I ran my first ultramarathon last month, the Squamish 50k. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel exactly prepared for it. Most of the week leading up to it I spent in the car driving, eventually ending up thousands of miles from my house to run my first ultra. I thought I was super undertrained but I knew I was going to finish no matter what!
- The most important thing you should do is train. And by train I mean run! Don’t worry too much about mileage, chances are if you are signing up for an ultra you probably like running, and you probably already run long distances. I run 3-4 days a week with at least one of those days being a long run. For my training for a 50k, my longest run was The Leadville Trail Marathon, but outside of that it was only 18 miles.
- Spend a lot of time on your feet. Even if you are not running a lot of miles (but you should be!). Make sure you have some long days on your feet, whether that is running, hiking or cross country skiing, just go out and spend 8-10 hours on a long adventure. Before my race I had a few good long days hiking/running some of the 14ers around where I live. The day I hiked Halo Ridge on the Holy Cross was a 10 hour day of hiking. My 50k took me 9 hours and 32 minutes so I was glad to know I could be on my feet for that long.
- Look at the course profile. If there is a lot of ascent, make sure your training runs have a lot of ascent. If there is a lot of ups and downs, make sure to run a lot of ups and downs. The Squamish 50k had 7000′ of vert. My training was mostly running up and down mountains to prepare.
- Find fuel/food that works for you. Have plenty of that but also have plenty of other random food items in case you absolutely do not feel like eating any of it. My go to is Honey Stinger gels and waffles. At mile 15 I ate pickles at the aid station (never thought I would want pickles). At mile 26 – salted potatoes and watermelon. You never know what you’ll want to eat. But always bring food that you know works well with your stomach. And don’t forget to eat REAL food every once in awhile. Your stomach will thank you!
- Drink lots of water. No matter what you will probably get slightly dehydrated during the race. If you drink lots of water beforehand you’re less likely to get dangerously dehydrated. If you notice your pee is dark yellow or brown, you need to drink a lot of water immediately.
These are my top five things you should do before running your first or any ultramarathon. Most importantly for race day is to HAVE FUN! That’s why most of us run anyways right?
*DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert on running (clearly I just ran my first ultra!?). These thoughts are completely my own observations from my first experience running an ultra.