Friday, May 24, 2013

RACE DAY TIPS FOR DISTANCE RUNNERS: What to do in the days leading up to the big day

You've done the hard work.......  You've consistently dragged yourself out of bed early in the freezing cold to commit to your training, or went out on those hot, humid days to not get off track.  So how do you make the most of the event and capitalise on your efforts?

Here's my top 10 must do's as race day closes in:

#10:  REGISTER EARLY:  Firstly, registering early commits you to the event, thus committing you to your training on a more specific basis.  Often the reason why people get off track with their training.  Secondly, you don't want the frustration of doing all the hard work, to find that there's been a sell out by the time you get online with your credit card in hand.

#9:  WEAR YOUR RACE GEAR:  It's no doubt common knowledge by most that you should 'bed' your shoes in to avoid blisters or other nasty uncomfortable surprises on race day so I'm not going to nag on this point.  What IS however often overlooked is your other gear.  It may come as a surprise that shoes are not the only thing you wear to a race, (well for the non-nudist folk anyway lol).  With that in mind, items such as your shirt, shorts, or socks can play havoc should you not test them out prior.  Your new fancy 'highly recommended' socks may have a seam that creates a point of friction, turning to blisters.  Your shirt may just happen to rub under the arm causing chaffing, etc etc.  You get the idea.

Work out what you intend to wear for the event, and wear this during some of your longer runs.

#8:  FAMILIARISE YOURSELF WITH THE COURSE:  There's not much point in running 50km's a week on flat bitumen, just to find that it's a hilly, technical single track trail run.  Or vice versa.  Ideally, if it's a local course, try to go out for a few sessions on the actual route to get familiar with the terrain, turns, or other conditions that may throw some interesting challenges at you on the day.  You have enough to contend with on the day let alone having random obstacles come up along the way.

Most well organised events will have on their website a course map and sometimes some course notes if it's fairly lengthy and/or challenging.  Be sure to check these out, and especially where you are able to park on the morning.  CBD events can sometimes see people missing the start of their race as they didn't consider parking restrictions or the sheer volume of entrants taking up what parking may have been there.

#7:  TAPER DOWN ACCORDING TO YOUR RACE & TRAINING:  Don't overtrain!!!!!  In fact, it's a widely accepted rule amongst distance runners that "it's better to be undertrained than overtrained at the starting line".  I find myself sounding a little hypocritical as I rite this point, sitting here majorly overtrained 2 days out of a marathon.  The purpose for this is because I was not actually training specifically for this event, but merely entering as I didn't want to miss it.

The length of tapering, and strategy behind it will vary depending on a few variables.  The event length, the amount of training miles your doing, and your personal recovery rate (which varies from one person to another).  By considering these items, one can strategize their way to their perfect taper plan.

#6:  PRACTICE WHAT YOU'LL EAT:  Don't make the stupid mistake that myself along with many others have made on race day by eating something on the morning or during an event that you haven't tested on training runs.  Just because you've eaten this particular item before and it hasn't caused any issues, that doesn't mean it's ok for you whilst running.  The tummy can become quite sensitive for some people (myself included) and can make an intended PB possibility turn to an utter mess of discomfort and misery should you not manage this item carefully.

Be sure to get into a routine of WHAT you eat, and WHEN you eat it in conjunction with your training runs.  Find what works best for you on your tempo runs as well as your long runs; as your race day will be somewhere between the conditions of these.

#5:  HYDRATE CORRECTLY:  The importance of good water levels in the body is often overlooked in terms of performance.  The fact is, water is vital for energy transfer through the bloodstream, so should you be under hydrated before and/or during the event, you will suffer.

Good hydration does not start on the morning of the race by downing 2 litre's of water.  For proper hydration the body needs 3-4 days to take in and stock up levels.

With all this in mind, it must be noted here not to OVER hydrate either.  Over hydrating, or Hyponatremia, occurs when the body is over-saturated with water creating an imbalance of vital electrolytes, with most importance on sodium levels. 

A good sign is (a tad bit graphic but needs to be said) your urine should be a real pale yellow colour for the 3 days leading up to the event.  (ideally at all times but that's not always manageable).  Should it be a bright yellow, you are under hydrated; whereas completely clear may be a sign of over hydrating.  Be sure to manage this item closely.

