The High Sierra Ultramarathons are special to Bishop, our small ultramarathon community, and
to Northern Inyo hospital, that typically receives $10,000 annually from the
fundraiser. Bishop benefits from hotel
rooms filling up, restaurants being full, and shopping taking place from all
the out-of-town racers. The
ultramarathon community gathers together by marking the course and stuffing
race bags while drinking beer before race day.
Many racers were introduced to the sport of ultrarunning through this race, and more than a few folks have retired here after running this course. It is the core of the ultramarathon
community in Bishop. Unfortunately, 2013 might be the last year for the Bishop
High Sierra Ultramarathons. Someone recently told
me that Marie Boyd, the race director, said she feels like she is planning a
wedding every year, and 2013 is her last.
If you want to run this race, this is the year to do it;
otherwise, it is entirely possible the opportunity will not come back.
I asked a few
seasoned BHS runners for advice for newbie runners and/or
seasoned ultra-runners who are interested in giving this race a go. Their advice ranges from racing tactics to
course specific tips all which are beneficial.
The four races 20
mile, 50k, 50 mile, and 100k are all different, but share the same long uphill
at the beginning and downhill at the end.
The hills were a common thread in all the training advice.
- Lots of uphill
- Practice downhill running or hiking on some rocky
or sandy roads.
it easy on the way up so that you'll be able to make the most of the long
downhill to the finish.
- Mimic the race course conditions as much as
possible, for HS Ultras this means very long climbs and very long descents,
sometimes soft sand dirt road surfaces, elevation (ranges from 4400-8000' or
- Do your long runs somewhere where at the very
least you can experience going uphill for an hour or 2 straight and downhill
for the same, the downhill training is especially important because the
eccentric muscle contractions of prolonged downhill running will really trash
your quads if they aren't prepared for it.
|Heading up from the CDF aid station (5.8 miles)|
Exposure to sun, heat, and altitude are environmental factors seasoned runners mentioned as something
to definitely prepare for.
- Prepare for exposure(no shade) and potentially
hot and dry weather conditions.
- If it is really warm on race day, tie something
loosely around your neck that you can get wet and put ice in. That helps to
keep your core temperature down.
- It has snowed on race day but heat is much more
common so acclimating to it will really be beneficial...practice drinking
20-30oz of fluid(some H20 and electrolyte/carbo drink)/hr in warm
conditions so your body is used to processing that much fluid on race day
- The two biggest factors that runners fail to
adequately acknowledge resulting in a subpar performance are exposure and
altitude. Literally there are only a handful of trees along the course so
prepare to be in the sun all day long, especially if you live in the shade.
- The course isn’t a “mountain course” but the
elevation is higher than what most people regularly train at so altitude can be
a debilitating factor that most people underestimate.
usually hot, dry and windy for at least part of the course, so stay on top of
your hydration and electrolytes, or it'll be a suffer-fest getting to the
finish line. Carry at least one water bottle.
- Shady hat and sunblock - it is a very exposed
environment, most likely sunny and warm for most of the day, very little shade
on the course.
really helps to be acclimated to the altitude and the heat, so train as
much as you can at higher altitudes and in the heat.
|There is a lot of exposure. Tungsten Hill section of the 100k. |
Ultramarathons have well-stocked aid stations, however, experts recommend
carrying at least a water bottle, and having their running gear dialed. Here are some tips on how to strategize for
- Bring either a waist or shoulder pack; you will need
to have something to carry fluids. There are a lot of aid stations,
fairly closely spaced (relatively speaking for an ultra), so you don't need a
- Apply an anti-chafing substance(such as
BodyGlide) ANYWHERE you might get rubbed raw by skin-on-skin, pack straps, etc.
- Study the course map and familiarize yourself
with aid stations and drop bag locations. These are strategically placed along
the course and having something specific at a drop bag location a runner may
need during the day can make the difference between a DNF and a successful
- Use shoes on race day that are broken in but
still have relatively few miles on them so they are as close to new as possible
without being an "unknown" factor for your feet and legs.
- Buy the best shoes you can afford.
|Buttermilk Road Aid Station with the Desert Divas.|
Jeff Kozak (holds
the 50 mile course record) offered general training and racing advice.
- Decide what your race goals are: to
survive(finish), to run well but not necessarily concerned with
time/performance, or to race/compete for place or PRs(personal records)
- Honestly assess your current fitness
level...longest run in past month, avg weekly mileage, any speedwork/hill
repeats or all "aerobic" runs, cross training, etc...
- Determine how much time(hours per day, # of
days/week) you can/are willing to commit to training.
- Create a training plan that builds up to a peak
about 2-3 weeks before race day at which time you will slowly reduce your
training volume and/or intensity so that you feel fully rested in the final
days leading up to the race.
- Finally, enjoy the process of training and the
experience of the event. The sport is growing rapidly right now, but it is all
relative; there are still not that many people who have taken on the
challenge of running an ultra-distance race.
Training should incorporate these principles:
- Try not to increase weekly mileage more than
10-15% each week and every 3rd week or so reduce your total mileage to an
earlier level as a recovery week, same goes for long runs, take your longest
current run & begin increasing it by 10-15% until you reach, say, a 25
miler for 50K runners or a 35 miler for 50M runners, 35-45 miler for 100K'ers;
another way to approach long runs is back-to-back shorter long runs, say 20-25
miles the 1st day and 15-20 miles the 2nd day which gets you used to being out
moving for hours on tired legs.
- There are many books on sports nutrition but I
think the 2 most important principles are as follows: getting in 200-500 calories
in the 1st hour after a workout really does wonders for setting you up to be
recovered for the next workout; and during runs of 2 hours or more getting in
200-300 calories/hr(can be liquid or solid, gels, etc) so your body gets used
to processing food on the move b/c you will have to eat during the race and
this can be challenging esp. in hot weather so it helps to know what does &
doesn't work for you.
- If you are training simply to finish your weekly
long run is the most important workout and if you are training to run well or
compete some form of speedwork/anaerobic running and/or hill work becomes
important as well, running 7, even 6, days/week is not necessary(unless your
body responds well to very high mileage)...a finisher can probably manage on only
3 days/week of running if the long run buildup is adequate, even a competitor
can prepare on 4-5 days/wk if the workouts are quality(long run, speedwork, 2
easy runs based on how the body feels).
- On race day, error on the side of slower than you
think in the 1st half of the run, very few PR performances at any level have
occurred when someone went out too fast, crashed & burned and held on,
usually this ends in either a DNF or a "death march" at the end of
the run; for novice ultrarunners or those just wanting to finish taking short
walking breaks before you think you need to can really extend the stamina of
your legs by using different muscles; it has been shown that you can
"survive" a run twice as long as you have gone in the past month so
even if you've only built up to a 25 miler you should be able to complete the
50M esp. if you incorporate regular walking breaks.
|Jeff Kozak and Ryan Spaulding at race the race start|
Spaulding (2011- 50 mile winner) offered visualization techniques to help with
racing, and in my opinion, life . . .
- Make it a goal of yours to
keep smiling during the race. Recent studies have shown that maintaining a
positive attitude and a genuine smile on your face can bring about notable
physiological (reduced stress levels and a lower heart rate, for example) and
psychological benefits. A positive attitude can propel your will to a whole new
level and help carry you through those rough patches in a race. One easy mantra
you can employ
Thank you to the seasoned Bishop High Sierra Ultramarathon runners, Marie Boyd (race director), Jeff Kozak, Phill Kiddoo, Linda Emerson, and Ryan Spaulding for offering up some training tips. Hopefully, we will
see you at packet pick-up at Sage to Summit!