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     The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2011 issue 12



Training for an "Ultra"  - by Bill Witte

I think that most of my college gang is going through some type of mid-life crisis.  My friend Billy here was a college roommate, fraternity brother, fellow UD wrestler, and long time friend.  And still, at 45 years old, he decides to run an ultra-marathon!  I just had to get him to write me an article about it, so hear it is...

I was very excited when Pete asked me to write an article on training for an ultra-marathon; so excited that I sat down and wrote one that night.  After waking up the next morning I realized that what I had put together was more of how I trained, and some of the insights I picked up, but not a great article on how to train.  So what follows is my 2nd shot.

First, what is an ultra-marathon?  An ultra-marathon is any foot race farther then a marathon (26.2 miles).  That said if you go out and run 26.5 miles, did you run an ultra?  Well, technically yes, but I would not start bragging to anyone who will listen that you are an ultra-marathoner.  A 50K is about the shortest race you will find that will qualify as an ultra-marathon; most say that 50 miles and up, is a better gauge of what an ultra-marathon is.

Second, if you decide to run an ultra-marathon, you should give yourself at least 6 months to train.  If you happen to be running 40+ miles a week already, then you could shorten that up a couple of months.  I’m going to assume that you’re running mid 20 miles a week, and have run one or more marathons, you are in good physical condition, and you have the time to train for an ultra (simply because this is where I started from).

Now find the ultra that you want to run!  If this is going to be your big goal of the year, then all your training will be based around this one event.  Found one…  Ready to start training?


Check your ego, throw it away, acknowledge that you will not win, you will want to quit, and you will be slower than so many of the other runners you see out on the road.  The bottom line is that training for an ultra is harder than running an ultra.  Be patient; acknowledge that you will often feel like the task you set out to do is impossible for you.  Persevere; you will need to be able to get out and run when you do not want to, you will need to continue running when you want to quit, and you need to make time in your life for training.

Base training:  Pete had a good article on base training in his newsletter a few issues ago (vol. 2011 issue 10), go back and read this.  The gist of base training is to program your body to burn fat efficiently, and to train your body to prefer fat over glycogen as a fuel source.  This is very important because once you run out of glycogen your body won’t even be able to burn fat for fuel.  Most people running a marathon will hit the wall around 20 miles, and be left with 6 agonizing miles left to run.  Now if you did this in a 50 mile race you would have 30 miles left to run; and you will not make it!  You will either DNF, or miss a cutoff time.

Base training should last about 12 weeks.  Figure out your base training HR (see below) and do not exceed it.  Sound easy… it is not.

You will need to keep that ego in check, run so slow that you will think you are not getting a workout; you will be passed by everyone, you will have to walk any significant hill.  Don’t worry, just stick to the plan and you will start to see results.  Focus on your heart rate not your pace; the goal is not to be fast, but to be efficient and train your body to burn fat.  At the end of the 12 weeks you will see that you can run much faster at a given HR then you could at the beginning, your body will be trained to burn fat, and you will have reduced the amount of pounding and injuries to your body.

Phase II training:  Time to pick up the pace, the heart rate and the mileage.  Now you need to start running harder and faster, you should have about 14 weeks until the race.  Start keeping track of you times on different runs, at least once a week, try to beat you best time on one of your runs.  This will force you to run faster and get your body back into the mode of pushing yourself, and building glycogen stores.

Start extending the distance of your long run.  I like to do a “2 steps forward, 1 step back” approach.  For example, my long run maybe 20 miles on week X of training, then I’ll run 15 miles on week X+1, then run 24 miles on week X+2.  This is a great way to acclimate to distance.  On the weeks that you drop you mileage back down, if you are feeling good, push the pace and see how fast you can run it in.

By the end of your main training phase, you should have logged a number of long runs.  If you are planning on running a 50 mile race, you should have one run of at least 34+ miles; if you plan on running a 100 mile race, you should have at least one run of 50+ miles.  Use local races to help your training, find a marathon or 2 and jump in.