#4:  SLEEP:  The night before the big day can be a little unnerving.  So much so that insomnia is a common threat to a runners plans.  The good news here is studies have shown that the sleep you get 2 nights before the event plays a higher role than that of the night immediately before the event.  ie, If your race is to take place on a Sunday morning, be sure to get a good nights sleep on Friday night.  Should you struggle to get some shut eye on the Saturday night, it's not going to affect your performance as much as you may think.

The longer your event, the more important this aspect becomes.  Not necessarily for physical performance, but more so the mental side.  For example, if you've got a marathon or more on the cards, the mental endurance for these events is critical.  Be sure to consider this need and match the supply to the demand.

#3:  FUEL UP ACCORDING TO YOUR EVENT:  There is a heap of contradicting arguments out there as to whether 'carbo loading' is beneficial or detrimental to your performance.  Not having a PhD myself nor conducted detailed studies it would be inappropriate for me to say which is right or wrong on a broad scale.  However, what I can say is that energy levels become of vital importance when you intend to put in 100% on race day.  The longer and/or more intense the race, the more important this topic becomes.

It is my personal plan to fuel up well 48 hours out from the event, mainly because I do not intend carrying unnecessary weight in the gut that the big 'night before pasta party' can do to you.  Digestion takes time so don't think that because you ate that huge bowl of spaghetti the night before that it will of great benefit.

Limited fuelling could see you run flat before you finish, making those last few km's quite challenging indeed.

Overdoing this aspect can do you a disservice by adding extra weight, and also requiring the body to be utilising vital energy supplies to processing and digesting that food, rather than utilising this energy for your intended purpose:  Surging towards that finish line!!!!

Be sure to not only consider the energy itself, but also vital minerals and vitamins that the body will need throughout and after the event.  This item becomes more and more crucial the longer the event length.  Potassium, magnesium and sodium to name a few play a huge role in keeping the body functions and muscle contractions in order, and become depleted very quickly in marathon and ultra marathon runners.  Be sure to adequately stock up on these before and possibly during the event if conditions require it.

#2:  PRE PACK YOUR GEAR:  Don't leave it to the morning of the race to go finding that odd sock or locate where the kids have put your race bib.  These morning arte often an early rising as it is, let along having to deal with getting all this together as well.  You want you pre race routine to be as comfortable and easy going as possible.  Lay all your gear out in an easy to see, clear space and check that your typical breakfast supplies are in stock.

Allow yourself every opportunity to get the head into the right space rather than running around crazily looking for your gear all morning, and having to rush to the start line all hyped up.

#1:  GET UP EARLY:  Set 2 alarms, one being across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.  Firstly, if you're like me, it takes the mind and body a little while to fully get into action on those early mornings.  But more importantly why I get up earlier than needed for the race, is you need to have breakfast around 2 hours before start time.  This will give the gut plenty of time to digest the food properly, so this process is not having to occur while you're trying to push up that nasty climb.

Again, having all this time on your hands before the race allows you to just relax and enjoy the experience which is essentially the reason why we run isn't it????

With the above tips in mind, you're now ready to go about your race in best form.  You've trained well, and now you've prepared yourself in such a way to give you every opportunity towards a rewarding outcome.  Whether this is a podium, a PB or merely a memorable finish.

Plan ahead and you're sure to be rewarded!!!!!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

TRAINING FOR YOUR FIRST HALF MARATHON: The journey into distance running

The humble half marathon has in recent years outgrown all other event distances by far.  Many are labelling this event as the 'ideal race distance'.  Maybe it's because it's tagged with the age old 'Marathon' brand, but more reachable for the less crazy folk who don't wish to put in the training that the full version demands.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not suggesting this is easy.  In fact it will still offer quite a challenge if you're coming from the typical 5-10km running range.  21.1km is a fair distance by any standard, and to think that just anybody can get up and do it without obstacles would be na├»ve.

Firstly, I'd like to add that most people looking up this type of info are already into the running gig a bit (or more) and researching info for continual improvement.  Which is a great audience for this topic.  Should you be perusing through here coming from a ZERO running base, can I highly recommend to take this info in your stride (pun intended, lol), and look towards building up a base level of weekly mileage first and get through to at least running 8-10km's single runs comfortably.

