Ultra Trail Run Training - The Survival Post

Ultra trail run or ultra trail runner was not a part of my vocabulary as of 11 weeks ago.  The idea and notion of running that far made any sense.  I would laugh at Jeff when he brought it up.  I called it crazy and just a dumb idea.  I would look at the training and think to myself:  70+ mile weeks is just ridiculous.  Why would anybody do that?  Then I started to think more about it and slowly my mindset began to change.  Why not do it?  Why not push myself further than I had in the past?  Why not go out on the limb and should it break it would only be because I tried. Along the course of these 11 weeks I learned a lot about training for an ultra trail run that I can use for the remainder of my training leading up to the Lake Martin 100.  I look at the overload weeks and think 85-95 miles in a week.....that sounds crazy enough to be awesome.  Mindset is one thing that you need to have going into long distance endurance sports training especially if the sport is specific like cycling or running.  When there is a combination of sports the mindset is a bit easier to get to because the monotony is broken up.  One way to think about this is your job.  When you are tasked with pulling the same report on a weekly or daily basis you find that report to be a pain in the ass but when asked to work on a project rather than pulling that report you get excited.  Ultra trail run training is that report.  Triathlon, for me, is that project. Here are a few tips I learned along the way to this point.  This is not a comprehensive list but I believe that following these tips will allow you to not only survive but to thrive on your way to your first ultra trail run whether that is 50k, 100k, 50 miles or 100 miles.

Ultra Trail Run Training Tips

  1.  Eat The Elephant One Bite At A Time. As a vegetarian I could have put something more plant friendly but the point is that the entire training plan is so big that it seems overwhelming.  Focus on that day's training and not the next day's or the upcoming weekends.  Live in the moment and focus on what you are setting out to accomplish.  This means that if it is a 4 mile run that you focus on those 4 miles and not think about the 25 mile run you have coming up in 4 days.  Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your ability to cover these distances.  Instead it is all bricks in the wall to getting you to the starting line.
  2. [caption id="attachment_9402" align="alignright" width="300"]ultra trail run - tips - training Source: Outside Online[/caption] Recover Properly. Recovery is not just the time you spend doing nothing sitting on the couch.  That is important but so is the amount of sleep you get.  In addition to that it is the right food that you put into your system.  Let us also not forget about stretching.  Now, I can tell you that I do not stretch.  I stop running and head right for the kitchen but never once do I stop to lay on my back and stretch out my hamstrings.  Instead I go to my chiropractor on a weekly basis (2x per week during overload weeks) and allow him to stretch me out as well as adjusting me.  I also get a massage at least every other week.  This allows my body and, just as importantly, my mind to relax and get away.
  3. Take Taper Seriously. In the past I would have found ways to sneak in a few extra minutes of swimming or cycling or running during taper week thinking that it could not hurt.  For this training cycle I am taking taper so seriously that I am not doing anything not on my training plan.  If it isn't there I am not doing it.  I am focusing on my nutrition and getting as much sleep as possible.  I am running these last few miles at a Z1 HR and not going above that one bit.  I am truly paying attention to taper and when I go out on these short runs I feel a spring in my step, a faster pace and the confidence is building.  In taper weeks prior to this one I would go for a short run and feel either fatigued or playing mind-games with myself that my legs were not sore.  That is not the case this time.  I have not felt stronger the week before a race as I do today.
  4. Figure Out Your Nutrition During Long Runs. I have run the equivalent of 12 half-marathons plus over the course of these 11 weeks.  On those runs I have run with the nutrition I plan on using on the course with what would be the equivalent of 225 calories per hour.  By testing and testing and testing the taste, cal/hr, electrolytes, carbs and protein mix I am confident in what I need to bring with me to the course on Saturday morning.  In addition to figuring out exactly what you are going to use you must use these long runs to figure out exactly how you are going to carry these calories.  I have done the runs with my running vest and a flask, even during 'short' runs of less than 10 miles.  Why?  To get comfortable with the extra weight.  To get comfortable with drinking while running.  To get comfortable with the vest and how to fix/adjust in case of anything happening.
  5. [caption id="attachment_9403" align="alignright" width="300"]ultra trail run - tips - training Source: (a href="/chrisultra.blogspot.com/">Chris Ultra Blogl[/caption] Run At All Different Times Of The Day And On Different Surfaces In Different Weather. An ultra trail run is going to take a long time.  This means that you are going to start before the sun comes up and in some cases finish after the sun goes down.  That is a lot of hours to cover while on your feet and different things are going to happen.  Running in the dark is different from running during the day.  Running on trails is different from running on the road.  Running in the rain is different from running in the heat and humidity. As you can see all of these items are different and you need to be prepared for these changes as much as possible.  The only way to do that is to train in those elements.
I will repeat that these tips are not exhaustive.  There is much more that goes into training for an ultra trail run but these will get you started.  I will be 100% honest and tell you, the reader, that this training is harder than Ironman training.  From a physical perspective there isn't much difference but rather in the mental fortitude that it takes.  Running 26 miles on Saturday is hard.  Running 13 miles the following day is harder and I think that is why ultra trail run training is harder than Ironman training.  I can ride my bike for 6 hours on Saturday and then run for 2 hours on Sunday because they are completely different.  I had a hard time psyching myself up to go out for a long run on Sunday after having done a long(er) run on Sunday.

What Are Your Tips For Surviving An Ultra Trail Run Training Program?

TAGS: training , run , trail , ultra
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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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