July 24, 2017

My Interview with Ryan Sandes - The Transcript

The following interview took place on June 30 over the phone, just 5 days after Ryan Sandes won the 2017 Western States 100 mile endurance run. In this extensive interview Sandes talks with me about his training going into Western States and how his experience as an ultra runner helped him get to the finish line despite some very difficult moments. As a South African, Sandes also shares his feelings about the importance of Nelson Mandela and the dismantling of apartheid when he was just a child, and what he is doing now to help disadvantaged children in his country. Finally, Sandes talks of those who inspire him, what he sees in his future as a runner and his most difficult challenge during a race. I hope you enjoy.

Western States 2017

Will Cooper: First thing I want to say is congratulations to you on Western States and I know you’re just getting back and all. How does it feel? Has it sunk in yet, winning that race? I know you’ve been gunning for that race a few years now.

Ryan Sandes: Yes. Thank you very much. It has sunk in, but when things calm down it will probably sink in a little bit more. I think getting home today from Western…I realized I achieved a dream. It is starting to sink in more and more, but definitely unpacking the Cougar Trophy it definitely feels a lot more real. I’ve been after that race for a few years…it is a really rewarding experience especially because it has been quite a rollercoaster with a couple of ups and downs along the way.
WC: Are you going to defend your title next year?

RS: Yeah! I think I really want to go back to Western. It is a special race to me…and I kind of know which races are important to me and it’s what I enjoy. So definitely I want to go back to Western. I know so many people in that community and that is what makes the race so special. So I want to go back to the race and to catch up with those people again.

WC: You finished second in 2012 and actually ran at the time what was a record breaking time. Just kind of curious, did you do anything different training for this year’s Western States than say in 2012 or even 2014?

RS: I think this year was a little more specific in certain ways. I think I have been racing for quite long time and I kind of reduced some of my volume in training but picked it up for 6 weeks before the race, so I was a lot more specific with it than in 2012 or even definitely 2014 when I did a lot more racing and it seemed to be like this big spray of volume if that makes sense. More race specific, then getting some really long endurance runs in the 6-week block before the race where as in previous years maybe that block of training is a little bigger.

WC: So, long endurance runs, I am assuming 30 plus miles…kind of thing?

RS: Yeah like anything say from 20 to 40 miles, and one or two at 50.

WC: How would you compare this year having won it this year to the previous years in terms of difficulty and what not?
RS: This year was definitely by far the most difficult Western States I have run. The course was pretty brutal. It just felt like really unforgiving. I think with the snow in the high country made the going really tough. I think we were expending say like 20% more energy in the high country.  And then you got into Duncan Canyon you’re behind the normal split and then suddenly you get wacked with this wave of heat really early on in the race. So, I think that made it really difficult with just kind of a really slow start in then really high temperatures in the race.

WC: When I was following you, it looked like when you were going into Forest Hill, the front runner was out almost an hour ahead of you at that point. I’m just kind of curious what you’re thinking at that point. Are you thinking hey he has got this in the bag or there’s no way he’ll be able to finish this. What was going through your head?

RS: Yeah, I think obviously with Jim Walmsley saying he was going 14 hours flat on Saturday, I knew if he kind of stuck at that pace, there’s no way I would be keeping up with him. So when he was that far ahead I kind of forgot about him. I realized he was going to have an absolutely magical day or he was going to come unstuck. I was kind of more focused on what kind of lead I had on the guys behind me. But even then I was pretty focused most of the time on running my own race. I told myself a few times to focus on my own race and do the best I can, try to finish the race as quick as possible and to manage to survive the conditions.  So yeah, I wasn’t too concerned about the guys around me. I did get one or two reports that Jim was way ahead, but he wasn’t looking as amazing and as fresh as last year. I definitely kind of knew that if things were going to go wrong for him they were going to go pretty wrong.

WC: Did you have a race strategy that you kind of played out in your head as to what you wanted to do and where you wanted to be in the race? If so, did that play out the way you expected?

RS: To be honest going into this year’s race I tried to be a lot more relaxed. I know in 100 miles you can have a lot of different plans and then basically most of the time that strategy or that planning goes out the window. But I kind of self-consciously made that decision in the first 4 or 5 miles that I wanted to get a good start and kind of be up there.  Like I’ve said I kind realized Jim was going to have one of those days where no one was going to catch him or he is going to come a little bit unstuck, and if he did come unstuck, I wanted to be within a distance where I wasn’t too far off the pace that I couldn’t make it up. Obviously, as you mentioned, at Forest Hill he was that far ahead and was going to be very difficult or something would have to go drastically wrong [for him] for me to make up that time on him. But strategy wise I was pretty relaxed, and I didn’t have a set strategy in my head but after about 4-5 miles I wanted to have a good start and I was feeling good. I wouldn’t say I pushed at the start but I ran it at a decent pace. I didn’t back off too much. I realized in a race as competitive as Western States you have to take a couple of chances on race day and luckily those chances paid off for me.

WC: I noticed in some of your comments there is a point where you’re hitting the wall a little bit or having some challenging moments. Like when you did the river crossing. Can you talk a little bit about that and what your thoughts were going through your mind?

RS: I think about 6 or 7 k up from the river crossing I passed Jim. Obviously passing Jim and suddenly leading Western States, my dream race, I got a bit of a spark in my tail and was definitely running well, and got to the river crossing. Probably about 3 k up from the river crossing, or about 3k after I passed Jim, that final 3k stretch before the river crossing, it was hot and dry and I didn’t have any water. I got to the river crossing feeling really terrible and then getting out of the boat on the other side. Just the climb up to Green Gate I was feeling really drained. Kind of a bit like a hunted animal. I kept waiting to hear clapping for someone else to be crossing the river. I was also feeling really low energy. I think I was also overheated. My body wasn’t absorbing any nutrition. That was a really tricky phase for me. Mentally I was feeling the most drained then. And I know how runnable the last part of the course is. I worried going from leading the race to being outside the top 10 if I lost my legs in the final 30k. That was a challenge but luckily, I picked up my pacer at Green Gate. It made a huge difference. He really was quite strict with me and kept me going. I think it was about 4 or 5k off the Green Gate I managed to pick things up. I dropped down to a few creeks to get my core temperature down.  I managed to put in a bit on Alex from that stretch to pointed rock.

The Importance of Experience

WC: You’ve been running for a while now. You’ve done a lot of competitions and you’ve been in a lot of situations, and I’m guessing that experience helped you not panic, if you will, but kind of understand that…if you give yourself some time that you will be able to regroup. Do you think that experience helped you?