So how do you make the leap up to the half?  In one word "strategically".......... Not the word you were expecting?  haha, I bet not.  Why do I say this rather than typical key words like "hard work, consistency, dedication," etc?  I say this because it is my personal belief that your success in finishing your first half marathon doesn't have anything to do with the race itself.  It's whether you get through your training successfully without injury.  If you find yourself arriving at the tapering stage of your training schedule, you're sure to finish on the day. (assuming you don't come down with a virus the day before, but that would be just bad luck!!!!)  Sadly, many people don't make it to this point.

You can work as hard as a mule, and be as committed as an Olympian, but unless you can 'think on your feet' as you fumble your way through your training you are at risk of becoming part of the growing statistics of people who don't even make it to the starting line..........  That's certainly not an ideal position to be in.

So what I'm saying here is, it's not HOW MUCH you train that gets you there, but HOW you train.  The 2 most important things you should invest in from the outset is:
  1. Shoes:  Get professionally fitted and preferably, gait analysed.  Get this right early can save you big time down the track
  2. Training Programme:  And by training programme, I mean a proper, personally designed programme based around YOU.  Where you're at now, what you can and can't commit to, and assessing ALL the variables that you as an individual throw into the mix.  I'm certainly not referring one of those online, 5 minute responses that spit out the 'ideal training programme' simply because you put in the event date and length that you're doing.
Simple........ I don't know you, what your circumstances are, what your goals are, or any of the vital data that makes up the backbone of your programme.

There are a few aspects you need to consider going into a half that you don't normally get faced with on the 10-12km sessions.  Firstly, the time on feet is obviously double.  Not just for the event, but again in the training.  For a first half, you're looking at race times of somewhere between 1:50:00 & 2:30:00.  Where most people come unstuck in training is with injuries relating to soft tissue damage and/or joints between the feet to hips.  These are the areas of most concern for continuous, slow, quality development.  Sadly, I see way too often, posts and other random comments from people who have pulled up injured only weeks before their first big event.  There's a fine line you need to follow between taking it easy, and pushing the body hard enough to encourage development.  This line is easy to manage on 5k-12k training...... Not so easy to recognise with half marathons to marathons. 

One bad decision in the outset of your journey, may determine your fate.  By this I mean, just because you are training, it doesn't mean this training is useful and/or helpful.  To validate your efforts, make sure you utilise the proven sciences of previous research and experience.  Get yourself a QUALITY TRAINING PROGRAMME. 

Next is to make sure that you make it work within your personal, social, educational and career commitments.  Training can take up a fair whack of your free time.  Do not go into this blind!!!! You need to assess and commit to set times that your training runs will take place.  Be sure to present this plan to your family, boss, or others that you are accountable to and express just how much this goal means to you.  It is important for these people to know what you are spending this time doing and more to the point, WHY!

Should this be your first half marathon, your first goal is to finish.  Ideally, you may set yourself a target of finishing without stopping.  Seriously, who cares what your time is???  Chances are, you won't remember what this time is in a few years, but you sure will remember that finish line!!!!  Go for that.  Times/pacing etc will become more of a focus as you continue to develop further after you finish this one.

You sure don't want to make your long term memory of this event a horrible, painful, recollection of how you cramped up, short of breath and struggling the whole way through.  Just chill out, soak up the atmosphere, learn from some of the experienced runners and have a blast.  Maybe even share the track with a friend and plan to stick it out together.

To help you keep your cool in this race and not run off as though it's the one and only you'll ever do, why not commit yourself to the next one first?  With this in your mind through the race, you're more likely to hold the right mindset, and follow the previous comments of taking it easy, and utilising the experience correctly.

Secondly, it'll help you keep your consistency moving beyond your race.  Sadly, some people lose a lot of their training efforts post race as they didn't have their sights set on anything else.  Then they decide a little later and have to start all over again.  "If you don't like starting over, don't stop."  Of course a well deserved rest and recovery period is required after a tough session, but you only need a few days to a week for most people.  Even during this time, it's generally useful to have some light activity after 48 hours to help loosen things up.  Leave it 2-3 weeks with nothing as you mull over what you've just achieved and you're heading back towards square one.

"If you don't like starting over, don't stop."

If the next half near you is too long away, sign up for anything else.  a 5k, 12k, whatever.  Get involved and stay on track!

