Lessons From My 100 Mile Ultra
Where to start? Maybe with the question most people have asked me which was why did I do it?
100 miles is a long way, it is pretty much 4 marathons, but when a friend mentioned that there would be a one off ultra race on my doorstep (never to be repeated again) I couldn’t miss the chance to test my body and my mental strength so I could answer the question - is it possible? Could I run 100 miles?
I had never run over a marathon before I started to train for the event, I wasn’t even sure about how to train for a run that length, but the best way to do anything is to gain advice from those who know more than you (in my case ultra running coaches) and get out there and experience it yourself!
What an event, a tough couple of days with a whole night of running in the dark, tired, cold and hurting. It took me 27 hours to complete this bad boy and I thought I would share some of the lessons I learnt from this crazy challenge with you. Check out my 5 lessons and my words of wisdom for you when you are planning your next challenge!
You can achieve anything you want to achieve!
There are no limits, only the limitations you set yourself. You are capable of achieving anything you set your mind to. True, you need a plan of action, but follow that plan, do the training, put the effort in, don’t give up and you will get to the end!
My plan for the 100 mile ultra was to break down the distance and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I had a time limit of 31 hours so I knew I had to keep moving because being pulled out of the race was not an option for me. I knew the pace I wanted to run, I trained as well as I could for the unknown and I planned my nutrition, my kit and my stops. I thought of everything that I could control or take responsibility for and put a plan into place so I would maximise my chances of completing the event.
Self belief is key, believe you can do it and you will. Push your limits, you are capable of more than you probably believe you are!
‘A man is the power of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes’.
Preparation is key!
For success in any event you may need a little luck on your side, the weather gods or hoping you can complete a bike race with no mechanicals. However, luck will only take you so far, to succeed, preparation is the key!
Preparation in training - having a well thought out and structured training plan which is periodised with correct recovery so you can taper into an event and give it your best shot.
Preparation of nutrition - during the event is not the time to try new foods and energy drinks because you saw a friend used something or you are handed something at an event. Do your homework and find out what gels, energy drinks and food the event will be using at the food stations and then train with the same brand or food to see if you can stomach that food when competing. If you have something new on race day you could end your event with stomach issues and that would be devastating after all the training you have put in. Instead, use your training sessions to practice eating and drinking; experimenting with different food and drink so you know what works for you. Finally, work with a coach to understand how much and when you should eat for optimal performance. This is important not only for the event itself but leading up to the event and recovering after the event itself.
Preparation of logistics
Do you have a race plan? This starts from knowing where to park, what time you need to register and what you are required to have for the event. Leave plenty of time to travel to the event and register so you do not add unwanted stress to an already heightened situation! Do your homework and give yourself plenty of time so you hit the start line relaxed with one job to do.
The race plan may also include pacing, kit drops and a nutrition plan for the event. The more you can plan and prepare before the event, the easier it will be to execute and achieve your goal.
Preparation of kit
Most events include a kit list of the equipment you will need to have/wear or recommended kit. Take a look earlier rather than later so if you are missing something then you have time to borrow or buy it. In addition, think about the kit you do have. Are your trainers worn out? Do you need a new pair so you can wear them in during training? Do you have the equipment and clothing needed if the weather is going to be hot/cold? Is there a piece of equipment that could make your life and your race much easier? If so should you look into making a purchase?
Talk to people who may have done your event before or similar events, get advice ands guidance or work with a coach to gain direction and support. Having the right kit could be the difference between finishing and not finishing!
Make your life easier, put the time in to plan for the event. Train hard, prepare and take control of the factors you can control and get everything into place ahead of the event so you maximise your chances of success!
‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’
- Benjamin Franklin
Injury prevention and mobility is just as important as getting in the miles!
The human body is very adaptable and you could even look at it as the body being very good at cheating when it comes to keeping you moving! If you are training for a challenge or an event, you may consider getting miles in, strength training and even rest, but mobility and flexibility is a key component of a balanced training plan. By having good flexibility and mobility, our body is free to move without straining or forcing muscles to stretch beyond their capable range. This will prevent injuries and allow you to complete your challenge/race to the best of your ability. It’s not super cool or super sexy but it will save you some months on the sofa from an injury that could have been prevented, especially when you are pushing your body to the limit!
It is a team effort!
No challenges or events happen without race organisers, volunteers, marshals and your own support crew. It is important to remember and thank all these super amazing legends! The marshal that is freezing their butt off while you make your way to the top of the hill, not realising they may have been sat there for 4 hours cheering all the competitors on. Take time to say thank you or have a short conversation! Your family and friends who will be there to support you, meet you at the finish with warm clothes, drive you to the start, provide you with encouragement! Make them proud and thank them for keeping you going. It is undeniable that knowing you have loved ones and friends cheering you on it will drive you to finish, to succeed!
It is a team effort!
Do it for you!
The challenge, the race, the event you choose…….sign up and do it for the right reasons. Don’t enter an event or a race because it will look good on facebook or instagram. Don’t sign up to lose weight or change the way your body looks. Don’t sign up because someone else is pressuring you to do so. Sign up because you want to do the challenge/race/event. Ask yourself the question, would I still do this event if nobody ever found out? If you couldn’t tell anybody and you couldn’t put the photo on social media? If the answer is yes then go for it, if you are doing it for external gratification then you will find the whole process of training for the event hard to commit to and when it comes to hitting the wall in the event, the dark times when you need to dig deep, if you do not have the intrinsic motivation, then you will suffer and risk quitting when it gets hard!
I didn’t tell anybody about the ultra, I knew I needed to do it for me and I knew I wanted to test myself to see if I was capable of such an epic event!