Crossing the finish line of an ultra is an amazing experience and once you cross that line the next phase of your training starts — recovery. Ultras take a big toll on your body and whilst lying on the couch drinking beer and eating pizza might sound like a good idea there are better ways to ensure you recover quicker.
At some point in an ultra many of us cross the line from racing to surviving. We go from feeling confident about finishing well, feeling in control of our legs, able to run sections we think are runnable, meeting our target time, running a PB, to being resigned to just finishing, wanting it to be over, wishing the finish line would come a lot sooner so the pain can be over.
The cross over point is usually around 60-75% of race distance. In a race like Ultra Trail Australia 100 it’s the leg from the Aquatic Centre to Queen Vic Hospital, the 54-78km mark. At UTMB it’s usually just before or after Champex at the 120k mark. It’s the point mentally where there still seems a long way to go but you have already come so far that your the legs and mind can feel very fatigued.
Fortunately the ability to race the whole distance is not confined to the elites. Racing the entire distance is relative to one’s ability so anyone can race the whole distance. All it takes is a good training plan and good race execution. There are two main areas to focus on in both training and racing to improve your ability to race the distance – physical and mental. Physically it comes down to a number of things. Training being the most important. Without proper training it’s not a matter of if you’ll go into survival mode but when.
As an online running coach I’m obviously a big believer that a coach is a good investment in your running. It’s not just for the elite, in fact many of my clients make up the back half of the field. If you want to take away the uncertainty of what type of training you should be doing, if you want to reduce your risk of injury if you want to improve your performance or want to take on a race that scares the pants off you then a good running coach can help. Above all though a good coach will help you enjoy your running more.
Over the last few years I’ve seen a big increase in the number of online coaches, which is great for the runner, more variety and different price points make coaching an affordable option to just about anyone. However, like any industry, there are good coaches and let’s say not so good coaches. How do you go about determining the good from the not so good? A few pointed questions and a bit of research can help you sort through the good from the average.
Welcome to the blog, our newest coach, Mile 27’s Ben Duffus. Here Ben gives his thoughts on how he plans his minor and major races throughout the year to optimise his performances
One of the attractions of ultramarathon running is the opportunity to explore the limits of both our body and mind. But as the human body has a limited capacity to recover from being pushed we need to be careful with the frequency and depth to which we push ourselves. It is very rare to see an elite marathon runner attempt more than two to three marathon races in a year. In ultramarathons, if we want to push ourselves to our absolute limit, we should plan to be in peak form for no more than 4 “A races” in a year. The exact number of races a runner peak for depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of event, previous training/racing history, sleep patterns, nutrition and age. Already our sport is plagued with burnt out elites who have over raced; the likes of Western States winners Geoff Roes and Timothy Olson have been quite open regarding the toll over-racing has had on their health.
Given an ultra takes a lot longer than 2 hours (the approximate limit of our carbohydrates to supply energy) it is clear that fat is going to be a big contributor to our energy supplies.
The less effective we are at using fat for fuel the more carbohydrates we have to consume during a race to fuel our muscles. The more we have to put into our stomachs the more chance of stomach problems. Given stomach upsets are a major causes of DNF’s and below par performances in ultras it makes sense to work on increasing your bodies ability to burn fat.