Completing your first half marathon is an awesome achievement.  Let's make it enjoyable at the same time.  It doesn't matter who you are or how much you love running.  Sometimes, the training can become a bit much.  So if you find this, don't worry, you're not alone.  The vital thing about training is it's consistency.  However, today you're just really not in the mood for your tough intervals session........  Obviously it's great if you can stick to your programme as much as possible but if sticking to it 100% is going to end up meaning that you pull out completely because it's becoming too much to the point where you're not enjoying yourself anymore and you're dreading the sight of your runners, maybe it's better you just go out for a nice, relaxing meditational jog.  It's not to plan, but it's far better than doing nothing!

Like I said to begin with, be strategic about how you go into your first half.  In fact, be strategic about running in general.  Running should not be easy, but it should not be a chore either.  Lace up, drink up, build up and get going..................... See you at the finish line!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Adelaide 24hr Ultra Marathon - 2013 (pre event training and preparation)

Lap running again.......... YAY! not......... On the 13th/14th July 2013 will be my first attempt at a 24hr Ultra.

It won't be completely new ground for me with having a 12hr behind me, as well as having trail ultra's of 16hr finishing times.  That said, I don't care who you are; 24hrs is a mighty challenge.  As the saying goes, "it doesn't get any easier, you just get faster"........  I think this is a good example here.

Assuming I keep moving through the 24hr period (my main goal), I estimate based on my current form and fatigue rate, I'll be looking at circa 160km's for the tally.  Anything above this would be great.  180km would be a dream right now but as I will not be tapering for this event, but more using it as a training tool, I have a feeling fatigue will pull me back short of this in the final hours.

To be blunt, within minutes of finishing my first 12hr 'lap running' event a few months ago, I swore I was not going to enter this 24hr.  But as ultra nutters go, of course I've come around and talked myself back into it.  The reason behind the immediate disinterest post the 12hr was that I mainly run ultra's because I have a love for the trails.  The scenery. The challenging and ever changing terrain.  Running circles certainly isn't high on my favourites list..........

So why am I doing it then?  Partly because you're not an Ultra Runner if you haven't done a 24hr event.  Partly because a lot of my close ultra runner friends are going to be there and I'd love to share this time with them.  And also partly because it'll be another testing ground in training up for the 750km adventure I'm doing 8 months later.

"Feedback is the breakfast of champions;" and from my past Ultra's I've found a consistent and reliable bout of tummy upset from around the 6-8 hr mark.  That was until a 9hr session I did a couple of weeks ago where I steered clear of what I thought I'd finally identified as the main culprits.  The good news here was that I got through the entire night without even a hint of trouble or discomfort.

In my first 100km Ultra, I got to the 70-75km mark, and the tummy hit me big time.  Unable to consume a thing for a few hours made fuelling impossible.  In my next 100km I steered clear of what I thought was the issue, but to no avail.  Tummy set in at around the 75-80km point.  A month later during a 12hr, I only got to 4 hours and again it showed up.  Each time avoiding what I thought was causing it.

Given that this issue only shows up after some considerable time on the feet, it was near impossible for me to test it out during training therefore it wasn't until the events where I was able to get the 'trial and error' technique into action.

With a change of plan for this year, aiming at larger distances rather than faster times, I've been able to spend the time during training to get some big mile runs in; in turn allowing me test things out a lot more.  Long story short, I've been able to pin point what was causing the tummy upset!!!! Yay.  And to prove my suspicions as mentioned earlier, I went out on the 9 hr with my new fuelling plans and BINGO.  All good.  As it turns out, it was the Endura Hydrolyte drink and gels that were doing it.  Consuming only bananas, plain water, salt tabs, some chocolate brownies, and a few cherry ripe bars this got me through unscathed. Not to mention the odd ginger beer just in case. I must point out here that the only variable to the norm was that I was a support runner for this event so I was only running at a gentle, comfortable pace the majority of the time; so had the intensity been higher at my own level, could this have brought about the same problem?

With all this in mind, 9hrs is far different to that of 24 in terms of vitamins/minerals/nutrients levels in the body.  Therefore, I do think that the recent 9hr plan won't get me through the 24hr without something else.  What to do............  I'll be going natural the whole way. That part I'm sure of!!!! This will be my fuelling testing ground for the 750km.  Sodium, magnesium and potassium being at the top of my list of priorities here.   The carbohydrate issue will be the easy to maintain component, so as long as I can keep the tummy at bay, I think I'm there.

