“A lot of us have a perception of what our limits are.
I’m not afraid of the failure, I’m just gonna go for it.
I’m willing to try something I’m not sure I’m able to do.”
one of the world’s top trail runners
How are you gonna run such a distance?
That’s a question I get, now I’m training for my first 100-miler. And honestly, I don’t know!
It’s the journey of finding out what I’m capable of, that I love.
Not knowing what is waiting for me and how I’m gonna deal with that is what it makes such an exciting adventure!
It makes me feel alive:-)
So I do all I can to feel prepared and be able to deal with the unknown, the discomfort, the pain, the struggle.
If everything is guaranteed there’s no point in doing it.
adventure runner and author of The Ultra Mindset
Bridging the gap from 90K to 160K
Training for an ultra marathon (any foot race further than marathon distance) can easily take 6-9 months. How long the preparation really will take depends on the race circumstances, your experience, your skills, current fitness level, and how much time you can and want to spend on training.
The more adventurous and unknown the race terrain and climate is, the more preparation will be needed.
After my first running adventure in May on the Great Wall of China, I was excited and eager to explore more of the world and myself.
I signed up for the Javelina Jundred, which will take place in October in Arizona, USA. The furthest I ran so far is 90K; the longest I ran is 11 hours (you can find my whole journey here).
My goal for Javelina Jundred is to cover 100 miles (160K) in 24 hours or less.
So that’s quite a gap to bridge in 5,5 months!
Finding the right training
Most races have training schedules available. Although I love to run by feel, I also used online marathon training schedules as a reference. Based on what I was capable of and what pace was needed to accomplish my goals, I could plan how much time I probably needed to get to that level.
Then I used a heart rate monitor to set the pace, to find out where I was in the process, and to measure my progress.
But when I was traveling 2,5 months before the Conquer the Wall Marathon, my training routine was out the window and I just ran when and where I could.
So I had no other goal than enjoying that unique race experience, which I did.
Running >20.000 steps is not the race to set a time-specific goal anyway; the winner of the Conquer the Wall Marathon 2017 made it to the finish line in 7:14 hours!
To prepare for my first 100-miler and aiming for <24hrs, I took a more serious approach.
I followed the advice from Jason Koop‘s book “Training Essentials for Ultrarunning: How to Train Smarter, Race Faster, and Maximize Your Ultramarathon Performance“, and adjusted my training accordingly. It enabled me to run a 9-hour race and a PR within a month after the Conquer the Wall Marathon:-)
Being an experienced ultrarunner, elite runner and the Director of Coaching for Carmichael Training Systems (CTS), Jason knows how to coach even the best self-coached ultra runners, like Dean Karnazes, to higher levels.
Several other big shots in the ultra running world, like Dakota Jones, Jen Benna, Kaci Lickteig, Dylan Bowman and Timothy Olson peak perform under his guidance.
Finding a coach
To get the most out of me and my training, I decided to look for a personal coach as well.
Gediminas Grinus, Ultra Trail World Tour winner 2016 and coach at Trail Running Factory, explains the benefits of coaching and how his CTS coach helps him to perform better:
“It is very individual, and there’s a big difference between a 50K, 100K or 100 miles race. So there’s no one size fits all approach or training plan, to increase distance in an effective and safe way.
“You might want some kind of coaching plan or a simplified way to reach your ultrarunning goals.
But these plans that you can find on Google can be kind of dangerous because they might target at certain types of runners, and that can do damage. So I would strongly recommend a coaching program that takes you as an individual client,” Gediminas says.
As a coach Gediminas creates a personal plan separately for everyone, that takes into account how much sleep you have, your daily routine, how much time you have etc.
A coach can monitor your recovery and or you’re injury-prone. Gediminas explains:
“If you’re tired after a training block or intensity training, or if you have kind of problems in your life, you need more sleep and rest to recover properly for the next training.
That’s why I need a coach, to monitor me. He’s like an additional tool to me. So when I’m tired according to my power, my heart rate, my pace and performance of training, he says I must stop and don’t have to train. That’s another good reason to have a coach and why I recommend getting a coach for others as well.”