RS: Yeah, as you said, I think experience really helps. It plays a huge role like you said. Being able to relax. I think in general I was a lot more relaxed on race day even leading up to the race. I think at times you can be too focused on the end results or play the race over and over in your head and get worried with the “what ifs.” I really try to relax as much as possible and I try to focus on the things I could control and try to be as present as possible and not get too far ahead of myself. Yeah. I think going through the low moment I really wanted to try to keep going as fast as possible but also relax and try to not beat myself up too much. And just say “do the best you can do” and if five runners come past you then there is nothing I can do. Worrying and freaking out is probably just going to make things ten times worse, so I try to relax as much as possible. As you mentioned my past experience helped a lot because I’ve been through low patches like that before and you do get out of them and try to ride them up and do as little damage as possible.  I did take it quite slowly up green gate especially at the first part after the river crossing which I think was quite important. I realized that from my past experiences of running you push yourself over the edge when it’s really hot and it’s really hard to come back and recover from that. You have to really be careful. It’s a fine line your riding when it gets really hot.

WC: I looked at your bio and I noticed that in grade school you played other sports – Cricket, Rugby, Water Polo and so forth. Did any of those help you adapt to ultrarunning at all?

RS: I was always slightly smaller. I always had to work harder and spend a lot of effort behind the scenes like a lot of gym work to kind of get bigger or to do a lot of fitness and stuff like that. I kind of realized then that if you want to achieve a goal, you have to work really hard. And then also, I guess growing up surfing and being outdoors. I think surfing and trail running have a lot of similarities. They both have direct contact with nature. Which is very cool because there are very few sports where you get that direct contact or interaction with nature. So, I think growing up surfing and at the beach in the ocean [gave me] a healthy respect for the environment.

Nelson Mandela and Apartheid

WC: I noticed in some of your interviews you had referred to Nelson Mandela as an inspiration to you. Can you talk a little bit about that?

RS: For sure. He has been instrumental in South African history.  He is someone I really look up to, the way he lived his life, and what he has done for our country. But I guess someone who can be in prison for 27 years and come out and make a difference and not be like really bitter and twisted. Like If I had spent basically my life in my prime years in prison, I think that would be really hard to handle. I think that I’m just so proud to be able to call, or to know Nelson Mandela is also from a South Africa, the same country like myself. I definitely get that extra bit of pride.

WC: What were you about 9 or 10 years old when apartheid came to an end?

RS: Yeah. I was 9 years old.

WC: Do you remember that, and if so, can you talk a little about what that was like?

RS: Yeah. To be honest, I don’t think there were any major changes straight away. For me, I can just remember watching tv and seeing Nelson Mandela being released from prison on live tv and it was pretty massive. I guess I realized what was happening about 2-3 years aft. I was old enough then to be told what was going on and know a little bit about the history of apartheid etc. There were a lot of people that were scared with Nelson Mandela’s release and…change in government from the traditional National party government to the African National Congress, the ANC. I guess a lot of people were worried that things were going to go to shit and there might be a civil war. Luckily they were wrong. I think there were a lot of good changes that happened since then and obviously there is a lot that needs to happen and unfortunately our current president has kind of done a terrible job, and put himself first for the last couple of years. I suppose with change in apartheid, I’ve lived a very sheltered life. Even schools, that I went to. There were only really white kids and after apartheid there was a change and there would be more children of color and my friends changed a bit etc. Having said that, it wasn’t kind of like the end of the apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela wasn’t like the next day everything changed. It was quite a slow process. I say about 4-5 years, and it is even kind of happening now.  I was almost kind of sad at school and stuff. I only started to notice this 3-4 years down the line.

WC: How has the environment that you’re in in South Africa and the political environment affected you as an athlete?

RS: I think trail running has almost enabled me to make a difference, like I’ve done some trail running camps for under privileged kids that traditionally came from really disadvantaged backgrounds where there is a lot of drugs etc... So yeah through trail running it enabled me to hopefully make a bit of a difference. And also, it’s been an eye opener for me going in…knowing the lifestyle those kids live is a real challenge for them and even now I work with the Laureus Foundation being able to be getting involved and play a small part in the projects that they do has been really cool. Like Nelson Mandela said sports can uplift the country or uplift our youth. I definitely agree with that. That’s why I’ve been quite involved with the Laureus Foundation just to try make a difference.

Inspirational Runners, Thoughts on the Future

WC: Are there other athletes that inspire you that you can share with us?

RS: Yeah. I think there are a number of athletes that inspire me. Off the top of my head in trail running someone like Kilian Jornet, what he does, and Timothy Olsen, I’ve always looked up to him, just how he has done it and as an all-around person and family guy. He is a massive inspiration. And even South African ultrarunner, Bruce Fordice, who won Comrades nine times, he has really been an inspiration. I think there are a number of people. I think in the trail running community like just being at Western States on Saturday and seeing the final competitor finish 5 seconds before cut off, that is quite inspirational. I know she is also the oldest female competitor. I know she has gone through a number of highs and lows along the way. Just the same experiences as what an elite runner at the front goes through, but twice as long as what I’ve experienced before. That was really cool. For me I really look up to people like that and often, I think I draw quite a lot from them, like there have been one or two difficult patches in my career and to get in a group or community run and you just see how stoked people are just to be out there running and it makes you realize I might be missing the point here, just kind of relax, take a deep breath, kind of live in the present and just enjoy the moment. I think that’s kind of what I always try to focus on.

WC: That’s awesome. As a runner obviously we all have strengths and weaknesses. Curious what your thoughts are as to what you view as your strengths and weaknesses and how do you adapt to those?

RS: Yeah, I suppose my strength is... I think I am good with all around stuff. Where it is fast or flat, more mountainous terrain, or hot or cold.  I think I’m quite adaptable. Weaknesses are probably more mountainous terrain like where there are really big climbs or descents kind of those European conditions and I also think because I’ve not grown up in those kind of conditions where you get those really really big mountains. Like I said that is my weakness. I think I am a little bit slow to get started, but I think I have worked and improved on that.

WC: Are you planning on doing UTMB this year?

RS: I am doing CCC. I just think UTMB, I don’t think like I can recover fully and get enough preparation for UTMB. I think these days the ultra-trail races getting more competitive to me I think less is more, and I want to focus more on more specific races. I think going into UTMB I wouldn’t be prepared fully for the race, so I would rather do a race like CCC kind of be a part of a whole UTMB weekend but I just like the shorter race. I don’t like running too many 100 milers too close together.

WC:  How about Hardrock?

