Training has begun.
Michelle and I staked out on the computers 15 minutes prior to the Vermont 50 registration and signed up the second it was available. We both made it into the race just fine (a concern for her as the mountain bike portion sold out in just over an hour) and have now begun finalizing preparations for the trip itself.
And training. And let me tell you, this is a whole ‘nother world. Granted, it’s super exciting and I have regained that wide-eyed sense of starting fresh with this whole running deal as I’ve had to relearn so much in order to properly prepare for both this distance and terrain. Besides putting one foot in front of the other and running lots of miles, there isn’t a lot that is similar to normal marathon training.
First there is fueling. You can’t expect to run fast and get to the next aid station with your glycogen stores still firing away as you fill them back up for the next stretch like you do in a normal marathon. No sir. You need to be prepared for varied efforts depending on the hills and conditions and, even more, the time spent out on the course. In a normal marathon you can bet everything goes south at 20 miles and the last 6 will be a fight to best use your depleting glycogen stores, but if you haven’t prepared for an ultramarathon and your stores are bottoming at 26…well, you might as well throw in the towel right then and there. You’ve gotta fuel heavily (or so I’m understanding) to keep pushing past 26 miles and way past 26 miles. 26 is halfway.
For my training runs I’ve been strapping gu’s to my shorts like I’m loading up for a serious marathon attempt and taking em down every 3 miles, trying to get my body accustomed to processing that necessary fuel on a repeated basis each run. I’ve also been taking a hand held water bottle on every run, just trying to get used to the annoying imbalance, but such necessary hydration, in one hand.
Then there is the gear. Do I use a hand held water bottle? Just one or two? Do I wear a fuel belt? And what kind of shoes do I wear? I’ve been intently studying the various types of trail shoes to figure out which will work best for me, something that will be race-light, yet supportive enough to take the pounding I tend to inflict on my legs during trail runs. I know minimalist shoes won’t work for my aggressive stride, but I can’t afford to have any excessive weight wearing me down later into the run either. I’m still undecided what I’m going to choose until I do a little more testing.
Then, most importantly, there is training. I’m really lost on this. The little research I’ve done into training has shown that the mileage and types of runs I’m doing now are at the peak of the recommended mileage logs for running an ultra…but I’m also not training to just finish as the logs are designed. I’m training to run fast and far and hopefully, with a massive amount of luck, finish on top, though I say this never having run this distance before and ESPECIALLY not on this type of terrain. Just like my first marathon, I have no idea what this is going to do to my body during the run…but I’m going to find out!
Speaking of finding out and ultramarathon ultramistakes. I went for a trail run in Southern Indiana at the beginning of this week and decided, literally, at the beginning of the run that I would run for 4 hours. Why? I don’t know really…just because I know other ultra runners do the same and I need to up my TIME spent on the trail instead of worrying about mileage. The problem is though, I don’t have enough experience running so long and so forget to temper my pace at the start of the run, instead just blasting myself up and down the hills like I normally do. Well…that doesn’t work. Not only was it incredibly humid during the run, but I was also pounding myself at an unsustainable pace, which necessitated a bit of walking towards the end and a very slowed pace to finish. I even took a massive flying fall on the last 800 downhill as I was unaware that I wasn’t lifting my legs as high as I though I was. I finished the run at 3 hours and 36 minutes, far under the 4 hours I was hoping to go….and now 2 days later the muscular pain has set in and I’m unable to run….though I am going back out on the trails tomorrow to work this out.
So anyways, I’ve got a lot of learning to do this time around and no matter the mistakes I make, this is exciting. New frontiers, new efforts, new terrain, new preparations…and if I get this all worked out by September 25th, maybe a new completed distance and PR.
Please, if you have any solid advice for me to consider, do send it my way.