My Upcoming Race Season: Training for my first 100miler & first Ironman
Jun 29, 2017
When it came time to firm up my race schedule for this year, I decided that this was the year to cross two things off of my bucket list: Ironman Canada and run a 100miler. After planning and registering for several other races, my 2017 race schedule started to look something like this:
- June 3: 5 Peaks Goldbar Park 15km trail race
- June 10-11: MS bike Leduc to Camrose with Active Physio Works – Team Rehab (180km total)
- July 8-9: Sinister 7 100miles
- July 30: Ironman Canada
- August 20: Edmonton marathon (4:00 pace rabbit)
- September 8-9: Lost Soul Ultra 100km
- October 8: Okanagan marathon
While I come from a triathlon background, having raced in the sport for 10 years from a young age, it has been just over a decade since I have actually done a triathlon. Finishing an Ironman has always been on the bucket list for me and after the last two years being very endurance focused in running 50km+ distances, I feel that my fitness and training are at the right places to take on the challenge. While dabbling in running anything from 5km to half marathons over the past decade or so, I made the jump to ultramarathon distances (anything over the marathon distance of 42.2km) just over two years ago with the goal of a solo finish of the 125km Canadian Death Race in Grande Cache, Alberta in 2015. While running 125km may seem crazy to some, I was smiling at 8:00am when I started the race and all the way through until I finished at 4:30am. I finished the race already making plans in my head of taking on the 100mile distance.
Having two quite different main race goals (relatively close together!) for this year meant having to get creative with my training, changing up my usual mostly running training program to accommodate the extra events of swimming and biking. While I could previously just throw on some running clothes or pack some shoes wherever I went to get some training in when I had time, fitting in swims and time on the bike posed a bit of a challenge for me. I have learned that I can’t stick to my usual training plan structure, and have opted instead for a more versatile training regimen where I can pick and choose workouts that work with the day ahead. Often this means leaving my swim and run gear in the car to pick which works better with lane swim times and my work schedule that day or fitting in bikes on the trainer if I get home after dark or the weather doesn’t hold up. After suffering through a few minor injuries last year, I have been really focusing on getting in strength training this year, specifically core, hip and leg strengthening that is functional for running.
With Sinister 7 100miler being less than two weeks away now, I am starting to taper in preparation. During this time, I plan to back off a bit in running mileage with two weeks to go and more so in the last few days before the race to ensure the legs are fresh and ready to go. Since Ironman Canada is only 3 weeks after Sinister 7, I am planning on augmenting my taper this year with swims and bikes and focusing on swimming and biking after Sinister 7 as active recovery for the Ironman.
Here are my top 3 tips for how to improve your training and be ready for race day:
LEARN FROM PAST RACES
Every race, whether it went well for you or not, is a learning experience. 2015 was my first year racing at the ultramarathon distance, with my furthest race previously being a half marathon. While the thought of jumping up to 50km and 125km distances that year was slightly intimating, it was also really exciting, as it brought new challenges and the extra element of learning. While I have a long history of running, switching to the ultra-distance was not unlike trying out an entirely new sport and the “professional student” in me quickly went into research mode. How do I train for something that long? What do I eat? How many carbs/calories do I need to take in? What kind of gear do I need? I read everything I could, created a training plan, discovered through trial and error what worked for me in terms of race nutrition, went through several pairs of trail shoes, went for runs in the dark, ran in the mountains every spare weekend, and realized the benefits of using poles on tired legs. My first 50km in late May that year went better than expected and I as able to fine-tune what worked and what didn’t in terms of my race nutrition. This race left me feeling very confident in my training and my readiness to take on the 125km Canadian Death Race 2 months later. My second 50km was a disaster…or at least I thought so at the time. Nothing went well. It was a very hot day, my usual race nutrition wasn’t working for me, everything hurt, and I finished feeling mentally and physically defeated. But I finished it -- even though there were several points in the race when I really didn’t want to. This was the race that mentally prepared me for Death Race. This was the race that taught me the importance of mental toughness (or stubbornness) that was so key to finishing my longest race to date. It taught me how to motivate myself to just keep moving forward, how to talk myself through the lowest points of the race and to assure myself that I was, in fact, prepared to overcome the challenge. Every time I finish a race, I ask myself the same questions: what went well? What did not work for me? What should I keep the same? What should I do differently? These simple questions will help you grow as an athlete and achieve success in your training and racing.
TRAIN HOW YOU INTEND ON RACING
Training is your time to experiment, to try out new things and to decide what works for you. It’s the time to fine-tune your race nutrition, to test out shoes and gear and to ascertain where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Figure out what works for you in training and implement that in racing. Learning that your brand new running shorts cause chafing in all the wrong places 10km into a 100km race is not going to be a fun experience for you and can easily be avoided. Ensure that you get some training in at race pace to really test your racing plan.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ALL AVAILABLE RESOURCES
I am very fortunate in having a great running community and colleagues that can share their race experiences and give me insight into what to expect and what they found helpful. If you know someone who has done a race you are planning, pick their brain. Other athletes are the best resource for things to add into training, what to expect and for those little golden nuggets of advice that may help you get to the finish. Check out races on social media. Most races now have Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages and forums for people to ask questions, check out pictures of race conditions and see what is offered in terms of nutrition on the course. Go into your local bike or running store and get a bike fitting, ask questions about gear and ensure you have everything you need to help you in your training and racing.
Stay tuned for my blogs post-race to see how they went!
Also, for information on training and injury prevention for triathletes check out my blog on the WTS Edmonton blog at: https://www.wtsedmontonblog.com/blog/injury-pretention-triathletes
Recommended Readings for Ultramarathon and Ironman Training Tips:
Fitzgerald, Matt (2015) How Bad Do You Want It?: Mastering the Psychologist of Mind over Muscle. Boulder, CO: VeloPress.
Huddle, Paul & Roch Frey with TJ Murphy (2016) Triathlon: Start to Finish, 24 weeks to the long distance, 4th Ed. Meyer & Meyer Sport Ltd.
Koop, Jason with Jim Rutberg (2016) Training Essentials for Ultrarunning: How to Train Smarter, Race Faster, and Maximize Your Ultramarathon Performance. Boulder, CO: VeloPress.
Powell, Bryon (2011) Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons. Halcottsville, NY: Breakaway Books.
Questions or comments? Email me at: meghankiss@activephysioworks