Guest Post: What it really takes to train for a 50K ultra marathon

You may be considering running a 50K because your friends have promised that you’ll get to eat M&Ms at each aid station with abandon. Or because you like the idea of an ultra marathoner sticker or magnet on your car. You may have even run a bunch of half and full marathons, and think it can’t possibly be much more difficult.

It is. Really. But so, so worth it.

I’ve only run one 50K but I am in the middle of training for my second this September. I can tell you it’s incredibly difficult, but also more rewarding than any other type of running I’ve ever done.

Whatever your reason, here’s the skinny on what it really takes to train for an ultra marathon:

  1. An indomitable spirit with a sprinkle of insanity. In a word: grit. There is no way you’re going to get through five runs each week plus cross training plus making sure you get enough sleep if you’re not dead-set on reaching your goal. Our Saturday morning long runs start as early as 5:30 a.m. Who wants to get up at 4:30 on a Saturday? Crazy people, that’s who. And only those of us who are not-quite-normal will get to the start line.

    An especially crazy 18-mile run, made better by great company.

  2. A lot of time. The training plan my friends and I are using calls for four time-based runs, from an hour to an-hour-and-a-half each, plus a long run on Saturday mornings. When you’re slow like us, a long run can take from three to five hours at a time. And — get this — you have to run for at least an hour the day after your longest run of the week. It helps to have a familia who is OK with all of this, or at least one that likes to sleep in a lot.
  3. Patience (a.k.a., a sense of humor). Tell someone you’re running a 50K (or longer) ultra marathon and be prepared for lots of questions about your sanity. Even non-runners understand that some people sign up for — and run — marathons. “Run a bunch of miles to prove to yourself that you can? Got it.” But an ultra pushes you right into freak (or unbalanced) category. “What, a marathon wasn’t long enough for you?” I actually had a 15-minute conversation with a nice man at work. A former runner, he wanted to chat about why I run longer distances instead of concentrating on shorter races, but trying to get faster. Bless his heart. (See #1 above).
  4. Friends who are just as crazy as you are. Bonus points if they’re experienced and can share awesome tips like what to pack for your ultra, including the need for a drop bag. Most importantly, friends who may think you’re crazy, but who nonetheless support your insanity by meeting you for runs at 5:15 a.m. a couple of weekdays before going to work.

    Some of my crazy runner friends.

  5. Gear. Sure, you can train for a half or full marathon wearing a tech shirt and shorts, plus nice running shoes. An ultra requires an extensive list of must-have items, ranging from a water/hydration vest so you don’t die from dehydration during your long runs, fuel (like Gu or SportBeans or, in my case, even cheese sticks) so you don’t die from hunger, and salt/electrolyte tablets so you don’t die from dehydration. I’m not exaggerating about that whole dehydration thing; training for a fall race means long runs in July and August when it’s just plain hot. Another must-have: A nice running watch that not only tracks your mileage and pace, but one that can last whatever time you think it’ll take you to run 31-plus miles.
  6. Access to trails. A lot of ultras are run on trails. To run 31 miles on trails, you need to train on trails. There’s just no way around that. Trail shoes are optional, but well worth the investment. (See #5 above).
  7. Accepting that you will be hungry. All. The. Time. There’s a reason why people training for 26.2 gain the “marathon many.” I tend to eat every two or three hours anyway, but the extra running has be starving an hour after my last meal. It’s easy to put on a few pounds during training.

The goal race: Run Woodstock 50K in September.

Bonus: I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a tribe of experienced runners, so I asked them to share their best tips on what it really takes to run your first ultra. Here’s what they had to say:

Vicki: “It takes friends to run with and motivate you.”

Melissa: “Don’t skip mid-week runs. That will come back to haunt you mile 28…”

Emily: “Loss of sanity. Other insane friends cheering you on and assuring you you can do it.”

There you have it. If after all that, you still decide to take on your first ultra, I hope you succeed. It’s a fun, crazy, insane, exhausting, time-consuming, expensive endeavor. But I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

What’s on your race schedule this year? Have you ever done an ultra? What are some of your favorite tips?

Gisgie (geese-g) is a Puerto Rican runner blogger who has not died despite running’s best attempts to maim and injure. It’s fun. Really. She’d love to hear from you at lachicaruns.com, @lachicaruns, facebook.com/lachicaruns and instagram.com/lachicaruns.