RS: Yeah. I paced Julian Chorier there in 2011. I’ve been out there and have seen the race. It’s really awesome. I definitely think I’m going to throw my name in the lottery sooner than later. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back to Western States next year. It is a little too close to Western States to do. I know some guys that have done a double, but I just feel like why not give the Hardrock entry to someone else that’s going to put their life and soul to training for that race. I don’t want to just go in and say my main goal is [Western] but I’m going to the Hardrock to see how I do. I think that is unfair and disrespectful for the race. If I put my name in the lottery I want to make sure that if by some miracle I do get in, I am able to prepare 100% for it.

WC: You know one of the things I have noticed about say European races versus the American races is that the American races tend toward everyone has a pacer or a crew and everything else; whereas, in Europe they don’t seem to promote that. In fact, I don’t think they allow pacers in a lot of cases. I’m curious. What do you feel? Do you prefer one approach versus the other?

RS: I’m pretty relaxed. Even at Western States. I just picked up a pacer from Green Gate so I didn’t have a pacer from Forest Hill. For me I don’t mind. I get for safety reasons it is always good to have a pacer. I think again you just need to be adaptable. At times, it is really nice to have a pacer especially with those mental hits going into Green Gate, having a pacer really helped, but I kind of think as long as the rules are the same for everybody, I am happy. Whether or not they allow a pacer or hiking poles as long as it’s the same rules throughout. As I’ve said, I’ve alsways enjoy mixing things up. It is quite cool to do some races where you are allowed a pacer or not. It is a means of availability.

WC: I noticed also in your career you got started in the multiday stage races and then kind of started shifting into the more traditional 100 milers. Do you have a preference on one or the other or do you just like to mix it up?

RS: Yeah. I am definitely much more enjoying the 100 milers and hundred k’s. But when I first started running more the multi-stages, I was really enjoying that. I think for me it’s just kind of constantly mixing things up, evolving, and changing, even with running like there are times when I’m focused on training for a race like Western States which is generally fast and flat. Other times I really enjoy just getting out on the mountains and exploring and running a race at the Grand Raid Reunion which is really technical and kind of a little bit like Hardrock in a way, so it is completely different. So, for me I like to mix things up a lot just to keep it interesting.

WC: How do you train for multiday versus just a traditional 100 miler? Are there big differences in how you approach the two?

RS: Multiday I try to get back to back training days, like 3 or 4 day back to back runs, that would be like 30-40k’s per day just like back to back to mimic the race conditions. I think for any event I just try to train as race specific to that event as possible. I think it’s more about getting into those back to back long runs and also getting used to running with a heavier backpack. That can be quite tough.

WC: You’ve been doing this for a while and obviously this is what you do. I’m curious. I assume it’s your full-time thing. Are you able to make a living as a professional ultra runner?

RS: Yeah luckily I can make a living and this is what I do on a full-time basis. I worked for a property development company for 2 and half years and then I found that running ultras was more exciting.

WC: How long do you see yourself continuing in this at this level of competition?

RS: I say as long as I am enjoying myself, I’ll go for as long as possible, but I guess for another 4 years at the elite level, give or take. I could wake up in a few months’ time and say I’m not enjoying this anymore but…currently I’m loving what I do and planning a couple of free running projects. So yeah, I think 4 or 5 years, I’ll try to live the dream for as long as possible.

Darkest Moment, Training Regimen

WC: One of my friends asked me to ask you this question and that is what would you consider to be your darkest moment during race? Where you had to really dig deep? Where you look back and say I can’t believe I got myself through that moment?

RS: There have been a couple of experiences like that. The very first multiday ultra in the Gobi desert on the long stage. I went through quite a dog patch. It was one of the first times I hit the wall probably…and I really had to dig deep mentally and physically. To be honest at some stages in that dog patch I didn’t know if I could ever take another step or two. I was just completely out of it. I’d say that would definitely be one of my lowest moments that come to mind, because it was one of my first really dark moments. Yes, I would definitely say the Gobi Desert.

WC: Do you feel like that’s helped you since that time to be able to say hey this is something I’ve dealt with?

RS: Yeah for sure. Definitely, it has helped me a lot like I said it was the first really dark moment I went through and I managed to come through to the other side and survive it. I think that helped me…realize that you can push yourself quite hard and actually be able to come through the other side when you’re feeling quite terrible and you can be feeling that terrible and actually kind of feel better again.

WC: Do you have a coach?

RS: I’ve had one or two coaches in the past. Currently, I just try to coach myself. I’ve bounced ideas off one or two people at times because I’ve been doing this for a while and I just kind of put together a rough training plan and then kind of adjust it accordingly. I like to go according to feel and how my body is. I think you need to adjust things a lot. Like some weeks I’ll be feeling really good and other weeks like not as good and you need to be able to back off a bit, and I think some coaches can be a bit too rigid rather than getting the best from someone.

WC: Do you do much speed work? Like old school runners focus on speed on the track and this and that. Do you do much of that?

RS: No, I don’t do any stuff on the track. I’ve done some out of season speed work blocks, I do a bit of high intensity stuff, but I don’t do a huge amount of speed work like 200’s, 400’s and 800’s. But
yeah, I do do some repeats, like hill repeats etc. I try to make it quite specific to the ultrarunning.

WC: So, most of your stuff is lower intensity, higher volume would you say?

RS: Yeah. I’d say a lot of my sessions are that.

WC: And your wife is a runner? Correct?

RS: Yeah she’ s a runner and also a mountain biker.

WC: Do you guys train much together?

RS: A little bit. Not too much. We do a lot of hikes together or I’ll join her for an easy run or a mountain bike. And our son Max, we hike with him quite a bit. So we definitely spend a lot of time in the outdoors together. But generally I don’t do too many specific training sessions with her.

WC: Well listen Ryan. I’ll let you go and I really appreciate you taking the time and I also wanted to emphasize what a great achievement you’ve just accomplished here by winning Western States. I’m really happy for you. You’ve got such a great attitude toward the sport and I really think you are a great ambassador to ultrarunning, so congratulations and again thank you for your time.

RS: Awesome. Thank you so much and thanks for featuring me.  T

July 19, 2017

Sleepless In Silverton

Me, Morgan T, Russell, Tom P and John F at our station
There were a few hours, here and there. But for the most part catching zz'z while volunteering at the Hardrock 100 finish line wasn't really an option. Our shift began at 3 am Saturday morning, a couple hours before the front runners were due in, and it ended at 1 pm in the afternoon. To keep things interesting I also volunteered to update the runners status board from midnight to 6 am Sunday.

