Sunday, January 29, 2012

Training in Various Bodily States

Running an ultra is essentially an exercise in problem solving. Your ability to solve the problems that arise will determine your ability to finish the race. The more you train, the less likely you'll experience problems. However, by purposely creating problems in training, you'll learn to recognize the signs of an impending problem and develop the skills to fix the problem before it threatens the race.

I like to think of this training as 'body state training.” I intentionally create a problem. Then I fix the problem. Here are the problems I like to create:
Run on a full stomach: Ultras almost always require eating during the race. Digesting food while running doesn't work well... unless you train your body. This is very simple. Pick one run per week and eat a big meal immediately before running. My favorite method is to down a Quarter Pounder extra value meal from McDonald's, then go out for a run of at least 10 miles. The key is to start running at a very slow pace. As your body acclimates to running on a full stomach, you'll be able to increase the pace without discomfort.

Run on an empty stomach: I touched on this topic earlier when talking about heart rate training. The idea is to purposely deplete your body of carbohydrates, so you hit a wall early in the run. After doing this a few times, you'll recognize the earliest stages of that crash. The crashes you experience will also get less severe. Your body begins t adapt to making that transition to fat burning. I practice this technique about once every two weeks. I'll stop eating by noon the day before a long run. I won't eat again until after the long run. It's not a pleasant type of training, but well worth the effort.

Run while tired: Toward the latter stages of an ultra, you'll be tired. You tend to trip and stumble more. You may have trouble maintaining good form. If you're really sleep-deprived, you may even hallucinate. Training while tired can help you learn to cope with this. It's easy. Go to work. Come home. Do a bunch of chores. Run some errands. Once you're absolutely exhausted, go for a good, long run. Alternatively, wake up a 2am and run. Either one works.

Run while hot: Heat training allows your body to adapt to running in warm to hot temperatures. Many ultras are run in hotter weather, which introduces issues like sweating, electrolyte balance, and thermoregulation. Heat training is simple- just run in hot weather. If hot weather isn't available, dress in several layers retain body heat. The tricky part of heat training is safety. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are significant dangers. Familiarize yourself with the early symptoms: excessive sweating, dizziness, headache, muscle cramps and weakness, and vomiting. The more severe symptoms include a cessation of sweating, seizures, and confusion. It's a life-threatening condition, so stop immediately if you experience any of the early symptoms. I'll discuss specific heat training techniques in a later section.

Run while cold: Cold training serves the opposite purpose, though we're generally more adept at running in the cold. Our bodies usually produce enough heat to remain comfortable in everything but the coldest of temperatures. Still, it's handy to do some training while cold. It will teach you the art of bundling up. Wear too many clothes and you'll end up sweating profusely, which will ultimately make you colder. Wear too little clothing and you'll be exposed to the elements. Unfortunately it's difficult to simulate cold weather if you don't live in a cold environment. I did hear a story of a dude that convinced a local grocery store to let him put a treadmill in a freezer (which is usually kept a 0° F). If you have those kind of connections, go for it. 

Run while wet: It's likely you'll get wet at some point in an ultra. It may rain. There could be water crossings. It could be humid and you sweat like the hands of a boy on his first date. Regardless, learning to deal with moisture is a useful skill. Unchecked wetness can be uncomfortable, cause body temperature to plummet, or cause excessive chafing and blisters. About once per month, I'll do a “wet run” that involves jumping in a lake early in the run. This allows me to play with a few variables that I couldn't test otherwise. Running in the rain will serve the same purpose. Oh, and for those of you that thought 'running while wet" might have another meaning... I like the way you think.  ;-)


1 comment:

  1. Jason,

    Running in the Cold- One topic not covered in any Ultra book I have read is "Freezing your dick off". With cold comes loss blood flow to your unit. Exposure to the cold can result in Frost Bite or worse... Through experience the pain is so intense that you rather just die than run another step until your junk is room temp. An ultra runner with much more experience than I on the this subject is known for his Baby Sock that he will use as an extra layer of insulation for his unit.