Not being high on my priority list of events this year, I'm not specifically training for this event per se; but more so including it AS PART OF my training.  That noted, of course it is still a far larger single run than any of my typical training runs so there still has to be some level of build up prep and recovery period.  The main difference here will be that I won't be tapering for the event like I would should I have a bigger purpose or expectation.  Intentions are to complete a few more 6hr+ sessions in the coming 6 weeks, but more to the point, keeping my training miles up around the 400-500km's per month.

My current training schedule is following a pattern of 6/1.  Meaning 6 weeks of build up with 1 week active recovery.  This almost double to my old and typical training layout which is on a 3/1 basis.  Also within this 6 weeks, it's currently on 7 days one week, 6 days the next.  Meaning very little rest days.  Again, I add that the majority of the sessions (90%) are at easy, comfortable levels and some are relatively short sessions.  This specifically designed for my personal training goal and not typically advisable.  I'm monitoring this very closely!!!!

For those looking towards their first 24hr, the clear message here is to build the strength in the body.  Tendons and ligaments take time to build.  Far longer than muscle tissue so don't rush yourself into a 24hr.  Spend the time building the body up to 200km+, ideally 300km+ per month should you wish to push the entire way through a 24hr.  You may make it through with less, however your risk to injury would be extremely high if you did.  If your intentions are purely to see how you go, and go with a safe run/walk & even some rest break strategy, you may find your way through on a 150km/month base.  The tip with these events is to stay comfortable for as long as possible, stay fuelled and hydrated, then see what's left in the last stages.  Whilst I've stated I'm not a fan of these types of events, they provide a huge learning curve for you.  Not just in running, but in yourself.

My highest priority for this event will be my moving time.  This will be the key to my success in this event.  When I look back on my Garmin data, I want to see at least 23.5hrs moving time, allowing 1/2hr across the entire event for things such as grabbing some food and changing shoes/socks etc should the need arise.  Anything less will be unacceptable.  Every minute stopped is effectively a dead minute.  Even if it's a short walk while I down some food, I must keep moving.

Coming into this event, I'm a little more confident than leading up to the 12hr, as I've put a lot more miles under the feet in recent months compared to back then.  Speed and strength work has not been a priority in my recent schedule, but long, consistent mileage has taken pole position.  This has it's advantages as well as it's disadvantages.  While it may seem as though it's 'specificity of training' it's also going to expose it's shortcomings in the final hours with fatigue, where strength training could've helped.  So why aren't I doing much hill repeats or other various strength work?  Risk of injury!!!!!  As I've decided I need to rack up the total mileage above recommended increase rates, I've looked to counter this risk by dropping these types of sessions in my routine.  This has got me through the last few months without a hiccup.  Going from 200km/month in December to 500km in April with no sign of strain, discomfort or excessive fatigue is good news for my overall plan.  (my disclaimer here is 'not to try this at home.'  This is way above recommended levels of increase but I've managed it through experience and other risk management strategies)

Running laps for 24hrs straight is not what you'd call appealing.  Well, to me anyway.  In fact, I've created a pet hate for it from the couple of times I've done it.  I think I'd rather be doing my taxes....... With an event starting time in the morning, means the tough time mentally will be 12 hours later when the body is already fatigued, but now the body clock is telling me is night night time.......  I've done all nighters before, but not from starting in the morning.  Always starting late afternoon or early evening.  A great advantage (one of very few in lap running) is that I'll have my support crew close by at all times and being a local race I'll be surrounded by familiar faces whom I've shared the trails with before.  This stimulation will keep me going for the majority but I do believe I'm going to need something else.  I've got a few mantras that motivate me, but ultimately it'll be my goals that'll keep me moving.

I read some time ago on another runners blog (I'm sorry I can't remember who) that said "one of the best ways to get a little kick in a tough stage of an event is to encourage another runner as you/they pass by".  I've made a concerted effort to make this a normal part of my time on the track, (and local regulars could probably confirm).  This definitely works.  There's something about being positive and supportive to another that simultaneously rewards the provider.  Try it out on your next race!

In addition, this event will be the first of it's type for a few of my recent clients who have recently decided to take up my training programmes to get fitter or improve their performance.  Some of which came from ZERO running.  I'm going to be massively proud as we go around seeing them in action and how far they've come from only a couple of months ago.  Some doing the 6hr, some the 12hr.  I can't wait to see them.  This will no doubt give me a buzz.