Guest Post – More Life Less Running

The last few months have been rough, I’m not going to lie. I’ve battled my share of injuries and illness (the flu, major IT Band pain and a sprained shoulder), as well as two family deaths and a couple other issues. All of which derailed my running to the point that since May 27, I’ve had my running shoes on a total of 4 times – and 3 of those came in the last week when I finally felt well enough to run again.

While I’ve missed running, really missed my running buddies, and started to panic about some upcoming races I haven’t been training for, it’s also given me a chance to enjoy other activities and more time with my family – time that normally I’d be spending putting miles in. So instead of running, I’ve been focusing on other outdoor activities that I can do with my husband and stepdaughters (none of them are runners – unless perhaps they’re being chased by something!).

My husband and I have been camping almost every weekend – we own a small motorhome, so each week we draw a circle on the map, see where we can go within 2-3 hours of our house, and head out. From our home near Lansing, Michigan, we can get to locations in Indiana, Ohio and even Canada pretty quickly. We’ve discovered new parks, lakes, historical attractions, hiking trails, and off the beaten path places we wouldn’t have otherwise. We both love hiking and biking, so we try to find places where we can do one or both activities.

The whole family owns kayaks, so we’ve headed out to local lakes to enjoy some family time away from our electronics. If you’ve never kayaked, I highly recommend it – especially on lakes, marshes or streams with limited activity. When it’s quiet you get to see things like turtles, heron, muskrat, river otters, water snakes, birds, frogs and more. It’s amazing what goes on in the water when you can just sit and observe.

While this isn’t a family activity, I happen to work at a university with an outdoor 50m pool that staff have access to in the summer. As a former competitive swimmer, I still find myself more at home in the chlorine than in running shoes, so I’ve been putting in as many laps as I can a few days a week. Swimming bonus – I’ve developed an awesome swimsuit tan on my back as a result! 😉

What being injured these past couple months made me realize was that running had started to consume me – and while I don’t plan to give it up anytime soon (I still have a couple goals to conquer), it forced me to find a balance to do other things, especially things with my family.

Some might not agree with me, but life’s too short to be spending it all working out. Take a couple nights or weekends off, grab your kids, lace up your hiking shoes, rent a kayak and get outdoor and enjoy life’s treasures. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Who is Jessi? Jessi is a runner, triathlete, Jaycee, chocoholic, Disney fanatic, traveler, Broadway addict, boardgame enthusiast, and sock collector whose favorite mantra is Not All Who Wander Are Lost. You can find her supporting her two stepdaughters in their activities, camping with her husband, doting on her cat, and spending her free time with family and friends. Read more about Jessi’s adventures on her blog www.runningthroughlife.wordpress.com

How to Trail Run

Trail running is something I’ve been wanting to take up and do more of. For the last several years, I’ve lived a thirty to forty-five minute drive to the good trails in my nook of Colorado. It was a lot of effort that took way too much time; get up super early, dress, eat, drive forever, get at least an hour run in, drive home. That’s half the morning gone! I should have tried harder.

But now that I’m moving to a rural area of the mountains and will be doing all my training runs in my new neighborhood of hilly (understatement) dirt roads and U.S. Forest Service trails, I knew I needed to learn how run safely in the high country. It just so happened that my favorite local running store/brew pub (yes, you read that right), Shoes & Brews, was hosting a trail running clinic with Salomon Running. PERFECT. It was providence for sure!

My new neighbor, Mt. Meeker the Fourteener!

I’m so glad I went. It was helpful and informative, and it took some of the fear out of trail running for me. Here are some of the things I learned. Thanks, Salomon!

  1. Stay Upright Leaning forward constricts your airflow, so keep your torso upright and your head up despite the urge to lean into the hill.
  2. Stay on Your Toes Forget the heel strike. Staying on your toes makes you more agile through the rocks and other trail obstacles.
  3. Run on the Rocks If the trail is dry, go for solid surfaces over loose gravel when possible
  4. Run In The Water Don’t be afraid to run in the rivulets because there’s more loose sediment in wet conditions for your shoes to grip. In wet conditions, rocks can be slippery.
  5. Look Ahead Look 2-4 steps ahead of you to see where to step safely. Your brain can remember up to about 4 steps so stay safe by staying focused of your footfalls.
  6. Hip to Nip Move your arms like you normally would making sure they arc from your hip to your nip.
  7. Power Hike I didn’t know what this was until the clinic. It’s hard to explain, so go check out this great explanation from The Long Run
  8. Flail Like a Fool Flailing arms downhill is totally acceptable. No one will judge you for keeping your balance and not falling!
  9. Slow it Down Walking during trail running is a-okay! Even the pro who was with us, Courtney Dauwalter (who just broke a record for running 155 miles on a track in 24 hours) said so! It’s okay, really!
  10. What Goes Up On the downhill, lean forward a little to let gravity help you, but no so much you fall forward easily.
  11. Baby Steps Take smaller steps if you feel like you’re going too fast

Here’s Ester from Salomon with more tips

 

The trail we did was not for beginners, but it was a fun time and I met another Skirt Sports Ambassador, Becky! Making new friends is always fun, too.

