Last Updated on January 27, 2022 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Is the ultramarathon you trained so hard for canceled? Stuck inside? Have no fear! Coach Heather here to tell you exactly how to have an ultramarathon experience without ever leaving home!
Start Your Day!
Once you wake up, put on an exorbitant amount of mismatched, but purposeful layers. Socks, compression sleeves, gaiters, compression shorts, regular shorts over the top, you get the idea! For bonus points, also put a garbage bag with three holes, one for your head and two for your arms on top. Don’t worry, you can ditch it after breakfast.
Eat a cold bagel and drink a cup of instant coffee you heated on a jetboil stove while you put lube between your toes and shove pocket snacks strategically into your hydration pack.
Stand in line for the bathroom. Even if there isn’t someone already in there, give it a good 4 full minutes of waiting outside before taking your turn. Once you are inside, hang on to all of your extra gear, being careful not to let it touch the floor or fall in the toilet.
Leave the bathroom, then come back five minutes later and repeat the whole process. Pre-race nerves are the worst!
Try to do everyday tasks with trekking poles wrapped around your wrists. Pull something out of the refrigerator. Butter toast. Tie your shoelaces. Fold your laundry. Curse a bunch of times before realizing it might be easier to do all of those tasks one handed, while both poles are in the opposite hand.
Put on your trail sneakers, and step into your bathtub. Now, fill the tub until it’s about a centimeter lower than stack height of your shoe, where your socks don’t get wet. Jog in place and try to keep your feet dry. When they inevitably become wet – keep your shoes on for at least another two hours before changing your socks, but putting the same wet sneakers back on. Tape and lube as necessary. As soon as your feet begin to feel dry again – repeat the whole process.
Keep your cellphone in a ziplock bag, in the back pocket of your hydration pack, buried under some snacks. When you need it, try to reach it without taking your pack off. When that fails, ask someone else to grab it for you. Then when you are done, try to put it back where it was without taking your pack off. Get frustrated, sit down on the floor, and repack.
For 7 hours, eat nothing but a GU at the top of each hour. You may supplement with Tailwind or another liquid nutrition of your choice. At the top of the 8th hour, reach for a bowl of slightly soggy Pringles chips, half of a cold grilled cheese, and a Dixie cup full of flat coke. Really, shovel that food in with reckless abandon. Don’t worry, despite their condition, they’ll be the best tasting things you’ve eaten all day. So much so, you’ll probably enthusiastically offer it to your family. “OHHH! THIS IS SO GOOD! Kids, try this! Have you ever tasted anything so magical?”
At this point, you may supplement your nutrition with things like:
- candy (particularly, rainbow colored and likely gummy)
- cold potatoes
- mystery broth (flavor doesn’t matter, it’s hot and salty, it’ll be good)
- anything suited for a pre-school’s toddler room snack time.
Wear your hydration pack OR carry a water bottle all day. It will melt into your back or your hand, and become one with your very being. When either the pack or the bottle are empty, hand it to a loved one and ask for a refill. Make sure they fill it hurriedly and awkwardly, spilling a decent amount of fluid as they go. If the pack doesn’t feel cold and wet on your skin making you squirm a bit when it’s returned, it was not filled properly.
Hygiene (or lack thereof)
Pretend you are using a port-a-potty, and don’t flush your toilet for 24 hours. (Just kidding. Don’t do this one).
(Don’t snot rocket / farmer blow in the house either.)
Eat all of your food with your hands, or out of paper cups. If you drop something on the floor, brush it off, and eat it. Don’t waste precious calories!
Stop in the middle of the room, in front of everyone, reach up your shorts and reapply lube to your crotch. This is an ultra, damnit, modesty goes out the window.
Every few hours, check in with someone in your house. Make up your own bib number, and give it to them, with an authoritative but exhausted tone. The RD needs to keep track of you, just in case you get lost. For bonus points, ask that family member how much further until the next aid station.
Run up and down your hallway, with the lights off, with nothing but a headlamp from sundown to sunup. Tunnel vision is totally normal. Start laughing at jokes no one else can hear. Wonder if that raccoon you’re hallucinating staring at you from the stair banister has always been there.
Set your alarm for 2:30 am. When it goes off, stop running, spin in a circle five times, then try to solve one of your middle-schooler’s algebra problems. It will leave you with the confused “what the hell sort of backwards universe am I living in right now?” feeling of trying to figure out the pace needed to beat a cutoff when you are already 84 miles in.
Every 6 hours or so, sit down in a folding lawn chair and stare off into the distance, making others look at you with slight concern. Wait for your spouse to ask if you are OK, and if you are just about done with this nonsense. Shrug them off. Keep going. They’ll never understand.
Drink an excessive amount of caffeine. To the point where it doesn’t necessarily make you feel more alert, just more paranoid, and kind of nauseated.
Around 4 am, while everyone else in your household is sound asleep, lay down in the middle of the floor and question your life choices. Cry a little. But then get up and keep running up and down the hallway, reminding yourself that the sun has to rise eventually.
Swear to yourself that will never do this again.
Put KT tape all over your body, as if it’s trying to hold you together, physically and mentally.
Cry when your spouse offers you the wrong colored skittle. Or just looks at you.
At the 24 hour mark, cross your imaginary finish line. Feel an incredible, overwhelming sense of pride. Take pictures, immediately upload to Facebook, and say something along the lines of “I’m too tired to post now..” but post a short novel anyway. Talk about it for the next 48 hours to anyone who will listen, and start wondering when you get to do that again.
If ultra-life is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.