Fall is a great time to start training for your first ultramarathon. The weather conditions are near perfect this time of year to get outside and hit the trail. The summer heat is gone and the sun sets earlier, giving you plenty of opportunity to practice your night running, which is an absolute necessity if you are running a 50miler, 100k, or 100miler.
First of all, and most importantly, you have to remember this: “You are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.” – Ken Chlouber, founder of the Leadville 100. You and your body are capable of far more than you can imagine, and you have to continually remind yourself of that throughout your training, and during your race. Positive mindset is 90% of what will get you through your first ultramarathon.
This isn’t going to be a post about training plans, or nutrition guides. It’s going to be 6 simple tips that I feel were extremely helpful in getting me through the training of my first 100-mile race. There are plenty of training plans to be found online, so I will simply focus on imparting practical wisdom.
- Weekly mileage is important, but not as important as quality runs and back-to-back runs. When I trained for the Wasatch 100 some of my training weeks were only 16 miles, but 11 of those miles were hiking up a 14,000 ft peek in Colorado. I also made sure to get plenty of back-to-back runs. I would do a 10-15 mile run the day before or day after I had a long 25-35 mile run. This simulates running on tired legs, which is an essential skill to have when running 100 miles.
Mental focus and positive mindset is key. As I mentioned above, 90% of running an ultramarathon is completely mental. You must believe you can finish the race. You must believe your training is adequate (even if it might not be). You must shut out any voice that says you are not good enough. Whenever you are out on your long training runs imagine you are actually out running your race: push through the challenges you encounter such as sore legs, upset stomach, light headedness, etc. These are all things you will encounter and experience during your race. Practice positive mindset and pushing through seemingly detrimental setbacks.
Never stop moving. One of the most important things that allowed me to complete my ultramarathon was that I never stopped moving. I spent very little time in aid stations, even when I wasn’t feeling great. I knew this strategy would prove important so I implemented this same mindset during my training runs. No matter how I was feeling…whether I was vomiting, feeling light headed, or like I just wanted to be done for the day. I just kept plugging away, and some of those training runs were the best I had.
Throw time goals out the window. It’s good to have goals, but just know that things will go wrong on race day, and if you hold fast to any goal you could self-destruct. Your main focus throughout your training should just be getting in the training miles, and in some cases just the hours. Time on feet will be far more valuable than a particular distance or speed.
- Eat and drink! And repeat! When putting in 40-75 mile weeks I feel like you really can’t get enough food. Hydration and nutrition are super-important. A friend of mine, Patrick Sweeney (Bearded Bros ambassador), who recently ran across the US said that throughout that experience the most important thing was consuming calories. For Patrick it was mostly healthy plant based foods that gave him the energy needed to run across country.
- Chose a race that inspires you. When choosing your first ultramarathon don’t simply try to find the “easiest” one you can. There is no such thing as an easy ultra. Find one that inspires you! For me that was Wasatch 100. 100 miles of Heaven and Hell as they say, with over 30,000ft of elevation gain. Far from an easy 100-mile race, some even argue it’s the most difficult one in the United States. But difficulty never entered my mind. I went with what inspired me, and the Wasatch Range was just calling my name. What race is calling you?
The training aspect for a 100-mile race is quite a journey, and the end result will leave you with something you constantly draw on for inspiration and encouragement. You will constantly think about how much you accomplished and it will inspire you to accomplish even more in life. I highly encourage anybody to run 100 miles. It’s a life changing experience.