With 2 months to go I still have a little time left to get a better judgement on how I'm going to go, but unlike the 12hr, I don't particularly have a distance goal as such so I'm not too concerned about that.  In fact, I'm more likely to be seen that day spending what energy I have helping some other runners who do have the targets.  Keeping them motivated and on target.  Maybe in 2014 I'll go for the distance goal but where I'm at and what I'm aiming at currently, I don't see that as the priority.

If I'm going to leave this with any tips, it's to always go into an event with a purpose.  Without purpose, there's no direction.  Your purpose may be to come first.  It may be to get your PR.  It may be just to finish.  Or it may be to get some experience.  Don't make the mistake of getting to the starting line without one; or you're likely to get part way through and question why your doing it.

What's the purpose behind your next event?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

HOW TO PREPARE FOR Ultra Marathon Running: In it for the long haul.........

An Ultra Marathon is any distance further than that of the typical 42.195km Marathon, with common distances of 50 & 100km, as well as 50 & 100 miles.  Running a normal marathon has been generally regarded for decades as the true test of physical fitness, taking the human body to it's limits through tough training, not to mention conquering the gruelling event itself.

However, over recent years, distance runners have been growing the community in the Ultra Running scene world wide.  Is it that they've completed the marathon a few times and now want something more?  Or is it their pure passion for distance that the miles they pour out each week just doesn't satisfy?  I've spoken a wide variety of ultra runners and have had as many different responses to this query as people questioned.

It goes without saying I'm sure that as the event distance increases, so too does the level of difficulty.  However, I'd like to point out firstly that while yes the event itself is somewhat a monster task, the major obstacle in most peoples path here actually lies in the training.  Most people won't even make it to the starting line due to the immense commitment required to prepare the body for the task.

The human body is an extraordinary biological machine, with a fine line between fragile, and resilient.  Fragile in the fact that it is in essence biological which means things can go wrong.  Unforseen, unplanned and unwarranted issues that can stop us in our tracks in a millisecond.  Resilient by way that the body has an uncanny way of becoming accustomed to it's surroundings when given the right attention.  In other words; the body adapts to the regular or consistent nature of it's existence.

With the above in mind, it must be said that there are endless variables that will affect how well, if at all each individual responds to such changes.  Age, gender, genes, training, general daily activity, nutrition, and the list goes on...... 

So how can one prepare themselves to run 50km+ in one single run?  Simple; get your miles up, and get your head right.  There is a typical 'rule of thumb' in the distance running community that one should aim to increase their weekly running distance tally by 10-15% on a regular basis.  While this is OK in a generic form, there is much to be said about generic advice.  Remember, this is a 'rule of thumb' so I do not recommend you take that on board and go off straight away racking up the miles.  There are many other important factors that must be taken into account to make sure these miles are QUALITY, EVENT SPECIFIC MILES.

SPECIFICITY OF TRAINING:  (You don't become world number 1 in golf, by playing tennis 5 times a week......)
If you've never seen an Ultra Marathon, I highly recommend going out to watch one in action.  Maybe help out as a volunteer to get an up close perspective to how the participants carry out their event.  Be sure to talk to some before and after the event.  Ask as many questions as possible, but most importantly, WATCH.

Some of the most consistent aspects you will notice about ultra runners is their pacing, fuelling, hydration, and technique.  There's many more things to consider but these make up at least 80% of what an ultra runner will focus their attention on. (besides the never ending quest to find the ultimate shoe!!!!!  LOL....)

But......... In amongst all of this, is their training.  Ultra Marathons can see you on your feet from 5-12+ hours, and some much more.  This brings about a massive challenge in being able to keep moving, and delaying fatigue for as long as possible, then learning how to keep moving once you are completely exhausted.  This can be a gallant task.

Get a proper training programme.  You have no room for guessing here.  You can bluff your way through on 12k, half marathons, and maybe even full marathons on DIY training programmes.  But you're risking it big time to go out into the Ultra world blind.  It's not worth the risk of injury, so look into it.  And more importantly, check that the one preparing your programme is an Ultra runner themselves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

LEARN TO RUN LONG!!!! I've written a separate topic on long runs here: so I won't ramble on too much about that now, apart to say that this is the crucial part to any Ultra Runner.