Morgan T interviewing winner Killian Jornet

The great part about cooking for runners who have just finished running 100 miles is you don't have to run 100 miles. You just need to have fun with your fellow volunteers, drink a lot of coffee and prepare something that tastes good but most importantly, looks good. That was our strategy at the HR finish line this year.

The Goods
Now that I've seen the race up close and personal the real question is, do I want to run it? Stay tuned, there will be more to come on this. In the mean time, I had a great time with my follow volunteers and have found a new favorite place - the San Juan Mountains. One way or the other, I'll be back.

Video I captured of Caroline Chaverot winning Hardrock 100. Her emotions gets me every time...

July 17, 2017

Surpassing One Million Page Views. Thank You Readers!

To all my followers and random visitors out there, thank you for visiting my site. You officially surpassed one million page views of An Ultra Runners Blog. This blog started as a place for me to post some random thoughts in my quest to run Western States in 2008. But it's slowly grown into my personal therapy portal and release valve for all-things-divergent from running. Please excuse the rabbit holes and impertinent themes. I will strive to continue these.    

Will C   

July 13, 2017

Greetings From Hardrock!

No, unfortunately, I will not be running. But I will be participating! A couple of pics from my drive into Silverton and Ouray. Good luck to all the runners...I'll see you at the finish line!

The Rock 
Red Mt. Pass

5 Star Accommodations

Ouray Brewing Co. (Positive Altitude IPA!)

June 25, 2017

Congrats to Ryan Sandes - Winner 2017 Western States 100

By mile 62, there was nearly an hour between the leader and the second place runner. The race appeared to be in the bag. The young phenom in the lead was on pace to shatter the course record. But there was one small thing that stood between him and the finish line. The distance.

Yes, the distance. That thing that tends to rear its head on 100 mile races. That thing that holds on to the most promising, the most prodigious and the most unsuspecting of runners, and doesn't let go. That thing that is often disrespected, and rears its ugly head when so regarded. As it was on this day.

I followed most of Western States 100 this year via ultralive.net. What a race!

South African runner Ryan Sandes, a veteran ultra runner and formerly runner up at Western States, overtook Jim Walmsly with about 40k remaining. Gaining a spark in the process, he surged as he moved into first place. The celebration didn’t last long though, because he was now the hunted. Understanding the need to maintain momentum and hold off his rivals closing in on him, he worked with his pacer to get through the later and some of the most difficult sections of the course. 

Congrats also to Dan Barger, a Grand Slam contender this year, for capturing the 50 - 59 age group win at Western and besting my WS Grand Slam time by 39 minutes. Is he on his way to setting new 50-59 grand slam record? There is 300 miles to go. Is anyone paying attention to this? I am.   

See the Sandes finish line interview here.

June 20, 2017

2017 Big Horn Trail 100 - Of Slog and Sludge

A total of 437 runners started this year’s Big Horn 100 mile trail race. 175 finished. Rain fell relentlessly for nearly 24 hours during the race. What unfolded was chaos and confusion.

I went into this race thinking weather could be a factor. Just a few days before it snowed in Yellowstone and hail the size of grapefruits slammed through vehicle windshields in southern Wyoming. Were these signals from mother nature?

I thought it odd when a race official told me the day before they were only forecasting a 3% chance of rain on race day. Yahoo Weather was saying 50%.

Any questions about the rain were quickly answered as sprinkles dribbled down upon us during the pre-race briefing before the race. The same race official told us not to bother changing our shoes or socks at the turn around. He said they were going to get wet and muddy near the top of the mountain and dry shoes and socks will just get wet and muddy all over again.

He apparently had no idea of the deluge that was about to occur.

The Bighorn Trail 100 takes place on the eastern slopes of the Big Horn mountains in the state of Wyoming. The course is an out and back and starts at 3,900 feet and ascends to 9,000 feet at the 48 mile turn around. As a Hard Rock qualifier, it ranks high on the difficulty scale in the best of conditions with 18,700 feet of elevation gain and lots of technical single track trail. Throw in incessant rain, cold, and a trail disintegrating into mud, goop and sludge and you have, in my humble opinion, a difficulty rating much like the HC climbing category in the Tour de France, beyond categorization.


She was sitting on the side of the trail. Her nose was broken from a fall when her face hit a rock. We could see it bent to one side. We asked if she needed help. She said no and just sat there.

Big Horn runner Matt Scarlett on an anonymous runner at Big Horn Trail 100, June 17, 2017

As ultra runners, I believe we must take responsibility for what we sign up for, regardless of the conditions we find ourselves in. It was this maxim that I threw out the window somewhere around mile 53 when the trail below me went from murky mud to a frothy goop and rendered running or hiking virtually impossible. At this stage of the race I was descending into a long, desperate trudge through the night with episodes of epileptic-like contortions to maintain balance accompanied by vulgar outbursts. The sequence continued to repeat itself. One moment I was on my feet stepping gingerly down the trail, and the next I was spinning desperately out of control, often ending face first or ass down in the sludge.

I lost count after falling 15 times. My body was taking a beating. My pride was tattered and seeking shelter by the thought of giving up. I just kept hoping I wouldn’t fall on a rock, a stump, or off a ledge. I found myself cursing at the course, the race directors, the rain, the Forrest Service and the mud out loud for letting this happen to me. I tried telling myself the trail would get better, the rain would stop, and things would get back to normal. But that didn’t happen. The rain just kept falling, and the trail, which supposedly was going to be muddy only near the top, got worse as we descended back down the mountain. I vowed never to return to this place again. I vowed to quit the sport. I vowed that I was too old for this crap. And I kept asking myself, why am I out here?

I couldn’t get the negative thoughts out of my head.

Eventually, I came to the realization that it was Me who signed up for this shit show. Me who was blaming everyone and everything. Me who chose this sport. Me who had been in this situation before. And me only who could get me to the finish line.

When I finally arrived at the Dry Fork aid station at mile 82.5, I was waterlogged, beaten down but starting to feel the pull of the finish. The sun was beginning to emerge, and the aid station crew gave me a Macdonald’s cheeseburger. I dumped my lights and ski gloves and headed back out to the trail, burger in hand. It was then I remembered I needed to visit the porta potty. This moment is probably something only my fellow ultra runners can relate to, but sitting down in that porta potty for a couple minutes to relieve myself while munching on a cheeseburger was like, well, nirvana. I know the sun’s rays were shining directly on that porta potty during those precious moments.

