Browsing: Training and Racing
Summertime means the mountains are open for runners and hikers, and the majority of the high alpine races are during this time of year. However, many runners, especially city slickers, don’t have equivalent climbs where they can train. Fortunately, there are ways to prepare for the more mountainous races no matter where you live.
Aid stations are a critical component of ultras. They serve as not only the lifeline for many runners, but are also a telling reflection of a caring community. They are composed of volunteers giving hours and most importantly driving energy to runners intent on achieving what to many may seem ludicrous.
It’s universally understood that there’s nothing easy about running and racing ultra distances. The mastery the headspace is more important to cultivate than the training miles that we put in in pursuit of ultra glory. If we come up short, we sometimes think that had we trained more, or harder, then maybe our outcome might have been better, when what really mattered was our mental and psychological approach to the task.
Sure, runners can get snarky in the heat of the moment—at race officials or at their own crew and pacers when things don’t go their way. But this has more to do with the stress of the event, and having their needs (however illogical or self-entitled they may be) properly met.
One of the simplest improvements a runner can make to his or her training is to approach every run with a simple question: “What am I trying to achieve today?” It sounds obvious, but it’s all too easy to get caught up aiming for weekly mileage targets for no better reason than because they sound impressive.
Efficiency is a very good way of gauging a runner’s aerobic fitness. The problem is that measuring efficiency in a lab is not only inconvenient, it’s also expensive. Fortunately, there’s another way of measuring efficiency that doesn’t require a lab and can be done with common, everyday training technology.
Bill Tharion, a Research Psychologist with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, was explaining to me some research that he was conducting on the psychological factors that limit endurance performance. Besides just finding out what physical factors determined how well. and for how long, people would perform.
How you handle aid stations can have a significant impact on how well your race goes. If you are speeding through a 50k looking for a PR, the emphasis at the aid station should be on how quickly and efficiently you can load up on food and water and get back out on the course. Taking the food with you, for instance, can save a lot of time.
The sun is barely up as fifty-odd runners gather for the Fort Ordnance 100K in Monterey, CA. The gun fires and they patter off, mentally setting their sights on the finish line 62 miles away. For one runner this race from dawn to dusk, literally outrunning the sun, is one she’s been on her whole life.
What’s the most overworked piece in your ultra kit? In mine, it’s the elevation profile – marked up with notes, folded in a baggie, and stuffed it in a pocket. During long ultras, I pull it out too often and see how far and how much climbing till the next aid station. By the finish, it looks like an ancient scroll, as beat up as my toes.
There’s truly gold in them thar hills and it ain’t the shiny kind. It’s the super-efficient, multi-faceted, demanding workout kind that hills deliver. Lifting yourself up the slopes is strength training. Cycling through the hard climbs and descents is like interval training. Throw in some uphill sprints and you replicate speed and fartlek training as well. The trip up the hill puts a tremendous load on your hamstrings and calves. The trip down will strengthen your quads. Muscles, tendons and ligaments in the lower body are all strengthened in concert with one another.
As best I can tell, the GPS mile is somewhere between eight and nine tenths of a mile as measured by a steel tape, a wheel, a surveyor or even a laser beam. Even at a race held on a paved, certified, one-mile loop, the race director was accosted by runners during the event, swearing that the loop distance was far more than a mile… their GPS measurements proved it.
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by Dr. Duncan Simpson, Barry University As a runner and a professor of sport, exercise and performance psychology, I am…