Conquering the Colossal: Training for a 200-Mile Ultramarathon
Conquering the Colossal: Training for a 200-Mile Ultramarathon

Conquering the Colossal: Training for a 200-Mile Ultramarathon

So, you've set your sights on the ultimate distance challenge: a 200-mile ultramarathon. Congratulations! You're staring down an epic test of physical and mental fortitude, one that will push you to your limits and beyond. But before you lace up and hit the trails, buckle in for the training journey – it's anything but ordinary.

Two-hundred-mile events are on the rise. It appears that in the past two years, the amount of 200 milers has doubled, and that might be an underestimation. Although the obvious difference from the 100 mile distance is double, just about nothing else is, except maybe the experience. 

Mind Over Matter: Building the Mental Arsenal

A 200-miler isn't just about logging miles; it's an adventure in self-discovery. Be prepared for moments of doubt, pain, and fatigue. Visualize success, practice positive self-talk, and cultivate mental resilience. Surround yourself with a supportive crew, tap into mindfulness techniques, and remember your "why" – the reason that ignited this audacious dream.

Building Your Base: Bricks Not Bullets

The foundation of your training is rock-solid aerobic endurance. Focus on consistent, low-intensity runs, hikes, and cross-training like cycling or rowing. Think quality over quantity, prioritizing consistency over massive mileage spikes. Aim for 5-6 sessions per week, gradually increasing your weekly volume by 10-15% max to avoid injury.

Strength in Diversity: Beyond Running

Don't be a one-trick pony! Cross-training with activities like swimming, cycling, and yoga builds strength, improves muscle balance, and reduces the risk of overuse injuries. Strength training is your secret weapon – incorporating core and lower body exercises builds stability and power for hills and uneven terrain.

Hike Like You Run: Embrace the Hills

200-milers often involve significant elevation gain. Don't shy away from incorporating hills into your runs and hikes. Practice power-hiking (fast walking uphill) and running downhill with controlled form. Consider hill repeats for targeted leg strength and mental toughness.

Fueling the Machine: Nutrition & Hydration

You are what you eat (and drink). Experiment and find a fueling strategy that works for you. Practice fueling during long runs and simulating race-day conditions. Prioritize nutrient-rich foods, adequate hydration, and electrolyte balance. Remember, "garbage in, garbage out" applies to your body during training and race day.

Dress for Success: Gear Up Wisely

Invest in comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and footwear that offers proper support and breathability. Most 200 mile events require specific gear to be carried throughout the duration of the event. Train some of your long runs with the required gear on your back. Test your gear thoroughly during training to avoid surprises on race day. Don't underestimate the power of a well-fitting backpack and a headlamp for nighttime segments. You should expect to be out on course anywhere from 50-120hrs course dependent. 

Listen to Your Body: The Art of Rest & Recovery

Recovery is non-negotiable. Schedule rest days, incorporate active recovery sessions like easy walks or yoga, and prioritize quality sleep. Listen to your body's signals – pain is a message, not a motivator. Address niggles early to avoid bigger setbacks.

Practice Makes Perfect: Simulate the Real Deal

Back-to-back long runs, simulating race-day nutrition and hydration strategies, and practicing your gear setup are invaluable preparation tools. Consider participating in shorter ultramarathons to gain experience and test your race-day tactics. Testing sleep strategies and what will be the best option for you is another consideration. Some strategies that AEC athletes have been successful with are sleeping 45-75 minutes at designated aid stations or sleeping 15-20 minutes right in the trail when needed. Testing what works for you may be the game changer in your event. 

Remember, You're Not Alone: Seek Support & Guidance

Connect with experienced ultramarathoners, join online communities, and consider working with a qualified coach. Their insights, encouragement, and tailored training plans can be invaluable resources.

Above All, Enjoy the Journey!

Training for a 200-miler is an incredible adventure. Embrace the challenges, celebrate the victories, and savor the camaraderie with fellow ultra enthusiasts. Remember, the finish line is a milestone, but the journey itself is where the true transformation unfolds.

Bonus Tip: Research the specific demands of your chosen 200-miler. Terrain, weather conditions, and aid station availability can inform your training focus and gear choices.

This is just a starting point. Remember, every runner is unique, and your training plan should be personalized based on your experience, strengths, and weaknesses. With dedication, smart training, and a positive mindset, you can conquer the colossal and achieve your 200-mile ultramarathon dream!