Getting Ready for My First Ultra

Getting Ready for My First Ultra | happyfitmama.com

I’ve said I wanted to run an ultra for quite some time now.

I’m guessing that thought started swirling in my mind about 3 or 4 years ago. I was falling in love more with trail running. Road marathons were nice but I didn’t love it.

More aptly, my body didn’t love it.

I’ve had my eye on one 50k since then. This year, I finally thought it was going to happen. We were planning on a trip to Michigan to visit family around the same time that the Grand Island 50k was happening. It was all too perfect.

Well, not really. Sadly, the race was off the table for 2019. Scheduling wasn’t going to work.

So then I started looking for another race.

I wanted something that wasn’t too late in the fall.  Once September rolls around, kid fall sports starts up and that means Ron and I having to divide and conquer on the weekends as we shuttle kids around.

I wanted something that was not loops. I knew if I had to run past my car at multiple times throughout the race, it would give me the opportunity to take a DNF and tag out.

I wanted something that was mostly trails, jeep roads and a little technical but not super crazy technical that I’d be setting myself up for a broken ankle.

The Vermont 50 sounded good.

I marked the date that registration opened on May 25th. On that day, I sat down at my computer to register and I froze.

Could I really run an ultra?

Lots of doubts started to flood my mind.

It’s been 2 years since I even attempted marathon training. My longest long run in the past year has been maybe 15 miles? Will I have time to get to the trails to run long? Do I want to spend my summer weekends running long? Why do I want to run an ultra? Is 5000 ft of elevation gain too much for your first ultra?

I pushed away from the computer. I couldn’t register. I talked Ron’s ear off about what I should do. He was super supportive, telling me to go for it. I consulted ultra running friends for feedback. I asked my coach if he thought it was doable. Everyone was onboard.

But my doubts were overtaking everything.

After a few days of contemplating, I decided NOT to do it.

I’d find another race or wait to do Grand Island in 2020.

Even though I decided not to do it, I couldn’t stop thinking about the race.

Why was I so afraid?

About two weeks after registration opened, I was scrolling through the camera roll on my phone. I found a picture I took a screen shot of back in 2016.

Guess what it was?

                                               photo credit: Vermont 50

The Vermont 50 logo.

I took that as a sign that this was the race for me to do.

I sat down at my computer and registered.

Of course, I texted Ron right before I hit submit and asked, “Are you sure I should do this?!?!?!”

Vermont 50 training will officially start in 2 weeks. My coach has given me a down week next week before transitioning to ultra training. I’ve seen the next 6 weeks of my training plan and it doesn’t look too different than what I’m doing now – just longer long runs, obviously.

I’m letting go of expectations for my first ultra. I’m prepared to hike a lot. I know it’s going to s-u-c-k at points. These next 12 weeks will be about not only prepping my body but also my mind for the duration. I’ll be picking the brains of all my ultra friends to figure out what the hell I got myself into. Hahaha!

I can’t wait!

Linking up with Coaches Corner.

Last Week’s Workouts

Last week's workouts | happyfitmama.com

Last week’s workouts were full of my favorites – friends, road, dirt, mountains, vert and dogs. It was the last big week of workouts before a short taper for Loon Mountain this week. I’m ready to see the Boss!

Monday

30 min Stepmill Intervals

10 min Arc Trainer Strength Intervals

Strength Training – Bullet Proof Leg Circuit + various upper body, core, mobility exercises

Tuesday

61 minutes running, 7 miles, 8:47 avg/pace

An easy hour of running, cruising around town with Kyle, chatting away the whole entire time. I love summer running!

Last week's workouts | happyfitmama.com

Later in the day, I hit up Bending Bodhi Yoga for a nice and flowy class that hit up all the right places. Ahhhhh.

Wednesday

30 min Stepmill Intervals

Strength training – Mountain leg circuit + Upper body, core, mobility

Thursday

50 min running, 5.26 miles, 722 ft elev gain

Kyle and I visited the big hill in town for some repeats. Her training plan called for 60 sec sprints while my objective was to gain as much elevation as possible.

My legs felt like lead and had zero spring. I’m not surprised after lifting heavy the day before. And it was the first really humid day of the summer. The temps were in the 60s but it was soupy AF. Post run, we were feeling a little wacky.  I have no idea what is going on in the above pic. Hill repeats will do that to you!

Friday

Rest day…kind of.

