Following our selection of Aussie 100km races coming up for the rest of the year yesterday, today we focus on what you need to do to get to the start line of your next 100km race.
There’s a good mantra of listen to everyone and follow no-one, which I would certainly advise to anyone seeking to ramp up for their first 100km in particular. What works for one person isn’t always going to work as well for another. There’s also a variety of different races on offer that will mean you need to train slightly differently, depending on the style of race that it is.
For example, Surf Coast Century is a fast, flat course where you can run a lot. Compared to something like GNW 100km, which has a bit more technical running and some hefty climb to factor in, which means you’ll need some hiking legs too. So you’ve picked you race, what do you need to consider for training and racing?
It sounds such an easy thing to do. If you sign up for a 100km race, then you should try to replicate that race in your training as much as possible in order to prepare yourself for that race. In an ideal world, you’d train on the course as much as you can to do that. However with the advent of so many races globally and racing being associated more and more with traveling to destinations, that makes it increasingly hard for many runners to actually do.
What tends to occur is that all too often, we train based on our surroundings and where we live rather than what is ideal. I know this can be true for me, particularly living in a city. Week day training is limited to grass ovals and bitumen, not ideal for running a mountain trail race. When building a plan, make sure you try to replicate as much of your race conditions and terrain as you can.
#2 Go hard twice a week
How many of us appear to go through the motions with our training? Those 10-15km (6-10 mile) runs that clock up the distance somewhat, but are easy and don’t really do a lot. Sure, there’s a time and a place for easy runs – after the hard ones!
If you want to progress, get quicker and improve your 100km times, you have to learn how to run quick first. Anyone can run ‘slow’, no need to practice that. But the guys at the pointy end have all been working out how to run quick first. So what do we mean by hard?
Simply, we mean get the heart rate up and pushing it a little more than you normally would. At a more advanced level, you’ll see people incorporating speedwork and hard hill training into their programs, but if you’re just starting out, diving head first into that kind of training can injure you. The easy way to incorporate some form of speed work into your training plan is to include it in your daily runs. If you’re doing a 10km (6 mile run), allocate 2-3 blocks of five minutes where you increase the pace to somewhere just below your 10km pace, slower back down again, then increase it back up.
It’s also never to late to start some specific hill training too. Nothing gets you fitter, or the heart rate going more than an effort run up a hill. Uphill sprinting as its known not only gets the heart rate going strong, but it also works the body as far as resistance training is concerned. Again, don’t start like a bat out of hell, if you need to walk a hill in the first instance, do it. As your strength and fitness gradually improves, you’ll be able to run, judging your own heart rate to as to how hard you’re working.
#3 Build in the easy runs
Of course, the mistake you can sometimes make when increasing the work rate is the temptation to want to keep doing it. Adrenalin is addictive. Don’t be afraid to run at a much slower pace and build in 1-2 easy runs a week.
Rest is also important and it’s how we make strides of improvement, but the easy runs also allow your body to be conditioned to more back-to-back running at a threshold that is acceptable and doesn’t put too much strain on the body.
#4 Adapt to change
When you sign up for a 100km race, the temptation is to map out an entire program for the duration of your training. I know – I used to do it. The reality though is that things change, injures happen and so does life. Running isn’t front and centre of your life, there’s work, family and holidays to be had too.
Planning too far ahead can also set you up for failure by not meeting all of your training targets. It’s extremely hard to say what it is you’re going to be doing 12 weeks from now because so many other variables come into play. Our advice would be to take your training on a week by week basis, or perhaps every two weeks.
#5 See the bigger picture
While we recommend planning your training in small bite-sized blocks, it’s important that the bigger picture doesn’t get lost too. If you’ve set yourself a goal race that’s 50kms (30 miles) for example, you need to think about what it’s going to take to be prepared for that race and the amount of miles you need to put in. I have a general rule of thumb that if I’m making a 50km race my big goal for the year, I know I need to put do at least 1,000-1,200kms of training for that race. If it’s a 100 miler, then my block should be around 2,000-2,500kms plus of training.
Now you’ve got to race day! Here are five things to bear in mind.
Come race week all the hard work has been done, so rest up, fuel up and enjoy a few days of quiet before the big dance on the weekend. There is no point trying to cram in last minute hard sessions, any running you do should be easy.
#2 Fuel up!
The day before the event and morning of make sure you get enough carbohydrate to help replace and load the glycogen stores in your muscles and liver ready to race. If you struggle to eat carbohydrates then a good carbohydrate & protein drink can be a good option.
#3 Start out easy
Come race morning it is hard to resist the excitement and control the adrenaline, but if you go too hard at the start you’ll use up too much energy, hit the wall sooner and struggle to run consistently towards the end of the race. Consistency in pace is the key.
#4 Eat early and often
With ultra marathon finishing times ranging from 3 to 24+ hours, it’s important to start your nutrition plan and fueling routine early. To ensure you maintain a consistent energy level no matter how long you are out there, set an interval timer on your watch to remind you to take your nutrition (be it gels, bars or hydration drinks) on a regular basis. That way you won’t forget even when you’re tired or working hard!
#5 Beware of the checkpoint!
Checkpoints are like an oasis in the desert during ultra marathon races. You will be dreaming about them and waiting constantly for the next to arrive. However, don’t hang around in them – get in grab what you need and get out. Lingering in checkpoints not only wastes time, but can also cause you to second guess your drive to continue. A good strategy is to grab your supplies in hand and walk out of the checkpoint as you put them in your pack and organize your gear, this way you are still moving forward on the course and wasting as little time as possible.
So there you have it. A list of races and some basic pointers to get your started. All you have to do is choose a race and train!