“You Must Be Mad”: Me Talking About Preparing For An Ultra Marathon
Disclaimer : this is a rambling post by a (slow) noob for fellow noobs. I won’t pretend to know it all, this is just a post comparing and sharing what I’ve read, tried and experienced.
So I run. First I ran and completed a 10K. Then I move on to half-marathons. Then I ran marathons. I like adding the distance but I don’t find joy in getting PB (personal best) after PB at races (hubby call it laziness to run fast). SO WHAT NEXT?
Know exactly why on earth you want to do an Ultra marathon. Like really. WHY?
|photo credit : Chan WK
WHY do our eyes light up and we grin maniacally when we talk about Ultra running?
My humble opinion is that you should want to do it for the joy of running, the need to be better and push oneself; if not faster then farther. Run for the challenge. Nice to be able to do both though. Fast and far. Very very far.^^
Finishing a 50K run is less stressful than trying to complete a sub-6 hour marathon for me. Heh heh
Plenty of articles about Ultra marathons advice runners to find the flattest course they can find for the initial ultra training and events.
Running 42.195km is hard enough. To delve into more than that ain’t gonna be a walk in the park (well, Back 2 Endurance is one event where you can actually walk around a park for 12 hours, but you get my meaning la…)
Some scoff at doing loops and flat course and would rather challenge themselves to a more challenging course with equally challenging cut-off time like Titi50 / Titi100 for their first Ultra but that’s their prerogative. Just don’t cry foul if you can’t finish within the cut-off time, scold organizer for not bestowing the finisher title to you and then stop wanting to do an Ultra altogether. Pfffttt…
Again, know your objective.
I just want to run long hours without worrying too much during this initial stage so I was content with Watergate 16-hour and Back 2 Endurance. Both have similar format. They were done in loops and with generous time limit. You just run as far as you can within that time frame. No minimum distance imposed and no maximum distance limit either.
For me who want to build up mileage slowly and steadily, these are two great events to enter to build up my mileage and get me used to long hours on my feet.
There’s Nuang Ultra for those who wants to do/try trail with elevation. It’s another race with loop format and with 12-hour time-limit. I’ll join that next year. ^^
We are now very lucky that we have plenty of ultra events to choose from in Malaysia without needing to travel overseas. Watergate 16-hour, Titi50 & Titi100, Nuang Ultra, Starlight Ultra, Penang Ultra, The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT) in Sabah, Putrajaya 100, to name a few.
After deciding that we’re going to do an ultra and registering for an ultra, then it’s time to seriously look at our training plan.
If you plan to “just” finish a 50K road Ultra, I guess whatever training you’re doing for a marathon is good. I’ve read a few articles that state that one does not need to run a marathon before doing an Ultra BUT one does need solid mileage base. At the very least, one need to enjoy spending a whole lot of time on one’s feet. And when one train for an Ultra, do note that one don’t and shouldn’t view a 10K run as a long run anymore. By no means it is an LSD. Weekday run, yes. Long run = 30K. #gelakjahat
Reading is good. Far too often I had to listen to runners who “bragged” about not reading up and just following what others do. For me, listen to experienced runners’ advice and battle stories. Soak them in. But DO DO DO read up. On ultra stories, on other runners experience, on training programs, on their philosophy. Do make a point to gather as much knowledge as you can. After all, it will get us motivated and inspired plus you need your brains while running you know.
I admit I didn’t train specifically for either Watergate 16-hour or the 12-hour Back 2 Endurance but I did make sure I have a few long runs prior to each event. Anyway, both are road ultra events. If one registered for a trail ultra, then please by all means train by running trails.
I entered Watergate 16-hour in a rather foolhardy way. I had just recovered from an injury in September last year and it took me ages to actually want to bother to train or run so I aimed to finish in a very conservative way.
I did Putrajaya Night Marathon in October last year without doing much running and I tell you, I can feel the effect from lack of training after KM25. It was just a matter of gritting my teeth and getting it over and done with. Padan muka lah… but fortunately somehow PBed jugalah, thanks to my hubby who can actually finish a marathon faster by walking than me running one!
My target for Watergate 16-hour was to just do 50K and I did. I ran half of it at a slow 8-9min/km pace and speed-walked the balance. Finished it happily and in one piece, in 10hours 26minutes and didn’t need to take a day off or MC on Monday. Bwahaha
Plus, I can still run a half marathon the week after that in Melaka, doing the Skyhawk Nature Run. A 2:44 half-marathon, which is for my own standard not bad at all. So, I consider it a success.
By the way, for the record, I do take offense at people who expect me to suffer doing this. I don’t need to chafe, blister, get injured, cry, or whatever simply because it was my first 50K. Just because you did, doesn’t mean I have to. Sekian. #flipshair
My target for Back 2 Endurance was to stay on my feet for 12-hours. I did. I ran 62km that day (though I probably could’ve added another loop if I just ran a bit more that day… but no point of crying over split milk. Next time try harder and stop giving excuses. Huhuhu)
I didn’t do much running during the weekdays (I keep on skipping tempo run days) and training for Back 2 Endurance was by doing:
1. a 3-hour run around Lake Garden in the morning and continuing with another 2-hour run later that night, four weeks before the event
2. Cyberjaya Night Half Marathon, three weeks before and
3. two weeks of doing 4.5-5hours long run/walk with hubby. It was race specific training to handle the heat so we started at 8.00am and finish by 1.00pm and purposely chose to run in shadeless route in Putrajaya.
