MULTI-DAY UL­TRA

– how to pre­pare

New Zealand Fitness - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Hol­lie Woodhouse

For many, an ul­tra is the ob­vi­ous choice, but what does this mean? Hours of train­ing? Good­bye so­cial life and Fri­day night drinks and hello count­less hours pound­ing the trails? It doesn’t have to be this way at all, but it does pay to be pre­pared.

This is the ex­act process I went through; hav­ing just barely com­pleted my first marathon I dived straight in the deep end and signed up for one of the most fa­mous ul­tras out there – the Marathon des Sables; 250km over five days across Morocco’s un­for­giv­ing land­scape, the Sa­hara Desert. I’m no ex­pert when it comes to multi-day ul­tras hav­ing com­pleted only one with num­ber two through Peru’s Ama­zon Jun­gle just a few months away. I’ve tried to train with a pro­gramme, but life al­ways seems to get in the way and I end stress­ing over missed miles. I quickly dis­cov­ered that this doesn’t work for me, but as long as I am still do­ing some­thing, I’m more than happy.

Here are a few key so­lu­tions to my train­ing I have dis­cov­ered that help me reach my goals and keep the train­ing pas­sion alive.

1

Make it an adventure

– For me this is the most cru­cial el­e­ment when it comes to my train­ing. The thought of run­ning 30km or more not only takes up so much of my time, but I find it quickly turns into a chore. If I switch my think­ing and set my­self a chal­lenge, like climb­ing a new moun­tain or go­ing for a week­end mis­sion with friends, I barely even no­tice I am ex­er­cis­ing. A week­end tramp is ideal train­ing for many rea­sons; you prac­tise walk­ing with­out it be­ing a con­scious de­ci­sion (yes, walk­ing!), a key part of an ul­tra that many nor­mally over­look. More of­ten than not, the pack on your back is just as heavy, if not heav­ier than what you’ll be us­ing come race day. Go with some friends or fam­ily too, be­ing able to laugh and share the ex­pe­ri­ence along the way makes it far more en­joy­able, and a great way to keep the so­cial life alive!

2

Back it up

– This is key. I found day three (out of five) of the Marathon des Sables as the tough­est, both men­tally and phys­i­cally. My body was tired and my gear was start­ing to nig­gle me in places I wasn’t ex­pect­ing. This is where back-to-back train­ing re­ally helps, es­pe­cially for your feet! I am aware that we are all time-poor these days, many of us with full-time jobs and fam­i­lies and some­times it’s hard to find the bal­ance. Over time I dis­cov­ered what worked for me best in the last big train­ing sec­tion be­fore the race was two big days in the week­end, maybe five plus hours each, fol­lowed by a smaller run af­ter work on a Monday. Even though Monday was prob­a­bly 15km at the most, it was still train­ing my body to keep mov­ing on tired legs. It was also a huge boost men­tally know­ing I had done a solid block of ex­er­cise over mul­ti­ple days.

3

Cross-train­ing

– I love all types of adventure and be­lieve mix­ing it up is key for re­cov­ery and in­jury pre­ven­tion. I reg­u­larly at­tend Les Mills gym, mostly do­ing BODYATTACK and RPM classes, mak­ing it easy to plan ahead and fit it into my weekly sched­ule. Plus, more im­por­tantly, they are so much fun! A strong core is a re­ally im­por­tant as­pect of run­ning, sta­bil­is­ing your body po­si­tion es­pe­cially when you start to tire and these classes are my way of adding strength work into my train­ing. With any en­durance-based event, your body will get tired, re­sult­ing in your

form be­ing af­fected. I also moun­tain bike, kayak and swim when I can, util­is­ing dif­fer­ent mus­cles in my body that I wouldn’t nor­mally call on when I am run­ning.

4

Be well pre­pared

– Tick­ing off the kilo­me­tres dur­ing train­ing is one thing, but head­ing into a race in the right headspace is a huge ad­van­tage. If you’ve done ev­ery­thing in your power to min­imise risk and help you reach your goal, then that’s one thing you don’t have to worry about. Of course, you can’t be sure ev­ery­thing will go ex­actly to plan, but if you have con­fi­dence that you have cov­ered your bases, the chances of fin­ish­ing are much higher. This can mean many things, from test­ing out your food so you know it works with your body while ex­er­cis­ing, to go­ing on mini-mis­sions with all your gear so you can fig­ure out ex­actly what’s needed. Be­cause, let’s be hon­est, one of the big­gest chal­lenges of run­ning an ul­tra is find­ing the per­fect bal­ance be­tween the weight of your pack and mak­ing sure you have ev­ery­thing! It’s a fine line be­tween tak­ing enough to be com­fort­able and in­creas­ing the weight and cut­ting some cor­ners and not tak­ing things that could have re­ally helped you dur­ing the race. This mostly comes down to what your goal is – are you there to win, or, like me, to do the best you can, push your bound­aries and fin­ish the race?

Tak­ing on your first ul­tra is huge and at the time it feels like you couldn’t pos­si­bly do any­thing big­ger. But if you head into it in the right frame of mind and as pre­pared as you can be, it can’t be any­thing but the most amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. And just like me, af­ter re­turn­ing home to nor­mal life and the adrenalin has worn off, you’ll find your­self on google search­ing for the next one.

Walk­ing through the Sa­hara desert on day four, the ‘long’ day – 93km, at Marathon des Sables.

Legs-and-arms ev­ery­where on the Marathon des Sables.

Another day in the Marathon des Sables.

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