One of my favorite things about running 100 milers is talking to the other runners on the same journey. Conversing back and forth during the run, encouraging each other during difficult sections, just being in the elements with other people, it makes the absurdity more bearable. I met runners at Big Horn Trail 100 from Denver, San Antonio, Buffalo, Boston, Sheridan, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and New York City. Every one of them had that undeniable ultra spirit. Some of us made it to the finish, others didn’t. But each of us stepped into the ring with the beast.

Finally, thanks to all the volunteers who braved some downright awful conditions through the night. You deserve a buckle too.

Keep it real runners. 

June 13, 2017

OK, I failed.

A few months ago I posted that I was going to do something I’ve never done before every week. Well, I failed. Sorry folks. I couldn’t hold on to the spirit that captured my imagination last new year’s eve. I gave it a good college try. I jumped in the ocean naked, hiked a mountain and skied down, visited the house I grew up in when I was a wee boy, and even turned right when I usually turn left. But then life got in the way, apathy and general malaise. You know what I mean?

Anyway, I’m NOT making excuses. I’m just admitting that I blew it off. It became something more important that the reason I chose to do it. That reason being to simply keep life interesting. Avoid the boring. Shake it up. Throw some pepper in the stew.

--> I’m glad to say that I haven’t abandoned throwing the pepper in just yet. This week brought out some good spices for me to play with….

The Grasshopper Is Hungry. See Him?

Yellowstone 6-13-17 @ 12:30 pm

Yellowstone 6-13-17 @ 1:10 pm

June 12, 2017

All Parts Wyoming

The Big Horn Basin, nestled between the Big Horn Mountains to the east and the Grand Tetons to the west. I could get used to this...

May 22, 2017

Joint Interview with Nordic Track

Nordic Track recently asked me to participate in a joint interview with several ultra runners to discuss different aspects of the sport. It's rather lengthy, but offers some good insight into this thing we do for fun and games. Here it is in all its glory...

Making the Leap to an Ultramarathon.jpg
Making the Leap to an Ultramarathon: Advice from Top Ultramarathon Bloggers

Have you been considering running an ultramarathon? We’ve interviewed several of the top ultra distance running bloggers to collect real and applicable advice to help you accomplish your first ultra.

They have shared their thoughts and experience on what they felt was the most challenging aspect of preparing for or running an ultra, the most common myths and misconceptions associated with ultrarunning, and what they wish they had known before tackling their very first ultramarathon.

Whether you’re making the step from a half marathon, or deciding to push past 26.2 miles, give a lending ear to these experts below. They have conquered some of the toughest running challenges and have shared what’s needed to know before making a big leap into the ultra-distance running world.

The Most Challenging Aspects of Your First Ultramarathon

It’s obvious that running 42 k+ is going to come with difficulties. But if you haven’t gone the ultra distance before, how will you know what to expect? You’re left wondering if the marathons you’ve completed have prepared you for what an ultra has in store. Thankfully, these top bloggers have shared their experiences so you can stop guessing.

Of the many challenges that ultra runners experience when tackling their first ultramarathon, there’s a pretty common consensus about which aspects are most difficult to conquer. From the experts we interviewed, the mental and nutritional aspects were deemed the most challenging.

MENTALITYNordictrack Interview Quotes_v.png

Taking on such a mileage and terrain intensive race requires plenty of physical capability. However, most people overlook the fact that the mentality of a runner can make or break their performance, regardless of their physical strengths. Among the most difficult aspects of tackling an ultra, several of the top bloggers we interviewed expressed how crucial it is to have control over your mental and emotional state before and during the race.

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-08.png

“The physical side of training for an ultramarathon can be tough, but the mental side is what gets you across the finish line. Not just on race day, but also throughout training. The day in and day out of building up to your first ultra can leave you questioning why, or if  you can even do this.”

“I find that the most challenging part of an ultra is the mental aspect, which applies to newbies and veterans, alike. It’s important to show up to the start line feeling positive, confident and determined to finish. I’ve found that starting a race with negativity and self doubt is like going out with 40 lb weights strapped to your back. Nordictrack Interview Quotes-13.png

In fact, my worst races are always the ones that I am the most stressed about. I’ve found myself toeing the start line with negative thoughts or even comparing myself to other runners and find myself feeling weighed down. And when I start out negative, when things get tough (and they always do), it’s harder to pull yourself back out again.”

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-09.png

“Rousseau once said ‘patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.’ If you are considering moving from marathons to ultra marathons, training your mind and developing a strong sense of patience may well be your greatest challenge. To me, the term mental training is really a euphemism for teaching yourself to embrace a mindset. When I switched from marathons to running ultras I had to teach myself how to think differently. To abandon the mental shackles that controlled my perceptions and expectations about running and being a runner.”Nordictrack Interview Quotes_v copy.png


There are countless ways to have a better grip on your mental state during an ultra; there’s not a “one size fits all” approach. However, these pros have some advice that can help you find what works best for you. From their unique experiences, these ultra bloggers share the methods they use to overcome the mental obstacles that are inevitable in an ultramarathon.

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-08.png

“I recommend runners take it one day at a time, focusing only on that day’s scheduled run. Check that one off the list and move to the next. The same theory applies on race day. Instead of looking at all the miles ahead, focus on just getting through the next mile, or the next ten minutes. Then the ten minutes after that”

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-09.png

“How do you prepare mentally for an ultra marathon? First step – don’t obsess over pace, especially those coming from a marathon background. You need to throw away the GPS because, as Rousseau said, patience is bitter.  Your ego will be threatened to learn that your mile pace, especially during 100 mile distances, will often not be much faster than a brisk walk.

Second step, understand that your pace and energy levels will vary wildly depending on the terrain, altitude, vertical gain, descent, heat, daylight, distance covered, and nutrition/hydration. You have to be prepared to roll with this, and don’t try to control it. The mindset that you control your pace and use a GPS to monitor it is like thinking you can fly a rocket to the moon with a compass. Think of it this way - when you’re running 100 miles, especially in the mountains, you are entering the stratosphere. What worked at ground level won’t help you up there.
Rather than monitoring your pace, focus inward, on maintaining a steady energy output. This is critical in training because to do this well you need to teach your mind patience and your body how to move efficiently for long periods. Finally, when running ultra’s there will inevitably be highs and lows. Understanding and believing that both will pass is part of the mental training you have to practice. If you can embrace these concepts, you will indeed taste the fruit, and it will be sweeter than ever.”Nordictrack Interview Quotes_v copy 2.png

The frame of mind you maintain during a race can either be to your advantage or to your demise (metaphorically speaking, of course). Staying positive and confident throughout is essential. Also, taking the race a piece at a time and not getting caught up in pacing, will help keep your suffering to a minimum and ultimately get you across the finish line.


