There are as many reasons to run ultras as there are ultra runners. But I doubt anyone does it just for the buckles. Yeah, they’re pretty cool. Some people may even display them. Many marathon runners display their metals. All of my buckles are in a wooden box and my metals are in a sturdy plastic container. Both are on the top shelf of my closet.
For me, the metal or the buckle is just a bonus. I run ultradistance for the challenge, the community, the chance to be in my mountains, the freedom, to breath and to live. I love ultrarunning for the experiences, thoughts, insight, ideas, soul searching, and the understanding. I love the questioning, self doubt, fear, disappointment and failures.
I love it all in the end, but I may hate it in the moment. Ultrarunning takes a deep love and some serious determination. It is not for every runner. It is for the growing few.
I have found myself deep in the pain cave staring at my feet as I drag them along the trail only to glance up and meet the eyes of a serene doe watching from back in the trees, ears forward facing, just watching and that is enough for me. That one momentary connection with another soul, another heart that loves the mountains, the crisp pine and sage scented morning air, and the strange blue yellow light of the early clean dawn.
I’ve written about training partners in the past, but feel it is a good time to do so again. As the scientist are learning more and more about the Covid-19 virus and how it spreads, in addition to the vaccine being available to everyone over the age of 16, the time has come to start venturing out of our homes and associating with others again. Although for many, including myself, this will cause some anxiety and there will be hesitation in expanding one’s social circle.
My understanding of the CDC guidelines is that people who are vaccinated can gather in small groups without masks when outdoors. This means getting back in touch with our running groups and partners. Running with others can add a level of enjoyment and challenge to your running. You don’t always have to run with others, in fact, I recommend you spend some time, even some long runs, without anyone else.
If you are going to run with others, how do you make sure it is a healthy and supportive running relationship? For me the most important thing is supportive rather than competitive. Sure there can be some competition but it should never cross the line to the point that you would sacrifice the friendship or make someone feel less than good enough. I feel like the ultrarunning community and trail runners more generally tend to be more supportive. Not less competitive. It goes back to the supportive piece is the most important.
The second thing when running with a group or another person on a consistent basis, is to set the ground rules from the beginning. What happens during races? What happens when someone is injured? What happens when someone isn’t up to the scheduled workout for the day?
My rule about training and racing is train together don’t race together. This doesn’t mean you can’t run side by side or support each other or even hang back a bit for your training partner at times. It means you have to know when to run your own race and not try to keep pace with someone who is having an amazing day if you’re not and it means you have to let them go when you can’t keep up. Every race is different. You learn this the hard way when you’ve run 3 or 4 100s. You can have amazing training results and then fall flat or worse on race day for some unknown reason. If this happens you need to either let your partner go ahead and tell them to do so and if you are the one having a great day, give your slower friend a high five and tell them you will see them at the finish line no matter how long it takes them.
What if one of you gets injured during a race? Don’t drop out because your friend is unless you need to in order to assist your friend in getting medical care right away. During training, don’t skip training because your friend can’t go and the injured friend needs to encourage the other person to get out there and keep with the program. This can be hard if you are injured, especially when it is something that is going to keep you out for longer than a few days. It is easy to just not want to be around others who are finding joy and success in something that you can’t do and was (is) a big part of your life. At times like these it is important to remember you’re still a runner. You’re just an injured runner healing so you can come back stronger. There have been some amazing runners who have been out for a month or more due to injury who come back late in the season stronger than ever.
What happens if your partner isn’t up for the scheduled workout? it won’t hurt you to take an extra easy day. It will likely be good for you. Just don’t make it a routine. Try going to a track where you can do your speed work while your partner goes at a slower pace. You can chat on your recovery laps, your warm up and your cool down. You can also go to the gym and run side by side on treadmills set at different paces. There are options and it’s okay to stick with your friend at times. It becomes a problem if you are missing critical workouts on a routine basis.
Should you choose a partner who is faster or slower than you? Ideally you will find someone who is close to the same fitness level as you, but if you don’t, you can do easy or hard workouts together and then the opposite on your own. Don’t forget I said running alone is necessary as an ultrarunner.
As great as training partners are, running alone is a critical skill for an ultrarunner. One hundred miles is a long way, and one hundred mile events don’t typically have more than a few hundred runners. This means you are going to be alone. You could be alone for hours at a time. You need to be okay spending time in your own head and dealing with the mental challenges that come with ultrarunning when you are on your own. You have to master the mental game, which is a topic for another time (or you can look back on previous posts).
So many runners have an issue with taking “rest” days. I know I do. The purpose for taking rest days is to recover and rebuild your muscles so they are stronger and can withstand more rigorous training. It allows you to build your miles and increase your speed. It is the foundation to making running a life long sport and not just an “in the good old days” sport or “when I was younger…”
My goal is to run a 100 on my 100th birthday. Maybe it will happen maybe it won’t. One thing is for sure, I will be slower and I will need a full time pacer and crew. Something I have had to reconcile is this whole concept of rest. I have read books on rest and why it is important. I’ve heard pod cast after podcast and seen many videos and articles on rest.
Even with this information being spewed at runners from every media source available, we struggle. We fight taking rest days. We push through injuries and then our bodies make us stop. Doesn’t it make more sense to just take a day off here and there or to take a week of reduced miles every so often? yes but we’re ultrarunners and nothing in rest says ultra anything. Ultrarest? hmmmm questionable.
I’ve gotten better about taking rest. Some of that is from listening to Coaches David and Megan Roche from Some Work, All Play Running. Coach David Roche often says, taking three days off when you start to feel an issue is not going to hurt your training but it may save you from having a serious injury which can sideline you for a month or more. I’m paraphrasing and saying like I remember it, but it’s pretty much what he said.
I’ve tried to implement this in my running over the last six months and I believe it has prevented little issues from becoming big issues. So I would recommend this thinking to all other runners.
My other recommendation when it comes to “rest” days, is to not think about them as taking the day off or “resting” at all. Think of them as Rebuild days or Recovery days, which every you like. You can even double them up into Recovery and rebuild days.
Sometimes just a change in the language we use can totally change the way we view an idea or training concept. Do I always take a Rebuild day or week? Let’s just say it’s a work in progress.