Since turning 40 almost seven years ago, Jeff Browning has reacquainted himself with strength training. As a professional ultrarunner, he attributes his recent success to his “Tough 21” routine that helps him handle the volume and stress of 100-milers. Read and watch more about this circuit he does a few times per week.
In Part 1 of this series on running mechanics, we started with home-based strength and coordination movements which were designed more to improve coordination (neuromuscular adaptation) than pure strength (the increased ability to produce force). Now that you have that down, it’s time to progress to outdoor running drills. Note: If you missed Part 1, [...]
Gearing up for a longer ultra, such as a 100k or a 100-miler requires a dedicated training plan with particular focus on getting more miles and more time on feet. One way to accomplish this is with back-to-back long runs. Back-to-back long runs refers to doing long runs on two consecutive days, typically Saturday and Sunday for those with full-time jobs. Back-to-back long runs are a common practice in ultra training, but are they really necessary for success? That’s up for debate in this month’s column!
Most of us can’t escape the ultra-shuffle as we reach the later stages of races. As we fatigue our biomechanics change in many ways, including changes in stride length and frequency. In this article I will shy away from the nitty gritty details of biomechanics and focus on the relationship between stride length and frequency and how they impact running economy.
I have run ultras in the mountains. I have run ultras in the deserts. I have run looped-course ultras. I have run an ultra across Death Valley. I have run solo ultras. But there was one glaring omission from my previous running resume: an ultramarathon with the opportunity to eat ice cream sixteen times per mile.
If you spend any amount of time talking about ultrarunning nutrition, you are almost certain to hear the term “fat adapted.” The general idea is that a “fat adapted” athlete will be very efficient at burning fat and thus have an immense supply of stored fuel, eliminating the need to ingest large quantities of carbs.
The stress of any given training is due to the intensity and duration of the types of running that occurs. The idea of periodization of training is that during some periods you may train at a low intensity for a long duration and during other periods at a high intensity for a short duration – or any combination in between.
Barely past the halfway point of Run Rabbit Run 100 last September, my legs and feet rebelled. Stiff muscles, achy joints and soles so tender that I winced with each step conspired to abort yet another attempt to run. Dejectedly hiking in the fading light of dusk on a gentle stretch of trail above Steamboat Springs, I said to my pacer, Jacob Kaplan-Moss, “Sorry, this is all I can manage right now.”
Man came out of darkness and into the light, and that was my experience during the 2003 Angles Crest 100. Not a lot of planning went into the race. The prior couple weeks had been a hectic whirlwind of travel and there wasn’t much time to prepare in advance. I simply threw a bunch of [...]
When I first found out I was pregnant, I googled “running while pregnant” and was disappointed in the lack of information out there. There was information about Olympic athletes and information for recreational runners, but not much for someone who fell in between these two categories.
I once heard someone say that two horses pulling together can pull more than the sum of the two horses pulling separately. I found the idea intriguing and went to the internet to see if this was true (because of course everything on the Internet is true). It turns out that this is a real thing!
There are many aspects of the ultrarunning community that I love, and one of the most important is the fact that at 99% of races 99% of the folks out there helping the runners are volunteers. It’s easy to take this for granted and just assume that races are volunteer run. But have you considered how a race might differ in atmosphere if the folks handing you water or issuing your bib number were paid employees?
My first experience with significant overtraining from running occurred during my two years of collegiate running for CU-Boulder. I was a decent, All-State high school runner in Colorado’s second largest school class, but my talent and experience were years behind many of my teammates like Dathan Ritzenhein, Jorge and Eduardo Torres, and Steve Slattery. Totally pumped by the simple fact that I had made the team in the annual tryout for a few walk-ons, I dove enthusiastically into my training.
At the end of the year, most of us back off training and allow for a little downtime and reflection, plus, family commitments are especially time consuming (and fun) during the holidays. What should you consider when thinking ahead to next year to allow yourself to keep progressing and improving your running?
Over the years, I’ve seen numerous runners who, in my opinion, have put undue focus on a race. They become totally fixated on doing well at a particular event that they almost feel that they should not enjoy the training, as if in some way suffering through hard training is part and parcel with doing well on race day. This is totally wrong.
By understanding the physiology behind thermoregulation, we can be better prepared for our summer events. Here’s what you need to know about what causes body heat to increase, heat loss mechanisms, why athletes perform worse in the heat and factors to improve performance in the heat.
There is no question that fatigue is the result of physiological compromises in a host of bodily systems (muscular, nervous, hormonal, skeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, etc.) during an endurance event. However even more critical to this weakening of the systems is the perception of fatigue being encountered. It is the brain that continuously monitors endurance performance and it this organ that eventually determines how far fatigue will be endured.
Timed runs are kind of awesome. If you have not tried it, I would suggest doing so. Maybe they aren't for everyone, but you might just be surprised. My first experience at a timed event I was totally sure I would hate it, and ended up very surprised.
Back in my day, I had to thumb through printed magazines to locate obscure little ultras and go to register with pen and paper and pay by check that I mailed FROM A POST OFFICE! I didn’t get no fancy tri-blend shirt, elevation tattoo, battery powered finisher buckle, or handcrafted microbrew!