Skirt Sisters!

The group at the top

It’s safe to say that I’m hooked. I’ve been posting gorgeous shots of my recent trail escapades on our Instagram all week. I cannot wait to get out there again this weekend and run where I play!

 

Do you run trails? Where do you run? What’s your biggest piece of advice for beginners? Share it all with me, I’m in desperate need of wisdom!

Luv for Luvo!

Disclaimer: I received Luvo meals to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! All opinions are my own and no further compensation has been given.

The lazy days of summer haven’t exactly been lazy around these parts. I’m a stay at home mom and while I love having my kids home with me (mostly), means that I’m more “on call” than I am when they’re at school.

It means a lot of swimming, going to parks, visiting the aquarium and the zoo, and of course, the never-ending questions about food. “Can I have a snack?” “When’s lunch?” “What are we having for dinner?” These boys of mine like to eat. They expect to be fed three meals a day and multiple snacks thrown in for good measure!

There are days when we are all in agreement with what to eat, which is absolutely lovely. And then, there are (more often) days when I rattle off about three choices before resorting to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

It’s on those days, I’ve been treating myself to the Luvo meals that I’ve been able to try through BibRave!

Chicken in BBQ Sauce with white chicken, millet grits, and collard greens.

In the past, I’ve shied away from frozen meals because I’ve always found them to be… well, not very tasty. Before opting in for the Luvo meals, I perused the website and was pleasantly surprised.

While I am not vegan, gluten free, nut free, vegetarian, or dairy free, I do appreciate a company that caters to those who are. As for worrying about rather the meals would be tasty, it was a non-issue! The food was flavorful and the texture was how it should be (meaning that the veggies were crisp, the meat was tender, etc.)

Roasted Cauliflower Mac and Cheese (and a clementine, which I added)

My favorite of the bunch was the Roasted Cauliflower Mac and Cheese bowl. It’s cauliflower with brown rice noodles and panko style topping in a creamy sauce. If you’re a label reader, like I am, check out the nutrition facts.

Another Luvo bowl offering is the Chicken Harissa & Chickpeas. I am picky on my spice level and even though it says “a little spice” this was a bit too much for me. Never fear though, my husband came to the rescue and finished the bowl (and liked it just fine, thank you very much).

Chicken Harissa & Chickpeas

Red Wine Braised Beef and Polenta with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash & Cranberries – yummy!

I attempted to step out of my comfort zone and pick Luvo meals that I wouldn’t normally try, including the Kale Ricotta Ravioli Bowl. It was really good! I wanted to try the Planted Power Bowls too, but sadly neither of my local stores had them in stock.

I heard from other BibRavePros that they were able to track down breakfast meals, which I would have loved to try, but sadly it seems that Luvo is no longer making them.

Kale Ricotta Ravioli – you lost me at Kale but pulled me back in with the Ricotta and Ravioli

These meals are about making good and healthy choices, without sacrificing time with my kiddos. Their 3-2-None philosophy is one that I think we can all get on board with, not only as athletes, but as people looking for the best options for our bodies.

Do you have a favorite quick meal? What do you try to incorporate into your meals? 

Join the BibRave team for the Luvo Healthy Meals Twitter chat on July 18th, 9pm, hashtag #Bibchat! I’ll be there under @scootadoot. It’s always a lot of fun and there will be a couple of Luvo giveaways for a few lucky participants!

Fellow BibRavePros had the opportunity to try Luvo Meals too! Check out their thoughts!

Kyle is a Four Athletics Ambassador!

I don’t know about you, but if I could wear workout clothes every day, I would. I think I bring this up at least once a week at work, lamenting the fact that our dress code doesn’t include athleisure wear.

Consequently, I’m pretty sure I own more workout clothes than normal human clothes, primarily because my time spent away from work is either at the gym or doing something active outside. Also because I really just like wearing leggings and short shorts on the regular. They’re so much more comfortable than jeans or jorts. And they can look just as cute.

