Tag Archives: Training

Make it enjoyable

People who enjoy an activity, be it sports or anything else, are the ones who tend to stick with it over the long term. Some people make their practice, if not their lives, a constant struggle. They seem to always be measuring themselves in contrast with some distant ideal, feeling bad about how far they are from it. Then they keep pushing harder and harder, in a tense and stressful way.

It is important to have a goal and work towards it, but this effort has to be balanced with a lighthearted attitude and a constant search for enjoyment. There are always opportunities to make it enjoyable.

One example of it was the first time I did a 16 mile session. Before that most of my training happened on the beach or on South Point Park, and that day I decided to take the streets and run from 1st St to 95th in Miami Beach, then I would do the same way back and that was going to be 16 miles. What I miscalculated is that South Point Park is a very flat, very smooth surface, and the beach is not too bad either. Running on the streets you have to keep switching directions, going up and down curbs, avoiding all kinds of obstacles. The stress on my feet and ancles was so much more intense that by the time I reached 95th St I was in more pain than ever, and returning home was a slow walk until I reached 55th St. At that point the pain was so intense I couldn’t walk really, it was more like a careful and slow limping… and I still had some 4 miles to go. At this point I decided to forget the pace and walk to the beach, and put my feet under the cool ocean water. The soothing effect was amazing. I changed the music in my iPhone to some of my favorite and most uplifting motivational talks, and just walked back by the water, varying my moves and enjoying the amazing view of South Beach under a near full moon. It was still not easy, but much better than insisting on a horribly painful routine on the street. The next day my feet and ancles were more sore than usual, but I was well recovered in just another 24 hours.

We can all work hard and still stay within enjoyment. That 16mile limit that was so hard for me that day is a short distance for me now that I am running 20 miles or more at a time. It was more important to preserve my state of mind than to preserve an arbitrary goal of time or distance for that particular day.

Training in California

Had a chance to run with Eden in late September, once on the beach in Marina Del Rey, and once at Griffith Park.

At the park I arranged my tshirt in my head in a way that we had to call “running Taliban”. In fact I got a lot of weird looks from the other park visitors.

After that, back to the Red Lion for great german beer and beef tartar. Yay!

Training strategy

Some runners may mistakenly believe they can simply scale up a marathon training program but this is not the best way to devise a training strategy. Instead the athlete should plan on increasing his weekly mileage as much as possible without making himself susceptible to overuse injuries.

Most people would assume that the normal progression would be 5K’s, 10K’s, 10 milers, marathons, and then a 50 miler. I think that is appropriate in most cases. However, I don’t think you necessarily have to run a marathon before you run an ultra. In fact, most runners won’t attempt an ultra after having finished a marathon or two. The thought of going almost twice as far, hurting twice as much, and training twice as hard, is just an unbearable thought.

You don’t hurt twice as much. In fact, ultras are easier than marathons. Marathons are much more intense and most people run the entire distance. In ultras, only the very elite are able to run 50 miles non-stop. Some elite runners (who run all the way) are beaten by other runners who mix in walking with their running.

Additionally the runner should also carefully evaluate the terrain and profile of the course and should be sure to incorporate similar hills and running surfaces into the training to ensure he is prepared for the race. Ultra marathons can usually keep high intensity speed workouts to a minimum during the training process because these workouts are not likely to be beneficial during the ultra marathon.

The key to success is time on your feet. You need to adapt to spending long periods of time on your feet and moving forward. Longer runs (>4 hrs.) can be broken up with walking breaks. In fact, learning to walk and then run again is a key to success in ultra-marathons.

New research shows that pacing in running races is controlled primarily by the subconscious brain. Throughout each race, your brain calculates the fastest pace you can sustain without endangering your life and uses feelings of fatigue and reduced electrical output to your muscles to ensure that you run no faster. The more experience you have as a runner, the more reliable these calculations become.

“Stopping briefly for walk breaks in both training and racing is the key to being able to move forward at all times,” says Buffalo Chips ultrarunner Becky Johnson, who finished her first 50-miler in 2003.

Another thing I do, this one without any scientific basis but just my intuition, is to sing. I think music is the best pacer you can have and when singing out loud while running and walking I exercise my breathing better, expand my aerobic capacity.

A 30 mile run is by no means easy no matter how you look at it. Even if you walk most of it, it is still a really long walk. You can’t control what happens after 20 miles or so. That is when most of the pain and suffering happens. It takes a lot of discipline and determination to finish the last part.

You can, however, control the pace of the first 20 miles to make the last 10 much easier. The most important is to resist the urge to start faster than the ideal pace. Now I make sure I keep a speed during the first 20 miles that is very comfortable and at points even feels really easy, because I know that if I push it hard in the beginning it will feel like hell at the end. I also make sure I keep drinking fluids and eat small portions along the entire way.

Training location

I decided to come to Miami Beach for these three months of training for several reasons.

  • It’s a wonderful, inspiring location
  • It is flat, like most of my route to California
  • Plenty of runners, good places for supplies, friends to run with
  • Great weather

During training I had to travel a bit and had a chance to train in some other cities, like Santa Monica, Venice, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, and Boston.

Training plan

My initial training began August 25th, as soon as I arrived in Miami, and will last three months.

During the first month the goal is to just run and walk as far and as fast as I can without injuring myself and without turning this into [unnecessary] self-torture. I don’t want to change my attitude. There is a very clear distinction in my mind between pain and suffering. I welcome pain, because pain is the body telling you that it is doing something new, telling you that it is improving and becoming stronger. Suffering is when your mind is freaking out about it. So I push myself, I go further every day, I have a great time doing it every time, and I catch myself laughing and singing very often.

During the second month I will focus even more on distance because I want to reach the 20 mile distance quite often. By the end of the second month of training I want to be able to do it at least a few times, in a combination of easy jogging and fast walking.

During the third month I will not be adding distance, just make it more constant, more smooth, and more predictable. Then during the last two weeks I will make it closer to 30 miles instead of 20 and see how I manage it. I expect to be able to do it well at that point and then at the end of three months I will do 30 miles and then 30 miles the next day. That is the final test that shows I am good to go.