Mileage:  If you are planning on running 50 miles then you should have most of your weeks between 50 and 70 miles, with maybe one or two above 70 or 80 miles as you put in some longer training runs.  In the beginning of your training, you will be much lower in miles, but make sure you are running at least 40 a week before you are done with your base training phase.  If you are planning on running 100 miles, then add 10 miles a week or more.    You can run 90 miles a week; but if you only run 15 miles a day for 6 days you will be the fastest 15 miler at an ultra, but you will not finish.  The key to training for an ultra is you long run.

Taper phase:  Start tapering off in your mileage and your effort level about 4 weeks prior to the race, if you are hyper like I am do 3 weeks, but listen to your body.  If you are feeling beat up and having lots of aches and pains allow enough time to taper and let your body heal.  If you feel strong and injury free then you may only need to taper for 3 weeks.  Your runs during this phase should not exceed 26 miles, and as the race comes closer the distance and effort level should be reduced.  By the time the race is near you should be feeling healthy, fresh, full of energy, and hopefully injury free.

Bits and pieces:

  • Walking and eating are part of an ultra, your long runs should include walking and eating; you don’t want the first time you tried walking fast while eating to be in the middle of the race.

  • The most important part of your training week is your long run.  If you don’t do anything else all week, make sure you get your long run in! 

  • The second most important day is the day after your long run; you should always go out for an easy run the day after your long run, even if it is just a few miles.  Run easy, just loosen up the legs and get the stiffness out.

  • Heart Monitors are the best training tool you can get, so if you don’t have one go out and buy one.  If it is in your budget, pick up a GPS watch with a Heart Monitor.  Personally I love my Garmin 305 (now the 310).

  • Your mind is your enemy; your mind is your best friend.  Your body can perform to an extraordinary capacity, but it is usually your mind that prevents it from doing so.  When things hurt, when you want to quit, when you want to walk, when you want to catch a ride back to you house so you don’t have to finish the run… this is when you need to find a way to motivate yourself, or at least rationalize going on.  I tend to scream at the top of my lungs a few times to shake myself out of “quit” mode (embarrassing at times), I know runners who convince themselves to run “just one more mile”, and when they do that mile they convince themselves to run “just one more mile”.  Whatever it takes, you need to train your mind to work with your body in an endurance race of these distances.  Face it, you will be out running for 8 to 30 hours depending on the course and distance… get ready for it.  You will have many, many days that you think running 50, 62, or 100 miles is impossible, do not be defeated by these thoughts.  You will have other days when you feel like you are the king of the running world and that you will kill it at the race, do not be lulled into complacency by these days.

  • Listen to your body, if you have some injuries that need tending, and then back off for a week or two until your body feels a bit better.

Race Day

Race Day Prep:  Have a realistic race pace and plan.  Pack everything the day before and double check that you have everything.  Set 2 or more alarms, you trained too hard to oversleep.  Try to get a good night sleep!  Wake up and relax, know what you are going to do, what you will eat, what you will drink, coffee or no coffee?  Arrive at the race with plenty of time to check in/register and relax.  Don’t try anything new!  Run in equipment (shoes, backpack, shorts…) that you are used to running in; eat food you are used to eating during a run, drink fluids that you are used to drinking.  Get a spot at the starting line with people who will be running your starting pace (I start slow, so I move farther back than my total race pace would indicate).

The Race:  When the gun goes off, remember that there is only one race going on, and it is yours.  Unless you are a very talented runner, you are only racing yourself.  Don’t get caught up in someone else's race or you will likely sabotage your own.  Do not go out too fast!  Don’t get caught up in race day fever and start crushing the first few miles at a 7 minute pace; it is better to go out slower and pick up the pace over a few miles, as this allows your body to warm up and start off burning fat.  Pace yourself, stay comfortable, and enjoy the running.

