I was on a run this morning with a friend, who does marathons, and he was asking me many great questions, many of which others have asked. Most of these questions are not common knowledge but very important to survival/comfort/enjoyment on the trail!
1. Q:What is an ULTRAmarathon anyway?
A: An ultra marathon, aka endurance running, is essentially anything over 26.2 miles(standard marathon) in distance. Usually they are a 50K (31 miles), 60K (37 miles), 50 miler, 100 miler. They can also be measured in time, such as 12, 24, 72 hours.
A great deal of the time ultra marathons on not ran on pavement, typically they are ran on trails. In fact, the best ultras are ran in mountains!
2. Q:How do you figure out your pace for the run?
A: Pace time is very different than that of a regular marathon. My pace varies anywhere from 3.0-8.5mph during an ultra run. For example, this weekend I am running a 60K and the first 11 miles is a loop. I could look at this loop and say well if I was on flat pavement I would probably plan on 1.5 hours to complete, if it was all downhill then shorter. You must look at the terrain/surface and elevation. So, the first 11 miles of this race includes 4miles of straight up the mountain, run across the summit/crest and switchback down. This tells me that I will be hiking/power-walking at the beginning, cruising at the top and striding coming down. I have to keep in mind that I should not push it to hard as this is only the first 11 of 37 miles. I then have an idea of about what I think my pace will be, but there is yet a little more to consider. I need to know what the course is like… is this a smooth single track or a rocky technical track, or somewhere in between. Thank heavens for GOOGLE!!!! At this point I google the trail and see what hikers/runner/bikers say about the terrain. I then look for race reports from previous years. Many times runners have blogs and they give a detailed report of the course. So, after checking all of this I determine that I should be done with this loop between 2:15-2:20 minutes. I map out the rest of the run and consider fatigue in my estimations.
3.Q:Why is the pace important?
A: First, the people helping you out along the way (the crew) need to know when you will be approaching aid stations so they can meet up with you on time.
Second, you want goals to meet as you complete sections of the course.
Third, very importantly, strategy. This is why I love endurance running… you don’t just go run in circles you have to figure out strategy. You must be able to tell yourself that just because you feel fine on mile 15 does not give you the go ahead to open up full stride and burn yourself. Start slow and end fast!
4.Q:I hear about this crew thing, what is a crew?
A: Ahhhh yes, the crew! This weekend my Dad and Brother will be crewing me, while my mom, wife, and children encourage me!!! The crew learns the course and reminds me of the strategy when I hit aid stations. They make sure I get my drop bag (which includes dry shoes, socks, food, etc…). When one is running a 50 miler or longer the crew also includes pacers. Pacers run with the runner and give them support along the way. Pacers are really the best of friends! It is important that a crew member, or pacer, never carry anything on the course for the runner, nor physically help the runner along. In all reality, I need the crew for several reasons!
5. Q:What do you eat during the race?
A: The trick: do not wait until I feel I need to eat; rather, start eating in the first couple of miles and continue the same from there on out. The same goes with water/sport drink.
I enjoy hammer gel, peanut butter tortillas, potatoes, yams, and anything that is a craving at the moment! NEVER, NEVER, NEVER try it without food and hydration!
6. Q:What do you eat before/after the race?
A: The week leading up I eat high protein and fewer carbs and fat. Then the few days before the race I eat a whole bunch of carbs, whole wheat starches. Rice, pasta, quinoa, etc… This allows my glycogen storage to somewhat renew and be fueld for the race! The night before, I do not overdo it, but I do get some good Italian fixins in!
After the race, I eat within one hour. I drink a post drink (After Glow or MAX Arm). The recipe for a good recovery is get fuel back in your body before cortisol eats at your muscle looking for energy. Quite frankly, a post meal depends on what I (meaning the wife and kids) are hungry for!!! 🙂
7.Q:I heard you change shoes while running?
A: Yes, blisters are a nightmare! Between sweat and water crossing you must be prepared to change out socks and shoes. This is why there are aid stations, drop bags, and crews! This Saturday I will have multiple water crossings, about knee deep. So, I am bringing multiple shoes and socks. During a 10 mile stretch I will be wearing waterproof socks, they are sweet! These work in the snow as well. Which speaking of snow, there is snow on the trail, which means I will bring my yaktrax just in case… doubt I will need them.
8.Q: Is a bear going to eat you?
A: Has not happened yet! Some prefer a bear bell or mace, or nothing. I have not had this encounter to tell of and hope I do not have to. As for me, I carry a bear bell.
Any other questions?