Ultra Mind Boggling

Any idiot can run a marathon. It takes a special kind of idiot to run an ultramarathon.

-Alan Cabelly

With the Inverness Half Marathon and Rome Marathon well and truly run, my attention is now naturally turning towards my next target race. In principle, this is all business as usual: I flirt with an event, research it a little, enter it, contemplate/freak out about what I’ve just done, plan the training, and proceed to throw myself at it with bestial vigour. When it’s all done and dusted, I brush myself off and it all begins again. Only this time, I fear that my head might just explode.


You see, my next target run happens to be a 55 mile ultramarathon. I’ve got thirteen weeks to prepare myself for the ordeal fun. Here are just some of the thoughts which are currently haunting my head:

  • The distance is more than twice as far as I’ve ever run. I’m trying to imagine running a marathon, but instead of limping across the finish line, I’ll just keep going and run: Another. Whole. Blooming. Marathon. And then, instead of limping across that finish line, I’ll still keep going to stagger on for another 3 miles, just for the laugh. After that, I can hypothetically limp over any line I like, but I’m pretty sure I’ll just drop dead instead. Seriously, this is a distance that most people would refuse to cycle.
  • This ultra-distance-I-can’t-comprehend will all be run on the trails. Sounds really lovely, doesn’t it? It will be, I’m sure. Especially the bit where none of it is flat. My quads hate me already.
  • I’ve worked out that I will need to consume around 6000 calories during that run. I honestly can’t even being to comprehend how I’m going to achieve this. Presently, the mere thought is enough to provoke my stomach into staging a dirty riot. It’s like eating the equivalent of a Christmas day dinner on the run. I’m beginning to suspect that ultramarathons are basically falsely advertised binge-eating contests with a little bit of running in between.
  • I’m actually paying money so that I can spend a day eating obscene amounts of sweets, lose all my toenails and pee/poo/vomit repeatedly in the bushes. Whoever markets these events is a genius.
  • There’s a good chance that I’ll start the run in the best shape of my life. There’s an equally good chance that I’ll finish the run in the worst shape of my life.

Still, I have got all these overly romantic visions of spending many wonderful hours on the trails as part of some spiritual journey in which I find myself by running away. Clearly, there is a seriously masochistic aspect of my personality that is longing to be discovered.

My training plan is ready. So am I. I think.

Funny Ultramarathon Sign

30 thoughts on “Ultra Mind Boggling

  1. Wild Juggler says:

    Way to go! I’m sure you will make it to the end in one piece. I’m still trying to figure out how ultra-marathoners manage to eat so much on the run without having serious digestive issues. Actually, based on my readings and conversations with them, many of them do end up having digestive issues.

    I’ve already been beyond the marathon distance a few times, but no more than 30 miles. I felt I had the energy to run as much as 40 miles, but my right knee was bothering me too much, so I stopped. A 30 mile run I did was fueled by lots of fruit juice, and a few energy bars, probably no more than 1,000 calories total. And a ton of fruit juice afterwards, and more energy bars. Sometimes I even drink olive oil for the calories after a very long run, but I don’t recommend this. I have no real advice to offer, since I’ve never done an official ultramarathon, nothing close to 50 miles.

    How many miles do you usually run in a week? Are you increasing this to train for this ultrumarathon? Good luck, and I can’t wait to read about your race experience.

  2. Thank you for the comment and the vote of confidence. I’ll let you know how I get on with the nutrition. For a normal marathon, I consume only about 600 calories on the run myself, but the big difference is that I can refuel immediately after I stop. I currently run about 50 miles per week. I will increase this slightly of course, but not by an awful lot. My mid-week workouts will be similar to those I do for a normal, fast marathon. The big difference will be the long runs, which will get longer and I’ll aim to just spend more time on my feet. I’m going to take almost all my long runs to the trails from now on, which I’m actually really looking forward to. 😀

  3. Wild Juggler says:

    I wonder if supplemental digestive enzymes during the race or probiotics might help. Anything to enhance a compromised digestive system. Have fun!

    • It’s interesting that you mention this. I already take probiotics every day (the only supplement I take), and I find that they make quite a big difference to my digestion on the run.

  4. Trails and Ultras says:

    It’ll be fine! Remember you won’t be running as fast as marathon pace, there’ll be some fast walking uphill sections to mix it up a bit and you get to make friends with crazy people like me. I always save the sugar for the last hour or so and stick to more savoury and salty at the beginning and middle. Protein is important, so I take a bag of mixed nuts and fruit and just eat a handfull every half hour or so. Nuts are great too because they’re high calorie. Actually I need to start planning my fuelling methods for the 10 Peaks! Think of all the fun we’ll have planning our ultras 🙂

    • I am really looking forward to it! The nuts are a great idea – they also go with the overall theme of the whole endeavour. 😉 For now, I’ll just see what food I can and can’t tolerate while running comfortably on the trails, and then see what I’ll bring for the race. I do well with the sweet stuff, but only for a few hours at a time – then I get a bit sick of it.

