January 28, 2007

Ultra ?

I remember the first time that I heard about ultra running. I was just getting comfortable with the idea that someone could run 26.2 miles at the end of an Ironman event when I saw a link on a website for a 50 mile trail running race. FIFTY MILES!? I thought that I had reached a new level of fitness when I could run for over 30min without getting sick. I really didn’t like to run, especially when I was tired and could not imagine what it would be like to continue running that far or for that long. I would have dismissed it (like most people) under the assumption that these were super elite people who have spent their lives running and have nothing better to do than train all week or had a special genetic disposition to running. That is, however, until I found the book “running through the wall” in a book store and I couldn’t stop reading it! This book is extremely inspirational! It covers personal encounters of “everyday folk” and those “elite people” too on their journey through ultra running races. Some of these people have so much going on in their lives (personal and professional) and were still able to challenge themselves in this unique way. I believe it is the people and the stories they bring that are so much of the lure to ultra running for me.

I would not have considered myself a runner a year ago and if someone told me that I would run a marathon someday I would have put money on me not going through with it. I just could not see it in my mind... In my first triathlon the run was only four miles and it took me almost three months of training to be able to go that distance. I am also not a fast runner. My best personal mile time has never been less than 7min even after running for over a year now. However, I have learned that ultra running is not just about speed, it is more about pace, patients and perseverance! I started running more when I realized that if I slowed my pace down a bit I could run further and further. Soon I started mixing in walking/hiking in beautiful places and the miles just seamed to fly by. In November, I completed my first marathon with little training miles behind me but the ultra pace on my mind. I had the best time.

Now I am running my first ultra… How many miles should I put in to be able to complete an ultra without getting a dreaded DNF(did not finish) or suffering so much that I never want to run again? How will the extra miles feel and did I put in the right miles? Although I have done plenty of research, nothing beats personal experience so I will find out what my body and mind will do on Feb 4th at the inaugural TwinPeaks marathon in Orange County. I am signed up for the 50K (about 31miles) so hopefully it will not be too much harder than my marathon but I know that those last five miles will feel like.... well, I dont know what they will feel like but I will find out! ;-)

So, how much training do you have to put in to complete an Ultra? How many miles? How many hours per week? I guess that it would depend on what the total distance of the ultramarathon and how much pain you can withstand! I have read a lot about it and most people seam to agree that for the 50K distance you don’t need to train much more that “normal” marathon training. “Normal” here is the key word.

The question to me now is am I ready? Have I prepared for the distance mentally and physically? Looking back on my running training for the last 15months or so… Basically, since I have started running. I have run an average of two times a week and an average distance of 5.4 miles per week. I don’t think that that is "normal marathon training" but now I can at least look back at my marathon and have some experience to use. When I completed the marathon in November I had still been averaging twice a week runs but I was starting to get the long run in witch I think was so important looking back. I ended up finishing the marathon in just over 4hrs (4:04:40) and I really never felt like I was going to bonk or it was too much for me. Could I have gone an extra five miles that day...

(Running times per week and distance leading up to the Marathon)

I do realize that if I did put in more "training time" I could have run faster or perhaps had less of a recovery time after the race. I did not feel to bad after the marathon but I was so pumped to find another trail run that I ran the Santa Monica 30K the next weekend and realized I was not fully recovered. The heat and the fatigue I had going into that run had me walking more than I did during the marathon. Lesson learned - Run more before and less after a race. Duh!

(my last 3 months of running broken down per run and per week total)

Unfortunately, I have not added more mileage to my running since the marathon and I am still averaging about 20 miles per week total. I can tell myself that I am just "rested" for my first ultra or I can be scared that I didnt prepare... How much of the run is mental? I think that I am more excited about finding out how that feels and what I will do in that last five miles than anything else. Ultra running to me is also about personal challenge and exploration. Is it better to go into the ultra with more rest and be enthusiastic? How much will cross training help? How will my body handle food or my feet the pounding after that much time? There is only one way to find out.

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