Transition to Ultrarunning: What You Need to Know

"My typical week is between 100 to 120 miles and during that week I try to do a few really quality workouts—hills, tempo runs, speed play, a track workout, long run and then a race or two," says Wardian. 

It is a misconception that all you need to focus on is miles, miles, miles. While the weekly long run is especially important, it is not the sole axis of your training. You still want to include some kinds of speed or interval-type work on a regular basis.

More: How to Run Fast and Far Without Getting Hurt

Hills, hills, hills: Most ultra races are done on trails; naturally, as you transition to trail races, you want to include more hills and trail-specific training into your routine. Supplement hill repeats with easy runs done on varied terrain to build leg strength and get your ankles and feet used to the less even surfaces. Complete ankle and lower-leg strengthening and balance exercises to safeguard against sprains and strains due to chance footing.
More: 7 Hill Running Workouts That Increase Power

Nutrition: "Experiment from the start of training, and even once you find something that works ... keep trying new things," says Hubbard. "On race day you will be out there for a LONG time and, while Clif Bars were my go-to during training, after five hours of Clif Bars on race day, I was pretty sick of them. I was so glad I had experimented with other things and knew I could handle other options." 

More: Ultrarunning Fueling Tips

Fueling for an ultra is exponentially more important than it is for shorter races. Experiment with different options (energy bars vs. gels vs. real food vs. liquids) as well as a timing schedule. Going too far into glycogen debt during an ultra can result in not merely bonking, but doing permanent damage to the muscles, should they go catabolic. The same applies to being adequately hydrated.

Gear: Know what elements you will face during your race, and take care to outfit yourself accordingly. Practice and preparation in this regard is similar to your fuel. 

More: Ultrarunning Gear Essentials

For race day, avoid trying anything new. The goal is to limit the variables because any race over 26.2 miles has a wide margin of "unknowns" already present. 

You plan as much as you can, prepare your body to face a challenge it really wasn't designed to undertake, then rally every bit of mental resolve you have. It's crazy, yes, but isn't that part of the allure of the ultra after all?

More: Are You Ready to Run an Ultra?

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