Spring Fueling

Spring Fueling

Although it’s kind of late in the game we’re trying out Spring energy fuel/food as one source of fueling for our first 50 mile race. It was highly recommended by Ginger Runner and overall he and I tend to like the same things. We have the same opinion on the shoes we have in common, the hydration vests etc.

I know the age old wisdom don’t change anything pre-race but we’re 6 weeks out and we have time to test this option out and make sure it agrees with us physically and mentally.

Spring energy gels are ‘real food’ and not just an assortment of sugars. Now I, so far with 2500 miles under my belt and in my belly, get along with pretty much anything. I’ve not done extremes like cake icing and Coke but I’ve tried a vast assortment of fuels out there from Gu’s pure sugar to cheese Quesadillas real food and none of them had disagreed with me in terms of digestion. There are a number that I don’t care for in terms of flavor or texture but I’ve eaten them all without a problem. I’ve also consumed loads of ‘real’ food on long runs and races without any problems.

Spring gels fall into the “let’s take real food and turn it into baby food” in a lot of ways. The primary ingredients are basmati rice, bananas and then some variety of add ons such as coconut oil, coconut water, fruits, peanut butter, honey, chia seeds, citrus and so on.

They have a system for fueling. Pretty much all other fuels I’m aware of in gel format and frankly most of the bar types like Picky and RX are the same basic blends but different flavors. And for some, the ones based on date puree the flavors are so close together for me because they’re all very ‘datey’ that they might as well be the same.

Spring has 5 types of fuel each in one flavor and one drink mix to supplement those. Each type is aimed at one type of output. Pre-race or when you need a boost, long slow burn, caffeine laced for a bit of pep up, recovery etc.

It’s certainly an interesting approach. Flavor wise they’re okay to me. The most popular one, Canaberry so named after Sage Canaday and Strawberries isn’t super fruity to me. It tastes like what it is, pureed rice and banana with some natural sweeteners and a hint of strawberry.

I think because they’re kind of bland they may agree with most but I doubt few will actively look forward to them? There’s not going to be a “Yay! It’s been 30 minutes time for another of those delicious yummy gels.” for me at least.

One thing with the Spring fuels though is IMO you really have to make sure you’re consuming enough electrolytes. Their system is balanced and includes their drink mix (which is a peculiar blend of flavors, I’m not yet sure if I like it or I can tolerate it). If you just use the fuels and you’re not ingesting electrolytes some other way then you’re risking getting out of whack on basics.

I plan on using their hydration but I’ll be rotating it with Ultima (Lemondate and Pomegranate) and PediaLyte (Orange) as I like those flavors and feel the mixing things up will help over 50 miles.


What does it take to try a 50 mile race?

Running 50 miles or rather traveling 50 miles on foot in one stretch with a fixed time limit is rather daunting to some, most, all but a few? Take your pick on that answer.

My wife tells me I’m crazy each time I set a new distance goal. And I’m doing it to myself every time I come home showing my true age from some long run or back to back long runs.

And maybe you do have to be a bit crazy to keep setting these kinds of goals for yourself. Everyone has to make their own determination as to what at any given point is a major goal in their lives. Because I don’t believe 99% of us can pick ultra marathon distances as a minor goal. The sheer amount of time on feet if nothing else to train the body to be able to sustain the abuse of a 50 miler, 100k, 100 miler and beyond for most of us makes it a major investment of our available time.

And you can’t even say it’s a cheap sport. Running can be a cheap sport if you’re doing shorter more ‘normal’ distances. A few miles a few times a week to try and stay in shape. You can do that in any pair of shoes, in cotton shirts and socks without any other gear than maybe a bottle of water in the summer time.

But once you reach the point where you’re running for hours on end multiple times a week then the gear costs creep up. Shoes wear out every couple of months and the wrong shoes lead to injury.

So cheap it isn’t.

Reaching this point where I’m going to attempt my first and hopefully not last 50 mile race over the last 2 years I’ll have put in a little over 3000 miles. I’ll have logged a little over 700 hours of on my feet time. 700 hours… That’s the equivalent of running 29 days 24 hours a day. Plus a little extra. It breaks down to about an hour a day unless you count travel time and then it’s more like 1.5 hours a day. So of the past 24 months I’ve given up one full months worth.