  5. Good luck! Can’t wait to follow along in your training! 🙂

  6. kylabee says:

    You make the run sound great. 😉 I am sure you will do great. I can’t imagine eating 6000 calories while running. Good luck and enjoy.

    • Thank you Kyla! It really does sound wonderful, doesn’t it? The worst part is probably that despite all of those realisations, I’m actually really looking forward to it. I love being on the trails and it’ll be really interesting to push the boundaries. Let’s see how I hold up! 😉

      • kylabee says:

        I would be looking forward to it as well. You inspire me along with many of the other bloggers.

        Yesterday when Warren and I were walking I talked about how you ran in Rome and how Allison, Steve, Bernie and Jayne are running in cool places coming up. It makes me want to do it too. So, I now have new running goals/dreams. 🙂

      • Awww, thank you so much Kyla. I am inspired every day by the blogging community as well, and all the wonderful new friends I’ve made here. 😀 I just love the ATWRBR as well; it’s so much fun to see how much we are all running together!

  7. Would like to start my comment by “from an idiot to another one even more special”…but it feels a bit rude, right?…

    Your plan sounds really cool and well-thought (as far as I understand it). This post put a smile on my face from start to end! with the extra calories (really? 6,000???), to the marathon+marathon+3miles=whatever-line-to-cross-I will-take 🙂 You have a great spirit and will surely have a lot of fun preparing your ultra…and running/walking/crawling it (whatever you choose!).

    Best of luck and eager to read more about your training journey!

    • You have my full permission to address me as a special idiot whenever you like. It’s only appropriate! 😉 Thank you for your otherwise kind words though – I’m really looking forward to this new journey and will absolutely keep you all posted. 🙂

  8. theblogrunner says:

    I’m a complete novice myself, but from what I’ve been told, the best advice is to go as slow as you think you can and then go even slower. Also, test out everything you plan to eat and drink on long runs and long walks to see how your gut copes with it . Apart from that, put in the miles and enjoy it. The first one is about finishing, right?
    As for the romantic visions, yeah, I’ve got them too! 😀

    • I’ve been experimenting with nutrition on runs for a while now. For a marathon, I am fine with a few gels (I use the GU gels, they are about the only ones I can get down). On longer trail runs for the ultra, I use real food instead and am trying to work out what works best for me. I still have 13 weeks left, so I better start formulating proper nutrition strategies! 😀

  9. Angie says:

    I still think this is so cool (I have “ultra-running” envy). Do practice your food. One thing I learned at the session I just took was to try to eat as much real food as you can and as Trails and Ultra says, try the savoury first and save the sugar for last. Too much sugar can be nasty on the stomach.

    • Thank you Angie, that’s great advice. I find sugar works well for me, but only to a point. Then I really can’t get any more of it down. So I totally agree, I’m going to have to look for savoury options to fuel my run for the most part, or face certain doom. 🙂

  10. TartanJogger says:

    I am in awe. What an amazing challenge! I hope the mix of MP3s might help with some of your training runs!

  11. piratebobcat says:

    Yowza! Good luck with your training!

  12. getgoing-getrunning says:

    Great post. 55m is a SERIOUS distance. Epic effort. I guess Rome was just for training…

    • Thank you, Bernie! Actually, in my head, Rome was indeed “just a long run” for the ultra this summer. If you think about it that way, then it’s the equivalent of doing a 10 mile training run in preparation for a marathon. I’m going to have to seriously up my game and mileage! 😉

      • getgoing-getrunning says:

        Well, not quite – you did a load of mileage around your marathon, and the race itself – bit I think you’re right. A Sunday LSD of 20 miles is going to become your ‘base’ isn’t it? A special kind of crazy…

      • I’m definitely heading for new levels of lunacy with this next challenge. I am *starting* with 20 mile long runs ever Sunday, and will build it up a bit from there… I’m not so worried about the distance though, it’s more about spending lots of time on my feet on the trails. I’m going to build that up to about 6 hours or so, in which case I’ll cover quite a bit more than 20 miles, even if I’m going slow. It’s definitely not very sane, no. But, hopefully, it’ll be a lot of fun. 😀

  13. Trail ultras are so different from road marathons; they’re practically different sports. You won’t be pushing hard the whole time and pacing is super important.

    • I totally agree, and I’m trying to practice just that on my long runs. I’m also getting used to hiking up the hills rather than running them, which feels a bit wrong after all the hill training I’ve been doing lately. 😉 You’d think it’s easy to run slow… I saw a video of the Badwater Ultramarathon start once, and it was pretty funny: the gun went off and everyone started to… walk off! 😉

  14. barefoottc says:

    Wow! 55 miles is a great challenge! It sounds really exciting, a real project to get stick in to. I wish you all the best!

    • Thank you so much! I agree that this isn’t a run you do on the side – it’s taken over my life a little. However, I’m enjoying it and really looking forward to the challenge!

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