What am I getting myself into???
I am slow!!!
The fastest marathoners in the world run around 2:03-2:04… that’s 4:40ish/mile. Most runners would be happy running one mile at this pace, let alone 26.2. In December, I’ll be racing my first marathon at CIM in Sacramento. Will it be anywhere remotely close to 2:03… HELL NO!!!
I stumbled into the ridiculous sport of ultrarunning because of a good friend that is an incredible endurance athlete. After completing my first 50 miler in August 2013, I was pretty sure it would be my first and last ultra. Not being able to walk for several days and hurting EVERYWHERE, I couldn’t fathom going through that pain again. Weird that the brain has the ability to file those memories into folders that you don’t access too often. Two years later, I’ve completed 14 ultras (3, 100 milers; 2, 100k’s; 3, 50 milers; and 6, 50k’s) and thankfully no race has hurt more than that first one. Not sure if it’s part masochist, attempting to learn what I’m made of or just plain stupidity, but I’ve truly stumbled upon my passion in life.
Spending countless hours in the wilderness logging long, hilly miles definitely has its benefits. Mental toughness, increased endurance, lower resting heart rate and an excuse to drink good beer afterwards are all great reasons to train big, long and slow.
Unfortunately, training only long, slow distance has its drawbacks… Decreased speed, shortened stride and lack of explosiveness. The elite ultramarathoners today (Rob Krar, Max King, Sage Canaday, Ellie Greenwood, etc.) have not only built huge endurance bases, but also have kept focus on what made them competitive on the roads… speed!
Can Ryan Hall win Western States???
(For any nonrunners reading this post, Ryan Hall is the fastest American marathoner of all time with a 2:04ish PR)
The better question would be, “Can Ryan Hall get into Western States” considering the ungodly amount of people entering the lottery every year, but it’s a question worth debating. Barring significant injuries, which unfortunately have plagued Ryan’s recent marathon career, and a year or two of consistent ultra-training, and I’d bet the farm on a Western States win.
Granted, a 100 mile race has many more variables to juggle than a marathon… Nutrition, hydration, elevation, heat management, stomach issues, lack of sleep, hyponatremia, night running, technical terrain, massive climbs and time on the feet are merely a few of the obstacles runners must tackle and/or manage throughout an ultra. However, we cannot discount the benefits of being able to crank out countless 5 minute miles with ease.
Running fast is a trained skill that takes years of focus. Technical downhills, climbing ability, endurance, intestinal fortitude, etc., are tools that fast runners use to become better ultrarunners. Yes, Kllian Jornet is absolutely incredible at mountain racing! He is fearless on downhills and has the climbing ability of a mountain goat. He’s also won Western States, which is a very runnable 100 mile race that benefits ultrarunners with speed.
Could Killian win Western States in 2016???
If Rob Krar, Seth Swanson, Dylan Bowman, Alex Varner and David Laney toe the line for WS healthy next year, Killian has no chance in hell. Runnable courses, whether a 5k or 100 mile race, benefit runners with speed.
“So why train to get faster when you race ultra marathons?” My dad asked this question a couple weeks ago as we were heading out to watch the highest scoring baseball game I’ve ever seen in person (Giants 14, A’s 10). Weird how that happens when you put Zito and Hudson on the mound 10 years past their prime.
Let’s take a quick look at the results of elite and sub-elite marathoners after their first 100 miler?
- Rob Krar; 2nd at Western States in 2013, 1st at WS in 2014, 1st at WS in 2015; 2:25ish marathon PR; 65 minute half-marathon PR
- Max King; 4th at Western States in 2014; 2:14 marathon PR
- Magdalena Boulet; 1st at Western States in 2015; 2:30ish marathon PR
- David Laney; 7th at Western States in 2015 and 3rd at UTMB in 2015; 2:17 marathon PR
- Alex Varner; 7th at Western States in 2014; 2:25ish marathon PR
Habitually, faster runners perform better at longer distance events than slower runners. I’m no scientist, say’s every GOP candidate in the past 5 years, and the statement above definitely won’t disprove Einstein’s theory of relativity, but the faster a runner is, the higher ceiling that runner has for long distance performance.
How does this relate to me?
Considering the “blistering” pace of 11-18 minutes/mile that I’ve thrown down in 100’s, there’s no way I can compete with elite or sub-elite ultrarunners without increasing my speed. Outside of a very mediocre four years of running high school cross county, and a couple of years slogging around the mountains for hours on end trying to figure out which gel won’t make me puke… as much… after mile 80, I’ve yet to formally train for running.
Will I ever win Western States? You’d be better off putting your money on the Cubbies to win the World Series. Will training to get faster benefit my ultra racing? Absolutely!
“So what the hell does training look like for a marathon?”
This is one of the many questions I peppered Thomas with as we ran a hilly 20 miler back in June.
Thomas Reiss, one of SLO’s most decorated runners, has agreed to help me prepare for CIM. Thomas won his first 7 ultra’s, after years of successful road racing. He owns a PR of 1:09 for the half, and ran a 2:36 marathon at age 45. This guy can flat out fly, and definitely knows a thing or two about training.
From 8/31-12/6, I’ll be diving in headfirst into marathon training. Granted, I’ve completed a couple marathons, but using one as a back-to-back after a 4-5 hour day in the mountains doesn’t provide for those peppy legs that roadrunners talk about. There are also a lot of new words I’ve been learning like Tempo Runs… Interval Training… Lactate Thresholds… VO2Max…
I’ll provide some updated posts along the way to getting my ass handed to me in December.
What am I getting myself into???