I’ve gone through 15 pairs of shoes, granted some didn’t last long because in the end we weren’t compatible for each other for the long haul and they were delegated to every day wear or boxed up in case of a zombie apocalypse. Or just being too broke to buy new ones.

I’ll have burned roughly 500,000 calories. Half a million calories or roughly 1800 standard sized Snicker’s bars. Half a million calories sounds like a lot more than 1800 candy bars but the math is what it is.

So to sum up, for me, what does it take to try your first 50 mile race?

  • 4+ runs a week
  • 15 pairs of shoes
  • 53 races of everything from 5k’s to 50k’s
  • 700+ hours of running
  • 3000+ miles of running
  • 500,000+ calories

Seems like a lot to ‘just’ do 50 miles.

50 Mile 6 weeks out

We’re coming up on 5 weeks out now. Over the next 3 weeks we have a 40K and a 50K LSD training run and then we start tapering 3 weeks out for our Rocky Raccoon 50M.

My knees, specifically the tendons on the back of my knees are being a bit of a bother and have been off and on since our inaugural entry into Ultra territory 6 weeks ago. I’ve been using voodoo witchdoctor stuff, i.e. CBD oil as both an ingestion and a targeted lotion. Does it help? No way to know without a time machine to go back and not use it.

Will I be able to go 50 Miles in Huntsville Texas on February 9th? No way to know without a time machine to go forward to February 10th and ask myself.

Some days 50 miles doesn’t seem out of the question, other days it seems and feels pretty daunting. I know people that have done 100 miles, multiples, I even know by second runner (same thing as a second cousin which I just made up) people that have gone 200+ miles in one session.

But take for example our 30K run this last Sunday. We started off well and had some really good negative splits on the back half, hitting 9 and 10 minute miles for the latter half. To put that in perspective my best 5K time is 8:50 (ish) minute miles. (Remember I weigh around 60lbs more than the next heaviest ultra runner I’m aware of). So hitting 9’s after already having run 15 miles is for me an accomplishment.

Last night at midnight I did a 5K, Race into the New Year by Runners World in Tulsa, with an average of 9:14. I didn’t feel like I had much more to give at the time. A race at the end of the day is not the same as a race first thing in the morning.

After the 30K run did I have another 32 miles in me? Sheesh consider that statement. I ran 18 miles as a training run but will be running 32 MORE miles after that point in 6 weeks. That’s when it becomes rather daunting. At the end of the 30K I was feeling okay but not really a ‘let’s do another 32 miles’ kind of way.

The results of our training runs are focusing my pace plans for Rocky and as they should. I’m using the data to dial in what I think is a sustainable run / walk pattern for 50 miles.

A problem I have is the first time I go for a new distance I make the same mistakes. Set a goal time that’s only really obtainable under optimal conditions – nutrition and hyrdation perfectly on point, well rested, well motivated and in the right mental place. Go out too fast and literally, almost, crash and burn around the 2/3rd mark as a result with blown quads or calves suffering from major over-stress cramping.

I’ve mentioned it before but this time my primary goal time is 14:59:59, my secondary goal time is under 14:00:00. As long as I finish the race by coming in under the 15 hour cutoff that’s my goal.

To give us some slack I’ve calculated our personal cut off times for every aid station based on flat distance with a 14 hour finish time. This gives us an hour’s leeway. It doesn’t take into account terrain or darkness because I have no way of really knowing any of that. The best I can do is say, on average, we need to leave aid station X at X:XX o’clock in order to maintain our goal time. I know we’ll get some extra time on some splits because the terrain will be easier and I know we’ll lose some time on some because it’ll be harder or in the dark. Overall though I have a chart of times for all 14 aid stations including the start and finish.

Which is another thing, we’re not going to count miles, we’re going to count aid stations. We’re going to count up for AS’s reached on the first lap and then count down for AS’s left on the second lap. I think mentally that might be some minor boost “We’ve knocked out X of these things, go us!” early on and “We only have X more to go.” on the back half.

