I'm also very slow to progress as an ultra runner. When I decided to run my first ultra which was a 50K, a 100 mile race was the farthest thing from my mind. After I finished my first 100 mile race three years later, I swore off 100s. They were too hard and I didn't want to beat my body into the ground. After my first 24 hour race, I thought that this was stupid and who would want to run around a circle for 24 hours. Now I LOVE 24 hour races and will pretty much do anything to see how much better that I can get at them.
After North Coast 24 hours last September (I can't believe it's been almost a year!) where I was able to get to 122.5 miles in poor weather conditions- rain for 18 out of 24 hours, I wanted to see if I could really have a chance of making the USA 24 hour team. I knew that because I don't have the natural leg speed, 130+ miles would not be easy and it would have to be a perfect day. Just a few months after North Coast, without really doing anything different training-wise, last minute I signed up for Shazam! 24hour which was a local track race. The idea of running around a 400 meter high school track was a little strange but I ended up liking it. Unfortunately, my body didn't like the 25 degree evening temperatures and I ended up pulling out of the race at 81 miles. This wasn't the race.
The next four months, I spent training for North Coast 24 hour Spring Edition. I ran some decent 12 hour races and ramped up my mileage to 100 miles in a week. I wanted it really bad and made sure to hit my higher mileage weeks. But, my speed was suffering because I felt like I couldn't handle the mileage load plus a lot of hill repeats and speed work. I still felt ready, mentally and physically.
I was very disappointed after North Coast 24 hour but now I'm glad it happened the way it did. I think that everything happens for a reason.
Once I regrouped, I decided that I need to sign up for three 24 hour races to accomplish three goals: 1)Get some more experience. I'd only ran ONCE over 100 miles. That's not a lot of experience. 2)Finish the entire 24 hours. Don't go home early 3) Have fun. This is why we do this, right?
The 2nd 24 hour race was Merrill's Mile 24 hour on a finely packed gravel very flat course and I finished 104 miles and won 1st Female (and 2nd Overall). It rained almost the whole race so lots of puddle running but I had a blast.
My next 24 hour race is Hinson Lake 24 hour and again, the plan is to have fun and finish the entire 24 hours. I'd also like to actually stay on my feet the entire time with only a few five minute breaks. Can't wait for this race.
About a week ago, I decided to go ahead and ask to be invited to Desert Solstice 24 hour Invitational Track Meet in Pheonix, Arizona. The event is on a 400 meter high school track and there are pretty challenging qualifying standards. I was able to use my 122.5 North Coast 24 hour race as a qualifier. In December, I'll be trying for 130+ miles ONE LAST TIME.
In order to increase my chances of accomplishing this goal, I need to do everything possible leading up to this race. Yah, I've trained hard before but am I doing everything? I don't think so.
I'm really lucky because I love training and am very goal driven. But, I don't listen very well to what people are telling me around me and so I'm really trying to change things up and tweak what I've been doing regarding both training and diet. Maybe these things won't help but they will help my confidence and the truly special people in this sport like Joe Fejes and Ray K. will tell you that 90% of this is mental.
Here we go:
1) Eat less carbs and sweets. I've always felt like I didn't need to alter my diet because I cook and my weight is fine. Truth is: I eat a ton of carbs and 4-500 calories of dessert EVERY NIGHT. I can get away with it but if I want to do well in this race, I need to eat less sugar.
2) More strength training-Including the legs. My excuse was that I already beat my legs into the ground, I don't need to do leg extensions or squats or whatever. More leg strength will help. More all over strength will help.
3)Get my speed back. Run races. My last 2 weekends have been racing a 5K and 10K. Wow, that crap hurts! I need to learn how to deal with pain in the shorter stuff. It will help me when I'm finishing the last 7 hours of the 24 hours when I feel like I can't keep going. I also need to FEEL like I can run a 10 minute pace like it's nothing.
4)Hill work. I run on a lot of hills so I use that as an excuse. I'm getting weaker on hills and so I'm back to doing hill repeats. We've got this awesome (torturous) 0.6 mile steep incline that is perfect for this.
5)Continue doing what I normally do. Don't drink alcohol (In my case, no chardonnay), sleep well, stretch, and keep the mileage up. In a few months, I'll jack the miles up to near 100 as Desert Solstice gets closer.
I'm excited about the next four months. It will take a perfect day for me to get 130+ miles at Desert Solstice but I'm ready for the challenge :-)