Theres a flood of emotions and questions through the last couple of strenuous weeks of prep for my first ultramarathon.
I liken the training to stoking a fire as I’m pushing myself pretty hard before starting the taper. With the taper ahead, lets look at some of the fun stuff.
I hadn’t covered anything close to marathon distance since early May, so My first longish run actually went better than expected. 38 km with about 4000 ft of elevation change in around 4 hours. The body was definitely tired and a bit sore after this one.
To make things worse, I literally rushed back to my apartment after the run, showered, stuffed some food down before getting picked up to go to a wedding and overnight adventure.
I ended up on my feet for the majority of the rest of the day — but felt surprisingly… decent.
A lot to fit into a week
My training week has two weight sessions and four running days. The running days vary in length and intensity — some days are hill repeats at a local park, others are tempo runs, others are long steady state runs.
The ultramarathon I’m running (Grey Rock) is basically three long climbs and descents over 50 km — this is causing me to really hone in both uphill and downhill running.
After the marathon – it’s glaringly apparent that downhill running hurts. After the long downhill, my quads were shredded and I could barely walk down stairs for two days after.
I don’t think this will be the case in July.
There’s different ways to train
It’s interesting to see the different training philosophies of ultra marathoners Some run ridiculous volume upwards of 120 miles per week. Others are more minimalist and rely on their sustained training base over the years to get them through long races.
Another interesting trend is that some lift weights and some don’t.
The point is that there is more than one way to do this thing. What works for some does not work for others.
This applies to more than just training.
Problem: Eating while you run
I’m realizing that during the long training runs I’m under eating and hydrating… typical amateur hour operation.
I ate two bananas during my marathon for a total of about 200 calories over 3.5 hours.
During the first long training run for I consumed around 500 calories. This run was about 38 km with 4500 feet of elevation over four hours.
Doing a bit of research, I found out that most ultra runners look to eat between 200-300 calories per hour during long runs.
Strangely, I didn’t feel like I was dying of fatigue or anything during either of these runs despite clearly being under fuelled. I’m pretty stoked to see how my body responds to actually paying attention to fuelling and hydration.
With that, I crafted a plan for the latest run this past weekend — marathon distance with some gnarly elevation.
The run this week was 42.5 km over 4.5 hours with about 7000 ft of elevation. We ran from downtown Vancouver over to and up to the top of Grouse Mountain (including the Grouse Grind) and back.
The ultra I’m running is quite hilly, with three large climbs and descents at about 6000 ft of elevation. So basically I’m just looking for large hills and mountains to run up and down to prepare for this beast.
In terms of fuel, I ate a clif bar and about 10 chocolate cookies through the run for a total of around 650 calories give or take.
Even this is not enough.
Are supplements are a waste of time?
I’ve been abstaining from gels so far because I don’t like to rely on nutritional supplements. I’m passionate about filling your body with real food.
The masses get caught up in all the hype and marketing around supplements. I see it time and time again as people always ask me about the latest supplement on the market and whether I’m taking it.
The answer is always no.
For me, I love cooking and eating. This is something I learned growing up from my parents — the value of a home cooked meal.
Whatever you are getting from a supplement you can generally (99% of the time) get from real food… plus it doesn’t taste like cardboard.
People love to throw their money away on supplements, and even worse, they take what they read online as gospel.
While I may sound extreme, I do admit that supplements serve a purpose in terms of convenience and efficiency.
With that, sometimes I feel like I am delaying the inevitable with not using gels during my runs. It seems as though every ultrarunner out there consumes these nasty looking things.
We’ll see how things go through my first ultramarathon, but I am going to do it without gels, then reassess.
The human body is an amazing thing
First off — it is a privilege to be able to run this far. After the 42 km onslaught last week, I kept glancing back to the top of the mountain I just ran up and couldn’t stop smiling.
It seemed so far away!
It’s amazing what the human body can do, and I’m truly blessed to have the ability to use my legs to travel long distances.
I think every day about how grateful I am to be able to push my body. I feel as though I’m chasing something — maybe it is that point where my body quits.
This is what it’s all about for me, pushing to the brink. I have no idea where that edge is, but perhaps I’ll find it. The biggest thing with long runs is the mental slog you go through.
There are some serious ebbs and flows through my longer runs, and your ability to deal with pain and discomfort is paramount.
Not only that, the separation between injury pain and soreness pain is important as you’re literally straddling that line at times. It is a fine one.
My body responds quite well to the stress from training, and so far so good (knock on wood).
This past week is the most strenuous. I clocked in around 85 km of running and two weight training sessions.
It comes down knowing your body and being smart with managing it.
I literally eat buckets of food. Combine that with a ton of mobility work and foam rolling, and even my first ice bath in a year, and I’m feeling good!
Three weeks out
With the hardest part of the training over, my mental state shifts — tapering is difficult for me because I always want to do more.
My running volume will be reduced gradually to get prepped for July 13. This is where I’ll release the kraken so to speak.
I struggle with moderation and already know from tapering for the marathon the crazy antsy feeling.
I imagine I’ll be like a caged animal by race day.