Looking back at Burning River: improving your training for an ultra

I ran my first 100 miles race one week ago and it was epic. Looking back, I do not think there is anything I could have done differently during race day that would have made the race better. On the other hand, there is a few things I would slightly change in the training and preparation and would then affect race day. On the following, I am trying to list what worked very well (the good), what could be improved (the bad) and finally, what has to be avoided at all costs (the ugly). If you are preparing for a long distance race, that might help to you adjust your training strategy and your preparation


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The Good

  1. Using the right pacer, do not take a random guy: finding a pacer is easy: go on facebook, and just ask for a pacer. But finding the right pacer is another story. During my preparation, I thought about many pacers. Looking back and how horrible I was at mile 50, I do not think any of them would have pushed me to the finish and would rather recommend to drop. Not because they are bad pacer but because they were not the right person at this time: they would have been terrified by how I looked at that time (and for a reason). Pacing is not just running next to somebody but is definitively a real job. That day, I had the right person on board, the one that not only pushed me to finish but also took care of everything, even if I was about to pass out at every aid station.
  2. Weekly mileage: I averaged 70 miles per week and peaked at 105 one week. It felt ugly while training but it helped be to go through the miles. On the other hands, while the weekly mileage was good, how I spread could be improved.
  3. Hills repeats: During my training, I was eating hills for breakfast and dinner. I live close to a hill (commercial street) and I ran it almost every day to train. In the beginning, it was hard but after few weeks, it sounds like any other part of my training. Running hills on a regularly basis really helped to train for a trail race.

The Bad

  1. Training runs: I logged most of my miles by going to work. I vary my workouts every day (going in the park for more elevation, staying in the streets for flat roads, etc). But it was mostly 5 to 6 miles out and 5 to 6 miles back. Very few long training runs and a couple of back to back. I would add more long runs and back to backs (e.g. 30 miles on Saturday and 20 miles on Sunday). The effect on my performance is clear on my pace: I started to slow down after mile 20. Being used to more long runs would have delay this.
  2. Be used to drink more while running: I am used to drink when I stopped (when I am at the aid station) while it is easier to take small sips while you are running (ensuring consistent and permanent hydration). It would have been better to train and drink while running – something I just started during the race, after finding out I was really dehydrated.

The Ugly

  1. Take action if something goes wrong before the race. Being sick before the race? Take immediate action and seek medical advice right away. Do not wait so that you know what to expect on race day. This would avoid to be in a very bad shape during the day. In my case, I paid the price.
  2. Look your food and nutrition intake. Even if you do not want to drink or eat, try to maintain 200 to 300 Kcal and drink a lot each hour. This is one of the reason I arrived in a bad condition at mile 53 (not enough water and food) and why I finished the race later (took food after this checkpoint). Be careful, catch up after having a calories deficit takes time, so, it is better to fuel regularly.
  3. Recover and rest after the race. I drove back three hours after the finish and did not eat for a long time as I was not hungry and clearly not in the mood of doing anything. I ride my bike the next day but was not walking straight and was feeling I was about to pass out all day long. After medical exams, it turns out that I had low red blood cells four days after the race and had many other issues related to dehydration and intense efforts. Rest a day at least after the race.

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I hope these few comments/suggestions could help you to train for a long distance race, either 50k, 50 miles or 100 milers. Hope to see you during a race, you can check out the race agenda!

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Looking back at Burning River: improving your training for an ultra

One thought on “Looking back at Burning River: improving your training for an ultra

  1. This post is a huge help, I never wanted to do an ultra but after reading about the bad water ultra and seeing so many of my SCRR friends do one, I now want to try and tackle a 50 and a 100 miler.

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