Another thing to look at is no matter what we finish, as long as we finish it’s a 50 mile PR for us. As long as we run more than 31.5 (ish) miles it’s a PR for distance. And as long as we run longer than 8 hours it’s a PR for time. And it’ll be the first race in Texas, not really a PR but it is a first. So that’s 3 PR’s we are likely to walk away from Rocky with.

7 Weeks and Counting

We’re 7 weeks out from our first 50mile race at Rocky Raccoon which is in Huntsville Texas just north of Houston.   So I get to go back to Texas again which is my fabled birthplace.

“He tripped and fell and kept trying to get up and falling again, that’s how he hit his head 18 times on that rock.”

7 weeks out means 4 weeks of serious training left to get in shape for our first 50 mile race.   Due to injury and to get full value for my entry fee I’m planning on using 14 hours and 59 minutes of the allotted 15 hours we have to finish.   It only seems fiscally responsible to get all the value I can out of the trip cost after all.

4 weeks from now we’re capping our training with another 50K run, the FleetFeet Go Short, Go Long, Go Longer.   Then we’ll start tapering down assuming that 50K doesn’t kill me. Or my dear RW doesn’t kill me.  I run under constant threat of death from ‘accidents’ at her hands.  She has her alibi’s all planned out and has probably practiced crying in the mirror to make sure they’re believed.   “He tripped and fell and kept trying to get up and falling again, that’s how he hit his head 18 times on that rock.”

We’re thinking of trying to make a road trip up to Robber’s Cave which is the site of a brand new 100 mile race which happens on Dec 30th.  There’s a practice run on the course of somewhere between a few and 20 miles that a local running group is going to go on and ultra runners being the people they are they’re the more the merrier type. The 20 miles lines up with our planned run for that weekend so its an option for sure.

But regardless we keep slogging on, we did 5K yesterday of hill repeats on a 50-60 degree hill and it was nice seeing the improvements we’ve made.   The last time we did this particular hill which has been awhile, after one or two ups I’d be at the walking up and running down pace.  This time I was able to sustain a faster than a walk up all the slopes for the entirety of the run and was hitting 7 minute miles on the runs down.  It’s amazing how much gravity helps the clydesdale runner speed up.  🙂


Running in Cars

This is a new bit I thought might be interesting.  We’re calling it “Running in Cars” and its supposed to be the exhaustion fueled conversation that happens right after a ultra marathon.

It’s may not always be the most pollitically correct conversation and may not have anything to do with running and it may not be funny for you but again our videos are for us, me really, so that years down the road I’ll be able to enjoy our really important runs and not so important runs all over again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpxspTtIvwU

Dead Horse Ultra Race Report

So… our first 50K has been achieved and we made the cut offs and weren’t DFL (although it was a close thing)…

This is my Dead Horse Race Report from November 17th 2018:

For the TLDR; visitors:

Everything I liked –

  • Course was well laid out and marked.  If you’re paying attention at all it’s impossible to get off course.  Follow the blue strips and the painted on markers and you’re golden.
  • Course was gorgeous and ‘postcard’ worthy 95% of the trail.  Everywhere you looked, unless you didn’t like rocks, was a great view of Mother Nature in all her rocky glory.
  • Support was good, aid stations were well staffed and stocked with all the things that non-restricted diet ultra runners might need.  If you’re LCHF / Keto / Vegan then you should probably plan for that head of time although there was fresh cooked bacon at two of the aid stations.
  • Moab was a fun little town with some good restaurants and hotels.
  • If you have the time and the extra cash then there are a ton of adventure type places where you can rent bikes, motorcycles, quads, jeeps and hummers to go out and about in the desert either pre or post race.
  • While we didn’t get to do it, there’s a ton of local natural points of interest in the area that could add a lot of value for a lot of folks.
  • They had a medal!  #jewelrycollector