In addition to the mental challenges that accompany an ultramarathon, the diet and nutrition   needed for having and maintaining sufficient energy to fuel your finish isn’t a cake walk. With the amount of energy you’re exerting, it’s important to feed and hydrate your body the right way. Even for seasoned marathoners and ultra runners, this aspect of the race is still difficult to master.

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-11.png

“As I often discuss with coaching clients, physical fitness, diet, and mindset are the pillars of ultramarathon preparation.  I grew up around ultrarunning and came from a strong background of adventure racing, mountain biking, and collegiate running; the mindset and physical training came a little bit more naturally for me (which isn't to say they weren't hard then or aren't still tough now). However, diet has been my challenge and evolution over the years. I went from a college kid who shoved down dorm food to a 20-something who ate whatever was cheapest to, now, a mid-30's athlete, coach, and family guy who's highly focused on nutrition.”Nordictrack Interview Quotes_v copy 3.png

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-12.png

“The hardest part was to figure out the proper nutrition. Even so, you can practice food and fluids intake during training but it is very different in a race situation. There is for sure a time needed for working out the details - learning what works for you and what doesn’t. This becomes even more crucial if you work up to real long distances like the 100 miles or longer.”

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-15.png

“Nutrition is by far the hardest. I have a sensitive stomach and finding food that I can eat during a run is extremely hard.I tried things like peanut and nut butters, which just get stuck in your throat and you can’t swallow. I can’t eat anything greasy the day before a long run like pizza. I have found food items such as a plain bagel and black coffee an hour or so before work best for breakfast but that won’t hold you over very long. Fig Bars work well for me to digest slowly without being harsh on my stomach. Pickle juice - it’s amazing to prevent cramps. I learned the hard way to use it in very small doses…Nordictrack Interview Quotes_v copy 4.png

My favorite gels are Huma Chia Energy Gels. I can take these for hours and hours during a run and they won’t mess with my stomach at all. However, I wouldn’t suggest this, even though they are really tasty (kind of like your favorite jam) it does still get old after a while and your body needs protein as well on those extra long runs.

Some people however, can eat pizza, drink coke and be totally fine during a run! That is so amazing to me!”

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-13.png

“Second to the mental aspect, nutrition has always been the most challenging aspect of my training and racing. While I believe that nutrition matters for most races, in an ultra, I feel as though it’s almost more important than the training itself.”


Yet again, there isn’t a “one size fits all” diet and nutrition technique for ultra running. It boils down to trial and error, and experimenting to find what works for your body. However, there are some basic guidelines that can help you with the quest for finding the right balance to fueling your body during an ultra. Based off of individual issues with nutrition, here is what each blogger has to share on combating the challenge of diet and nutrition.

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-11.png

“I follow an "optimized fat metabolism" nutrition style that teaches the body to burn fat as a primary fuel source at relatively high effort levels. This diet has become a key factor in my ultra preparation and general health - and an exercise metabolism test showed that it's working. I took over 50% of my fuel from fat when maxed out on a treadmill, never reaching the so-called "crossover point".”

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-13.png

“I learned the hard way, and on more than one occasion, that eating early and often isn’t just a fun thing to say. In an ultra, you truly need to eat early and eat often to make sure you’re fueling the body properly from start to finish. You’re running a deficit all day and it can be easy to forget just how much energy you actually need to get your body to perform the way you’re asking it to.”Nordictrack Interview Quotes_v copy 5.png

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-15.png

“It is all about trial and error and finding what works best for your body, every ultra runner is going to tell you something different when it comes to what they eat during runs but they will all say the same thing in the end about testing food out on your long runs. Good luck! Get creative!”

The biology and science that happens within your body during a 26.2+ mile race is amazing. In order to be able to accomplish such a feat, it needs to be fueled and fed in a certain way that is unique to your body. Just as these bloggers have said, you need to learn now what your body needs, eat early and often during the race itself, and don’t get discouraged if finding the balance doesn’t come quickly.


Mentality and nutrition are not the only difficulties that ultra runners endure. Nearly all runners experience challenges preparing for their very first ultra race, even if they have a background in running marathons. One of our bloggers has offered a unique perspective on her thoughts behind the difficulty of training for your first ultra.

Jen Segger.png

“The most difficult and challenging area of preparing for my first and early stages of ultra running was the physical training aspect.
TRAINING: It’s a daunting task when you are inspired and motivated to tackle an ultra for the first time but have ZERO clue on how to prepare.  While many assume that you “just need to run lots” this is simply not the case.  Too much running can easily lead to overuse injuries, compromised long term health health and the inability to run with any kind of speed or power.  For example, “just running lots” will not necessarily make you good at hill climbing, fast and efficient on the flats or be able to conserve energy and run effortlessly down hills.  When I was preparing for my first ultra race, it appeared like training smart was one big puzzle.  Knowing how to increase mileage safely, how to incorporate speed training into things and how to become better on hills was at first a mystery.  Pair that with availability to train, life commitments, work and actually having quality workouts was something that I had to address right away upon entering the sport if I was too have any kind of longevity.  And recovery….how much do you need?”


For those who struggle with knowing how to train for an ultra, don’t fret. You are not alone. Majority of first-time ultra runners are unsure of how to be ready for such a race. Although there aren’t “exact” and “specific” training schedules that can guarantee your success, Jen has shared her thoughts on how she handled training.

Jen Segger.pngNordictrack Interview Quotes_v copy 6.png

“What I discovered in learning how to train was that there was a lot of one size fits all (ie - cookie cutter) training programs out there which made me question how and why should everyone train the same when all runners are starting at different fitness levels, with different goals and with different strengths and weaknesses.  It seemed like a sure way to get injured super fast. I also realized quickly that there were not actually a whole lot of coaches who understood the sport of ultrarunning as it was so new and therefore, there were not a lot of people coaching it with great expertise.  However, I knew that I wanted a coach to guide me for the following reasons:
  • Master Plan - someone who could see the end goal and work backwards in how to actually get me ready.
  • Someone to tell me when to push and when to recover
  • To have a daily plan to follow so that I knew what to do for training each day of the week.  No more guessing.
  • Guidance on how to train smart and make the most out of time allowance

So with those reasons, I did hire a great coach and mentor to guide me in pursuit of my ultra running goals.  While I didn’t lack motivation, I actually needed someone to tell me to rest and relax, the other important side to training!
In fact, my involvement in ultra running over 12 years ago and having a coach is one of the main reasons that I pursued a career in the endurance coaching realm.  I was inspired to guide others through this training journey and to share my experiences.  To this day I remain committed to always staying on top of the latest in endurance research and how to work effectively with a wide scope of my athletes in my coaching practice.”


