You’d think the hardest thing about training for an ultra would be all the running.
60, 70, 80k a week, plus strength work and foam rolling, massage and stretching, it’s pretty much what you’re doing when you’re not eating, sleeping or working. But for me the hardest thing is the routine, because I HATE routine. I hate knowing on Monday what I will be doing on Sunday. At least, in any detail. I mean, I even hate knowing what I’m having for lunch tomorrow. Surprise me universe!
But I have a kid, and a full time job, and a house to run (on my own), so once my running commitment pops over about 6 hours a week there is no choice but to schedule it in and stick to it like glue. The main problem with routine is that, for me, it makes me feel a little like I have no life. More than that, it makes me feel like a slave. Part of The Machine. A cog in the corporate wheel of life. I love variety and learning new things, so doing the same thing day in day out just kills me inside.
Sometimes when you’re pushing the envelope however, you need to be certain that everything else is going to stay the same. You don’t want to feel overwhelmed by anything other than the amount of k’s you have to log that week or it will all get too much.
You have to be sure you won’t need extra energy to cope with tomorrow (you’ll need that energy for your second run of the day, you see), and that your schedule is going to be stable enough to rely on it proceeding with minimal input from you.
So before you commit you really need to approach your decision from all angles.
…and organise your nutritional plan
Make sure you have the time to put in the hard work, the money to buy shoes, gels, race entry, extra/special food, pay for massages or other post-run recovery equipment and options. Do you have the support you may need – if you need it – such as babysitters, extra hands helping around the house, friends who understand why you can’t come out and party because you ‘have’ to run (again)? Try to arrange it so that everything is as drama-free as possible. You’re going to need a lot more time than the 10 minutes it takes to pay for race entry and buy a new pair of sneakers.
For example, I wrote most of this post in the third week of Monster Month (I ran approx. 280k that month), which is a lot for me.
At the same time I was getting my house ready for an inspection (oh the joys of renting) working full time (still!) and trying my best to attend an explosion of 40th birthday parties.
So forgive me if I hire someone to mow the lawn and weed the garden, or buy pizza for dinner, or run in the same clothes 4 times in a row.
Just get it done. The running, that is. The kitchen and the washing can wait.
I don’t really know for sure when you (or I) might be ready to run an ultra, but I believe you will never know until you try.
I also truly believe anyone who can run can finish at least a 50k. It’s more about persistence and dedication than talent and skill.
But once you’ve decided to do it, and worked out your plan of attack, you shouldn’t have to think about it on a day to day basis.
Get that routine etched into stone and practice not questioning it.
Melbourne weather tried its very hardest to help me out with some extra mental training in the form of floods, wild winds and just plain freezing cold.
I’ve practiced running on tired legs, with a tired mind, in the rain and in the dark, when I’ve been hungry or hungover. I’ve tried to get out there and run in every kind of situation I could, and I practiced thinking about running in every situation – but one thing I didn’t let myself think was whether or not I could do this.
Because letting your mind question your goal is a waste of the most important energy you have – your mental energy.
Now, the only time I stop is when something hurts, I’m so tired I fall asleep parked in my car at lunchtime, or when the Melbourne weather gets so crazy windy that I am worried I’ll be wiped out by a stray flying tree. Anything else is a waste of time.
Don’t just think, don’t only try, don’t wonder whether you’ll have the time or the energy, because sometimes you won’t have either. Just get out there and DO IT.
That’s how you run an ultra.