After last Sunday’s half-marathon I got two days of rest, did a couple of shorter training runs mid-week, had another rest day, and then came the big weekend– 56 kilometres on Saturday and and another 21 on Sunday. That made 77 kms for the weekend and 100 kms for the week. Feeling pretty proud of myself.
Also this week I passed the 1,000 kilometre milestone. Meaning I’ve run 1,000 kms since January 1. You will never know what you are capable of until you push yourself. The human body, even this old body has amazing powers of adaptation– just give it lots of rest and nutrition.
In Canada, well at least in the Vancouver area, the only organized ultra runs are on the trails. Much as I love hiking on our spectacular mountain trails, I find them too slow, inconvenient, and dangerous for the kind of training I need to do right now. So if I want to run 56 kms, I have to go it alone. In case anyone is wondering how I managed to run 56 kms all by myself– the key is planning and thinking in terms of route segments, rather than distance. This is what I did:
- Planned my route using Strava. ( I know you can do the same with other tools like Map My Run and Run Keeper, Garmin Connect etc. but Strava is the best, most fun running app there is.) I knew generally where I wanted to go but I had to be sure of the distance and turnaround point, as well as my target elevation. I didn’t want to make it up as I went along. I also didn’t want to find myself too far from home at 56K, or worse, end up near home but short a few kms and having to run in circles to make up the distance. Would not be fun after running 50 K.
- Planned my fuelling and brought everything in my ultra vest. I am still testing fuelling strategy for Comrades and have been making adjustments. I’ll be making other adjustments after this weekend’s experience. This time I brought some cash so I could buy a Coke at one of the concession stands at the beach park I ran through. I never drink Coke or any other soda or pop, but apparently it is a lifesaver for Comrades runners so I am going to suck it up. Just need a bit of practice. I must admit that after 30 kms it was quite refreshing and it is no worse than a so-called sports/energy drink. Now I know I can stomach the Coke, next time I will buy an espresso for a nice quick mid-run pick me up.
- I was able to start the run knowing exactly where I was going. I didn’t have to engage in any internal debates about where to go or do any distance calculations. I had my plan, all I had to do was execute, focussing only on running, putting one foot in front of the other and ticking off my segments. There were four main segments in the run and I only thought about the segment I was running-
- around Stanley Park and over the Burrard Bridge
- around False Creek and over the Burrard Street Bridge again (good hill training)
- along the beaches and up the UBC hill to my turnaround point at about 42K
- return to my end point finishing with a last pass over the bridge.
- I knew the average moving pace I wanted to maintain, and this took the hills into account. I did run with a heart rate monitor just for interest but didn’t monitor it during the run. My average heart rate over the 56 kms was around 75% of my maximum heart rate, well within my aerobic zone. Average moving pace for the run was 6:27 per km which was exactly the pace of my previous 50K run. Amazing how the body senses what it can do. I never feel depleted at that pace, just a bit stiff towards the end. I don’t take walking breaks except when I am eating one of my home-made energy bars. I had a few pit stops where I paused my watch and I wasted 10 minutes lining up to buy my Coke.
- It may have made the time go faster if I had someone to run part of the route with but for a super long run I’m going at a slow pace and I don’t know anyone else training for an ultra or running over a six minute per km pace. Fortunately I don’t mind running by myself and setting my own pace and route.
Fuel adjustments to make for next time- no more of my homemade energy drink made of pure organic tart cherry juice, honey, and salt, and no more Honey Stinger gels. I thought the more natural organic fuel options were the best. But based on experience and further research I have discovered that is not necessarily the case. Fructose alone is not the ideal fuel. I will be switching back to Gu gels which have a balance of maltodextrin and fructose. Not happy with the maltodextrin (just Google it) but will do whatever it takes. There is nothing natural about running long distances for no good reason either.
I have another ultra weekend coming up this weekend, then on May 3rd I run the Vancouver Marathon (as a training run). The week after the marathon, and three weeks before Comrades, will be my last 50 km training run. I am so looking forward to the taper!
If I include my qualifying marathon run on November 30th, my training for Comrades will have included:
- three marathons,
- four 50 km runs, and
- one 56 km run.