It’s dark, cold, and there are far less spectators than when you started this thing. Leaving the last aid station, you go over the mental checklist:
Make sure not to go backwards on the race course… check.
Over the next few miles, you’ll settle back into your pace, flush the lactic acid, and just try to endure through the last chunk of time until the finish after many, many hours of racing, preparing, and training. But how did you get to this moment in this race and what will you do differently for the next one? Though you can’t imagine it now in the dark and cold of this moment, you’ll be back and more prepared for the next race and the next moment when you are truly questioning your sanity as an endurance athlete.
Find your Race Zen
As a lifelong endurance athlete myself- I have been there and will be there again… and again… willingly. Most times I have overcome the urge to quit, but frankly I have also thrown in the towel and owned that decision with great success. The longer you’re in this sport, the more races you will accumulate and work towards a certain level of zen with them. There will be a next race and you have totally crushed races in the past… today just wasn’t your day. How can my experience and what I have accumulated through 20 years of racing and sharing with endurance athletes far superior to me help you? This is what I hope to unpack in a 3 part series called Make it to the End of Your First or Next Ultra Endurance Race– because we all make it to the start, but some minor things typically keep us from getting to the end. Let’s change that!
Defining Ultra Endurance
So, what are we talking about with ultra endurance races, or maybe you’re asking yourself, “Am I an endurance athlete?”. The popularity of ultra racing over the 5 hour mark has grown exponentially over the past 10 years. In the cycling world you have the Tour Divide and its 2745 miles and 200,000 feet of climbing tackled by bikepackers annually, Race Across America (RAAM) with its inception in 1982 as one of the oldest of modern times covering 3000 miles of pavement, World Endurance Mountain Bike Organization (WEMBO) hosting 24hr MTB Races all over the world culminating in an annual World Champion, and countless national, state, and local races ranging from 100 miles to 6, 8, 12, and 24 hours in length.
Going the Distance
If you want to ditch the bike and lace up some running shoes, you can choose from races like the Western States Endurance Run dating back to 1974 and boasting 100 miles and 18,000 feet of climbing for the fleet-footed and tough-minded, the Leadville Trail 100 Run (also a MTB version for cyclists) taking runners through elevations from 9,200’ to 12,600’ over a 100 mile course since its beginning in 1983, or Marathon des Sables with its series of international races ranging up to 155 miles in the toughest conditions, these are of course in addition to the 50K trail race or 100 mile road race that is likely happening in your hometown.
There are also many other races ranging from ultra-style canoe/kayak, XC ski, fatbike, stand up paddleboard to less human-powered sailing and motorsports events. They all have one thing in common… whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it for much longer than most of your other athlete friends who stick to 5K runs, 40 mile bike, or 26.2 mile marathon races. If you are doing these endurance events, than yes, you sir/ma’am ARE an endurance athlete… so, read on.
Your Ultra Race Success Roadmap
I aim to breakdown your preparation for an ultra endurance race into 3 parts. We will start with plotting a roadmap to the physical training needed to prepare your body for the stresses of this level of race. Next, we will delve into the nutrition, fuel, and recovery needed to support the training you’ll be immersed in. Lastly, building up to your race, I want to give you some insight on recon, strategy, and a race plan to get you to the end of your first or next ultra endurance race.
Stay tuned to TriSports University and take a look at your local or national race calendar and maybe find an Ultra Endurance Race that looks like you may want to target. In the meantime, get some rest- you’re gonna need it you endurance athlete!
About the Author: Steven Terry completed his first mountain bike race in Michigan in 1994. Since then, he has been an endurance athlete competing in events including road races, ultra endurance events on bike and foot, trail running, bikepacking, and XC mountain bike races. As a sponsored athlete for Framed Bikes, Hammer Nutrition, ESI Grips, and Pro Gold Lubricants- Steven stays on the leading edge of the products and training techniques available to endurance athletes and is always happy to share any knowledge he has that might be helpful to others. He moved from Northern Michigan to Tucson, AZ for year-round training and access to some of the brightest minds and fastest athletes the endurance athlete world has to offer. Follow his adventures at: https://www.instagram.com/ivebeen_framed