This week I started reading the Lore of Running by Tim Noakes. Until now, I think its sheer volume at 900-plus pages put me off and I now realize what a mistake that was. Better late than never.
It's especially great to read chapter 11 titled Ultramarathon, even now with only two days to go until I start my first 50-mile race. I'll highlight a few great tips below.
While the training schedules for ultramarathons in Chapter 11 confirm what I already knew, that I am a bit underdone in terms of training with my longest run only having been four hours, I take heart from a line in Chapter 10 titled Marathon (p.634 in the fourth edition):
"Tom Osler (1978), one of the first modern proponents of walking in racing and training, concluded that anyone capable of running 42km can easily run 80km if they alternate regular walking and running in the ratio described previously."
The ratio referred to is one of three described in the book's previous paragraph:
- 20 to 25 minutes of running, followed by 5 to 10 minutes of walking
- walk 1 minute for every 5 that you run
- if a hilly ultra, walk only on the uphills and run the rest.
Key points of advice from Chapter 11 Ultramarathon:
"During the final 24 hours before an ultramarathon, it is especially important to be on your feet as little as possibly. You should rather indulge yourself by doing absolutely nothing physical besides that which is necessary to read or watch TV or videos."
"A prerace breakfast is, in my view, essential before any ultramarathon."
"...the goal, at least for the first half of the ultramarathon, should be to enjoy yourself by talking to other runners and enjoying the scenery and the occasion. ... you need to enjoy the race as much as possible and try to make the moment last as long as possible. Your first ultramarathon may be the most exciting race you will ever run and will probably be the one you remember most fondly."
"But reality will unfortunately intrude sometime after halfway, as the pain and discomfort envelope you. At this stage of the race, you need to develop the skill of focusing on the moment - on each running stride - and to be unperturbed by the considerations of how far you still have to run."
"Correct pacing is essential for any race. But the consequences of poor pacing in a ultramarathon are always devastating. The general rule - that each minute that you run too fast in the first half of a10-to 42km race will cost you twice that time in the second half - probably does not apply to the ultramarathon. Here the cost of each minute run too fast in the first half of the race may be more like 3 or more minutes in the second half."
"Bad pacing in a standard marathon may leave the athlete with, at worst, 12 to 14km of discomfort. By making the same mistake in the short ultramarathon, you could end up having to struggle 30km or more until the end. The solution, then is to start all races conservatively, aiming to run the first half easily according to the body and using what is left in the second half."
"... it is usually best to run through that section of the race that is the most difficult - the last quarter - as quickly as possible, but to delay the time of reaching that point for as long as possible. This is best done by starting very conservatively and saving your effort for when it is needed."
"... hourly fluid requirements are somewhat less during ultramarathons than during marathons. However, the requirement for ingested carbohydrate, especially near the end of short ultramarathons, is probably greater than during marathons, provided you are still running at a reasonable intensity and have not started walking or jogging more slowly."
And one of my favourite quotes is from Noakes' introduction where he says:
"Even in the most crowded races, the point is reached when fatigue drives us back into ourselves, into those secluded parts of our souls that we discover only under times of such duress and from which we emerge with a clearer perspective of the people we truly are."