Unfortunately, my habit gets expensive – why does sweat-wicking spandex have to be so pricey?! It’s just unfair that Run Times shorts and Wunder Unders (yes, Lulu, I’m looking at you) have to cost more than a week’s groceries. (Side-eyeing so hard right now.)

I need to save myself from myself.

www.fourathletics.com

Wouldn’t you know that one of my favorite podcasts had a solution for me. The ladies at Girls Gone WOD Podcast, Joy and Claire, always talk about Four Athletics – one of their favorite apparel companies. I’ve been listening to these ladies for a while and not only are they super hilarious and smart, they also take their conversation beyond just working out… and when they endorse something, it’s because they use it, and genuinely believe in its quality.So, when they mentioned Four Athletics, I was immediately interested. Primarily because I love workout clothes, which we’ve established. When they added that Four Athletics had started an ambassador program, I was really interested. I said to myself, “self, get thee some of these clothes and figure out if you want to ambassador them.”

As fate would have it, I LOVED what I received. I grabbed a pair of running shorts (that are JUST like Lulus and even better in my opinion), and a tank. The shorts are exactly what I wanted – and significantly more affordable. The tank is soft and comfortable and good for all types of workouts and even when worn as a shirt to work. Ahem. Oops.

This tank is THE BEST. And these shorts are too. I wear them All.The.Time.

Four Athletics has an incredible brand statement that I am 100% behind:

We knew there had to be a better way. Premium active wear was becoming increasingly overpriced and the affordable options were not holding up to our rigorous lifestyles. To top it all off, we found almost no options that were made in the USA. We decided to do something about it.
Four uses crowdfunding to match up supply and demand, ensuring that costs the product is high quality while costs stay low. Economics was hard in high school, but this equation is one I actually get – and it’s cool!
We only make what is wanted, eliminate waste, cut out the middleman, and deliver a premium quality product at a fraction of the retail price. It’s more efficient, more responsible, and USA made. It’s a better way.
It should come as no surprise that I joined the ambassador program, so that I could reap the benefits of spreading the word about Four Athletics and get all my peeps on board, too.

I ordered these beauties and now I’m just waiting for them to get here. I can’t WAIT.

In addition to their core collection, they’ve just released printed and colored leggings. Dude. These are too fun and I need them in my life… and my gym. Stat. So do you! Go check out Four Athletics today, and feed your need for comfortable, affordable, stylish, American Made workout gear.
If you use my ambassador code: kpjennings15, you’ll receive 15% off your purchase.

#REALwomenmove

#REALwomenmove

Real women move.  Yes, they sure do.  But what does this mean to me?  It means that it doesn’t matter what your body shape, size or fitness level is.  It means that you are getting off the couch and doing something.

When you think of an athlete do images of super fit people in Runner’s World come to mind?  Do you think of someone with either huge muscles or no body fat?  That is what media wants us to think.  But to me, it is someone that is strong.  Someone that has the willpower to get out there and try to weather their storm.  Someone who will try  to run their first 5K or a marathon, it doesn’t matter as long as they are becoming a better version of themselves.

There is a giant tree near my home.  I run by it as much as possible.  It is America’s largest Bebb Oak on record.  Some call her Grandma Bebb Oak.  She has her own Facebook page.  To me, she is strong.  Her limbs are heavy and her bark is brittle, but she still stands.   She is said to be well over 200 years old. To me she is strong and she is real.

I used to be a slave to the scale.  If a certain number didn’t come up, I wasn’t happy.  If my pant size wasn’t the right number, I was disappointed.  Now I realize that my body is strong.  I might not have the perfect amount of body fat.  I might be slightly overweight at times.  I have never been accused of being skinny.  On the flip side, I have been labeled as determined, hard core, and relentless.  My legs are more like tree trunks, like that Bebb Oak tree.   But those tree trunks get me to the finish line of 100 mile races.  I think that if you can believe it you can achieve it.

So get out there and do the impossible.  Do what you think you cannot do.  Don’t let others establish your limits because they see you in a different light.  Redefine yourself. Accept yourself, love yourself.   Prove people wrong.  Be strong and prove that #REALwomenmove!

#REALwomenmove is a new campaign by my favorite clothing company, Skirt Sports.  It is based on REAL women, REAL bodies, REAL inspiration.  Skirt Sports believes we all can and should embrace fitness and health.  We should be strong, confident and not judge, but rather encourage other women.  You can read more about #REALwomen move and check out their great running skirts and other great clothing items at skirtsports.com/realwomenmove

***Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports.  They provide me with discounts on their products.  Regardless of this, I would wear their products and sing their praises.  It’s a company I believe in and am I’m proud to be a part of their family.

