Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Prepping for the first 50, Runner's Advice - Training

While technically Diego and I entered his first 50-miler in May (story is still in draft mode, I need to get working on it), I wasn't that optimistic about our finishing, and truly did the ride in order to 1) ride with companions I knew I could trust, who were going slow and 2) just see how far we could get while everyone was still happy. As things worked out, Diego performed brilliantly for me for 25 very tough miles, and then was a little off at the vet check. The vet thought it was first one leg, then changed her mind to the other after a one-hour recheck (so very minor), and although we were cleared to go on, I chose to pull him rather than risk 5 year old unseasoned legs on something iffy.

BUT... now it's late summer, and the fall rides are coming up. And I find myself joyously free of the restrictions and commitment of school. So I have my eye set on getting to a 50-miler or two before the seasons turn for the worse and the snow starts to fly again. With that mindset, I turn back to one of my most favorite resources, Ultra RUNNERS. These are the men and women who, like us equestrians, aren't satisfied with the marathon distance and complete races of 25 - 100 miles (or more in some cases), on foot. If anyone knows how to train and prepare for distance events, its this crowd.

Some caveats, many runners are putting in much higher mileage, on much less rest, than I would use for my horses. Equines in general need more rest/light days, but, are also able to go farther a bit easier. After doing all the stuff I did with Sinatra, I have a hard time conditioning myself mentally to doing shorter rides. To me, pretty much anything under 10 miles is wasted time/effort (aka "junk miles"). I always preferred to get out and go longer (even if it was slower). I guess because that's what worked with my schedule, and what I thought was best for the type of riding I was going to eventually ask my horse to do. I need to change my mindset a bit while I'm still building Diego's base and realize that even if we didn't really GO anywhere, the fact that I got him out and rode for an hour (or 3-4, even if it is in circles in the arena, or very slow down the trail) is all still beneficial to him. However, I don't believe that is the type of riding that is going to be MOST beneficial to us in completing our first 50. On to the training advice:

Karl King:
If you took a survey of how list members trained prior to their first 50 miler, you'd probably find a wide range of training plans. Which says that there is no one sure-fire way, but many ways to prepare. So, don't agonize over details.

Most runners come to this sport with a metabolism trained for speed: I.E. burn lots of carbohydrate fast. What you need for ultras is a metabolism trained for endurance: I.E. be stingy on carbo burning and burn fat instead. Any damn fool can run fast for 20 miles. To run well for 50 requires a specific type of response from the endocrine system. You can train your body to deliver that, but only if you run long enough to get tired and hungry. For most runners that implies doing 3 or 4 runs in the range of 25-30 miles.
The same holds true for our horses, we need to condition their systems to the longer distance.

At the same time as you are training your endocrine system to respond to stress, you need to train your mind to get an endurance attitude. Those same 25-30 mile long runs will do that. One needs to experience the fatigue, and develop the resolve to run on in spite of it, learning that by relaxing and concentrating on form, you can keep moving forward when any sensible person would have stopped.

When my longest run was 13 miles, a marathon seemed nearly impossible.
When my longest run was 26 miles, 50 miles seemed nearly impossible.
When my longest run was 50 miles, 100 miles seemed nearly impossible.
When my longest run was 100 miles, 50 miles seemed like a nice, long training run.
Don't let the distance scare you; run from aid station to aid station
(or vet check to vet check, or even water stop to water stop) and the distance will take care of itself.

Andy Mac:
Practice eating and drinking and carrying water. Very important.

Just keep moving. Depending on the cutoff, you don't have to move very fast to finish a 50 miler. At Ice Age, the required pace was just under 15 minutes/mile. You could hike that fast, although it might be hard to keep it up for 8 hours. But you don't have to run most of it or run too fast to finish; the key is to just keep going.

Eric Robinson:
I am faster when using a walk mix. Beyond the standard stuff (walk the significant uphills), I have a very simple rule: never run more than ten minutes in a row! My walk break might be 30 seconds or 10 minutes; I generally walk until I feel a palpable recovery (which in the middle stages of an ultra takes maybe 2-3 minutes). The ten minutes of running is not a "goal", but a maximum. If I've been running for 7 minutes but there is a slight incline ahead (one that I might otherwise be tempted to run), I will probably take my walk break immediately and then mentally reset the clock to zero.

The 1 hour run 10 minute walk that you describe (i.e. 60/10) would be way too long of a run for me; by the time I got around to walking, the hour of running would have done its damage.

It takes your body about three weeks to adapt to a long run. But you can do other things that respond to training much more quickly. E.g. practice walking technique, strengthening, maybe some faster running (speed work).

Quotes from:

1 comment:

elsietee said...

I really like Eric Robinson's advice!

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