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Goofy Ultra Training Ideas

Posted by on May 3, 2011 | 8 Comments

Western States is 53 days away.  That gives me a little over nine weeks to dial in my training.  So far, everything is going according to plan.  I divide my training into various elements that will ultimately help me over the 100 miles.  Here are the basic elements of my training:

  • Long runs– Usually one per week ranging from 20-35 miles.  At some point I will include a long back-to-back.  The long runs also includes two races (Mind the Ducks 12 Hour and Pineland Farms 50 miler.)
  • Hill work– Again, usually once per week.  I run up and down big hills… it’s not too scientific.
  • Crosstraining– This usually involves Crossfit-like exercises done in intervals.  I’m especially fond of burpee pullups, air squats, walking lunges, calf raisers, and walking up a sand hill carrying a slosh tube.

I also try to add in some other training elements to prepare for the conditions I’ll likely face, such as:

  • Heat acclimation– I’ll dress with extra layers for all runs to help simulate the heat of the California valleys and reduce sodium loss via sweat.  If I can swing it, I also like saunas.
  • Fat utilization– I’m doing this right now by fasting.  I will go a period of time without eating while still maintaining a normal exercise schedule.  This also helps shed a few extra pounds.  The first fasting period lasted 25 hours.  The second will be about 48, and the third will be 72 hours.  My weight goal is to get to about 170 by Western States (from 190.)
  • Low-sodium diet– I find limiting sodium significantly lowers sodium loss via sweat, which helps reduce the dependence on s-caps and the like.
  • Sleep deprivation– This is tricky with work and kids, but at some point I will stay up all night then maintain my normal schedule.  In many of my previous ultras, this was accomplished with babies.  Having children that sleep through the night definitely hinders the sleep deprivation training…
  • Gear experimentation– On every training run, I will test the clothing and gear I plan on using for the race.
  • Strategy experimentation– I will also experiment with a variety of strategies.  Currently I’m testing out the theory of speeding up versus walking during races.  I’m also experimenting with rolling leg muscles with a rolling pin in the middle of a run.
  • Eat a lot prior to and during the long runs–  I alternate this technique between fasts.  About every other long run, I will practice eating a copious amount of food.  The goal is to acclimate to eating and digesting food while running.  Generally the human body is pretty bad at this, but training makes a significant difference.  The ultimate test- eat an entire Little Caesar’s Hot ‘N Ready pepperoni pizza prior to a run, then eat a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese meal during the run.

I have a few other things I occasionally pull out in training, but this is the gist of my plans.

How about everyone else?  What do you do for ultra training?


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  1. David Sutherland
    May 3, 2011

    I live in Philly so I guess I need to find a hydration pack with big enough pockets to hold a cheese steak or two…

  2. Brandon M
    May 3, 2011

    I just read a bunch of blogs about ultra running to train for my first 100. I know it will work. I learn from everyone else so I don’t have to experience the pain for myself.

    • Jason
      May 3, 2011

      Brandon, the interesting thing is the variability of what different people use to get to the finish line. For every problem that could arise, there are at least hundreds of “proven” solutions. For me, this is the appeal of the long ultras… it’s much more than just running for a long time.

  3. Scott Hadley
    May 3, 2011

    Thanks for this, Jason. I especially like the fasting idea for increasing fat metabolism. Do you have a strategy for starting and stopping the fast?

    I also love the rolling pin idea – but you knew I would!

    • Jason
      May 3, 2011

      Scott- I start the fast after eating a huge meal, then end the fast via the same methodology. It works well. 🙂

      The rolling pin idea has worked very well mid-run, at least on my fairly short long runs. Thanks for that one!

  4. Jason
    May 3, 2011

    Dave- this is where i learned many things about running ultras:

    You’re right, hydration and caloric intake are two of the most important elements. My recommendation- just do lots of running and eating. 🙂 Oh, try to find out what food they’ll have at the aid stations, then practice with those foods.

    • Dave
      May 4, 2011

      Thank you for the link. Okay I will keep that in mind thank you!

  5. Dave
    May 3, 2011

    Well I am doing a 50k this October, and I have no idea what I am going to do just yet. I plan on following you and others closely to figure out different strategies for the race. I know its only a 50k but my longest run so far is 10m so its still new to me.
    My biggest concern is water and caloric intake.