Training for an Ultra-Marathon

By Daryl Flacks, Member of the Recharge With Milk Ambassador Team


Malden Park Runners (MPR) organized a 20 mile tune-up run in preparation for those registered for a spring marathon. Daryl Flacks is in the back row with the Ultra-beard! The run was also in support of 2 Guys, 4 Wheels, 1 Cause. Jimmy and Marty are cycling across Canada to raise awareness and funds for Huntington Society Canada.

Indiana Trail 50 – April 30, 2016. What will it take to be successful? What are my goals?

With just 5 weeks remaining, each run brings with it a self-evaluation of sorts. How difficult were the miles? Was the pace comfortable or taxing? Too fast, too slow…just right? I calculate the miles I’ve logged and the miles that I hope to accomplish. How many miles are enough and what is considered too many?

I’ve read about the need for “quality miles” and minimizing the “garbage miles”. “Quality miles” is a relative term. Are they different for an ultra-runner? I often watch videos of the “who’s who” of ultra-running. The picturesque mountainous terrains are vastly different than that of what Windsor-Essex County has to offer. With an endless array of information available at ones finger tips, deciphering what works can be an exercise in futility and everyone has an opinion.

I started my official training December 21st, 2015. Reviewing training logs, I determined this to be the date I strung together my first of three consecutive 60 mile weeks. An arbitrary distance for sure but without concrete evidence of a “magical” number, 60 miles seemed as good as any.

January 3rd, 2016 I began my winter cycling program. Traditionally, this was the point where running took a back seat. 2015 had resulted in some lack luster performances that I attribute directly to my lack of running fitness. With a Skechers Sponsorship for 2016, running is now front and centre.

I struggle with balancing the demands of running and cycling, ultra-marathons add yet another dimension. Finding that balance is challenging, so I’ve thrown caution to the wind. The Plan – do as much running in addition to the cycling as my body can handle. My anaerobic fitness addressed by cycling, while running would address my aerobic needs – the cumulative effect resulting in greater endurance. I’d then remove cycling from the equation and with six weeks remaining before Indiana Trail 50, the focus would shift to the task at hand.

Reviewing past results, in particular Sulphur Springs 50 Miler (currently my fastest time to date) I set the goal at a 9:00 min/mile average pace. That translates to a finish time of 7 hours and 30 minutes. Is it achievable? Have I done enough or trained smart enough to achieve my goal? Weather is always an unknown. The course conditions although the same for everyone will have a direct effect on time-based goals. It’s no secret; I’m competing for the Win! That goal too, is not without its uncertainties as the talent pool is vast. A 9:00 min/mile pace should translate into a top 3 finish, but nothing is for certain.

On March 12th, 2016, I ran 30 miles at “Race Pace”. Donning the Skechers GOtrail Ultra 3, and simulating hydration plans with Skratch Labs – Lemons & Limes accompanied with Skratch Labs – Fruit Drops, I held an average pace of an 8:54 min/mile. I finished the final 2 miles @ 7:30 min/mile pace. The days run was considered a success.

One week later and 26 miles seemed vastly more difficult. So much so, that if left to my own devices I would have packed it in early. I’ve been running long enough to know that consistency pays off and not every run goes according to plan. Difficult runs I like to classify as “character builders”. It’s important that you work through them; they build character and prepare you to overcome adversity.

It’s Monday March 28th, 2016, my biggest week of training now complete. It wasn’t without its ups and downs. Not all weeks are smooth sailing; more often than not I struggle with fatigue, lack of motivation and nagging aches and pains that often rouse me from sleep when I move. Running pain free is but a fleeting memory; I’ve learned to accept it.

Easter long weekend and time spent with family and friends. Saturday’s run would be comprised of 20 miles along the new Herb Gray Parkway in my Skechers GOrun 4. Supporting 2 Guys, 4 Wheels, 1 Cause the organized run raised $760.00 for the Huntington Society of Canada. With 20 miles complete, I transitioned into my Skechers GOtrail Ultra 3. Accompanied by my wife Dianne on her mountain bike, we headed out for an additional 10 miles of trails.

Easter Sunday – I slept in, enjoyed a relaxing brunch and proceeded to run 22 miles. Dianne accompanied me on her mountain bike and the miles ticked away with no concern for pace. 90 miles completed and more importantly, I’m no worse for wear.

So, what will it take to be successful? (1) A belief in my own abilities – some call it confidence other call it cockiness, (2) consistency – logging the miles while remaining focused on the goal, (3) the ability to suffer – embrace the pain, it’s only temporary. All in all, it’s not very scientific. I fly by the seat of my pants for the most part when it comes to my training. I know what works for me and at the end of the day that’s truly all that matters. Will I achieve my goal? Only time will tell…all will be revealed in my post race analysis.

Tomorrow, I’ll visit Dr. Todd Small and Spencer @ Community Health and Integrated Care. I have rotator cuff pain – difficulty raising my arm above my head. Wow, if it’s not one thing it’s another. I guess I should be thankful, it doesn’t affect my running!