All posts by kbrandenberger1

Building Mileage for Ultramarathons

One of the most daunting things about running an ultramarathon is combing through the blogs and magazines and finding that everyone seems to be running 100 miles per week.  First, let me dispell that myth.  Not everyone who runs ultramarathons is putting in 100 miles per week.  I ran my first 24 hour race, although I only finished 12 hrs, on 25 miles a week.  I did supplement with biking miles, but it can be done.  I should note that I have never been more sore during and after a race.  I myself max out somewhere around 60 miles per week.  That still sounds like a lot, but you must realize that’s 1-2 weeks out of the training cycle.  A friend of mine has won several races on 40ish miles per week.  I say this not to discourage you from upping the mileage, but to point out that it can be done on less.  More mileage tends to result in more fitness which can help you run a race faster.

Back to the main point, building mileage.  How did I go, or how does anyone go from running 20ish miles a week to running 60+ without getting sick or injured?  The coaching manuals out there tell us to limit increases to 10% per week to avoid injury.  Based on my experience, it doesn’t matter what you limit your increases to if you have some sort of underlying problem.  So the first thing I would recommend is finding someone to analyze your running gait, and check your arches.  There are numerous athletic trainers out there who can do this.  Particularly I would make sure they look at lateral knee motion, and arch movement.  They can give you exercises to strengthen the stabilizing muscles which the majority of the time is the source of the injury.  If you don’t want to go that route, find a good core strengthening routine that hits all the glutes and tiny hip muscles.  This might be one possible reference

For arch problems, I would recommend find a good podiatrist.  I discovered that my arch would collapse whenever I put weight on it.  As a home remedy I used a rigid arch support.  The orange insoles are my favorite because they have a little cushion.  The greens are like running on concrete.  

Another option is to look at shifting your stride away from an aggressive heel strike.  Whenever the heel strikes in front of the body it places excessive force on the load bearing joints, muscles, and bone which can result in injury.  This may require you to hire a coach, and frankly will require more writing in the future.

So the real secret to increasing your mileage is to minimize your risk of injury by first training the musculature, and if needed, to correct structural problems with orthotics.


Introduction to ultramarathon

The first time I heard about an ultramarathon was my senior year in college.  I remember feeling a sense of awe for people that could run 50 miles continuously.  It sounded crazy, ridiculous, absurd.  Just the kind of thing I wanted to do, but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the mileage I would surely need to run to finish such an event.  If you read the accounts from ultramarathon legends you might well conclude that you would have to run 70-100 miles a week to stand any chance of completing such an event.  So, I set out boost my running mileage and failed miserably.  After a couple years of getting nowhere, I decided to sign up for a timed 24 hour race just to see what I could do.  On 20-30 miles a week I gutted through the worst 12 hours I’ve ever had during a race, but I managed to run 52 miles around a 1 mile track.  At the time my VO2max didnt even break 60 ml/kg/min which means I wasn’t in great shape.  The fact is though, I made it.  If I hadn’t just signed up and given it my all, I might never have become an ultrarunner.  Over the last few years I’ve had a chance to test numerous ultrarunners in the lab, and I can tell you one thing, ultrarunners come in all shapes and sizes.  Go to any race, and you won’t just find superhuman athletes.  Sure there are some, but mostly they’re people who love running, the outdoors and are just crazy enough to push themselves through something extraordinary.  I don’t mean to downplay the ultramarathon.  Running 100 miles is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but the reasons it is difficult are maybe not what you would expect.  Being in amazing shape I think helps, but in the end just getting through a race comes down to really 3 things.  1st, nutrition.  Can you provide appropriate levels of energy, electrolytes and fluid . 2nd, psychological arousal.  Can you avoid becoming so depressed/overwhelmed that you quit.  3rd, injury avoidance.  Have you spent the necessary time minimizing your risk for injury.  If you can address all three of these, then you should be able to complete 100 miles.