Things were not all gumdrops and puppies –

  • I hate to be even slightly critical of the wonderful folks that volunteer at aid stations, giving up hours of their days for typically nothing in return but smiles and thanks.   But don’t be afraid to jump out there and grab bottles from folks, especially the front packers, that minute or two saved while they get food or hit the bathroom.
  • More portapotties at the aid stations.  I know it seems silly when you’re in a massive desert and you could just go pee anywhere but in this particular instance when they request you do not leave the trail for any reason to avoid damaging the environment more than 1 porta-potty for a set of ultras with 900 runners even with staggered start times causes a backlog on the outbound trip.
  • This isn’t a negative about the race or the support or anything but just be aware that mile upon mile of slick rock is very hard on the body.  If you haven’t trained on road much you’re going to be hurting when you’re done because that rock was….some hard stuff.
  • Paying for race photos.  This is just a pet peeve of mine, I appreciate the cost for the race organizers of hiring a photographer to camp out in the desert for the day taking photos of strangers stumbling by and making this part of the swag.   I get it.  I also though won’t pay $15 for a jpg file or $20 for printed photo.  That’s my personal thing and others I’m sure feel differently.

For those visitors who like long rambling first person reports:

We arrived on Friday morning and the scenery was both gorgeous and a little intimidating.  We passed the staging area on the way from the tiny little airport that services Moab and the area and they had a lot of it already set up, the starting lane, overhead, some tents and etc and there were a fair number of folks working on the rest.   That was a good omen for us.

We spent the day in Moab, shopping for groceries (beets, honey nut cheerios, bananas, chocolate milk, regular milk, sugar Coke etc) and meandering around the place while we waited for our rooms to be ready.

We got into our rooms and unpacked and just had a short wait before we walked over to the arts center where they were doing packet pickup.   We picked up our bibs, timing chips (new thing for us), t-shirts and hat without much fuss.

Ready for anything

Bunny foo foo

Dinner was at Eddie McStiff’s restaurant, a cobb salad for me and a feta salad with grilled salmon for her.  The salads were good, service was great, prices were in line with a tourist town restaurant on the main drag.

Back to the hotel we split up to re-organize our gear, we had to undo our careful packing to comply with certain TSA regulations which in the end they completely ignored and just waved us through on our outbound trip.  Don’t get me started.

We went to sleep early, with limited success on both our parts and were up at 4 the next morning but it was only 5 our body time so it wasn’t as bad as it could be.   This might be a reason to always look West for ultra’s since we get to take advantage of the time zone difference in a good way.

Upon arrival at the race we were happy to see a long line of porta-potty’s, the day before there were only 4 which left us a little concerned about lines.

Here we are.

Our ‘pirate’ outfits immediately drew comments of “I found Waldo…” from folks.  So much for being pirates.

Our gear bags were dropped off in the truck and we waited for the race start.  The race briefing before the race was about the same as every trail race we’ve done, what to do, what not to do, what markings to look for etc.   It was competently done.

Waiting for the start

Right at 7:00 a.m. the race started and we eased out behind most people.  Our plan called for a half K walk to warm up.  I’ve found this helps me mentally and physically on LSD run days to get into the spirit of a really long run.   I’m not sure it’s needed for a race though.

Uphill

The course from the start had a bit of an hill trek to it…

On our first part of the trip we got to talk with a few people briefly and everyone seemed to enjoy our Waldo pirate outfits.  The first mile+ was uphill at a fair clip and then we traveled through a canyon on a dirt/sand road for another mile maybe and then we hooked right off the road and onto the desert rock proper.  We almost missed the turn, not through bad markings but just not paying attention.  A lady behind us who ended up passing us right at the end and finishing ahead of us (bright salmon colored shirt/jacket) kept us from heading off into the distance.

Until the first aid station we were trending uphill and running on a mix of hard packed dirt (like concrete) and desert slick rock (which felt harder than any road I’ve ever run on).    The whole way was nothing but one postcard moment after another.   At any given time there was a gorgeous view in at least 180 degrees around you.  Sometimes there was a hill to your left or right that kept you from seeing what was over there.

