Rocky Raccoon 100 mile ultra marathon is the back drop for his first 100 mile race. Jason (insert blog link) was about to embark on something he never thought was possible. It was December 2006 when he started running in order to get in shape and to lose weight. And that he did, shedding more than 125 pounds in the process.
Jason has now run more than a dozen marathons as well as several 40 milers and a 50 miler but this is his first 100 miler. He has shown a unique ability not only to handle the distances but an uncanny ability to recover from races and long runs.
Only seasoned marathoners should even think about attempting an ultra. You must read and know your body exceptionally well. If you aren’t one to do that well, you will be in for a world of hurt.
8pm night before race: So Jason how do you feel? I’m excited to get started.
The good news is that it’s only five laps. The bad news is that each lap is 20 miles. There is less of the usual pre-race nervousness in the crowd of 300. Marathons (the 26.2 variety) brims with nervous chatter and you can feel the edge in the crowd. Here, there is a certain calmness I sense. It’s more relaxed.
Preparing for such a race requires months and preferably years of preparing. It’s not so much about the planning for it. It is the long run training that helps you learn about your body. Unlike marathon training where your longest run might be 20 miles or about 3 hours training for 50-100 mile races include 35-mile long runs or about 7 hours or more on your feet.
A solid 6-month (very short) to 12 month lead time should be given to prepare for an ultra. This does not mean that some runners may be able to pull one off on less prep time. I’m telling you what I recommend to insure a successful outing.
Contrary to what the general public may think and even some ultra-marathoners you do not need mega-mileage every week building up to these races. You do need very specific long runs – the aforementioned 7-hour variety for instance. However, quality runs with Fartlek, interval and tempo run training are essential to a comprehensive program.
Why do short fast stuff when you’re going to run 50 or 100 miles? There is a direct correlation between a runner’s top speeds and their ultimate racing speed. The faster their fastest capabilities are, the faster their racing pace is. Even world renown ultra runners do speed work.
Weekly mileage will certainly vary. But it is not necessary to run 100-mile weeks or attempt to do 80-100 miles for your longest training run. The week of your long weekends, you may end up with 60-70 miles. But, 50 or more will be conducted on the weekend. I have had great success training ultra runners with combinations like 20 miles on Saturday and 35 on Sunday and then three days of recovery. This type of weekend is built up to of course and is only done every few weeks – NOT weekly.
(If you are interested in attempting one of these, contact me. I can design a program tailored to your abilities and goals.)
The running strategies differ strongly. The adage in ultra-marathoning is to go out slow and taper. Most adapt some combination of a walk-run approach. Some do it by time and others by miles. In fact, the first couple miles of Rocky Raccoon will most likely be walked by most runners. The first miles are run on a single-track trail being overtaken by 300 runners all at once. But this does not matter. Two miles of walking briskly might be 30 minutes and would bring you in close to 24 hours – a very respectable time for these events. In some ways it is a built in pacer. 30 hours is the cutoff for Rocky.
So, other than the most elite ultra runners who finish 100 milers in well under 12-15 hours (about 8-10 minute miles) the goal is to endure, persist and keep moving. Fueling and refueling are critical factors throughout this trek.
All this said, one of the hardest things is getting to the starting line healthy. It is a long journey just getting to the long journey. Jason was victorious in the first part of the journey. Aside from some periodic aches in one foot, he toes the line healthy and stronger than he’s ever been.