Thursday, February 6, 2020

My First Ever 100 Mile Ultra Marathon: Part 1

What is an Ultra Marathon

An ultra marathon is considered to be 'ultra', when the distance covered is over the traditional marathon distance of 26.219 miles (or 42.195 Kilometres). This one I'm taking part in, is 100 miles and is trail run.  Which means dirt tracks, suspensions bridges, hills, mud and river crossings. The Borneo Ultra-Trail Marathon is held in the Kiulu Valley, in Borno, a Malaysian Island and approximately 2 hours flight from Singapore.

The course has quite a lot of elevation and technical trail sections. The full 100 mile circuit has a cut-off time of 52 hours for the total course, (apparently the 52 hours is a 'generous' amount of time to complete the course, if I keep a 'steady' pace).

The event starts on Saturday morning at 6AM. The faster runners are expected to complete the 100 mile course during Sunday, while the slower runners (like myself) may take another night on the course and have until Monday morning to complete. Yaaay

Why should I do an Ultra Marathon

To be honest, it looked tough and I want to have a crack. I have completed ultra events before, including the;
  • Worlds Toughest mudder (a 24 hour obstacle race in the Nevada dessert)
  • A 100 mile road bike race (as a client challenged me the week before)
  • Beyond the ultimates 'Ice Ultra' (230km across the Arctic circle)
  • And recently a 12 hours stint on a watt bike (just for shits and giggles). You can read my blog on that here

Course route and elevation

So why are doing it?

I wouldn't say I'm an 'Ultra athlete', not by any means. I just like a challenge and the circumstances suited me.  It only cost about $260SDG, or £130.  Flights are cheap and I'm not going to need much accommodation as I'm going be running through a jungle for the duration.

How do you train for an Ultra Marathon?

From signing up, I literally had 2 months (on the dot) to get fit and ready. There's not really much fitness training I can do to enable me to run 100 miles to be honest, in that short of a time frame.  I'm in relatively good shape, but only running 8kms to work twice per week. Not really cutting it.

My strategy is:
  • Efficiency - using a running technique specialist, to run better 
  • Nutrition - just eating loads and loads, as well as stating hydrated 
  • Mental - I kinda figure, that after a few hours it's gunna pretty much be about state of mind.
I went to see my man, Aschton at   He basically told me I'm running like shit, wasting energy and causing injuries (I actually suffering from some Achilles tendonitis).  

He took me though an assessment and step by step (literally), taught me how to re-train my stride.  I've been running for like 20 years, so there's a lot of bad motor patterns to work on.  

One of the first things he picked up was my landing foot was in contact with the ground for too long.  This meant there were more ground reaction forces going up the body and hence why my Achilles feels like glass strings. 

Ashton had me working on a phase of the running stride, know as the 'pull', rather than striding out.  He made focus on keeping minimum contact with the ground, leaning forwards more to accelerate and using gravity to create momentum.  

Check out the videos below for some of the strength work drills:

The static pull drill, to strengthen hamstrings

The Piston drill, to minimise contact with the ground.

The falling drill, to utilise momentum from gravity.

Putting it all together (sort of)

Nutrition for an Ultra Marathon

I'll be eating normal 'healthy diet', with salads, fruits, vegetables, proteins and fats. Except the quantity will increase.

A typical example of my days food would be:

  • Breakfast 1 6AM (pre run): Handful of oats. Scoop of Ufit vegan protein shake. Teaspoon of natural honey. Dash of milk and water. 
  • Breakfast 2 9/10AM (post run): Wholemeal pita, with teaspoon of butter. Scrambled eggs (x3). x1 Handful of chicken breast. x1 Handful of smoked salmon. Half an avocado and a Americano. 
  • Lunch 1PM: Chicken salad, with nuts and seeds, cabbage (red and white), spinach, carrots and a tablespoon of beetroot humous. 
  • Evening meal 1 5PM: Same as above 
  • Evening meal 2 830PM: Either a green Thai curry (not too much gravy) with rice, or, chicken breast, cupped handful of sweet potato. A cupped handful of wholemeal pasta. Handful of Brussel sprouts. Handful of cauliflower. 
All the above meal are pretty much restaurant based as I can't bothered cooking and is convenient for me. A typical day would equate to approximately 3000 calories (according to MyFitnessPal).

At the moment I'm just thinking about getting the calories in, as I have a physically demanding job (for up to 14 hours a day). I also have strength and continuing program I follow too.

Just from training at the moment I'm burning approximately 1400-1600 calories per day (according to my polar heart rate monitor) and that's not including, my daily output either from work and normal bodily functions.

A week out from the event, I'll start 'carb loading'. This is where I pretty much double the carbohydrates, like sweet potato, whole meal pasta and oats etc. This is so that I can store more glucose (sugar from carbohydrate) in the muscles.

During the event it's likely to be most liquid nutrition. I'll aim to pack as much edibles as possible and there are eating stations as we go, but after four hours in, I'll pretty much eat whatever's available (except bats-no bats!).

The supplements I'll be taking are:

  • Protein powder: x1-2 per day, and when I'm actually running the ultra, 3-4 scoops per day. 
  • Creatine: I'll be taking to increase my muscle endurance. 
  • Salts and electrolytes: I'm having take supplements here, because I started getting cramps in the middle of the night. 
  • Mulit-vitamin and fish oil: To help boost immune system mainly. 

Mindset for an Ultra Marathon

To be honest I'm not stressing out about this at the moment (in fact I'm learning the details as write this).

I know I can't be fit enough to run for up to 100 miles in one go, so Aschton has recommended 8 mins of running, to 8 minutes of marching That's a relief, because I was thinking 1 hour on-to-1 hour off. I can hack that and in my mind that's completely achievable. I'll set my watch and it'll act as a tally.

When I've gone into something like this in the past it's nerve racking, because I obviously want to complete it and not show myself up. My main motivator is my nearest and dearest, in the back of my mind I'm doing it for them (my purpose). I'm also doing it for personal development, 'if I do this, I can do anything', kind of thing. It helps develop other areas in my life.

I'll go into a 'zone', leading up to the race and will be thinking about all the different scenarios. I know there's going to be a pain, but I love that shit, it drives me more. I'm expecting that around the 8 hour mark. I've run for 5 days on two legs that had stress fractures, so I'm hoping that doesn't happen again. But when you start feeling a 'niggle', or a bit of chaffing, that shit really plays on for mind and can break you.

'It's the mountain that'll break you, it's the stone in your shoe'.

I'll keep you updated with posts of training, nutrition and progress as I go, across all my social media, so stay tuned.

Keep it real folks


Fancy a challenge and really pushing yourself to achieve something you thought you never could? Let's have a chat and see if you can change something. Send me a email and let's get the ball rolling...

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