Leaving the first aid station we moseyed on to the second.  It was a much larger set up complete with one porta-potty.  Unfortunately the line for said porta-potty was 15 minutes long.  A fair number of folks hadn’t been able to move things along before the race and were having to do it now after 7.5 miles of jostling their insides around.

After finally being able to make room for more water we headed out to the turn around.   This terrain was just more uphill with photo-ops everywhere.  How the lead runners were able to average a 6 minute pace for 50K is beyond me, they had to be literally flying on the back half.  But then I can’t average a 6 minute pace for more than a few hundred yards so maybe it’s just not a big deal for them.

We were getting to the 15 mile turn around right as the first 50 milers were coming through.  They had a 10 mile out and back (20 total) from our turn around, other than that they ran the same course.   So yes, the front pack ran 35 miles with an hours head start in the time it took use to run 15.

We swapped out some gear from our drop bags here.  I dropped my stocking cap and long sleeve shirt as I was getting warm.  I filled up on bacon, cheese quesadillas, coke and cider while waiting for the RW to get ready.   It was about this time that my left knee started having a hissy fit.  We also spent another 15 minutes+ here.

Getting into and out of aid stations is something we’re going to have to work on, we probably spent a good 45-55 minutes total scattered over 5 aid stations.

Long way down…

Because of my foot injuries I was favoring my right leg which pushed my left leg harder and my knee took the brunt of it.  Over the course of the next 15 miles to the finish I would start having more and more difficulty in running and any incline but especially uphill inclines would cause me significant jolts of pain.

On the way back the trail takes you next to the edge of several great drop offs, like a if you fall you not only die but you make a Rorschach pattern when you hit kind of drop off.  The vertigo was real a couple of times edging up to look over.

The back trail while it trended downhill obviously, it had a fair bit more up and down baby inclines which did my knee no good at all.    The distance between aid stations back was also different, I got hit with some bad quad cramps so I was focused on getting by but from what I do remember it was a great section.

Back at aid station 2/4 I was getting worried about my lack of a need to urinate given how much water I was taking in and luckily the one porta-potty was free so I fruitlessly wasted some time in it without any satisfaction so more time added to the clock.

The distance back to aid station 1/5 was deceptively long and I made the assumption it was the same distance as going out so I only had one water bottle.  Bad choice.  Lesson learned, note the distances between AS’s both ways and carry water accordingly.  Things are really starting to fall apart now.  Cramps, swollen feet leading to toe jam forcing me to take my socks off to make some room and knee screaming at me and I was at my limit for pain killer.

RW was a champ though, she got my shoes and socks off and my shoes back on when there was literally no way I’d of been able to do it.  Another 7-8 minutes wasted on this maneuver.

We finally hit a dirt albeit sand road and were off the oh so hard slick rock which lead us to the last aid station.  There a very nice set of volunteers had our bottles filled and us on our way in no time at all leaving us with about 3.5 miles of all uphill followed by all downhill back to the finish line.

This part I won’t lie was torture.   Since it was almost all up or down inclines my knee was being the loudest of the dwarfs Screamy.  I’d “run” a bit till it wouldn’t go any further and then walk.  And by bit I mean maybe 100 yards.

We got through the beautiful canyon section and up on the face of the cliff on the left (on the way back) and the finish line was about 2 miles (best guess) in the distance about equally split between downhill (#ouchmferouch) and a gravel road.

In the videos of this section there will be a fair bit of bleeping to make the video kid friendly.   I sack up and run the last half mile, trying to smile at the folks out watching the 50 miler mid pack start to come through, oh and us and hopefully succeeding although my running form was more a Frankensteinian lurch at this point.  Which some would say it always is.

Achievement Get: 50K

Crossing the finish line without much fanfare we got de-chipped and our medals, picked up our drop bags which were waiting for us and to the car where we enjoyed a bottle of Promised Land full fat chocolate milk and a full sugar Coke that I had to open with the key of the rental car because it was in the old style bottles with a pry off lid.

On the way back to our hotel rooms we started a new segment quite by accident that we’ll calling Runners in Cars After Races or something like that.    I think in a few years when we watch it again we’ll think it’s either hilarious or the most stupid thing in the world to bother video taping.

