I was 7 weeks away from my spring marathon – the Illinois Marathon on April 22nd – and for some reason, searching through possible upcoming races, the Christmas in July ultra kept sticking in my mind. I somehow convinced my husband that he and the kids can be my “crew” and registered before I could change my mind. I’m now combining the tail end of my marathon training with a new adventure – entering the world of ultra running.
The Christmas in July race is in mid-July, so it gives a solid 12 weeks of training after Illinois. They have several options to choose from – 5k, 6 hour, 12 hour, and 24 hour (plus a free kid’s race) which all start at some point in the evening. I suppose I could have dipped my toe in more slowly and went with the 6 hour race, which would have been equivalent to a 50k or slightly over. I was looking to really step out and challenge myself however, so I went with the 12 hour – equivalent to about a 50 mile race (at my pace anyway)! This race starts at 11pm, so pretty much I’ll be running all night.
The course is a 1 mile loop on a paved course with a combination of “scenic park” views and Christmas theme complete with decorated Christmas trees, Santa, lights, and other Christmas decorations. There’s supposed to be plenty of good food provided to the ultra runners. What I’m most excited about is the fact that your “crew” can camp out near the course. As I was looking at other ultra courses that are point to point with a set amount of miles, the idea of needing your crew to meet you at a specific location and get the timing right on when I’ll be passing through is a little nerve wrecking for this first-timer. At CIJ, I’ll be able to run by my family (aka crew) every mile, so if I forget to pick up a GU or something one loop I know that it’ll just be another mile until I can correct that. It will also make it super easy for me to bring a change of running clothes & shoes so that I can do a complete change at about the halfway point. It’ll be July after all, so odds are that will be a necessity to avoid horrible chafing.
To help me balance the end of marathon training with training for an ultra, and to make sure I am well-prepared especially for CIJ, I decided to get a coach. I’ve had great success before with Another Mother Runner’s Train Like a Mother Club plans. I followed their plan for my first marathon in 2015 and when I learned how to run by heart rate for my fall half last year. Their plans are more of an online coaching group – you get a published plan along with strength training (either suggestions or set exercises to do for the plan), training & nutrition podcasts, Strava group, and Facebook group where you can get help from the coach that developed the plan as well as other runners in the group. The Ultra plan is led by Stephanie Howe Violett – an elite ultra runner, coach, and nutritionist. So pretty much that covers all the angles of coaching that I need!
I’m really looking forward to pushing myself farther than I’ve gone before to see what I can do. Once marathon training is done I’m also really looking forward to focusing on pure endurance and not time. Also food. Apparently when you run an ultra you can eat all.the.food. I’m planning to find out 😀