Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion. -Simon Sinek
I am in no way an ultrarunning expert. I have successfully completed 5 “official” ultras in the last couple of years, DNF’d my first attempt back in April of 2016 and I’m preparing right now for my first 50 miler. I’m a close-to-40, special needs mama to 3, total back-of-the-pack runner and I run ultras for the pure love of the trail. I didn’t even start running until I was in my 30’s.
I love climbing mountains and pushing my body to its limits and care nothing about placing or stats. I get it done with a smile on my face because this is what I love to do–what makes me happy to be alive. It wouldn’t matter to me if I was first place or last… As long as I’m on those trails and climbing mountains.
I’ve had a lot of people who are in similar life circumstances as me, wanting to know how I make it happen. So in this post I’m going to give you my tips and top secrets–which are really just the things I’ve learned the hard way over the past 2 years!
1. Find a training plan, use it…but adapt it to your REAL life.
A simple google search will reveal tons of training plans. I actually look over several plans and then create my own. I came up with a plan that is realistic for me and works along with my crazy life. As a mom to three special-needs kiddos, my weekday runs are mostly treadmill or around my neighborhood. Sometimes I can squeeze in one night trail run with my running group. The weekends are for my long trail runs and I take full advantage.
Look at this high tech training plan I hang on my fridge! 😉
2. Add in yoga and strength training when you can.
Being injury-free is obviously a vital part of any training plan. I hope to be a lifelong runner. Staying healthy and injury free is one of my biggest goals. I incorporate strength training and yoga at home when I’m not running.
3. Whenever possible, train on the terrain you will be running for the race.
When I have a very difficult ultra coming up, I like to actually do training runs on the course (or on something as similar as I can find.) There’s nothing like knowing exactly what has to be done on race day–especially when it comes to elevation gain and technical trails.
Training runs on the actual course will go a long way in preparing you to complete the race successfully, especially if you are back of the pack like me.
4. Nutrition matters
When you are pushing your body to it’s limits, you need to make sure you are fueling it properly. Adequate protein along with adequate rest is vital for me. But nutrition during long runs is just as important! Use long training runs to prepare for the nutrition you’ll be using on race day. No surprises! Get your nutrition and hydration plan squared away long before race day. I typically use a combination of “real food” (i.e. pb&j sandwiches, salted potatoes, trail mix) and energy gels. I also use salt capsules instead of electrolyte drinks (see number 7 below.)
5. Recovery is part of the plan
Learn to listen to your body. Pushing is good when training for an ultra… but pushing beyond your limits is not. When I’m training, I like to make sure I get plenty of rest at night and take an unscheduled rest day if I need it. No guilt in missing a day of training here and there.
6. Just know that you’ll have to enter the “pain cave” at some point during your ultra.
You’ve trained, you’ve prepared and now it’s race day. But eventually you will probably hit a wall and enter what I like to call the “pain cave.” Everything hurts and you question your sanity. Why in the world am I running? Why did I do this to myself? I’m never running again! You will feel like you cannot go on and that you are physically depleted. This is when the race becomes all mental. One foot in front of the other and you push yourself towards the end. I have found that as my training progresses and my experience grows, the pain cave fades away. But I sometimes still throw a pity party for myself out on the trail. You’ve got to gain the mental toughness to push yourself forward even when your body is revolting. Long, tough training runs with friends are a good way to prepare for this!
7. Good gear can make all the difference.
Nothing can ruin a long run quicker than chafing, dehydration or blisters. These are some of my favorite tools for dealing with these long run spoilers! One reason I chose to be an ambassador for 2Toms is because it works, every time!! Their products are the only thing that prevent chafing for me, especially under my sports bra. Every ultra, every time.
psst…use code ALB20 for 20% off your 2Toms purchase of sports shield or blister kits!!
So there’s my list of tips for preparing for a 50K. What else do you wanna know?!