So to prepare for Javelina Jundred and give it my very best, I started training with CTS coach and experienced runner Adam St. Pierre 2 months ago.
Adam puts my training blocks in such order that I gradually build strength, endurance and speed without getting injured, while taking the rest of my life into account.
Accountability and support
Having an expert to ask questions and share my doubts with, and knowing that he’s watching over my shoulder is motivating and keeps me accountable.
I believe one of the keys to success is consistency, so I’d never skip a training, unless my coach would say so.
But it takes more than fitness to reach the finish line.
“Your mind is your greatest weapon,” Jason Koop says. “To be successful, you need to train your mind as much as you train your body.”
On race day I won’t have family, friends or a coach around to give me support and kick my ass. And then 100 mile is a real long way.
One of the reasons I chose for the Javelina Jundred is that it’s a very well organized loop race with great aid stations and lots of fun and excitement along the course. I’m sure that will help me a lot.
But to keep my mind straight and make it through dark moments, during the race as well as during long training hours, I need a purpose.
Running for a reason
Running for a whole day and night means digging deep.
When the going get’s tough, you better know why you’re doing what you’re doing, if you want to get the job done!
Macy Travis, allround adventurer, speaker, coach and author of The Ultra Mindset, knows like no other that we need intrinsic as well as extrinsic triggers to accomplish our goals:
In the beginning of a race we’re motivated from within to do something we really care for, to believe in something bigger than ourselves.
It’s what drives us to train, to improve and to achieve what we want, even when we fail first and have to start all over again. That feeling of accomplishment is a reward that lasts a lifetime. It’s also inspiring for others.
By the end of a race, when we’re tired, in pain, and our intrinsic motivation is going down the drain, it’s the extrinsic motivation of a positive reward and recognition for our performance, that motivates us to keep going.
The beauty of nature, our children waiting at the finish line, the medal or even price money can be the extrinsic motivation to get us across the finish line.
The feeling of competence when completing a race is an intrinsic motivation for our next goal. And that’s how we keep improving.
With his winning mindset, motivated by intrinsic and extrinsic triggers, Travis was able to complete over 120 ultra endurance events in 17 countries, and to set a record for Leadman, an epic endurance event consisting of a trail running marathon, 50-mile mountain bike race, Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, 10k road run, and Leadville 100 Run, all above 10,200′ in the Rocky Mountains.
It was not exceptional strength, speed, or performance-enhancing drugs, but his ultra mindset, that made him accomplish his goals:
The great thing about destination races is exploring awesome places and epic trails with beautiful views, while traveling the world and running with people from all cultures and continents.
We can only enjoy this when we have the freedom to run and cross borders, fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, natural food to eat and peaceful circumstances to move around.
I want to do something constructive and ongoing to preserve all that awesomeness and give back.
Most races care for their environment and give some of their fee to charity. Supporting social causes can be an extra motivation to finish a race.
But active fundraising takes a lot of time and effort that can put pressure on your training. And asking people for financial support can be too much if you run races on a regular basis.
I found the solution in supporting and promoting #GlobalGoals:
In September 2015, 193 world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. If these Goals are completed, it would mean an end to extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030.
All these goals are related and impact our quality of life:
When it’s personal it’s a different story
Every day I run I am grateful that I can. Grateful for my health, the lovely weather and beautiful nature, and to have the time and freedom. Although it feels natural to run and enjoy the outdoors, it’s not self-evident.
That’s what I remind myself of when I have to dig deep. It’s what keeps me going when I feel like giving up:
Stories of people who don’t have the freedom or right to enjoy the outdoors. Stories of preserving nature. Stories of achieving impossible goals. Stories of grit and perseverance. Stories of people who run for those who can’t. Stories of running for a better health and a better world.
So I love awesome races and stories of people that make a positive impact through running. And I share these stories so you can be inspired too: Find your Adventure.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs.
Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that.
Because what the world needs is people that have come alive.“
What makes you come alive?
Discover your most favorite running adventures around the globe, based on your interest.
The most scenic races and uncommon places you don’t wanna miss and stories of runners who’ve run it before!
Adventure is just around the corner:-)
Also published on Medium.