Friday, March 30, 2012

Ultrarunners break all the rules

It is common knowledge that ultrarunners often break the rules when it comes to generally accepted training principles and guidelines.  Mostly, we simply run and race too much.  On the eve of tomorrow’s Charlottesville 10 miler, I sit here at my desk banging away at the keyboard in between sips of coffee and routine eye raises out the window to Carter’s Mountain, where I ran this morning.  Moments ago I finally read the “Tips for Race Day” email, courtesy of the Charlottesville 10 miler brethren, which graced my inbox last week.  Listed below are the “tips”, verbatim, from the email and my comments immediately following each one.  Let’s see how this ultrarunner stacks up in terms of following the tips or breaking the rules with a simple PASS or FAIL.

  1. No matter which of the above mentioned groups you align with, whether you’re trying to win your age group or simply trying to win a bet with a friend who said "you'll never make it to the finish line!", everyone who gets on the starting line is better served if they have a specific goal game plan. Knowing approximately what time you need to be running for each individual mile makes the race go quicker and with less pain. Even if you're "just trying to finish it", you still need to have a rough idea of what pace you're aiming for.
-FAIL.  I’ll figure it out by tomorrow morning.

  1. Don't run anything over a mile/day in the week leading up to the race. For example, on Monday, which is six days out from race day, you want to run six miles or less. Wednesday is four days out, so nothing more than four miles and so forth.
-FAIL.  Biggidy broke this one on Monday.

  1. Pick up your race packet the night before...this one's a no brainer as it follows the golden rule of don't put off what you can do today. It makes your race day experience that much more stress free when you already have your race number pinned to your front and your instructions in your hand before you leave the house on race morning!
-PASS.  Damn it…  ok, I’ll pick it up after work.

  1. Don't try anything new the week of the race...this holds especially true for the night before and for those critical hours and minutes leading up to the start on the actual morning of the race. Whatever Friday evening meal, amount of Friday night sleep, Saturday shirt, shorts, socks and shoes worked best for you over the past few months of training is what you want to duplicate on March 30th and 31st!
-FAIL.  See my comment to #2.

  1. If it's going to be sunny and warm (anything above 50 degrees) dress in very lightweight clothing and drink water at every single stop. Carrying a bottle of electrolytes (like Gatorade) and slowly sipping it over the first three miles, is also a wise move. And, if it's really hot (65+), make sure to pour at least 1-2 cups of water all over your head and on the back of your neck at every aid station along the way. This is a great way to cool things down!
-FAIL.  Lightweight clothing?  Check.  Fluids each aid station?  No way.
  1. No matter how many times I warn, plead, coerce and threaten my athletes to "go out slow", a great percentage of them succumb to the evil temptations of how "they feel" and end up getting sucked into the dark side of the force by running too quickly over the first portion of the race! The best way to accomplish this is to line up behind your targeted pace group...this will force you to go out slower. Your first mile should be the slowest of the entire race. Accomplish this and I will practically guarantee you a great race experience over the next nine miles!
-FAIL.  Though I’ll pretend it’s a 100 miler and force restraint.

  1. For every up there's a down! Practice "perception of effort" (POE), which means slow up your actual pace on the up hills, pick up the pace on the down hills and run right at your targeted pace on the flats. So, someone shooting for 95 minutes (9:30/mile) should run around 9:50 on the up hills, around 9:10 on the down hills and 9:30 on the flat sections of the course. If you try to run right at your race pace on the ups, you will prematurely deplete your gas tank and hit the wall long before the finish line!
-TBD.  Good idea.  Let's see how this goes.

  1. Above everything else, enjoy the race experience. Most folks have diligently trained all winter for their big day and completing our ten mile course is nothing short of fantastic, so have fun and celebrate your amazing feat!
-FAIL.  It’s just a training run.

  1. Post-race recovery is sorely abused by most long distance racers. It takes about 3-5 weeks to fully recover from our hilly ten miler but many folks jump back into their normal training right way. Big mistake! So shorten your runs and slow down the pace for a few weeks. Kick start your recovery with a carton of chocolate milk and something nutritious to eat in the first 30 minutes after the race is completed! Ice, foam roll, and stretch when you get home and run nothing more than 1-3 slow miles in the three to seven days afterwards. Go to for a detailed post-race mileage recovery plan.
-FAIL.  No comment.

See what I mean?


  1. Hahaha, funny post. I am right there with you on all these "tips"

  2. Ha! Too funny. #9 especially, 3-5 weeks recovery from a 10 miler? Better to just start chugging that chocolate milk now, Neal! Ha!

  3. You're gonna have to cancel BRR then as you'll still be recovering.

  4. Great, you'll be fully recovered for Western States which is 7 weeks away. Well within the 3-5 week recovery period for the 10 miler. Pass!...oh wait, you might be running MMT in May. Once again. FAIL. Lol.