Training and Racing
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.