MAKE IT TO THE STARTING LINE:  Half the battle in running an Ultra is making it to the starting line in one piece.  Ultra Marathon training ultimately means a massive sum of miles under the feet to build up the strength and endurance. 
Undertaken incorrectly can easily result with injury.  A pet hate of mine is seeing so many websites offering template training programmes. "fill in your event date and what distance" and it'll spit out your training programme.  Unfortunately, the 300 people before and after you will get the identical programme.  It really upsets me to see just how many people are pulling up injured through their training, not even making it to their event.

LEARN WHAT FUEL WORKS FOR YOU:  You can't expect to run 60km, 100km, 160km without eating.  Typically, the average adult body has enough readily useable stored energy to last around 3-4 hours at a constant output.  What this means is, events/runs with an anticipated finish time equal to or less than this you can assume that you have enough energy to get you through comfortably.  Above this you need to consider your expenditure and therefore a method for maintaining a sustainable level for the remainder of your event.  Whilst I am not one for 'rule of thumbs' as it can steer people off course, I'll use one here.  Typical/average output/energy expenditure for the average adult is circa 100Kcals per mile of running.  Larger/heavier frames, slightly more, smaller/lighter frames can be slightly less.  You get the idea I hope.  What this effectively means is; let's say you're running a 50miler:  This can mean total energy output in the area of 5000 calories.  This is a lot of energy used.  How do you intend to keep this managed during your race?  You can 'carbo load' all you like, but there is no way you will store enough to get you through at race level output.

With this in mind, you need to find what works for you.  Try, test, experiment, ask other ultra runners, read more blogs.  Find what works, and practice using it.

GET THE RIGHT GEAR:  Ok so I'm sure you're aware this task is a little more testing than the old run around the block!  Therefore, you might want to consider a little more than just comfy shoes and a water bottle to get you through.  Firstly, research the event(s) you wish to enter.  Some have mandatory gear you MUST carry.  If so, get it all early and train with it.  No point in training with your normal shorts, singlet and water bottle if on the race you have 7kg's of mandatory equipment!!!!!!!  If there is no specific requirements for your event, consider what personal items you're going to prefer?  How far apart are the aid stations?  Will you need to carry your own water and food?  How much?  Again, practice using it / carrying it.

Just like they say in the army.  Look after your feet!  If there's any area of your body you need to focus on the most, it's your feet.  They're about to take a massive pounding so the more you can help them out the better.  Many have found out the hard way (myself included) that your 'old trusties' that you've known and loved for years on your 12km races, may not give you what you need for a 100km. 
Get professionally fitted and gait analysed to give you the best possible chance of getting the right shoe.  ONLY buy shoes from runners.  Not store clerks!  By this I mean, you want to know the person that is advising you on which shoe will give you the support your feet needs, actually knows what they're talking about and not just spinning you a scripted response to get the days sales figures up.

LEARN TO WALK!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, you read it right.  Let's face it.  You're not going to run 100km straight through.  And if you do, let me know.  I want to meet you. lol.  So many people miss the importance of walking training.  The fact is, walking requires different muscles as well as a larger range of motion to that of running.  Runners who neglect this in their training really struggle during big events as those extra miles put on the extra demand that the body was not prepared for.  I like to put in at least 1 solid, hard, long walk session in per week.  I use this as an active recovery from my running training, and it helps me stay loose and nimble throughout the week.  In addition, I truly believe this helps me a great deal in the latter stages of ultra events when walking becomes more relevant.

Get committed!!!!  Running an ultra is an amazing experience.  One your sure to never forget.  Do your homework, and don't skimp on your training and you're sure to make this memory a favourable one. 

I'd love to hear from any followers of their experiences leading into their first ultra, so drop me a message and share your journey.  Any questions, let me know and I'd be happy to help.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Ultra Running for charity: 750km in 10 days

750km in 10 days in the interest of Crohns Disease.  An awful disease that affects so many people without the majority even knowing what it is.  It's so unknown, that as I write about it, even spell check picks it up............. It wasn't until a couple of years ago when a dear friend of mine, Sandra, told me about her condition with Crohns that I was personally brought into reality just how it can severely impact the lives of sufferers.

