Hi, my fellow #ShokzSquad friends! I’m #ShokzStar Ashley Huffman, and over the Labor Day holiday I ran 148 kilometres at the Olander 24-Hour Ultra!
So what does training look like for a 24-hour ultra? As with any goal and distance—a speedy 5K, a first-time marathon, or looong distance like an ultra—training should be individualized.
This was my fifth 24-hour ultra. Each year I aim for improvement and to work on something new. Last year I focused on back-to-back long runs on the weekend. This year was all about nutrition and hydration.
In previous years, I battled nausea in the last half of the 24-hour race. Normally I’ll have to walk a few laps and drink ginger-ale for a while to get the nausea to go away.
So, during training for this year’s event, I was strategic about how many calories I was consuming each hour, keeping in mind how many I was burning. Since I live near Savannah, Georgia, summers here are hot and humid—really humid! A typical summer morning is 25 degrees with 100 percent humidity. My calorie intake relies heavily on liquid during the summer months (a combination of electrolytes and endurance fuel). I also train with watermelon, grapes, Honey Stinger waffles, pretzels, and pizza. That’s right, I run and eat pizza (don’t you love this sport?).
The second focus of my training was my long runs. The purpose of these workouts is to train your body to run on tired legs, spending as much time as possible on your feet. I would run 32-plus kilometres on both Saturday and Sunday, and schedule the runs about 10 hours apart to train my body to run on tired legs.
I also added a number of long runs that are over a marathon distance or timed runs, like a five or six hour run.
One of the most important training runs for me is always an overnight run. I try to run between 72 and 80 kilometres. Well, let’s just say that run didn’t go very well. The first 24 or so kilometres felt pretty good, and then something happened that has never happened to me before: The V-word. That’s right—I vomited. I started getting really sick. I walked and tried to eat, but I never got back on track. I got about 35 kilometres in before calling it quits. It was disappointing, but I knew I had a few more weeks to get in one more solid long run. Two weeks later, I did just that: 52 kilometres in six hours. *fist pump*
I did what I needed to do over the course of six months of training, and then it came time to enjoy the taper and mentally prepare myself for race day.
Olander Park used to be home to the USATF 24-Hour National Championships, and it happens to be down the street from my childhood home. It is a beautiful park that’s just over a mile around a lake.
The weather was amazing with daytime temperatures in the low 70s and nighttime temperatures in the high 50s. Bonus? Low humidity. It rained on and off for the first few hours, mostly sprinkles, which felt great. My strategy for the race was to run a full lap and then begin a two- to three-minute walk, which would allow me to fuel. I continued this approach for as long as I could. I felt strong the entire first half of the race, and there were so many factors working in my favour. I had 88 kilometres under my belt after 12 hours.
Naturally, the second half of the race I started to slow down. So, I changed my strategy, breaking the lap up into two sections. I tried to put off walking a full lap for as long as possible. Physically, I was capable of continuing my run/walk strategy, but mentally, I was starting to struggle. I wanted company during my laps, but no one from my crew was able to join me. I walked the last 17 or 18 kilometres. Since partial laps are counted, on my last lap I grabbed a marker with my bib number on it and placed it where my crew was set up, to mark my exact final distance. There were only 10 minutes left in the race, and I decided to sit down and cheer on the other runners pushing the last little bit.
My goal was 161 kilometres, and even with a strong race, I came up short. But with a new PR of 148 kilometres, covered over 24 hours, I am nothing but smiles today. Be proud of your accomplishments! Running is an amazing journey that never ends. I continuously grow in this sport, and I know that covering 161 kilometres in a 24-hour race is right around the corner.