Jason's Ultra Advice

Photo Courtesy Muskegon Chronicle 


Advice from a newbie that really doesn't know what he's talking about 

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This is a collection of hodge-podge things I have learned in my relatively short ultrarunning career.  It will be most useful to those with no ultramarathon experience.  Ultra vets will just snicker at my rather obvious advice...

Training

  • It is important to training in similar conditions to the race you are training for.  If the race has hills, train on hills.  If the trail has a lot of roots and rocks, train on trails with lots of roots and rocks.
  • Train in a range of temperatures you MAY experience on race day.  You will use different strategies depending on the conditions, be prepared for that variable.
  • Weight training REALLY helps, especially with muscle fatigue and recovery time.
  • Rest and recovery are the most important component to any training program.  As someone more knowledgeable than myself once said- "Being under-prepared is better than being over-trained." 
  •  Figure out how much you need to drink based on various levels of effort in different weather conditions.  I've made the mistake of drinking too much in cool weather which resulted in a lot of lost time urinating excessively.
  • Test A LOT of different foods, gels, and sport drinks to find what works for you.  After the miles start to pile up, you may find some foods more palatable than others.
  • Practice using nature as a rest room.  Pooping in the woods , while not complicated, should be practiced.  No details needed here.
  • Practice dealing with issues that may arise (blisters, chafing, nausea, etc.).  This will help you confront these issues if they arise on the run.

Racing (disclaimer- I have only run 50 milers thus far, my one attempt at a 100 miler ended with a DNF at 64.7 miles...)

  • Start slow!  The greatest mistake I've made (and see other people make) is to start too fast, then bonk later in the race.
  • Walk all hills.  Running hills, especially early in a race,  is a recipe for disaster. 
  • Eat early and often.  Adequate caloric intake will help later in the race.
  • Stay adequately hydrated.  You should know how much you need to drink based on training. 
  • Keep your electrolyte intake balanced to your fluid intake.  Consuming too much salt usually causes gastrointestinal distress, consuming too little can cause hyponatremia (possibly fatal).   
  • Any area that protrudes or experiences some friction can and probably will chafe.  This includes thighs, groin, toes, armpits, nipples, butt crack, etc.  Find a good anti-chafing product.  I'd recommend BodyGlide or SportWax.
  • Running ultras usually involves some degree of pain.  Learn to manage it without drugs.  I recommend repeating a positive mantra, like "I feel great!"
  • Have a plan for potential problems (blisters, chafing, cuts/bruises, bugs, rain, nausea, diarrhea, etc.)  Having a plan going into a race may help prevent a DNF.

Gear 

  • Test all of your gear prior to the race.  This includes clothing, anti-chafing measures, anti-blister measures, shoes (for you Luddites that insist on wearing them...), hydration systems, etc.
  • Be prepared if gear breaks/ gets lost/ is ineffective.  Be prepared with contingency plans.