One of my fav things is back for the summer – Bending Bodhi’s Sunset Yoga Hike. It was a gorgeous night for a short hike to the summit followed up with some yoga. If you’ve never practiced outside with the wind tickling your arm hair, the sun warming your face, the sound of birds chirping everywhere and the steadiness of the earth under your feet, you are missing out.

photo cred: Bending Bodhi

Saturday

88 minute trail run, 5.2 miles, 2009 ft elev gain

I made the trip to Gunstock Mountain in search of dirt and vert. I found both plus lots of horseflies and mosquitoes. It’s that time of year, after all. It was humid AF but then it started to rain. As much as I hate running in the rain, it cooled me off. Thankfully, it wasn’t a down pour and didn’t make the trails a sloppy, muddy mess.

The training plan called for 60 minutes but I wanted a little bit more of climbing after taking it uber easy down Gunstock. It’s full of big, ankle rolling rocks. I don’t need that in my life right now. I hit Mt. Rowe for some more climbing and found a new alternative route up to the cell tower that was AHHHHMAZING. Major score!

Sunday

31 minute run, 3.3 miles

My knees and quads were a little sore (I’m looking at you, downhill) so I rolled and stretched a bit before hitting the road for easy miles with Max. After 1 mile, I felt good as gold.

Max knows the drill – the phone comes out, it’s Blue Steel time!

I’m feeling strong and ready for Loon. Bring on the taper!

Linking up with the Weekly Run Down.

4 Balance Exercises for Runners

4 Balance Exercises for Runners | happyfitmama.comI’ve spent A LOT of time in physical therapy over the years for various injuries. A huge part of my rehab always focused on single leg exercises that focused on building up my ankle stability, core strength and balance.

Why?

Balance exercises for runners are huge. It may not seem like it while you are doing it, but running is essentially hopping on one leg over and over again. But it’s a little more graceful…hopefully. To build on your balance, you need to start from the ground up. The foot and ankle are your foundation. When you have a strong ankle you are less likely to be injured and much more likely to keep your balance under uneven surfaces. You want to be able to maintain your balance as you change directions or make a quick change movement in running, especially in trail running.

Now that I’m spending more time on the trails, my balance training is more important than ever. I may have to bounce from rock to rock, navigate over roots, or run on unstable fields. Single leg exercises are always the focus for strength training. Even if I’m doing an upper body exercise, like a DB shoulder press, I’ll stand on one foot to work on my proprioception. It may seem like you aren’t doing much of anything, but those little things add up. My ankles have never felt stronger on the trails.I don’t feel the stiffness and ache that I used to get the day after a hard or long run – on road or trails.

Your ankle never relaxes in running. It’s constantly working so you need it to be in tip top shape. Here’s 4 balance exercises for runners that will help you run strong and hopefully, injury free.

Disclaimer – While I am an ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist, I am not your personal trainer. Please consult your physician before trying any new exercise program.

4 Balance Exercises for Runners | happyfitmama.com

Single Leg Balance

The bare bones basics of stability training. This is an exercise that should be done at every age, especially as we get older.

To do: Stand tall with your shoulders back and feet pointing straight forward. Lift your left leg and raise it to about 90 degrees. Maintain a tall, stable posture. Hold the position, aiming for 30 seconds. Bring your left leg down to the floor and repeat the exercise by raising your right leg.

If that is too easy, close your eyes. It just got 10x harder.

Single Leg Balance on BOSU

The BOSU is great for building balance. If you don’t have a BOSU, any unstable surface will work. A pillow or couch cushion works great.

To do: Stand on the center of the BOSU and raise the other leg off the ground. Be sure to not let your hip sink – they should be even. Hold for 30 – 60 seconds.

If that’s too easy, close your eyes. No peeking!

Single Leg Ball Toss and Catch

This is a great drill to do with a workout buddy or if you have a rebounder trampoline. If either of those are unavailable, use a ball that can be bounced off a wall.

To do: Stand facing a workout buddy, rebounder trampoline or wall. Lift your left leg off the floor so that you are firmly balanced on your right leg.Toss a ball back and forth with your buddy, while maintaining single leg balance. After 10 passes, switch to the right leg.

Single Leg Squat and Reach

If you are looking for an exercise that works your balance and fires up the hip and glutes, look no further. My PT had me to do this exercise with small cones to my left and right sides and one to the front.

To do: Stand on one leg. Squat down and touch the floor (or cone if using) to your left side. Repeat the squat/touch sequence to the front and right side. Return to the left side repeating squat/touch.

Traditionally, the opposite hand from the leg that is squatting down is used to touch the ground. However, my PT had me do it both ways. I think the same hand, same leg is much harder especially when you have to cross over.

If this becomes to easy, you can progress to an unstable surface like a BOSU or foam pad.

Note: I like to do all of these exercise without shoes to really make my feet work. With shoes, it’s way to easy to get “comfy” and not have my whole foot/ankle doing the work.

Do you incorporate balance exercises into your training?

Linking up with Coaches Corner.