Top Five Mistakes of a First Time Ultrarunner

If you’re new to ultrarunning and have looked into planning for your first ultrarace, you’ll notice how overwhelming it can become pretty quickly. There is a lot of information out there (including on this blog) and sifting through it can become a full time job. Ultrarunners love to share their knowledge and expertise with others, especially those just getting into the sport.

Watching a new ultrarunner cross their first finish line is such a treat. The emotions that dance across their face and those of their loved ones waiting for them is truly inspirational. Out of my love for the newbies, here are my top five mistakes I see first time ultrarunners make.

Forgetting the Mental Training.

Running an ultra is not just a major physical effort. It’s a mental endurance event too, especially as you reach the 100 mile distance and beyond. In marathon running, runners talk about hitting the wall. Well, in an ultra there are lots of walls and they are usually followed by a dark pit of despair and then the pain cave. Leaving out the mental training can destroy your race. There are many runners who were physically fine to continue an event, but chose to drop because they had fallen a part mentally due to the exhaustion and concept of traveling 100 miles by foot all at one time.

You have to be ready to deal with your self defeating thoughts because they will come at some point during the race and they may visit more than once. Being prepared with positive affirmations, memories of when you overcame challenges before, and knowing that it’s a normal part of the ultra-experience makes a huge difference.

Ignoring Small Problems

When you’re running 50 or 100 miles (or more), things go wrong. Sometimes it’s one or two things, and some times it’s everything. They can be big things or they can be small things. The one thing you can’t do is ignore what you believe to be small because in 24-36 hours and over 100 miles, small becomes very very big.

If your shoelaces become a little loose, tighten them as soon as possible to prevent your foot from sliding back and forth or say hello to blisters. Tiny rock in your shoe-stop and get it out ASAP. Hot spot? yeah, take care of that right away. Some piece of clothing not quiet in the right place? fix it, lube it, or suffer in ten miles.

Fixing little problems as soon as possible is better than taking a long time or dropping from a race because you thought you could ignore it.

Dehydration/Electrolyte Imbalance

Finding the right balance for your body can be a challenge and you’re not always going to get it right.  Being able to identify dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance in your body is something both you and your crew should be able to do quickly. Knowing how to bring yourself close to equilibrium is critical. You’ll have plenty of opportunities during your training to figure this out, so pay attention an keep a log of what you consumed and what the environmental conditions were like. Dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance can cause nausea, vomiting, head aches, confusion, and much more.

Pace

Going out too fast and not walking when you know you should be walking under the circumstances are both situations which can end your race. Standing at a starting line is exciting and your all nerves. You just want to let it rip and get ahead of all these people who are going so mind mindbogglingly slow. Stop and think, why are they going slower? oh because they have 100 miles of mountains to get through on their own two feet. Keep it chilly at the beginning of a race, you can pick things up later if you have extra fuel in the tank. If you see people speed by you, keep calm and remember it’s a long race and a lot can happen.

The other issue with pace is you have to adjust to your circumstances. A hill that is very run-able at mile 15 may not be run-able at mile 55. Another situation is a run-able section in 65 degrees Fahrenheit can become not run-able in 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Pay attention to other runners especially if you find out they’ve run the race many times before and have a similar finish goal as you. I don’t mean you should glue yourself to them. Just think about what they are doing and ask yourself if it’s something you should consider.

Giving Up Too Early

Dropping out of an ultrarace is nothing to be ashamed of and nearly all ultrarunners make that choice for a variety of reasons at some point in their running career. But for every good reason to drop out, there is a runner who gave up too soon. In preparing for an event, you need to come up with reasons for you to stop such as major injury, repeated vomiting for more than an hour, or vomiting and diarrhea. Right below that should be all the things you should try to fix the problem before you actually turn over race number.

Running Preggers: Blood Volume

As an endurance athlete you already have a higher blood volume. Having higher blood volume reduces heart rate during exercise, delivers more oxygen to hard working muscles, sends more blood to the skin for cooling, and furnishes a reserve supply of internal fluid so that sweat rates can remain high during exercises. Your blood volume begins to increase after just a single exercise session and then reaches its peak within a few weeks.