Afterwards, albeit after a significant PTSD event that was a first for me, we went down to the Moab Diner and split an order of pancakes, eggs, ham, bacon cheeseburger and fries with a side of onion rings.   It was delish.

T Minus 6 and…

It’s 4:53 p.m. on Sunday and in 6 days, Saturday the 17th, we’ll be finished with our first 50K (if we’re not by this time on Saturday then something went horribly wrong).

I did a 10K run this morning and frankly I’m not thrilled about how I’m going to do in the race. My HR was too high for what should have been an easy effort in 40 degree temperatures. The forced break has cost me more than I like in endurance and conditioning.

But it is what it is and there’s no take backsies. So we’re going to knock this out so we can join the ranks of the Ultra Marathoners. Now some ultra runners have an opinion that ultra marathons really only start at 50 miles. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But my opinion is I’m putting the Ultra charm I’ve had for over an year on my RoadID at race end when I add my 50K charm.

We’ve both got our stuffs packed up, check lists checked and double checked and we’re going to give it our all. Not much more we can do.

Our 50K Plan

We’re in our taper weeks (thank goodness) for our first 50K (2 weeks out!).  It’s been a interesting journey to get here from that first 5K I agreed to 2+ years ago when I was a 100 yard runner and 100+lbs heavier.  A journey filled with learning about shoes and socks, shirts, shorts, tights, watches, training, hydration,fueling and the list goes on and on.  There have been injuries and forced layoffs as well as high points of PR’s set and re-set for shorter distances.

And now here I am about to travel 31.5 (ish) miles in one stretch.  To get here I’ve picked up a few things that work for me and by necessity have worked for Bunny.   One of those is what I feel is a winning strategy for me to finish this thing in a time I won’t be too unhappy with and doing it injury free so we can jump into the training for Rocky.

To wit: for me a run/walk is faster than trying to run until I can’t run another step and being forced to walk and less stressful both physically and mentally.

We’re going to be running the following workout on our Garmin’s for Dead Horse –

  1. Warmup (walking pace) for 0.5k
  2. Run 1K at a pace between 11:00 and 13:00
  3. Walk 0.25K with no pace target but typically my walking pace is between 18 and 20
  4. Every 6th walk will be a double walk of 0.5k
  5. Repeat 2-4 until we cross the finish line.

We will also walk every incline of significant excessive slope.  Because literally 80% (an out of my ass guess) of the first 25K is uphill we can’t walk every uphill since we’d be walking the front half of this course but any excessive inclines we’ll walk it out.

We’ll take time to enjoy the folks at the aid stations, the scenery and the entire process and experience of our first ultra.

I doubt we’ll finish DFL but I know we also won’t finish above the 50% mark.  It’s been my experience and observation the longer the race the farther back I place.  And I’m fine with that.

For Rocky 50 Mile race , pending the results of the Dead Horse 50K run, we’re considering splitting the difference.  The first 25 miles we’ll do a distance based run/walk.   The remaining distance we’ll do a time based run walk of 7 minutes / 3 minutes.   At our cruising paces these are fairly equivalent but it would be interesting to do the 50 mile and see how it changes the ‘feel’ of the race.

For that one it works out like this –

  1. Warmup (walking pace) for 0.5k
  2. Run 1K at a pace between 11:00 and 13:00
  3. Walk 0.25K with no pace target but typically my walking pace is between 18 and 20
  4. Every 6th walk will be a double walk of 0.5k
  5. Repeat 2-4 30 times (a hair under 25 miles in total).
  6. Run 7:00 min at 11:00 to 13:00
  7. Walk 3:00 min
  8. Every 6th walk will be a 6:00 minute
  9. Repeat 6-8 until we cross the finish line.

Ultra Marathons for Mere Mortals

The sport of ultra marathoning, i.e. by technical and literal definition any race that is longer than the established 26.2(ish) miles of a marathon, has grown quite rapidly.   In no small part it’s my firm belief because let’s face it these it’s a little cooler to say “I’m going to be running my first [50K, 50Mile, 100K, 100Mile] that there are a greater number of people who are attempting these distances.