The mental, nutritional, and training difficulties of ultras are hurdles you’ll definitely encounter, but they are not impossible feats to conquer. From each of these categories, there’s a level of experimentation, patience, and positivity that is required. Plus, from the help and advice of these experienced runners, you can be more prepared to accomplish your first ultra distance endeavor.

Ultra Running Myths Debunked By The Experts

There’s quite a bit of stigma surrounding the realm of ultra running. How much of it is true? We asked these top ultra bloggers to put to rest the most common myths about ultrarunning. The misconceptions these experts encounter typically have to deal with their presumed mental instability, the extensive and time consuming training required, and misleading details about the actual race. If you've been concerned about any of these aspects, read on. We're sure you'll find a bit of relief hearing what the pro's have to say concerning these silly misconceptions about ultra running.


Believe it or not, ultrarunners are not always what you expect them to be. In fact, a vast majority of  misconceptions surrounding ultrarunning involves the type of people that decide to take on the ultra distances. When it comes down to it, ultra runners are just like you and me. They are normal, well-adjustment members of society who’ve happened to find something they love.

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-13.png

“I think one of the most common misconceptions about ultrarunning is that it's only for the superhuman types. Sure, you have to have mental strength and you have to train but it isn’t an impossible feat. At the end of the day, running for a long distance on trails is a pretty basic activity. You put one foot in front of the other, stay tuned in to your effort, make sure to eat and drink, and most likely you’ll be just fine.”

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-15.png

“I would say that the most common misconception is that you have to be a little crazy to be an ultramarathoner. I have met some of the most down to Earth, sane people that I have ever met through ultra running. It really helps to put a lot of life's problems into perspective. I jokingly say that I stopped going to church because I found running. But that’s not it at all. I feel so at peace when I am out there on the trails, in God’s country. I have let all of life’s troubles wash away; it’s my therapy session. Once those wash away I feel that I am able to appreciate the world and all of its wonders. It brings me such joy to be free in nature. It has nothing to do with distance for me, but with wanting to be out there in the beauty of the world. Signing up for races is more of a way to bond with other runners, to all have similar goals, to cheer each other on through our accomplishments and have fun while doing it. But we all know that the trails are where are our hearts are. It’s not crazy to be out in the places where we feel the most at peace.”

Nordictrack Interview Quotes_v copy 7.pngNordictrack Interview Quotes-09.png

“One of the most common misconceptions about ultra-running is that it is an outlandish sport that irrational people do to satisfy some absurd obsession. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve gotten to know a lot of ultra runners over the years. What I’ve learned about them is similar to what I’ve learned about myself. As I’ve said before, we are just normal people. We are the electrician who crawls into your attic when you need wiring in your home. We are the parent who drives their child to water polo practice every day. We are men and women who report to an office everyday. More than anything, though, we are people who want something more in life. Something real, not just material. Something we have to dig deep within ourselves to obtain, and the deeper we dig, the more satisfied we are.”

“A lot of folks still think that Ultra Running is for “slow old people”; even so, that was a little true for the sport years ago but not anymore. There are plenty of young guys in their mid twenties moving up from road racing to Ultras and Trail Ultras. We are talking guys that can run 62-64 minute Half marathons and 2:14-2:18 Marathons. Also, a lot of people think all you need to do is run long and slow, not true. I train a lot like a marathon runner, just with long runs being longer and closer to race day, my training is more specific to the upcoming course (flat versus mountain, i.e.).”Nordictrack Interview Quotes-12.png

Ultra running is not a sport just for the “crazy”, “old”, or “superhumans”. In fact, it’s a way for runners to enjoy the world around them and to find peace and satisfaction that can be hard to find in our busy, stressful lives.


There are countless myths surrounding the training that’s needed for an ultra. Everyone has their own idea of what training should look like, but in reality, the expectations aren’t very accurate. Everything from the time required and the mileage run each week to be able to conquer an ultra distance race can be different than what is assumed.

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-08.png
Nordictrack Interview Quotes_v copy 9.png

“When road marathoners start considering a trail ultramarathon, they often think that ultra training looks a lot different than what they did for the marathon, and that it will take up a lot more time. In reality, they’re very similar.

Sure, you’ll want to increase time spent on the trail, and replace some of the speed work with extra mileage, but I’m a firm believer that if you can run a marathon, you have the strength and skills to run a 50K ultramarathon.

And you can do it while having a job, taking care of kids, and juggling everything else life throws your way.”

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-11.png

“New ultra runners and people considering the sport often assume that adequate preparation requires an incredible volume of running in time and mileage.  "I can't do it because I'm too busy," they tell themselves.  That's not true. You CAN do it, and you might be surprised that you don't need to go for 40-mile long runs in order to be an ultrarunner.  

I train for 100-milers with 65-75 miles per week of running, and I always take one day fully off.  Granted, these are hard miles at altitude with plenty of quality, but I'm not spending my entire life running and I still have time for work and family.  Many of my clients have experienced success in long ultras on less training than that.  Key to your preparation is intentional, structured training, and you might consider reading books and articles and/or working with a coach.  Also, keep in mind that what's right in training for your running buddy might not be right for you, so don't shy away from doing your own thing when needed.”

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-14.png

“I hear one thing over and over from non ultra runners (many of whom are established or elite marathoners). "You must have to run a lot of MILES to be able to run a race that far!"

As a coach, I make it clear to my clients that it doesn't take 100+ mile weeks, long runs of 30, 40, 50+ miles, or regular "back to back" weekend long runs to be ready to run an ultra. That goes for 100+ mile races too! Many of my clients have been fit and ready to complete (and complete it well) their first ultra from 50k up to 100 miles on just 30-35 miles / week with long runs that rarely crack 18-20 miles. Much less than most road marathoners. That's not to say that ultra runners are lazy! If you factor in the time on feet and vertical gain into the training notes then it's easy to see why "less MILES" is actually OK. As in any sport, specifically those with high impact like running, rest if especially important to benefit from the training. Don't get caught up in the number of MILES you run, rather think about the type of miles you'll be running during your goal race(s). Tailor your training to mimic that. Chances are your total MILES will decrease but your fun while training and time on your feet will likely increase!”

These ultra bloggers make it very clear that you have the time needed to prepare for your first ultramarathon. You can train to run a 50k race even with juggling family, work, and daily responsibilities. Also, training doesn’t focus too much on the number of miles; the amount of miles ran, per run or per week, does not determine success in finishing an ultra. Be sure to keep these bloggers’ helpful tips in mind for when you begin your ultra training!


