I can’t believe that it’s been exactly one month since I finished the Ice Age 50 mile race. Between that and the Earth Day 50k, I have learned a lot this year with regards to running, fueling and training. Here are some of the lessons from my first ultra training cycle.
1. Commit to the training plan, it comes with sandwiches
Some people can fake their way through training for a marathon without a good training plan, or without fully committing to training. That’s not something you can do with an ultra marathon. If you’re thinking of doing an ultra you need to make sure you have the time commitment to train. You also need a good plan and/or coach. Most training plans I found have pretty light mileage during the week, but emphasize the “sandwich run” on the weekend. Those are back-to-back long runs, one on Saturday, one on Sunday, with the idea of getting used to running on tired legs. While that is a great way to train, it also takes up a big chunk of your weekend. If running an ultra is something that you’re serious about, you have to commit to the time it takes to train, even on the weekends!
2. It’s a fueling and hydration race
You can maybe squeak by a marathon without paying much attention to your fueling, but in an ultra there’s no way in hell that would work. It’ll be a long 50 miles if you bonk at 22. All the training in the world won’t do you any good if you are low on energy and electrolytes. If you followed my posts, you saw that I made a lot more real food to use on my runs because I was able to digest more at a slower pace and overall just needed to eat more to sustain hours upon hours of running. The aid stations are stocked with real foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pretzels, cookies, pickles, soda, electrolyte drinks and water. It’s quite the array!
3. Your competitors will become your friends – DURING the race!
There’s no community like the ultra running community. It is welcoming. So welcoming in fact, that during the Earth Day 50k, I became friends with another one of the female runners! We ran together for the whole last hour, encouraging one another and helping to mentally and physically push each other. By the end, we had an argument over who should finish first! The point is, the ultra running community is open and inviting; it takes such physical and mental strength to complete these distances that everyone just hopes the best for the others. It’s wonderful knowing that everyone out there on the course – be it participants, volunteers or fans – everyone wants you to do well and finish.
4. Mental training is as important as the physical training
It took me 9:26:10 to finish my 50 mile race. For about 7 of those hours I was alone on the trails. I couldn’t see anyone in front or behind me; it was just me alone in the woods. Being alone with your thoughts for that long can be tough, especially when it starts to get tough. Learning how to mentally train yourself to endure over nine hours of running is crucial to getting through the event. The mind controls the body; as soon as you think you’re tired, you are. As soon as you think negative thoughts, your race becomes negative. UNLESS you have mentally trained yourself to learn to deal with the hurt, the fatigue, the negativity. I spent a good deal of my training cycle practicing my mental game, and while there’s a long way to go, it helped a lot!
5. Walking is ok
When most people hear that I’ve done a 50 mile race think that I ran the entire 50 miles. So I’m going to dispel a big myth, ready? No, I did not run the entire time. Yes, I did walk. Sometimes there are crazy ascents that if you tried running, you’d blow up your legs and pay for it later. Now, it’s not a “stroll in the park pace,” it’s still power walking and power-hiking, but yes. People walk. Would you want to run up this hill at mile 47?
Nope, me neither. Now, this is going to sound silly, but during training I did not practice walking and power-hiking up hills as much as I should have. “You need to practice walking, Becca? Really?” Yes. It sounds weird but it’s a skill that you have to train, just like running!
I’m beginning my next training cycle for the North Face Endurance Challenge Wisconsin 50k. I’m excited to take these lessons and apply them to a new race, tweak my training approach, and meet new members of the ultra running community. If you’re interested in joining me, you can sign up here and use the code ECSAMBBM15 for 15% off any distance. You don’t have to sign up for an ultra, there is everything from a 5k to a 50 mile. Prices go up June 20th, so don’t wait!
What lessons did you learn from your first race, whether it’s lessons from your first ultra, first marathon, first anything! Comment below and share the love 🙂