January 26, 2021

Ultramarathon Training Update: Taper Time

Ultramarathon training is coming to an end. Yesterday, I ran (trudged) for over 8 hours all over the North Shore. It was our longest training run of the program and I managed 40 km. It’s the last big test before Squamish 50, which happens in 4 short weeks. This entire process has been humbling and I want to share with you some of my thoughts about the ultramarathon training journey so far.

Cutoff concerns

After the last Squamish 50 orientation run (35k), I started obsessing over cutoffs. For both orientation runs, I was the last one to show up at the finish. I got so stressed, I started looking at past results to see how long it took the last few people to finish. Some were pushing the 11 hours, 45 minute cutoff. My average time for a 25 km run is about 4 and a half hours so the dream is finishing between 10 and 11 hours. Obsessed with my numbers, I did a lot of math. I looked at past races and runs to see how long it took me to run sections of the course, added them all up and determined that 10 hours is feasible. Does anyone else do this? Or is my type A personality shining?

On paper, it was looking okay but the best test was the training run. Yesterday, I had a sub-par run due to several factors: heat, stomach issues and soreness in the arch of my foot and muscles. I also ran out of water halfway through and took some time to get to my pit stop. It was certainly a mental game for the most part. The easiest trails seemed so much more daunting. I couldn’t even descend Lynn Loop properly. Then again, the stomach problems started around that point too. Either way, I managed to get a second wind in the last 9 kilometres. 40 kilometres in about 8 hours and 20 min means 3 hours to run another 10k. For having a pretty rough day, I felt good about that outcome. I guess I shouldn’t worry about cutoffs but I’m sure I’ll be doing some more math in the next couple of weeks.

Friendly support

Never underestimate the power of trail friends. My best runs were always with other people. Not only do we keep each other entertained but we continue to lift each other up on and off the trail. Whether you’re running alongside each other, randomly running into a friendly face, or sending encouraging text messages from afar, every little bit raises the confidence meter. So thank you for all the support you’ve given me these past few months. Even if you’re just reading my ramblings, it makes me feel better.

Food for thought

One of my favourite things about being a trail runner is the necessity to eat real food on the go. You can’t survive on gels alone when you’re out on the trail for hours. At trail races, I often go for oranges, chips and flat Coke. Since I am self-supported, I bring my own chips, bananas, and rice cakes (from Hannah Grant’s cookbook), in addition to some tubes of Endurance Tap and Nuun Boost for hydration. It’s tough to bring so much stuff with you but I don’t know what I’d be in the mood for. It really depends on the day you’re having. Either way, I forced myself to eat more often than last time and it really perked me up. I will definitely be hitting each aid station and grabbing food even if I don’t need it. Ultramarathon training has taught me that food brings you back from the hole you dug yourself 😛

Power hiking

If I can’t run uphill, I can surely power hike it. It kept me going at my lowest points. I feel like this is more in my control since I still suck at descending. It’s certainly an important skill to know and practice. If you can be more energy-efficient, why not?

Running out of battery

Aside from me running out of power during the race, I was also concerned about my watch battery. My Garmin Forerunner 235 barely lasted 8 hours during the last training run. I promptly bought a new watch and switched to Suunto. I got a Suunto Spartan Sport on sale and the last few weeks, I’ve been getting to know the features and quirks. It’s a lot of experimenting with different settings to make sure I will have enough power for the race. I guess I can also use it as motivation to finish quicker. If you’re a back of the packer and training for your first ultra, this is definitely something to think about. I know in the long run it isn’t important but I want my Strava map 😛

I can’t believe my first ultramarathon training journey is coming to an end. The next few weeks involve decreased mileage and lots of anxiety. But who doesn’t have anxiety before a big race, am I right? Can you relate with my stresses? How did you feel before a big race? How did you deal with the butterflies? Leave a comment and share your thoughts! Thanks again for reading.


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8 thoughts on “Ultramarathon Training Update: Taper Time

  1. Don’t worry about any of these – just enjoy the race. The worst that can happen is you don’t make the cutoff, but you will still have run the distance. And then you get to try again next year. But you won’t need to, because if you free your mind from all this stress, and calculations, you’ll crush it. Just don’t get too caught up in the excitement of everyone taking off at the start, and run your your own pace.

  2. Jeannine,
    Great read! You sound totally ready for this race and have done all of the training. I’m sure you will do great!

    I too am a back of the pack Ultra runner and this will be my 4th Ultra and perhaps the hardest one so far. I have been wondering about cut-offs as well but I’m hopefully with the 11.5 hours we are given and that nothing terrible goes on I will make it.

    My longest run is coming up this weekend and will likely be doing a similar distance that you just did – congrats by the way!

    Looking forward to our race day and perhaps we will even share some time together on the trails that day!

  3. Keep it up, Jeannine!! It’s a great achievement on a personal level. And you are right when we doing something friends support is very important. Keep running and keep sharing. What do you think which is the best season to do cardio or running?

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