For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing advice from top ultramarathons about how to train for and run your first ultramarathon as part of an interview series I participated in with NordicTrack (see part one here and part two of the series here).
Finally, for part three of the interview series (perhaps my personal favorite part), each of the ultra marathoners share their personal experiences from when they ran their first ultramarathon. I think you’ll really enjoy as each one offers a unique look at how they performed, what lessons they learned and everything in between!
Ultramarathoners On What To Know Before Your First Race
It is likely you are one of the first among your running friends to contemplate the leap to ultramarathon running. So if in-person advice and Google searching falls short of what you need, we have tried to anticipate some of the questions you possibly still have about ultra running. These ultramarathon-loving top bloggers were excited to help others achieve a clearer idea on what should be done prior to toeing up at the start-line, and shared the lessons they learned from the first ultramarathons they raced.
“My first ultra was awesome, until it wasn’t… the first 50k was smooth, effortless, and exhilarating running 30+ minutes ahead of 2nd place. The kicker? I was running a 50 miler! I had gone out way too fast, been carrying way too much water, and I should have researched the course a LOT more.
I went off course around mile 37 and did an extra 5 miles. Not only did it frustrate me that I lost the huge lead, it also made me wish I knew the course better. Around mile (for me) 42 my hips were killing me. I rarely trained with a pack or even a handheld for that matter, but on race day I wanted to “make sure” I had enough fluids. The added weight from my 100 oz H2O bladder threw my gait off and after 4-5 hours of running, I was paying for it.
To top it all off, the pace I was going was far from sustainable. It would have been great for a 50k, but the additional 30k (where the race begins for most in a 50 miler) turned into a struggle. I went from being on-pace for a sub 8 hour, 50 mile debut on a mountainous course to walking / limping / dragging my aching body across the finish line (55 miles later) in around 11 hours.
So what did my experience in that first ultra teach my now more experienced self?”
“When I ran my first ultra, I literally knew nothing about them. I was in my early 20’s, had completed a handful of marathons, and paced a friend running his first 50 miler and thought, “that was fun, I should try that.” Two months later, I had signed up for my first 50 miler.
I approached the start line with casual ease, wearing a cotton tank top and shorts, carrying a handheld water bottle and wearing a hat that I had worn during training runs. I didn’t have special trail shoes, a watch, or even a drop bag. It was just me, myself, and the trails. And honestly, I had a pretty great race. I was even decently fast.
That said, I did experience a pretty epic bonk around mile 42. It was purely a nutrition problem as I hadn’t eaten much at the start and likely wasn’t eating much during the actual event. I wish I had known just how important nutrition is when it comes to racing, and wish I had been more prepared when it came to taking in calories and drinking water.”
“I wish I had known how hard it can be physically and mentally for a long time. You know if you ran a 10k, let’s say you start to hurt with 2 miles left, so you are talking 10-15 minutes of suffering left? Even if you are only running 10 minute pace that is 20 minutes of mental and physical struggle.
In an ultra, you could be at mile 70 in a 100 miler and it is getting dark and you have 30 miles left to go in the dark woods, which equates to many hours of suffering. You can’t prepare for that, you just have to experience it.”
“I wish I had known just how important a strong crew team was. I had a last minute crew thrown together, wrong coordinates were handed out, missed crew stations happened, I ran out of water, it was a rough go of it. I wanted to quit the race. I had started walking, sat down for a long while, and had basically given up until a young lady, also named Katie, found me on the course. She gave me water and food and helped me get to the next aid station. Once we reached the aid station, I stopped my watch, sat down, called my mom and told her I quit and to come and get me. As soon as I hung up, everyone at the aid station started cheering me on, saying I could do it, and that I should at least go to the next aid station. I called my mom back, told her to met me at the next aid station. Started my watch back up I ended up running with Katie the last 18 miles. I thought that time spent at the aid station, letting them convince me to continue on took forever. It turns out it was just over 1 minute according to my watch and official time. I never realized before how something as simple as a little encouragement can go such a long way, and that having the proper support can be a huge game changer.”
The Root Of It All
While you can continue to research more info about ultramarathons to find helpful training advice, some things have to be learned through personal trial and error. Some of those lessons might be painfully difficult, to the point where you are unable to even finish your first ultra. However, with the insights shared by these running bloggers, you can be better prepared for what to expect. So keep in mind their excellent words of wisdom regarding nutrition, pacing, course-learning, building a race crew, and training.
Each race is a unique experience. This is doubly true when it comes to ultramarathon racing. However, runners share many common experiences and we hope receiving advice from more experienced runners have bolstered your own preparations. More than anything, the message is clear: if these runners can make through an ultra, so can you!
Visit The Blogging Ultra Runners
NordicTrack was excited to participate in this interview series, and is grateful to the bloggers who shared their insights and knowledge on the subject of ultrarunning. Should you be interested in learning more about the contributors to this series, feel free to drop by their sites!
Josh Arthur – http://www.runjosharthur.com/
Katie Bassett – http://sunkissedredhead.blogspot.com/
Will Cooper – http://www.willrunlonger.com/
Doug Hay – http://www.rockcreekrunner.com/
Travis Macy – http://www.travismacy.com/
Thomas Reiss – http://thomasreiss.com/
Jen Segger – http://jensegger.com/
Hope you enjoyed y’all!
Stay sweaty friends!