Aerobic exercise typically reduces your blood pressure and your resting heart rate. But pregnancy increases your heart rate and makes your blood pressure fluctuate. Your resting heart rate can increase by as much as 15-20 percent during pregnancy.

The increase in blood volume due to cardiovascular fitness is much less than the increase seen for pregnant women. Pregnancy increases your blood volume, in fact it increases by as much as fifty percent. You need this extra blood because you’re providing for your growing child. During your first trimester, your blood is going up, but not a lot because the baby is so small and has small needs. By the second trimester, you may experience dizziness or lightheadedness as your body tries to catch up on the need for more blood. By the third trimester all this extra blood can leave you with swelling in your feet and joints.

Additional side effects of increased blood volume in pregnant women can include an increase in body temperature and sweating. All the extra blood volume can make your veins more visible and larger.

Blood volume also accounts for approximately four pounds of the recommended weight gain for a pregnant woman (25-30 lbs). Other fluids, not including the amniotic fluid, like water add another 4 pounds. The amniotic fluid is about two pounds.

That’s a lot of extra fluid floating around in your system by the time you reach the end of your pregnancy.

Weekly Miles: at 30 weeks pregnant, I’m still running but I’ve had to reduce my miles a lot. I run three miles a day at a ten and a half minute mile. Some days are more comfortable than others. I’m supplementing with the various elliptical machines at the gym to maintain my cardiovascular fitness. As the belly has begun to stick out more, the maternity belt works better and is able to reduce the pressure I was feeling in my pelvis while running.

Keep running mamas!

Running Preggers: Lots of Snot

This is my first post about running while pregnant. I don’t plan on making all my posts about running while pregnant, even as I get further a long in my pregnancy. But, I do plan on throwing them in here every so often.

I know from searching online there’s a lot of personal stories about running while pregnant and what women were running and not running while pregnant. And while all of this is very encouraging and useful, I find that it’s also a little lacking because it doesn’t go into the changes that occur in your body when you’re pregnant and how those change running. So, that’s what I’m hoping to do with my pregnancy posts.

One of the things that began to plague me from early in my pregnancy is the congestion. At first it was only at night. Now at 19 weeks, it’s all the time. The increased congestion is caused by a couple of things. The increased blood volume and hormones. The increased blood volume and estrogen cause swelling in the lining of the nasal passages and that causes more snot. The extra blood also causes the tiny blood vessels in your nose to swell. All of this leads to what has been coined pregnancy rhinitis.

Being congested while you run can be interesting. As your body temperature increases, the snot clogging your noes gets runny, which means you can breathe again, but there’s a cost. It can make your throat sore and irritated because its running down that way or it can make it, so you want to snot rocket all over what ever happens to be to your right or left. For me, that’s another person since I’m running on the treadmill (too much pollution outside). Another pleasant result of the snot beginning to run is then it makes you cough or sneeze.

Pregnancy Rhinitis can begin around eight weeks of pregnancy (yep) and then continue until you deliver the baby. After the baby, it should stop within a few weeks. Having allergies makes things worse of course and the constant stuffy nose can lead to sinus infections.

So what can you do about it? If you start your run all stuffed up, it’s going to make things more interesting when you get going. Using a humidifier at night will keep the drainage action going and help you start your run with clear nasal passages (you have to buy one for the baby anyway, might as well make sure you chose a good one and see how it works). Use saline drops or spray to clear your noes before your run or inhale steam.

If it gets to be too much, contact your doctor or the mother to baby hotline 1 (800) 822-2229 or email them expertinfo@mothertobaby.org They are the experts of what goes through mom’s system and into baby’s. They have tons of research on hand on what medication, vitamins and all sorts of other stuff can be harmful to a baby growing in utero.

I know knowing how much you can run while you’re pregnant is a challenge and it’s all subjective. Let your body tell you how much is okay and be prepared to listen. I’ll post how much I’m running each week at the end of my pregnancy posts, but again how much you should run while pregnant depends on many factors. Make choices best for YOU and YOUR BABY.

Weekly miles: 36, running three days a week.