Updated: Mar 3, 2020
On Saturday December 14, 2019 I finally completed my first 100k ultra erg. (I’m sorry I am just getting around to sharing my race notes now!) This was a hugely proud moment for me because I had attempted and failed three times in the last year and a half. Those were soul crushing DNFs. One of which I was so close and made it to 65k before I had to quit. This stupid insane race meant a lot to me because as a collegiate rower I was never near good enough to make any kind of national or olympic team. This 100k was my olympics.
Completing ultra races was not something I jumped into. If you read previous blog posts, you've seen that I have completed many marathons and 50k erg races before this. But I believe it takes specific preparation and a certain mindset to tackle an erg test like this.
These are the five things I did to complete my ultra race:
I had to first ask myself “Why?”. Why on earth would someone put themselves through a almost 9 hour erg test? And there is no right or wrong answer here, but the race has to mean something to you.
I had a race plan. It is very like me to create a color coded spread sheet of plans A, B, and C. But that mentality of sticking to the plan and thinking that was the only way to do this race, was part of my previous DNFs. My race plan was very simple. I wrote on a post it sticky “Pace the first half. Race the second half.” That was it. I know what a comfortable pace is for me to maintain for the first 50k and once I hit that mark, I accessed my ability to push my pace.
Proper sustenance. Food and water are obvious keys to success in an ultra race. I have a hydration vest that hold 2L of water. I consumed all of that plus an extra water bottle of 40oz of Nuun electrolytes. My goal was to take in about half of the calories I was using. I used a little over 5,000 calories in that race, so I aimed to eat about 2,500 calories pre race and during my race. Its a little tricky to eat and erg. I had one of my dining table chairs next to my erg in my living room with 3 cups of frozen blueberries, 2 Lara bars, and 6 peanut butter sandwiches. So all of that plus my favorite pre race breakfast of oatmeal and green smoothie added up to be about 2,600 calories. Those are the foods that work well for me while racing, other people find that other foods work well for them. I know that gels and gummies are very popular, but I haven’t found one I like more than real food. Its important to eat foods that you like and that are familiar to you. Don’t try anything new the week before or on race day.
Podcasts kept me half focused and half distracted for 9 hours of rowing. I made a playlist of Science of Ultra and Nutrition Rounds. A great mix of talking about ultra races and talking about plant based nutrition - my too favorite things to learn about. This was the perfect distraction for me while also keeping me a little focused. I could tune it out if I needed to focus for a while or I could listen in and let my mind wonder a bit.
I did plan a few stretching and walking breaks. As long as my erg screen doesn’t time out, I can stand up and stretch and walk around my house for a minute, and then return to my race. Just like running an ultra, its like stopping for a minute at an aid station.
May your meters come swiftly and you legs never tire. Happy rowing!