“You sure know a lot about a lot.”
I glowed with pride after a befuddled looking sixth-grade student graced me with a compliment. I had delivered what I’m sure was an engaging lecture in my very first teaching position 7 years ago. Since then, I’ve expanded my knowledge and gone onto learn many things—especially about ultra running, largely through the exquisite discomfort of trial and error.
My objective here is to share my acquired wisdom so that you can avoid my ultra marathon training mistakes of the past and presumably be as impressed with me as that thoughtful 11-year-old.
Save Yourself Emotional Stress
Signing up for races too early in the year creates problems for the modern ultra runner—especially unnecessary emotional stress. For example, you might feel the uncomfortable pressure of needing to put together a long range training plan, or dealing with the burden of planning travel to a beautiful location, or even the responsibility of working around your family’s lives. Instead, I highly recommend waiting until the last minute and sneaking a spot in that 100-miler you’ve had your eye on—and just make sure everyone else works around you. And besides, running that far is bonkers and I assume not that many people do it, so there definitely will still be room for you when you log on to UltraSignup.
Practice Your Fueling and Hydration
I’ve seen a lot of ultra running bros on Strava humble-bragging about their mellow multi hour runs where they consumed 4 ounces of water and exactly half of a Spring Energy Gel. This makes a lot of sense as I have seen time and time again how well all of my races go when I give up on eating and drinking. Even though the Ultimate Direction Utility Belt is nearly imperceptible while running and the new Halo Vest effortlessly carries enough water, fuel, and goods for almost any running adventure, you don’t need these products if you simply don’t eat or drink.
Dial-in Your Shoes
An indisputable truth when it comes to running shoes is that the moment you find a model that works for you, the company will discontinue that exact model. Hence, it is always important to compulsively stock up on your favorite shoes. For example, if La Sportiva discontinues say, the Helios, purchase every single pair available on the internet—even if you don’t understand the language or currency of the website. If you are caught off guard and discover that you adore the new La Sportiva Kaptiva model even more, don’t be afraid to then stock up on those shoes too. Also once your feet are swollen a full size larger by the end of the summer, re-stock accordingly. Believe in your heart that the way to save money is to actually spend more, all at once.
Stick to Your Training Plan—No Matter What
If you make a “structured” training plan make damn sure you stick with it. Did it snow 12 inches again in April? Great, you’re a runner and not a skier, so get your ass over to the track and get those mile repeats done. And remember: runners always wear shorts. Finally, since I “know a lot about a lot,” remember to take this ultra running crap super seriously. Grind through every single run—and be careful not to allow yourself to get lost in the moment, look around at the scenery once in awhile, and be especially careful never to get caught smiling out there.