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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

Virtual 5k Run for Courtney

The great thing about the running community, is that you really only need to find out another person loves to run as much as you do — and then you are immediate friends. Back at the end of June, at the first ever #RunEatTweetAZ meet up, I felt that way x7! We all met at South Mountain’s San Juan road, ran some hot miles and headed off to breakfast afterwards. I left there happy as could be at all the new friendships and connections we had all made. You can read more about #RunEatTweetAZ from it’s creator, Jeremy Heath on his blog Confessions of an Amateur Athlete. There is also a Facebook page if you are interested in joining the group!

Saturday was our third meetup, and while I feel all our meetups are special, this one was extra special. It was the #RunEatTweetAZ Virtual 5k for Courtney. We know of Courtney through one of our fellow #RunEatTweetAZ members, Traci. Here is a blurb, pulled from Traci’s site, about Courtney’s situation:

At 21 years of age, Courtney has been diagnosed with a rare form of childhood liver cancer called Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma. On June 24th 2014, Courtney was admitted into Mayo Hospital in Phoenix to have a liver resection to remove part of her liver and a lymph node in her chest. Unfortunately, her surgeon discovered that the cancer had spread to the healthy part of her liver and the surgery could not be completed. She is currently seeking treatment from Mayo in conjunction with MD Anderson in Houston, TX. Friends and family have been helping as much as possible to assist with raising funds to help cover her medical costs and travel expenses during her battle. Please assit in participating in this Virtual 5k, or donate directly here.  

As runner friends do, we all jumped at the opportunity to support Traci and Courtney in raising funds. A special thanks goes to Jeremy, for organizing this as our third meetup! We even created bibs, and I made a special keepsake one for Courtney per Traci’s request. 🙂


It was an early start to avoid the blistering AZ heat, so I set everything out the night before!


Early… but beautiful. 🙂


Jeremy (also known as the Selfie King) even let me test out his go-go-gadget extension arm for taking perfect running selfies. 🙂

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There was no racing in this 5k, we always waited for the rest of the group at the street crossings. 🙂

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There was some serious talking going on here between Sugar Coated Athlete and myself.

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Snagged this great shot of my new buddy Da Silent Assasin, doesn’t this pic just make you smile? You can really feel the aloha 🙂


After all the running was done, we of course went to breakfast and chatted for a good long while, until going about our “normal” days… at the ripe ole hour of 8:30 a.m.


Such a great group! From left to right: Cole (Traci’s son), Shane, Traci, Mike, Missy, Amy, Michelle and Jeremy. You can follow any of these awesome people on Instagram through these names/links: cole_story__bro, dasilentassassinteporterrun4funphotoaz33sugarcoatedathlete, gofastmommy, runningthriteenpointone, and runner_blogger_az


To register, donate or participate in your own virtual 5k to support Courtney, please go to Traci’s website, anytime in the month of August.