Reader Questions: Ultras, Running at Elevation and Training for a Half
Happy Wednesday, loves.
This week has gone by at a break neck speed due to it being a holiday on Monday this week in Ontario. I always find that I am completely thrown for the rest of the week after having an extra day off.
It has been a while since I have tackled reader questions and I have been asked a few good ones lately so I thought I would tackle three of them today.
Question 1: I am running my first ultra marathon this summer. Do you have any tips for a beginner?
Firstly, CONGRATULATIONS. Running an ultra marathon is a huge accomplishment and it is awesome that you are taking it seriously. Some of my favourite and most rewarding races that I have ever done have been ultras and the people you run them with are absolutely incredible.
- Find a training plan. For my first ultra, I had no idea what I was doing. I bought a good pair of trail shoes from my local adventure store and found a plan for 50 KM online, worked back the weeks and followed it.
- Get a hydration pack. You will be out running and training for hours and there is nothing you will value more than a good, comfortable, lightweight pack. Between my ultras and adventure races, my packs have become an extension of who I am.
- Do doubles. Leading up to some of my bigger events, I will put in at least two days a week of consecutive long efforts such as a 30 KM on the Saturday and a 40 KM on the Sunday. Obviously the distances will range depending on what you are aiming for, but having that experience of running on tired legs will be invaluable on race day.
- Know the terrain you will be dealing with. Is it hilly? Single track? Technical? Find local trails that simulate it and do the training.
- Practice with nutrition. It may seem like an awesome idea to take gels and bars and survive on that but trust me, it gets old really fast. You move slower in an ultra, which means you can probably get away with solid food. I like a mixture of bars, gels and food. Some of the more unique foods I have eaten during ultras are sardines, pickled asparagus wrapped in cream cheese wrapped in turkey slices and banana bread so the fact is you can eat anything. Pick a mixture of sweet, salty and savoury with some pickled foods to cut through everything. And watch your protein intake – too much of it will dehydrate you and give you GI issues.
Question 2: I am doing a race at high altitude this year and I live at sea level. How do I prepare?
I had the same dilemma going into Transrockies last summer and I did endless research on altitude tents, elevation training masks and other options. In the end, I did nothing to prepare other than go into my race fit and well trained. If I was recovering from a shorter race, I would add miles by bike commuting and made sure I had proper, high volume weeks mixed with speed training. I was healthy and strong going into the race and I adapted perfectly. That being said, every time is different but I personally don’t see a case for doing any special prep. Here is a great article on altitude tents effectiveness that I recommend reading.
Question 3: I am doing my first half marathon this summer. How do I build up?
My biggest advice is to follow a training plan to avoid making training errors and ensuring you have proper fitness levels. Cool Running has a good one that I recommend to beginners who are planning on tackling approximately a 2 hr time.
Although I’m no expert, I do have lots of experience running so I am always happy to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to send them over my way at lacesandlattes(a)gmail.com.