About a month ago, I started training in earnest to run a 50-mile ultramarathon. It was something that I had on my bucket list but I kept putting it off. This summer, I lost some weight as I switched to a fat-adapted diet. One of my brothers also completed his first full Ironman which is a ridiculous – 3-mile swim, 100-mile bike ride and a marathon to finish.
So, having lost a little extra weight and converted my body to run more efficiently on fats, I decided to give it a go.
My main mode of activity has been surfing but I’ve always mixed in running as I like the headspace that it puts me in. There’s nothing like a 13 mile run through the woods to clear your head and sweat out some toxins. The rhythm of your feet on the ground, the focus on breath and relaxing…. At it’s best, it’s meditation in movement and surrounded by nature.
Because I’ve been running longer distances regularly and have a strong base, I just decided to pick a race and then use a training calculator to generate my running program.
Here are a few things that I’ve learned along the way:
- Nutrition: Converting to a fat adapted diet was a relatively painless process for me. The reason for this was because I had already been eating with a daily intermittent fast. There’s a ton of research on the benefits of intermittent fasting and the fat-adapted diet. Probably the biggest benefits for me has been caloric efficiency and anti-inflammatory. I started this diet over the summer and although I was using my body quite intensely, I had a crunchy shoulder dissolve away and noticeably less pain that I had grown accustomed to feeling through daily use.
Salmon. I’ve got a salmon business and eat salmon three to four times a week (at least). It’s wild, Alaskan salmon which means that it comes from pristine waterways and is packed with great Omega 3s. Cordyceps: My acupuncturist prescribed these for me years ago when I was having a lingering sinus infection. I, of course, didn’t take them because I wasn’t sure how. I was reminded that I had them when I was listening to the Rich Roll Podcast/interview with Four Sigmatic founder, Tero Isokauppila. Found in the high mountains of the Himalayas, the sherpas use cordyceps to offset the symptoms of altitude sickness and increase stamina and attribute the cordyceps as one of the main reasons that they can summit Everest without the use of oxygen tanks. Western studies have born out these anecdotes. Anti-inflammatory. Increased VO2 max. I grind 5 grams of it into a fine powder and then add it to my pre-run coffee.
- Sneakers – I run distances over 10 miles in Altra Paradigms and shorter distances in New Balance Minimus. To increase foot strength, I do one of my runs on the beach.
- The importance of abs – Did you know that Michele Obama can do a four-minute plank? When I learned this, I became determined to match her and, when I did, a lot of my lower back issues went to the wayside. We can think of the abdominals as the front of the back and a lot of lower back issues can be routed back to improper alignment and underdeveloped core strength. This summer, I got serious about doing both static and dynamic planks. A good, strong core and proper body alignment will do much to increase overall well-being and combat gravity as I age.
- Running in alignment – Running a 50-mile ultramarathon has been on my list for more than two years. Last year, in preparation for preparing for the race, I hired a coach for a session of Chi Running. My coach videotaped me running, ran through some adjustments and then videotaped me some more. It takes a little bit of getting used to but, after seeing myself running on tape, it was easy to see where the inefficiencies in my form were. That one session gave me lots to think about on longer runs and I would find myself constantly making fine adjustments in form to increase efficiency and reduce body wear.
- Compression socks – The verdict is still out on this one. I just ran 37 miles in compression socks. It’s hard for me to tell the difference except that I can tell that they are there. They look funny. Probably both good reasons to keep using them.
- Spotify’s Running setting – In the “moods” section of Spotify, there is an activity/running page. On longer runs, I don’t listen to music but choose to let my mind wander and focus on my breath and let it blend with the breath of the earth and the forest around me. On a shorter run where I’m working on speed and tempo, I sometimes use Spotify’s running function. I can set the steps per minute and it automatically pulls up music with that beat.r I set mine to 185. One of the things with Chi Running and the elimination of heel striking is that a higher step count can often times keep you from striding out and, thus, heal striking which puts a large toll on your musculoskeletal system…
- Mapping program – To map my runs, I use an app called, Runtastic. I use it mostly for its mapping features and the breakdown of my split times. The benefits are that it doesn’t require purchasing another device. The con is that I’ve got to carry my phone with me when I run. I keep mine in the back pocket of my running shorts or in my Camelbak. It can be a little bit annoying bouncing around back there.
I’ve been lucky because I own my own business and can set my own hours. This leaves me with the flexibility to the occasional 5 – 6 hour runs into my schedule. Between working and eating, it’s been challenging to fit in other activities and thus has made me more disciplined about using my time more wisely. Truth be told, I’m supposed to be editing a book and am using this ultra to procrastinate. But, essentially, I’m just trading one good thing for another. Out on the trails, my mind can wander freely amongst the words on page. I travel a fair amount for work and training has forced me to find different trail systems to explore and run. I’ve been using #trainforfifty as a way to keep track of some of the sights along the way.
Do you have ultramarathon ideas secrets that you want to share with me? Do you LOVE wearing a hydration vest? Do you have KETO secrets to share? Please let me know in the comments below.