Have you ever wondered what it’s like training for and running 100km?
Martin is a Foundation Run member who recently took on the 100km Taupo Ultra Marathon. Here’s how it went.
I recently completed the Taupo 100km Ultramarathon and have the opportunity to share my experience. Most blogs I read detailed nutrition and equipment but never really explained what it’s actually like to train for and run this distance.
All running distances create their own challenges to us but running a marathon and beyond presents its own trials mainly because it is a long way! Running 42.2km does require specific run training and also mental training for coping with the distance. So what about 100km which is nearly 2 and a half marathons, plus the terrain which in the case of the Taupo Ultramarathon is 88% off road?
All my training for the Taupo Ultramarathon 100km was completed with Foundation Run. In preparation for the technical aspects of the race (there was going to be hills involved) my strength training sessions were doubled to twice a week. These sessions target running specific activities legs, core etc. as well as addressing individual areas that require strengthening.
The training included runs which replicated the terrain that would be involved in the actual race such as hills and trail terrain. Lots of my training runs were carried out in the Redwoods in Rotorua but I never managed to run any of the actual course that I would run on race day, but it didn’t seem to matter. I appreciate that this is a personal thing, some people insist on running as much of the course as possible and others like me are not bothered. In hindsight though, running the last part of the course might have helped but I’ll come back to that.
Other training runs are focused on speed, one of these sessions is held at either the athletic track or another suitable location on a Tuesday evening. Here you are able to run with other Foundation Run members of all mixed abilities and also push yourself a bit further than you would do on your own.
A question I am frequently asked is “How far was your furthest run in training?” This is where the smart part of Foundation Run’s package comes in. My furthest run was about 43km and longest run was nearly 6 hours; the 6 hours was only intended to be 5 hours but the terrain was far more technical than I expected and any trail runner will tell you that this happens occasionally.
So although I “only” ran 43km, the next day I may be scheduled for another hour run so that I get the feeling of running on tired legs. Initially you think that plan might not be achievable but sticking to the program increases your confidence that you can do it. Admittedly not all runs go as well as expected but that is what running is all about, you have good days and bad days, they all go towards your own personal mental training.
The training is therefore quite varied with some tough weeks, easier weeks and also some very tough weeks but they all have a purpose and you really need to trust the training. Training for a 100km race is quite daunting and in Foundation Run we have current members who have already run the distance and therefore offer a wealth of knowledge. Rob, Marcel and Debbie were able to give me some useful advice on how to tackle the distance and more importantly give me confidence in being able to achieve the distance myself.
With race day approaching I took some nutrition and hydration advice from Emma at Focus on Food who looked at my current diet and offered some great advice for the rest of my training and for race day. This was a necessity in my case as I had a particularly bad training run that saw me not so much as “hit the wall” but smash into “the wall” with the force of a Boxing day sale shopper with a new credit card. I learnt a lot from that particular training run such as what it feels like when you are dehydrated and don’t take in enough calories; it’s not a pleasant feeling, trust me.
At Foundation Run we had a number of members entering the Taupo Ultramarathon, Lisa had entered the 50km distance, Debbie and Craig the 74km and Leon and myself tackling the 100km race. Rob was pacing Craig for the last 23km and Marcel was pacing Leon for his last 23km. I didn’t have a pacer so I had to the pleasure of my own company which was OK, we’re still talking to each other.
I travelled down to Taupo on the day before the race so I could register and attend the compulsory race briefing which told us that the weather was going to cold and windy with a chance of snow at the 100km start line. The 74km runners were told that due to weather conditions the boat ride had been cancelled and the course had been changed!
On the day of the race I awoke at
After a brief out and back
Soon the farmland turned into
We’re about 40km in now and I’ve been running for nearly 5 hours and my legs have been feeling tired
A white van pulled up alongside me and the driver started shouting at me “Great form mate, fast cadence and low arm swing. You’re doing great, keep it up”.
I head off down the airstrip with words of encouragement from everyone giving me a
I had to knuckle down and get on with it.
The last 23km was the longest 23km that I have ever run! After a short section on local Kinloch streets, it’s a steady climb up to the Kinloch headland. With lots of switch-backs, round the headland loop and struggling on legs that no longer wanted to run, this now became a mental struggle.
My destroyed legs and the various pains around my body became superfluous as I battled with thoughts of “How much further, why the hell did I sign up for this, this is just nuts, where the hell is the finish and I’m never doing this again!”. This is where I needed a pacer, someone to take my mind off the pain and just to distract me from any negative thoughts. Pacers were recommended for all 100km runners but as
We were advised during the race brief that the course under-reads on a GPS watch due to coverage and switch-backs but they didn’t tell us by how much. As my watch approached 90km it went into battery save mode which blocks out 90% of the screen – great. Guessing that I only had about 5-6km to go I felt better knowing that even if I had to walk the rest I would still finish.
Just when I was losing hope I emerged from the bush section and then heard Rob shouting my name! That was a great feeling, I hadn’t spoken to anyone for hours (except myself) and Rob ran with me to the finish chute giving
Before I knew it I could see Jane and friends at the finish chute cheering me on to the finish line which I ran across to my waiting glass medal. Immense relief and then the doctors weighed me and asked if I was feeling ok? I thought it was a trick question so I answered “Yes I’m OK but my legs are a bit tired”, which seemed to be the right answer.
GPS reading was 95.19km, close enough for me and completed in 13 hours 34 minutes.
We all analyse our own performance wondering how the race would have played out if we had done things differently.
The only changes that I would make
Ultimately, my training paid off and prepared me extremely well for the race. The training is hard but I believe that the amount of effort that you put into the training is proportional to what you get out of it. Coaching, strength training and nutrition altogether are important components to achieving what initially seemed to be
The other Foundation Run members are always incredibly supportive and positive. All the team members who took part finished in very respectable times and deserve to be proud of what they have accomplished. Looking back on the race I am extremely proud of what I have achieved but wow, 100km is a long distance to run!