Sandy is an Ultra runner who’s on state 35 of her 50 state quest! She loves to push herself and encourage others to dare more than they dream. Sandy shares her running adventures on her blog, TheUltraFreak 

2017 Woodstown, NJ Firecracker 5k

On Father’s Day I was blessed with a gift from my older son, Lucas. Not sure why… but he agreed to do a 4th of July race with me. For anyone who knows me (and my son), you know what a big deal this is because he doesn’t always love the idea of running.

Which, you know, I get, because I didn’t always love the idea of running either.

Way back when: cheering with his little brother at the 4 miler.

At first I tried to sell him on the local 4 miler, the Pitman 4 Miler. When asked if there were hills though, I could not tell a lie. There are hills and lots of them. I’ve run it twice and it’s a thoroughly challenging course!

He quickly put the kibosh on that.

After looking around a bit, I found the Woodstown Firecracker 5k. Small, 20 minutes from home, less than $30 for both of us to run, and from what I could tell, fairly flat. SOLD! We registered immediately.

He planned to train but didn’t train (at all), and when we woke up on race morning, he confessed that his sneakers were shot and he needed new ones (not exactly the ideal time to tell me).

On a wing and a prayer.

The race started at 8am at Marlton Recreation Park, with packet pickup beginning at 6:30am. We arrived at a little after 7 and were immediately able to get our bibs and shirts. After asking where the starting line was (we saw the finish, but not a start), we headed in the direction we were pointed. We saw an arrow sign and figured we’d just line up when we saw other people doing the same. There were a few portapotties but we didn’t need to use them.

Since we arrived early, we wandered around the park and found a few animals. Lucas likes chickens and roosters so he was content just watching them. In fact, I think if I told him we were going to skip the race and just hang out there, he would have been absolutely fine with that.

No such luck, kiddo!

There were 186 participants and the start was actually on the grass (which is why we didn’t see a start line). From the grass line, we were to run toward a path that we’d all eventually go on.

It was a little awkward because we were lined up length wise rather than what I’ve come to expect but it worked out well because people naturally fell into place rather than trying to self-seed. After hearing a few words from the race director, we were off!

The course was about a mile loop around the park, then a mile through a neighborhood, with the third mile being the same as the first but in reverse.

Lucas was unsure with how well he’d be able to do, so I suggested that we run intervals. We ran the first half mile before switching into 30 second intervals of running and walking.

Hanging in the ‘hood, just after the water station.

The first mile and a half were great for Lucas, he was feeling good and was fairly content. Just after the water stop, which was around 1.5 miles, he started getting down on himself.

You guys, I hate to admit this but in the past I’ve not been very supportive when he’s gotten emotional during a race. Which is not okay!

I know that self doubt can be a hell of a thing to deal with and while yes, he should and could have trained more, he didn’t need to hear that from me once we were in the thick of the race.

Before going to the race, I decided that there were only going to be positive affirmations and motivation coming from me toward him while we were running. If he was feeling discouraged, I’d remind him how great he was and what an awesome kid I think he is. Because that’s what he needed in that moment from me and I want him to feel good about himself when he’s running and accomplished when he’s done!

Last mile, running by our chicken friends, who were obviously cheering him on too!

He was not as happy as he appears in this picture, but then again, we runners have that “fake it ’til you make it” smile down pat, amirite?

I tried the best that I could to read him and what he needed to hear from me while we were in the home stretch. I didn’t want to be too strong or inauthentic with my motivating. I asked him his motto for the rest of the race and he started chanting “almost done” about a quarter mile from the finish line. So I joined him and we both chanted “almost done” until we crossed the finish at 41 minutes.

There were no timing mats, instead they kept track by collecting the bottom tab on our bibs. After handing over our information, we were given a bottle of water and continued to walk in order to cool down and get in the shade.

Stayed cool on a hot and humid morning wearing my super cute Minnie Bow tank! You can save 10% at Donna’s etsy shop with the code MRCScootaDoot.

The Woodstown parade was starting after the race was over but we decided to hit the road so I could make us a yummy breakfast. It was the perfect way to start our celebration of America’s birthday. He even told me that he was glad that he did it and he was looking forward to running another race with me.

“Next time, I’ll train…”

Mmmhmm.

What did you do on the 4th of July? How do you motivation someone during a race?