No one watches the long-range weather forecast like an ultrarunner. Whether we are planning some long training run or preparing for an event, nothing weighs as heavily on us as the forecast. Of course, it really makes little difference if we are headed to a race. Having invested our children’s inheritance in the entry fee, we’re going to go no matter the weather.
A few years ago, I started pulling a tire back and forth over a local bridge as part of my endurance training, and as you can imagine, it encouraged some interesting remarks from passersby. “I think there’s something chasing you,” to “Let me sit in there,” to “My dog would love you to pull him around,” were the norm.
Just because I don’t have a snowball’s chance of hell of ever winning an ultramarathon doesn’t mean that I don’t set goals for myself. In fact, I might set multiple goals for a single race. Or I may a single goal for an entire year’s time period. The point is, goals help you keep motivated to improve and give you a benchmark to evaluate your progress.
The inspiration to write this piece comes from a lifetime of loving dogs and living in their love. I have watched throughout my life, some of the happiest moments occur between humans and their wet nosed soil-sniffing companions. I’d argue - that some of the strongest bonds of love found on this planet have been forged between the two and four-legged.
At this time of year, how did you go about planning your races and schedule for the upcoming year? Also, how did you approach these winter months? I’m getting stir crazy and want to be out there, racing long out on the trails, right now. How do you approach and handle this?
The 4th annual SF 100/50 Mile Endurance Runs takes place on March 26th. The course takes a scenic tour of the spectacular Marin Headlands with views of Tiburon, Mt. Tamalpais, Pirates Cove, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. With 9,565’ and 19,575’ of elevation gain in the 50 and 100 mile, respectively, the SF [...]
The father had always been old school and a bit old-fashioned. He was a man who could easily handle both a stethoscope and a shotgun, his life shaped by time tending patients in emergency rooms in Roseville, California, and in caring for horse riders, and then for runners, on the Western States Trail.
This is the first in a series of articles on what happens to your body during an ultra, focusing on the sparse but growing scientific literature that exists. However, physiology is extremely individual dependent, so please interpret this column with caution, as we are all different.
I circled the high school track, loop after loop, hour after hour, mile after mile. For 100 miles, to be exact. It was July in southern Utah, where summer temperatures feel like you’re standing on the sun. The high was 107 degrees. I tried to think of some profound response when people asked why I was running 100 miles around a track in July. The best I could come up with was “Well, it seemed like a unique challenge. And I had some glazed donuts I needed to burn off.”
I’m a nurse and work 12- to 14-hour night shifts. Depending on my schedule and how exhausted I feel from working nights, I’m able to train a lot some weeks, and almost not at all in other weeks. Any advice for those of us who can’t adhere to a traditional training plan, and whose weekly mileage must often vary dramatically?
The glare of florescent lights is blinding as my eyes strain to make out the man standing over me in a white lab coat. Crap. I’m in the hospital… again. The man in the white lab coat is obviously a doctor, and now that my eyes have adjusted, I can see his critical gaze. “You may want to consider not doing this again,” he says, shaking his head, muttering something about CK levels before leaving the room.
As Old Man Winter makes his callous return, those of us who’d rather forgo an alternative winter sport must make the transition into cold-weather running. And it’s not always easy. Harsh climates can make it tough to get motivated for long hours of ultra training, but with the proper planning, gear and mindset, running in snow and icy conditions can actually be pretty amazing.
When I began this column two years ago, the intent was to bring the historic roots of ultras to today’s newest ultrarunning readers. Driven by the value of sustainability, the notion was to help new runners avoid re-inventing the wheel: to learn the lessons without having to experience, first-hand, the painful mistakes that befell our predecessors.
Industry representatives generally put the lifespan of a shoe between 400 and 600 miles. The mileage you personally can expect to get, however, will vary depending on factors such as your weight, the surface you run on, your foot strike tendencies, whether you switch off pairs from one run to another and of course the resilience of the materials and design.
If you ask ultrarunners why they got into the sport in the first place, you will hear a range of answers—for health, for a love for the outdoors, for a personal challenge, for an escape from the stresses of work. But I can’t imagine that many ultrarunners would say that they got into running because they wanted to be fast and competitive.
Last December, my friend Rachael and I got lucky at the Western States lottery. We were excited, then terrified. After that, we got serious. We watched Unbreakable over and over, which confirmed what the Western States website says all along: It's a downhill race, and most years a very hot one.
But in what ways, exactly, do these events differ or remain similar? How should your preparation for an ultra differ from your training for a stage race? Should you employ similar race tactics in both races? Should your nutrition plan stay the same for both races? Does recovery take longer for one or the other? Is the atmosphere and culture the same at both events? Which event is right for you?
I have always loved being a student of the sport—reading, asking questions, trying new things and learning what worked for me. I have been fortunate to have had several coaches who helped fill in gaps in the complex puzzle we call ultrarunning. Your question gets me thinking about the one who did the most to make me the runner and coach I am. Here are 17 lessons I learned from my favorite coach.
Last week, I traveled to north-central Sweden to compete in the second annual UltraVasan 90K on Saturday morning, August 22. What follows is an account of my race but also the race history, the course, and the three kings on everyone’s mind as the weekend unfolded.