way about inadequate nutrition while racing, and have since rationalized that while pushing myself to these great distances, my body shifts into extremely high gear, working to keep everything oxygenated and energized. However, my digestive system seems to take the back-burner. For example, a slice of loaded, thick-crusted pizza isn't going to settle on my stomach as well as a cold vanilla Ensure. My body just can't seem to work efficiently enough to digest and use that slice of pizza. However, the Ensure goes down and stays, which allows my body to utilize the needed calories. Other relevant issues to take into account with calorie consumption is your body size and muscle mass. Extra fat you may be carrying will require more calories per hour and the same goes for muscles mass. There is a lot to learn regarding the topic, and noticing how your body reacts when pushing to such distances, and furthermore, what caloric substances work best to curb potential problems ahead will put you in front of the game before race day arrives.
03. BALANCE SOLIDS AND LIQUIDS. Try considering your electrolyte intake and fluid intakeseparate from your caloric intake even though they may all be consumed within the same product. A healthy fluid intake will include water, and the balance between your electrolytes and your water is fragile to say the least. One can have too much or too less of either one, and deficiencies or over-compensating will ultimately lead to dehydration or overhydration and more likely than not, a DNF. Many times, imbalances between electrolytes and water can be impossible to overcome during a race as they can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, severe sweating and possible kidney failure. Determine the mileage between aid stations or drop bags and choose to carry water with you at all times. Carry a small electrolyte-gel on your body. Use a handheld bottle or Camelback and bladder. Knowing the miles between aid stations can help you make an accurate decision about the size needed to carry adequate fluids between stops. Practice with electrolyte tablets or other powder supplements before race day. On longer training runs, it is crucial that aid is set out prior to the run or plans are made for re-hydration by crewing from your car or having someone bring aid to you in an effort to refuel. In short, your body is gonna need an adequate balance with sugar, salt, and water, and this balance must be maintained at all times during the race. In addition, keep in mind, that your body will also need replacement of other nutrients, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Knowledge can be power, so study up on what your body needs, especially while distance running, and practice accordingly.
02. PREPARE MENTALLY and CHECK YOUR AID. While you have worked extra hardon preparing yourself physically, you should also take a considered effort to get your mind right for race day. Examine your mentality and keep yourself psyched up for the work ahead. Remind yourself that you are going in for 100 miles--not anything less, and believe in yourself and your training. Furthermore, don't try and fix what isn't wrong. Remember that 100 miles will be a personal feat, and what works for one runner may not work as well for an other. Don't mess with changing clothes or shoes that aren't bothering you. Do not forego your usual Ensure as your nutritional vice just because everyone else is snacking and running on pretzels or gels. And finally, during some of your longer training runs, mentally go over your drop bags and organization for race day. Think about some of the necessities that you want to have at certain times. Depending on the time of the year and the possible weather scenerios, the different types of clothing you have set out on the course can be essential to your performance. Organize your thoughts about what works best for you and keep yourself mentally in the game.
01. DON'T NEGLECT YOUR FEET. Give extra TLC to your toes and feet.Selecting a good pair of running shoes specific for your foot size and shape can be paramount to your performance. Learn what your gait is by visiting a local running store, and be sure to take it into consideration when purchasing your shoes. Do you pronate or supinate? Shoes that fit you correctly will help keep you injury-free, certainly from foot related injuries that tend to linger and nag, such as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, stress fractures and tendonitis. Avoid choosing a shoe that is too snug or too big. It might also be useful to find a shoe insert that offers extra cushion or support. I personally use the New Balance Pressure Relief with Metatarsal Padding, and have found them extremely helpful with heel spurs and plantar fasciitis. Replace your shoes and inserts as needed, usually within 300-400 miles. Finally, it's important to wash your feet with soapy water daily and keep your toenails trim. Applying a thin coat of Desitin or Vaseline to your feet before pulling on your running socks is recommended on those longer training runs, and certainly on race morning. Taking care of your feet is an important part to your running success. As an ultra-marathoner, the condition of your feet will ultimately help or hurt you.