If you are passing, give you fellow runner some words of encouragement, if you are being passed complement you fellow runner on their pace, if you are running next to someone, engage them in conversation… all of this makes the race more fun and the miles tick by faster.

Your first priority is your health!  If you have a health issue that is considerable, stop!  There will be many more races to run.  Your second priority is to finish.  If you are not at risk of serious health issue or injury then keep going.  If you quit unnecessarily you will always look back and wonder what could have been.  If you push through the pain and will yourself to go on, you will always look back and be proud of that moment.

"If it hurts to run, and it hurts to walk, then RUN!"



Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Bridge Cross Kick


Here's a good exercise that I borrowed from Fitness Magazine.  I can't say that I actually perform this exercise myself, but I do know that holding a bridge can certainly burn your hamstrings and glutes with two legs down, nevermind one.  The range of motion and target muscle groups of this exercise make it one that should interest most woman, since I get questions about exercises of this category pretty frequently.  Come on ladies... give it a shot! J


Target:  abs, butt, legs (rectus abdominus, gluteals, hamstrings)

Count:  2 count

Description:  Start lying flat on your back.  Keeping your elbows on the ground do stablize yourself, move your feet in so that you come up to a bridge on your upper back (there should be a straight line from your shoulders to your hips to your knees).  Bracing on one foot, raise your other leg straight up, but out to the side at a 45 degree angle.  The range of motion is from this point to a point where your foot is back behind your down heel.  Repeat this range of motion for repetitions before switching to your other leg.

There's an App For That

Yeah, I'll admit that I'm one of the iPod generation.  I've had an iPod Touch pretty much as soon as they started coming out and recently graduated to an iPhone.  Definately my all time favorite gadget... and I do like my gadgets.  You gotta like the HUGE quantity of applications that you can download for just about anything, for a fraction of the cost of most computer programs.  There are also a ton of fitness apps out there, so I thought it might be worthwhile to highlight some of the ones that I currently have installed on my iPhone.

  • UltraTimer - $0.99 - This program is very versatile in what it allows you to do with timers.  I specifically like the way that you can set up several different interval times and save them, rather than changing your timer for each workout.
  • Clock - Stopwatch/Timer - Although this is a barebones app that comes with the iPhone/iPod Touch, you can't argue with the simple use of the stopwatch and countdown timers.
  • iMuscle - $1.99 - There are quite a few programs out there like this one, but the 3D animation of exercises really makes this one nice.  It allows you to create workouts, track your progress, calorie intake and expenditure, and graph your progress.  I use it mostly for the exercise visuals, but it's a good, well rounded, app.
  • Gym Buddy - $2.99 - Another great workout log program.  This one doesn't teach you the exercises like some of the others, but has quick and easy to use logging, along with some workout timers, progress graphing, and other cool features.
  • MyFitnessPal - FREE - Easy to use calorie counter with a huge database of foods to choose from in addition to exercises to help you determine your caloric intake to burn ratio and how you are doing on your goal plan.
  • Lose It! - FREE - Set goals and establish a daily calorie budget.  Track your food and exercise and stay within your caloric budget to help you achieve your goals.

  • Nutrition Menu - $0.99 - Great reference with nutritional information of 93,000 food items at your fingertips whether you go out to eat or cook at home.
  • DrinkFit - $1.99 - Download at your own risk!  Although it isn't much fun knowing how many calories are in that margarita, or how many carbs are in your favorite beer, this app has that information all ready for you if you're looking for a good guilt trip!
  • AllRecipes Pro - $2.99 - Nice mobile interface to one of the better recipe sites for food, smoothies, whatever you're looking for.
  • Sports Injury Clinic - $2.99 - Another good mobile app that references one of my favorite websites for sports injury, diagnosis, and treatment.
  • WebMD - FREE - WebMD is a great resource for injury as well as medical information and this app provides a great interface to access the web content.
  • Kindle eReader - FREE - Although eReaders can be in a category all by themselves, I had to mention how convenient that I find having some of my fitness reference books handy.  Currently I have "Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook" as well as "The Spartan Workout" loaded up.
  • MUSIC! - Hey, it is an iPod after all, and you can't argue with the power of a good workout mix to keep you motivated.  If you want a little extra, check out Nike BOOM (FREE), which even has some motivational dialog to go along with your tunes.  Shazam (FREE) is also good for "naming that tune" on the radio and giving you easy access to download it.

