By definition, an ultramarathon is anything longer than 26.2 miles. Maybe you've run a marathon and you want to a new challenge. Maybe you've never run farther than 13.1. Ultramarathons are just like any other running race--any able body person can complete one. Ultras are becoming more popular every year. Whether it's 50K, 50 miles, 100K, 100 miles or more, here are 10 tips for tackling your first ultramarathon.
Don't Carry Too Much Stuff With You
It's tempting to pack everything but the kitchen sink in your hydration vest for those "just in case" moments. But there's no need to carry the extra weight if the aid stations are stocked or you have a crew. Less is best if you can get away with it.
Know the Aid Stations
Knowing how far apart the aid stations are from each other will help you plan if you need to use a hydration vest, a handheld bottle or strictly rely on course aid. Most races also list what will be available for nutrition and hydration at each station. Decide prior to the race if you will be using your own nutrition or hitting up the fuel provided.
Stick With Your Hydration/Nutrition Plan
During your training, practice your hydration/nutrition plan. Finding what works for you prior to race day will help eliminate any surprises. Don't be tempted to change things up when you hear some other runners talking about their nutrition plan. Stick with what works for you. Eat early, eat often and don't stop eating/drinking in the later miles because you think you are almost done. The last thing you need is to bonk a few miles from the finish line. Keep up with your nutrition plan for the duration.
Run by Effort, Not by Pace
There are so many factors that go into your race day pace, like elevation, trail conditions, weather, and terrain that it's best to go by the effort you are putting out rather than what your GPS watch says.
Don't Let Race Day Adrenaline Dictate Your Effort
Just like any race, it's hard not to run fast as soon as it's go time. The adrenaline is pumping, and you are feeling GOOD. That feeling will not last. Sooner or later, those faster miles will catch up with you.
Power Hike the Hills
Want to know a secret? Almost every single person in an ultramarathon walks at some point. Even the winners might do it! Power hiking the hills is a great way to conserve energy. Plus, you most likely will cover the hills quicker by hiking than running.
Run the Mile You Are In
It's easy to let your mind wander to the miles that lie ahead. However, thinking of running 50 miles at one time can seem impossible. Stay present in where you are. Breaking down the race into smaller sections, like aid station to aid station, will make it seem more attainable.
You Will Cycle Through Feeling Good and Not-So-Good Multiple Times
The good thing about the distance in an ultra is that it's long enough to feel good again after feeling bad. Don't feel like the race is over as soon as you start to feel poorly. Assess the situation (usually it's an eating or nutrition issue), and take care of it. You'll probably feel better in a few miles.
Repeat Your Positive Mantras Throughout the Race--Even When You Are Feeling Good
The physical side of running is tough, but the mental side is what's going to get you across the finish line. Having positive mantras on repeat, even when you are feeling good, will keep you mentally in the race. When a negative thought pops up, replace it with a positive one.
Keep Moving Forward
A body in motion, stays in motion, right? Resist the urge to linger at aid stations too long. Grab what you need and keeping moving. The more time you spend sitting or standing still means you are losing the forward momentum to keep going.
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