Race day will never be exactly what you expect or plan for - that’s just a given fact. However, that doesn’t stop runners from making assumptions about various aspects of the race. A commonly held misconception, in specific, involves how runners tackle the race.

Jen Segger.png

“Everyone thinks that runners “run” the entire way and this couldn’t be more far from the truth.  In fact, Id say that 99% of the field walks in almost every ultra out there at some point. Yes, even the elites walk!

So, that said, if people train the walk/run and become very efficient at power walking (or as I call it, power walking with purpose) chances are good that they have the capability to complete an ultra!  All of my athletes who are training for an ultra spend a great deal of time learning how to be efficient at power walking.  This includes training the hip flexors in that range, how to intake calories while walking fast and how to really move uphills with power and speed, all while walking.  The longer the race, the more power walking that happens.  In fact, in many cases it is much easier and faster to walk then it is to run. I challenge many of my athletes to test this theory. I ask them to power walk up a hill beside someone who is running and to notice if they are maintaining the same pace while determining who is expending more energy.  In addition, it is important for ultrarunners to become good at transitioning back and forth between run/walking and to not get lulled into just walking when they could in fact be running.Nordictrack Interview Quotes_v copy 8.png

So, when someone says that they ran 100 miles, chances are pretty good that they actually mean that they walk/ran 100 miles!”

There is definitely a strategy to finishing an ultra distance race efficiently. As part of that strategy, running 100% of the time isn’t required, expected, or even smart. Remember that you need to do what works best for your body and physical capabilities based on the mileage and terrain involved. Don’t be afraid to use the walk/run method, as it is very commonly used across the sport of ultrarunning!


These ultra bloggers have seen and heard all kinds of rumors and myths about the sport of ultrarunning. They’ve shared their thoughts to shed light on the inconsistencies and realities that they experience. Among the top myths to debunk, here is what you ought to remember: ultra runners themselves are just normal people, the training isn’t as time-consuming or mileage-intense as you’d think, and walking during parts of the race is an effective strategy to be utilized.

What You Should Know Before Running Your First Ultra

Even after you’ve gone to your other runner friends and searched extensively through Google, you may still be left with some questions and surprises on race day. To help you have a better idea of what to prepare for and expect, we asked these top bloggers what they wish they had known before running their first ultramarathon. Each had unique experiences that stemmed into lessons learned.

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-14.png

“My first ultra was awesome, until it wasn't... the first 50k was smooth, effortless, and exhilarating running 30+ minutes ahead of 2nd place. The kicker? I was running a 50 miler! I had gone out wayyy too fast, been carrying wayyy too much water, and I should have researched the course a LOT more.

I went off course around mile 37 and did an extra 5 miles. Not only did it frustrate me that I lost the huge lead, it also made me wish I knew the course better. Around mile (for me) 42 my hips were killing me. I rarely trained with a pack or even a handheld for that matter but on race day I wanted to "make sure" I had enough fluids. The added weight from my 100 oz H2O bladder threw my gait off and after 4-5 hours of running I was paying for it.

To top it all off, the pace I was going was far from sustainable. It would have been great for 50k but the additional 30k (where the race begins for most in a 50 miler) turned into a struggle. I went from being on-pace for a sub 8 hour 50 mile debut on a mountainous course to walking / limping / dragging my aching body across the finish line (55 miles later) in around 11 hours.

So what did my experience in that first ultra teach my now more experienced self?Nordictrack Interview Quotes_v copy 11.png

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-13.png

“When I ran my first ultra, I literally knew nothing about them. I was in my early 20’s, had completed a handful of marathons and paced a friend running his first 50 miler and thought, that was fun, I should try that. Two months later, I had signed up for my first 50 miler.

I approached the start line with casual ease, wearing a cotton tank top and shorts, carrying a handheld water bottle and wearing a hat that I had worn during training runs. I didn’t have special trail shoes, a watch, or even a drop bag. It was just me, myself and the trails. And honestly, I had a pretty great race. I was even decently fast.

That said, I did experience a pretty epic bonk around mile 42. It was purely a nutrition problem as I hadn’t eaten much at the start and likely wasn’t eating much during the actual event. I wish I had known just how important nutrition is when it comes to racing and wish I had been more prepared when it came to taking in calories and drinking water.”

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-12.png

“I wish I had known how hard it can be physically and mentally for a long time. You know if you ran a 10k let’s say you start to hurt with 2 miles left, so you are talking 10-15 minutes of suffering left? Even if you are only running 10 minute pace that is 20 minutes of mental and physical struggle.
In an ultra, you could be at mile 70 in a 100 miler and it is getting dark and you have 30 miles left to go in the dark woods, which equates to many hours of suffering. You can’t prepare for that, you just have to experience it.”Nordictrack Interview Quotes_v copy 10.png

Nordictrack Interview Quotes-15.png

“I wish I had known just how important a strong crew team was. I had a last minute crew thrown together, wrong coordinates were handed out, missed crew stations happened, I ran out of water, it was a rough go of it.  I wanted to quit the race. I had started walking, sat down for a long while, and had basically given up until a young lady, also named Katie, found me on the course. She gave me water and food and helped me get to the next aid station. Once we reached the aid station I stopped my watch, sat down, called my mom and told her I quit and to come and get me. As soon as I hung up, everyone at the aid station started cheering me on, saying I could do it, and that I should at least go to the next aid station. I called my mom back, told her to met me at the next aid station. Started my watch back up I ended up running with Katie the last 18 miles. I thought that time spent at the aid station, letting them convince me to continue on took forever, it turns out it was just over 1 minute according to my watch and official time. I never realized before how something as simple as a little encouragement can go such a long way and that having the proper support can be a huge game changer.”


Regardless of the amount of research or training you do before your first ultra, there will inevitably be lessons you learn the hard way. Some things you just have to experience in order to know what you really need. From these bloggers’ accounts, though, you now have a little more insight into what you should know before your first ultramarathon. Their first hand experiences can help you better prepare when it comes to pacing, training, nutrition, details of the race, and a crew team.


Each ultramarathon racing experience will be different - for every runner and for every race. However, after reading this article and hearing what seasoned professionals have to say about the sport, we hope you feel more prepared and ready to tackle your very first ultra. It's like any other endeavour - learn, plan, prepare. If they can do it, you can too!


NordicTrack is thankful to the bloggers that participated and shared their knowledge on ultrarunning! If you’d like to follow them and read more about their adventures and experiences as ultrarunners, visit their websites!

Thomas Reiss - http://thomasreiss.com/

Jen Segger - http://jensegger.com/