Got any other good ones?  Shoot me an email... I'm always looking for new apps!

Grip Dip

Here's one for my fellow Do-It-Yourselfers out there.  I've had challenges in the past with some of the grips that I've had to design for some of my fitness equipment.  I've tried athletic tape, baseball bat grip tape, and some pretty expensive rubberized grip tape for lacrosse sticks.  Most of these tape grips start out pretty good, but after some time they get all curled up and start getting uncomfortable.  This was  a problem that I was battling with my homemade clubbells.

I was at Home Depot the other day and found this stuff called Plasti Dip.  It's a rubberized paint that comes in a tube with a pop-top lid.  It's intended for the handles of pliers, screwdrivers, and related hand tools.  For most applications you just dip the tools right in the Plasti Dip container, however, I had to get creative with my clubbells, since the handles were longer than the Plasti Dip tube.  So by using a length of PVC pipe with a cap on it, I was able to dip the pipe handle of the clubbell in a few times to evenly coat the entire handle.

I'd have to say that the rubberized grip of the Plasti Dip handles feels very comfortable and it appears to meet my needs.  I've been swinging the clubbells for a week now and there are no signs of wear or degradation.  One tube of Plasti Dip is just under $6, so really not bad in comparison to the tapes that require replacement somewhat frequently.  Give it a shot!

Base Training Heart Rate

Determine you base training HR: (from Mark Allen’s article which you can find here.  Here is the formula:

1. Take 180

2. Subtract your age

3. Take this number and correct it by the following:

  • -If you do not workout, subtract another 5 beats.

  • -If you workout only 1-2 days a week, only subtract 2 or 3 beats.

  • -If you workout 3-4 times a week keep the number where it is.

  • -If you workout 5-6 times a week keep the number where it is.

  • -If you workout 7 or more times a week and have done so for over a year, add 5 beats to the number.

  • -If you are over about 55 years old or younger than about 25 years old, add another 5 beats to whatever number you now have.

  • -If you are about 60 years old or older OR if you are about 20 years old or younger, add an additional 5 beats to the corrected number you now have.

It's Go Time!

The second leg of the holiday trifecta is complete!  Aside from a little nibble here and there while walking around the streets with my daughter on Halloween, I did pretty well staying away from the candy.  Thanksgiving wasn't too bad either.  Luckily we drove up to see my family, which means that I don't have to eat all the leftovers every day J.  I absolutely DID indulge while I was up there (especially on my mom's stuffing) but there shouldn't be any lasting damage... that I know of.  Ate like a horse on Thursday, got back to the working out on Friday!  Gotta do it... I work too hard to fall into a downward spiral on my diet and fitness!

It's always nice to get together with my family for the holidays.  Crazy as it sounds, with 7 kids between us, we somehow get around to various pushup contests, wrestling matches, and just general horsing around.  With my brothers and I all involved in coaching at some level, and the kids involved in some type of athletics, it's more of a tradition than the exception.  I'm hoping that the activity level carries on to the next generation... I wouldn't have it any other way J

Have a Happy, Healthy, Holiday Season Everyone!

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Exceed Your Potential!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT


“ If you can't fly, run. If you can't run, walk.
If you can't walk, crawl.  But by all means, keep moving.” - Martin Luther Jr.

youtube of the month --> Sandbag Training Exercises
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