With ZERO government support and/or funding, all awareness, research and support comes from charity fundraising, of which has brought me to my next big adventure.  For in depth info on Crohns Disease, follow this link:

Sandra approached me a couple of months ago asking whether I'd be interested in helping raise awareness.  Not knowing how or when, but just whether I'd be interested should the opportunity arise.  "Absolutely"

A couple of months passed as I brainstormed how this is going to happen.  With several ideas floating in my head, the theme that kept leaping to the top was related to my running interests.  Not only due to my own passion for distance running, but also knowing the running community so well, that they are a very caring and supportive culture in general.  OK, so I'm going to run for Crohns!  Now, where and when?

If I'm going to do this, it's gotta be huge.  With the level that Crohns affects peoples lives, this run needs to somehow try and be comparable.  Right, so it's of to Melbourne I go.

On Saturday 12th April 2014, I, with support crew in tow, will set of on a 10 day adventure from Adelaide, to Melbourne aiming at covering 75km's per day.  Well that is the concept at this stage based on where I think my training is at.  Ideally I'd like to get this up to 84.4km's per day purely for a point to say it's 2 marathons a day.  I know I can run more than this in a day as I've done so a few times before, BUT, I've never had to back it up several days in a row.  This will be the challenge!

What am I up against?
Distance: Training for this distance is not about fitness.  It's about conditioning!!!!  You can be as fit as you like but if the body can not withstand the constant pounding and hour upon hour of relentless movement, you will break down.  In fact, 1/3 of this challenge will be just getting to the start line in tact, injury free.  I estimate that for the body to be prepared, I will need to be up to around 700-800km's per month in training, for at least 3-4 months in the lead up with a steady increase from my current 400-500kms.  This will give tendons and ligaments time to develop the strength and resistance required to withstand the torture that will no doubt set in from around day 3 onwards.

Back to Back days: It's one thing to run 75kms+ in one day.  It's another to be able to do it 10 days in a row.  I know how I've felt the day following these types of runs, and although I've been feeling better and better after each ultra I've finished, I still don't think I'm at a point where I could go out and run another.  This will be an area of training for sure.

Fuelling: 75kms = approximately 5000 calories consumption, + BMR.  Therefore, I'd be looking at needing around 7000 calories per day just to attempt to maintain equilibrium.  The trouble with that, is in the past I've had a relatively sensitive tummy post 7-8 hours on the run.  Consuming, and more importantly PROCESSING this volume of energy will be a make or break for this adventure.  No energy, means no go!!!!

The mind: How does one stay focussed and on top of things on plain, boring, never ending bitumen roads, hour after hour, day after day.  I like to think that I'm quite well disciplined, and strong willed, but no doubt this strength will be tested big time at some point.  There will be dozens of highs and lows through this run that I'd better be prepared for.

Navigation:  Getting from Adelaide to Melbourne is relatively easy.  However, getting there without using the convenience of the freeways will be interesting.  Getting out of Adelaide, and getting into Melbourne without adding on too many unwanted km's will be a high priority.  Day 1 will be a fair challenge with some fairly decent hill climbs to kick me off on the journey.  From there on it's relatively flat.  Melbourne CBD however is littered with freeways, but I'm sure with the right research, I'll find a reasonable route though.

Support: There's no way I could run this without a good support crew.  With this in mind, my lovely wife has committed to cruising along behind me in a campervan, of which will carry all the gear and supplies, along with the comfy pillow I will no doubt be longing for at the end of each day.  To help break up the monotony of each day, I've already had generous offers from the local running community to come out and meet me at different stages and join me for a fair chunk of the trek.  Gotta love the supportive nature of ultra runners...........

Sponsors: And most importantly, the sponsors.  The main reason I'm doing this adventure; to raise funds and awareness for Crohns Disease.  The target is $20,000.  Anything above this would be fabulous.

Why not?  Sadly, many people with Crohns Disease struggle to lead a normal, typical life let alone enjoy things we take for granted such as running among many things.  So instead of me just running and running mile upon mile for personal joy, why no put it all to good use?

There's a lot of work to do, many people to approach and loads of training to come.  This will be a challenge of epic scale for me.  But no doubt it still does not compare to what Sandra and her Crohns suffering counterparts endure everyday.

On this page, as well on Facebook I will update on a regular basis how the preparations are going and how people may donate towards the cause once the Crohns & Colitis Australia Foundation have set up the direct.  Any help anyone can give would go a long way.

It all starts now.......................