If you have a love for running and determination, an ultra is within your reach. Follow these eight steps to get on track to your first ultra.
Speed is not key in the world of ultrarunning. Walking breaks are the strategy of many ultrarunners, especially on the inclines. As a first-time ultrarunner, you are advised to start at the back of the pack and go slow.
Seasoned ultrarunner Ray Zahab has run across the Sahara Desert and completed a bucket load of other ultrarunning adventures. He feels that a person should choose a race he or she feels committed to, but also pick a race that has reasonable mileage.
Consider: the run’s length, trail types, and conditions; if it has well-stocked aid stations; if the cut-off time is realistic, whether you run better on a hilly or flat course; and how close to home the race is.
Ultras come in all shapes and sizes. There are mountainous courses with never-ending ascent and descent, courses as flat as flapjacks, and ones with mud, sand, roots, rocks, and river crossings.
Ultrarunners simulate the tiredness that their bodies will encounter during the ultra by running long for two days in a row. The idea is to train your body and mind to continue, even after they indicate they have nothing left.
Calories are vital in finishing an ultra. This is why most ultramarathons have well-stocked aid stations along the race course. From M&Ms to salted potatoes and olives, aid stations are oases. As a rule of thumb, try to take in 300 calories an hour.
If you have run a marathon, you can run an ultramarathon. You need to stay in that marathon state-of-mind: “One foot in front of the other, week after week, and I will reach my destination.”
Positive peer pressure and its infectious vibe will keep you on track with your training. Seek out like-minded runners and talk shop with them. The love of the ultra is contagious.
The number-one rule of recovering right is to take it easy. Reward yourself with occasional days off from running or very easy days. Running too fast too soon can result in injury.
So, is the Slam within your reach? Past finishers agree that a person needs physical and mental training, time, money, and good logistics to find success.
Seven-time finisher, Dan Brenden, believes that to finish, a person needs to set priorities. He says the first goal is to finish. Second, finish without injuries, blisters, and overly sore muscles. Last, don’t get sick by exhausting yourself mentally. This may mean slowing down so you do not jeopardize the next run.
Gorman wishes more top runners would target the Slam as a must-do event. He suggests, “Use up all of your vacation time around and in between the race events and enjoy your free time visiting various parts of the country. Train light in the winter, hard in the spring, and recover even more intensely between the events.”
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