Running a 100-160-km race can be challenging for some runners, some Ultra-Races are along technical terrain and sometimes with intense weather and high altitude.
For your training, you must focus not only the plans for your PT, but also the type of course you’re racing on.
Tips for PT & Ultra-Race Success
1. Strong Legs
The first factor is leg stability, strength and survival. Often, many runners think about cardiovascular fitness when training for a race, long races like ultra-marathons you have to focus on the ability of your legs to handle the impact across the race and your cardiovascular fitness, imagine how many steps you take in an Ultra. You can have great cardiovascular fitness but if your legs can’t handle the pounding then you will crash and struggle to finish.
Good training is to develop legs that can handle the distance, such as sustainable and consistent weekly kilometres, long runs, back to back long runs, race-specific long runs, on similar terrain as your race, and good leg/core strengthening exercise workouts.
2. Mental Positivity/Strength
Physical training is super important, but also a lot of ultra-marathon training is to control your mind/brain to the extreme mental suffering that occurs in the race. It’s just really hard to run for hours and hours and it gives the mind a lot of time to either be in a positive mindset or have lots of negative issues.
You need to be a strong runner, both physically and mentally, to perform an Ultra-Race. If you have a strong positive mind, especially in the second half, you can avoid the intense fatigue feelings your brain is sending you instead of what many runners do and that is slow down later in the race. There will be sections of the race where you feel excited and motivated and others where you are feeling unhappy. The training must help you develop strategies to deal with the mental down periods, so you keep moving forward.
One of the toughest parts of ultra-marathoning is fueling. Runners have enough fat within their body to power for hours and hours but even at ultra-pace, you also burn carbohydrates and those carbohydrate stores (glycogen) are limited. Also, the brain needs carbs as well so you’re fueling not just for your muscles but also for your brain. A happy brain likes to keep pushing. An unhappy brain sends lots of fatigue messages to your body. Fueling helps keep your brain strong and happy.
Proper body type fueling versions are different types of fueling for many different runners, so it may take some fueling trials and testing to find what works for you. A good recommendation is to experiment a lot of types of fueling to find what works for you in different conditions. Some fueling might work great in cool conditions, but you may need another version in hot conditions. Some might work great early in the race, but a different strategy is needed later in the race. Training and testing is the key to figure out what your body needs and can process.
Equipment can be a huge performance booster or limiter in Ultra-Races. Get the right gear and it will make the Ultra-Race easier and feel better. Get it wrong and it can be a tough Ultra-Race.
For shorter races, we usually only need to choose the right type of shoes and clothes, and hydration. But for Ultras the gear access and options are a higher level,
You may need to change clothes a few times.
You may need to change footwear and socks.
You may need to carry more fluids/nutrition for a part of the race, and less for another part.
You may need hiking poles for the steep climbs but no need for flat sections.
And don’t forget about a good headlamp. Many Ultra-Races involve running in the dark and that’s another important option to have access to. Using not a good quality headlamp might affect the running pace and maybe causing some injuries and affecting your race PT.
Tips for a Successful Ultra-Marathon Plan
Learning the elements for success is one thing, but we also need to know how to address them in training.
1. Sustainable and Consistent Kilometres with Down Weeks
For good Ultra-Race training, to select a training plan that is sustainable will help you be more consistent. To focus on a training plan according to your life and work schedule will help sustain good runs, avoid injuries and stay positive.
A great training plan must have some flexibility so you can adjust it based on how you’re feeling and your life schedule. As you get more comfortable adjusting to your plan, you can decrease the risk of injuries and muscle soreness. So it will provide some good runs.
A good training plan is to add some “down weeks” every third or fourth week. A down week is a reduction in training load by 15-25% to allow the musculoskeletal system to recover and for the mind to recharge before the next training schedule.
2. Long Runs
A proper plan for a long race needs regular long runs.
To fatigue the leg muscles which will increase the leg strength.
To learn to burn more fat and spare your limited carbohydrate stores, which will increase the carbohydrate storage.
To expose the brain to suffering from running for hours and hours, so your brain gets used to more positivity for Ultras.
And 8-10 weeks before the race, to alternate a regular long run at an easy effort with fast finish long runs, where you run the middle to end of the run at a faster pace and then try to run the last 10-15 minutes as fast as you can. These fast finish long runs are good racing training as they give you lots of practice at running fast while suffering. That’s exactly what you’ll face in the race, so getting used to it in your training runs is very helpful.
3. Back to Back Long Runs
Not only are long runs important but because it can be hard to prepare for such long races in one run, another great strategy is to include back to back long runs. To do a long run on one day, then follow the next day with another shorter distance long run. These back to back long runs really help develop strong legs and a strong mind, both key to a successful Ultra-Race.
4. Race Training Trials
A great training plan includes goal pace workouts. Planning your goal pace keeps you from going too fast too early in the race. Goal pace and timing workouts make you more efficient. Your brain learns what goal pace feels like when you are fresh at the start of a run as well as when you are fatigued later in a run. Once you start the Ultra-Race, focus on a comfortable stable running pace which will be a good warm up for an Ultra.
With Ultra-Racing, you also need to practice running on the same terrain at the same time of day in similar weather and using the same gear, so you really know how your body is going to react and feel in the race.
You also need to learn which pace you need to focus on if running over high elevation or technical terrain where fast pace isn’t a good idea.
5. Workout Options
A good training plan is variety of workouts. To perform the same type of workout week after week is not a great type of training, your body and mind get bored. A better option is to have lots of variety of workouts sessions, some that challenge your cardio, stamina, some that challenge your speed, some hill running, muscle strengthening and some that challenge your running form. To perform some good strength/core workouts 2-3 times/week will help improve your running performance.
6. Practice Fueling
Fueling is one of the elements for race success, so a great training plan must also include some practice for your fueling. To add fueling to your training will make you feel stronger with higher energy level on Ultra-Race day.
7. Pre-Run Warm Up & Post-Run Stretches
To reduce the risk of running injuries, it is crucial to perform some good pre-run warm up dynamic stretches and post-run stretches. To activate and strengthen our muscles pre-run will help support good running form and avoid muscle soreness or injuries. And post-run stretches will help release the muscles tightness so they are not too tight for the next run.
Have a Wonderful, Good, Fun Ultra-Race!