Here’s my take. You can’t run from 4.00am – 9.00am during training thinking that it’ll be good enough for you to run through the whole day at an Ultra event.
|muka merah lari pukul 11 pagi
Actually you can, but don’t complain about not being able to stand the heat. Just like you shouldn’t complain about a brutal hilly route knowing fully well what you signed up for but neglect hill trainings (ini kena batang hidung sendiri. Ouch!)
Ultra events are not for whiners. Not for divas either. Period.
An Ultra is also not where you’d throw temper tantrums because the organizer didn’t place water stations at every 2km mark for you. Gittew.
Race organizer will put a list of advised items to bring. Follow it. Prepare for any eventualities. Ask around for advice. Test your gears. ALL of them before the race. Prepare a drop bag. Double check that drop bag.
For ladies, be prepared for any event that might coincide with “that time of the month”. I was “lucky” enough to experience them during two of my HMs and one FM so when I had my period the day before Back 2 Endurance, I kinda know what to expect and prepare for the run the next morning.
Prepare for chafing ladies, if you wear a sanitary pad. But anyway, I wear both tampon and sanitary pads during races, just for peace of mind.
Had the niggling feeling of an impending chafing after just an hour of running at Back 2 Endurance despite already slathering chafing-prone areas with Vaseline so I stopped to put on some more. Make sure you have your own Vaseline/Body Glide or whatever because the medics may not have them.
Oh yeah, if you’re the type that tape their feet to prevent blister like I do, bring a roll of tape along too. Remember, if you stop for solat, you need to take them off and put some back on before starting your run again.
If you tend to cramp on heavy days like me, run at a comfortable pace. Either that or if you can’t handle it, just don’t start that day.
To tell you the truth, I took painkiller on the first day of my period to help alleviate the pain last Saturday. It wasn’t something I normally take as I had stopped taking painkillers many moons ago but I did last week and thankfully, it didn’t come with any side effect during my run.
The rule of thumb about taking anything before a race is: don’t try anything new. But sometimes we had to. Sometimes we’re lucky. Other times, we may suffer because of it.
All that running you do prior to an Ultra should be your guide to gauge your hydration need. Do read up on this and experiment. There’s no hard and fast rule about it. I myself don’t take gels. Chomps makes me thirsty so I avoid them too. I don’t like them and I haven’t tried those honey sticks many rave about just yet. *mengada*
Start a race hydrated (and empty-bladdered).
Loops are the best for those who are still unsure and learning about gear and hydration because with loops (2.5km checkpoint/waterstation for Watergate, 2.3km for Back 2 Endurance and 5km for Nuang Ultra), the distance between each checkpoint/waterstation aren’t that far. Any mistake can be much more easily rectified if one do loops.
Imagine forgetting about something or not having enough fuelling and the next waterstation/check point is 10km apart. Ain’t gonna be pretty, I tell you.
Test what you can take before an Ultra marathon. I finished a plate of pasta for dinner before the start of Watergate 16-hour at 8.00pm. I ate a handful of nuts (my bird food, as hubby calls it) with a cup of cocoa drink for Back 2 Endurance.
I’m pretty bad with loading prior to a race. I just eat normal during the week/days leading to both events but I do try to replenish fluid and food intake properly after a run.
I usually take a piece of Hammer Perpeteum Solid to chew on at the start of a run (HM, FM, Ultra) but I pretty much survived on solid food provided by race organiser and friends thereafter. There’s a runner I know who only needed raisins for Back 2 Endurance on top of solid food (nasi lemak, pizza) for lunch.
I popped in grapes that were so kindly provided by PACat group during the first 40K of Back 2 Endurance. Had a packet of nasi lemak at 1.00pm and survived the rest by drinking copious amount of isotonic and coke and eating watermelons (gotta be careful of over-hydrating though). Had a slice of orange but felt orange and me running don’t work well. I don’t eat bananas during my runs jugak… Choosy choosy. Hahaha
Some runners take salt-capsules. Some take anti-fatigue capsules. Some put ORS in their drinks to replace the sodium they lost while running and sweating. If you think it’ll help you, try them. I myself dunno how to use them. I used to put ORS in my drinks but too lazy to bother now. I also used to take Hammer Endurolytes before but didn’t see much point since I don’t really cramp up or anything.
Apart from taking Glucosamine and Fish Oil daily, I don’t take other supplements and I do not take recovery supplements after my long runs.
Food consumption is important when it comes to Ultra marathon (now you understand why I always have this craving for lamb and red meat after my long runs, yeah?) because it is the main tool for repairing and muscle fibre re-growth. Milk is good for some. Chocolate milk is even better people say. I can’t take them. Lactose intolerant lah… Soy milk, that I can & enjoy. Taufufah even better. ^^
But I do take malt drinks and enjoy maybe two half-boiled eggs. Both are easy to consume even while still fatigued from a run. Telan saja…
The Ultra Marathon
After all the preparation, the one most important thing to me is the ability to go out there and enjoy my run (and my walks in between) and feeling accomplished doing it because of my hard work that had paid off.
|photo credit : Chan WK
I do not call myself a marathoner before. I will not go out and call myself an ultra runner now either. But I will proudly say that I am a runner and I will hopefully continue to run more and more in the future. Sometimes a bit fast. Sometimes a bit slow. One thing for sure, I will try to always run with a BIG smile on my face.
p.s. all the best to those running this weekend. Wish I had a race too. *itchy feet mode*