Are you ready for ultra running? :: Guest post by MichRun4

Hi! I am Michelle Sager from the blog Michrun4. So excited to be a part of the wonderful Zucchini Runner blog by Corine. We originally “met” on Instagram, but soon after met in person at the inaugural #RunEatTweetAZ meet up. We hit it off right away. She is so knowledgable about so many things! I was picking her brain about all sorts of nutrition aspects and how I could apply it to running. So excited to do a blog swap with her! She is posting some great advice about fueling with whole foods on my blog for me!

I am a wife, a mother, a group fitness instructor, and a lover of all things fitness! I have been running multiple marathons a year since 2005, but recently fell in love with trail running. When my husband first started running ultramarathons I thought it was just nuts. But the more I have been around it, I have fallen in love with the change of pace and the unique sport of ultra racing.

If you love running long distances, unique terrain, and a challenge… then what are you waiting for? An ultramarathon is for you! Ultramarathon distances vary from 50Ks to 100 milers and beyond.  A 50K is just beyond the 26.2, so maybe just jumping ahead to a 50 miler would be a good challenge.  The training is much more doable than you think. You don’t have to spend every waking minute running! When my husband first told me he wanted to sign up for a 100 miler I about flipped! We already find it tough to get the training time in as it is because we are both runners, we have young kids, and we live in AZ where summer heat means we have to be done with our training before 8am!  I soon discovered that training for an ultra is much like marathon training and very doable even for a busy family! This post is going to focus on some key areas that I believe can help you gain confidence to make the jump from 26.2 to ultras.

1. “Piggy-Backing” or “Sandwiching” long runs. You don’t need (nor should you) train the full, or close to the full distance in one run for an ultra. During marathon training, most runners will run 18-22 miles as their longest run. That is only a few miles short of a marathon. Training for a 100 miler does NOT mean you should do a 90 mile training run. Same goes for a 50 mile race. To train 42 miles in one day is not recommend in preparation for 50.  Your body would suffer too much break down, and most likely wouldn’t be prepared for the actual race day. This is where “Piggy-Backed” runs come in. Your training plan should include back-to-back long runs. So train a long run Saturday and Sunday. The second day you are training your legs to run on tired legs which mimics the second half of a race.

2. Training plans. Nowadays we have access to free training plans online, or you can purchase a book that has a prescribed plan. You can take those plans and tweak them to fit your needs. I did this for many years. I started really stressing out about plans because there are so many that contradict each other and they all make different claims. I was fortunate enough to get to work with a coach last year which put an end to the second guessing. We communicated how I felt after each week, made adjustments as needed, but mostly I just had to put the work in without all the guess work of when to do speed, or how many miles I should run each week. Whichever route you take, what’s most important is that you show up to race day prepared, and trusting that you put in the work. My coach has told me that with all of the distances runners he works with, the ones that seem to perform the best on race day are the ones that are able to maintain high weekly mileage mixed in with recovery weeks. For example, if a runner is training lots of speed training and tempo runs, but only hitting about 20 miles a week for their total mileage, then he/she would be better off training 40-60 mile weeks, even if it meant slowing down the pace. Running more weekly miles will boost up your efficiency and running economy!


3. Train the terrain. If your race is taking place in some technical trails with a lot of elevation gain, then it would be smart to train in similar areas!  My first trail race I went in very prepared with mileage, but underestimated the difficulty of the course and biffed a few times! If you are racing on pavement, be sure to include pavement runs in your training program. Train smart=race can be more successful!


4. Get in tune with your body! I learn a lot from other runners and love to pick people’s brains. I also really enjoy reading books about running. But the most important thing is to test things out on yourself and figure out what will work for you! Before you jump into an Ultra, you need to understand your bodies fueling needs. Every single runner is different. Figure out how many calories you need an hour, and what your stomach does well with. I have surprised myself. Some races I seem to really like watermelon at aid stations, whereas others, all I want are boiled potatoes dipped in salt. When it comes to long endurance races, listen to your body, start fueling and hydrating early! It is hard to play catch up.

5. Remember, it is going to be unpredictable! When racing a 10k or even a half marathon, you can pretty much predict what your body will need/go through. Ultras are VERY unpredictable. You will experience some highs, and some lows. The mountain weather is often unpredictable. You increase your chance of getting hurt or lost in an ultra. You might see some creatures along the trail. So be ready for anything and roll with the punches! You can’t go into race day stressed about specific expectations. Relax, have fun, trust your training, have a good mental race plan, and race smart! Start the race slow and get a feel for it! Never be too hard on yourself!


6. Suck it up buttercup! Mental toughness is KEY! Know that you will have some bad training runs. Don’t get too worked up over it, those runs are building that mental strength that you will most definitely need come race day!


7. Time on feet. A big difference in ultra training is long runs are planned by hours instead of miles. So instead of saying you are going to run 18 miles on Saturday, you would set out to run 3 hrs. and then just record what distance you end up with. This helps you relax and stay in tune with your body. I like to start my training with 2 hr long runs and increase by 30 min. intervals.

8. Be prepared with gear on race day. I have a post on my blog you can check out about what to pack on race day. My motto is, if you think you might need it, then bring it!


If you have the desire to do an ultra, then you have already overcome half the battle! That means you are ready to tackle the pain, time commitment, and all the suffering that goes with it. If you decide you are willing to do whatever it takes to get through and finish the race, then what are you waiting for?! “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how FAR one can go!”

Let’s connect! You can find me on:
Blogspot: MichRun4
Instagram: michrun4
Twitter: Michrun4
Pinterest: Michelle Sager
Facebook: MichRun4

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2 Responses to Are you ready for ultra running? :: Guest post by MichRun4

  1. Very very well done! #7…I got an earful about this from smush. When I ran with her I was disappointed because I had to take a “break” and walk. She said phooey!!!! Time on the feet and covering the miles in a given time is important. If you don’t get the miles so what?! Good to hear. We put so much pressure on the actual miles as the end all be all. Btw 26.3 is considered an ultra? When I do my first ultra, mich, you’ll be the first to know. 41 for 41.

  2. Great post!! Thanks for taking some of the mystery out of these crazy-sounding ultra races!

    The part about Piggybacking makes a lot of sense! It’s a relief to know that you wouldn’t have to go out and run 90 miles all at once for training purposes lol! Splitting the runs into 2 days is way more doable!
    Love the graphic under #6 – yes very sexy indeed haha!!