But after purchasing and reading multiple books on the subject of ultra marathoning I find there is lack of information for folks like myself.  The published training plans are aimed at doing well in ultra marathons.   At finishing in the front pack, not the mid or back pack.

And a 100 mile ultra is yet another step toward my goal to see how far I can go before I break in the trying.

Websites with how to run your first 100 mile have anecdotes like “marathon time of sub 4” which frankly for a lot of us isn’t even a dream.  You can train for endurance, anyone barring physical disabilities can train to ‘go long’.  But to go fast requires a certain amount of physical ability.   To endure a 100 mile race that does not include a high level of vertical and technical terrain and do it in under the typical 30 hour cut off only requires an average of 18 minute miles.  A fair number of people, not me, can sustain somewhat easily a sub 18 minute walk.  Me, my walk pace is closer to 19 minutes.  So for me to do a 100 mile in the 30 hour cut off I have to run some portion of it.

For us mere mortals let’s ‘do the math’ and see what we have to accomplish in order to finish a 100 mile race purely from a moving pace perspective.  I think it’s not as bad as you might be assuming if you’re just looking into the crazy notion of moving 100 miles without stopping.

For me, let’s choose a moderate pace assuming some levels of moderate vertical and technical terrain.  A 6 minute run at 12:00m miles and a 4 minute walk at 20:00m miles is an average of 14:17 minute miles.  That’s a sub 24h 100 mile.   Granted that’s not possible for anyone to actually be able to finish at as there’s no AS breaks, potty breaks, food breaks, scenery appreciation breaks etc.  But still that leaves 6 hours for all the breaks.  (Again assuming a 30 hour cut off)

Drop the run pace a small touch so you average 15:00m pacing and you still have yourself a 25hour 100 mile.  Based on a 6/4 run/walk schedule that’s a 12:52 run pace and a 20:00 walk pace.

Which oddly enough a 12:52 is exactly my average pace for the very first 5K I did 2 years ago this month.

So for those of us who merely desire to do the distance these numbers should be of some at least small inspiration in that yes we too can aspire to completing an ultra marathon of even the bigger distances.

Many of the books and online guidance do have it right I believe, an Ultra, especially once you get past the 50k distance is going to be a combination of two factors.  Time on feet because our bodies, especially our feet, have to be prepared to be upright and mobile for these increased time frames.   And mental endurance to sustain the discomfort, boredom, fatigue that our minds will suffer from being upright and mobile. These are both very much trainable.

My ability to do boring things for extended lengths of time has greatly increased thanks to our long runs.  I can sit through 2 hours of kids choir concerts a lot easier now than I could 3 years ago.   You learn/gain the ability to speed the passage of time, an analog mode organic based time machine if you will.  While it passes at the same inexorable rate it always does, you no longer are part of ever tick.   Think of it like using an Acceleration Wand in Minecraft, except in reverse.  You’re decreasing your own ‘tick rate’ so that the world speeds up in relation to you rather than speeding you up in relation to the world.

Time on feet becomes more and more important in my opinion the larger a runner you are. Yes I speak from personal and painful experience.

It’s quite simple, more weight equals more impact because gravity is a bitch.  More impact is more stress.   So the larger you are the harder on your feet and every impact absorbing component of your body it is.  This physical stress is a lot more difficult to remediate. You can ‘will’ it away to some extent and medicate it away to a larger degree but the human machine that you are does have a point of failure.   I recently hit that this last weekend in fact where I started cramping bad from pushing things too hard over the course of a long day in my calves and shins.

Mental stress has more available remediation.  Simply finding someone else on the trail and hanging with them if they’re amenable can be a major boost for most runners although it’s my observation that ultra running tends to be a solitary sport to a larger degree than street running. Listening to audio of some kind, music, podcasts, books on tape can also help.  Or simply zoning out of everything but your focus on where you’re going to place your next 10 steps.   Just don’t zone out in general as that’s the fastest way to take a dirt nap.

