The Road to the Ultra


Not sure what I was thinking but I just added a Spartan Ultra Beast to my race calendar for 2015. If you are not familiar with Spartan races they are obstacle courses races usually held at ski hills. Lots of climbing, lots of running, lots of tough obstacles, and if you fall off anything, lots of burpees.

ultra beast

A “normal” Beast is 22+ km with 6 or 7 long climbs thrown in. My time last year at the 2014 Mont Ste Marie Beast was 3hr42 and I was hoping to improve on that time this year. The 2015 MSM Ultra Beast will require participants to complete the Beast course, then go out and do it again, with added terrain and obstacles thrown in. I figure we are looking at anywhere from 45 to 50km. So my goal will be to finish in under 8hrs.

This race has now thrown my training into a bit of a mess.

I had already decided to do a half-ironman (Timberman 70.3), so I have been adding swimming and biking into my training mix along with the current running and strength training. The Ultra has been for scheduled the week before the Timberman. Seeing as how I had a hard time walking for three days after the Beast I am not sure that aiming for a PB at the Timberman is reasonable 😉

So…I have changed plans slightly and will now aim for the Ironman 70.3 in Princeton a month after the Ultra…one problem solved.

I have never run a marathon distance race before and I had decided after last summer that I never intended to run a marathon. Short races (ok less than half marathon distance) seem to be my sweet spot but the need to rise to the challenge of the Ultra is unrelenting and I want to be ready.

So…I just downloaded a marathon training plan that will ramp my running to the 42km range in time for the Ultra…second problem solved.

If only planning was the same as doing…

So here are some of the other things that still concern me…

1. Race time nutrition – I have done races at 1hr, 2hrs, 3hrs, 4hrs and 6 hrs duration. I know when my body starts to run out of fuel. Up to 2hrs I have realized I only need water. At 3 and 4hrs I find a gel pack every 45mins is sufficient. At 5 and 6hrs I discovered, painfully, that the gels are no longer enough and I will need to test what I can eat, when I can eat and whether I can keep it down. I have experimented with gels and sport drink mixes and at high sugar content levels it upsets the stomach. A gel without water or a sport drink mixed too strong will just come right back up. For the Ultra I will need solid food and a reasonable amount of it, the question will be when/what/how often, this all needs to be experimented with and resolved well before race day. There is lots of information out there but everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for the next.

ultra beast 22. Base Miles – I need to make sure the miles are in place. The Beast may have been almost 4 hrs but the mileage was still only at 23km, the Ultra will be double that and will have lots of vertical so I need to make sure my aerobic base is in place. I want to be fast so it will not just be long slow miles there will be some speed work in there as well.

3. Cross Training – I do lots of strength training and will be putting some serious miles on the bike. Biking is very good cross training for climbing and the strength training will help as well (as long as I don’t forget leg day). Even the cross training will need to ramp up. I need to test my endurance on the climbs. I cramped up big time at the Spartan Beast Worlds in 2014 when I passed through the 5hr mark (I finished in 6hr30, 200th out of 5000). There was serious vertical mileage in that race and I wasn’t as ready as I should have been, that will not happen again.

4. Equipment – Shoes/Socks? Do I stash a spare pair to change at the end of the first loop. Shorts/Shirt? Same question. Hydration Pack? Do I run with one? Traditionally I loath to carry a water pack, relying on the water stations on the course. Do I carry food with me or leave some at the end of the first loop and go without during each loop? I know the second loop will not be the same as the first in terms of nutritional requirements.

As I figure this stuff out I will post it back here, I hope it will be useful information.

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