In terms of training most, even perhaps all, of the plans available on the internet are created by and aimed at front packers.   Front packers are just literally the folks who will finish at the front of the pack.  They’re the ones who have the physical and mental resources to travel 100 miles in under 20 hours, in most cases well under 20 hours.

These leaves a gap for those without their level of abilities, i.e. the mere mortals.  When we try to do their training plans we end up injured, burned out or find out we can’t hit those 70-80 mile weeks and those 30+25 back to back weekends that we simply cannot do an ultra marathon.   And I believe that couldn’t be further from reality.

It makes for an easy rationalization to pull back to the safe distances we’ve done and if we need that rationalization / opt-out then there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  You do you as the saying goes.  But you’ll never know how far you could have gone if you don’t push yourself.

If you’re still with me then I think as long as you can achieve the following with an average pace of under 17 minute miles including all breaks and recoveries then you can be an Ultra Marathoner.  Granted for the typical cut off times you just need to average 18 minutes but realistically you need to allow for a little slack for unexpected events, terrain etc that might cost you some time so I feel an average pace of 17 is a good value to shoot for as your upper edge-

  • 50K – 3-4 weeks prior to the race having done 20-26 mile long run.
  • 50Mile – 3-4 weeks prior to the race having done 30 mile long run.
  • 100K – 3-4 weeks prior to the race having done 30 mile long run.
  • 100M – 4-6 weeks prior to the race having done 50 mile long run.

Is this a very simplistic rule of thumb?  Yes of course it is.  It’s yet another one size fits all kind of blanket statement.

Now to get to the above long run goals then you need to build your training plan based on your own abilities.  The “I’m an elite and this training plan is how I train” plans are unlikely to work for most of us, at least in the early years, especially the first year.

You can obviously pay to play and hire a trainer and there’s certainly value in having an experienced open minded trainer helping chart your path to your first or 100th ultra marathon.  Unless you live in a small town it’s likely there are plenty of runners out there in your area who can offer thoughts and recommendations on trainers.

If you’re going to roll your own plan then take any online plan with a big dose of salt and skepticism.  Unless the author goes at length to indicate it’s aimed at someone of your current ability then assume it’s going to be a good plan for the upper 25% of ultra runners.  If you fall into that category then no issue but if you might not be there yet then I’ll offer the following recommendations based on my own experiences.  Much like every other plan and guidance out there come at it with salty skepticism that it will work for you (this assumes you have at least the ability to do a 20 mile long day).  If you can’t do that much yet then jump on any of the 3 to 4 day week, 4 month marathon training plans out there.  You don’t have to race the marathon, just have the ability to do the distance –

  1. dial back the weekly mileage to something manageable (you’ll have to judge this for yourself but a reasonable guidance might be start with 20 miles a week and peak at 50 not withstanding the race week in #10 below)
  2. have at least half the weeks with 3 or 4 runs instead of 5 or 6 and potentially average 4 workouts a week.
  3. weekday runs should in general be speed runs (400’s/800’s, thresholds, intervals etc) to improve your VO2 max and running efficiency.
  4. restrict your double long run / back to back weekends to 2 per month
  5. do not increase your total mileage per week by more than 10%
  6. do not have a long run more than 30 miles in general, exception one 50 mile long run a few weeks out if you’re doing a 100 mile race.
  7. do not have a back to back weekend of more than 50 miles
  8. do not have a same day back to back runs of more than 30 miles
  9. one recovery/light week a month at the start of the plan with one recovery week every 3 weeks as you hit your peak mileage.
  10. Add in a race if you can manage it in that 3-6 week time frame of a lower distance before your target race.   So a marathon before a 50k, a 50k before a 50 mile/100k, a 50 mile before a 100 mile.

After the last year of training to move from a half marathon to something bigger these are my personal truths based on my own abilities right now.  I’m a 27m 5k, 60m 10k, 2:15 half, 5:30 full runner.   I’m 6-3 and currently 238 lbs as of this morning.

And a 100 mile Ultra is yet another step toward my goal to see how far I can go before I break in the trying.