Can CrossFit prepare you for an Ultra Marathon?

How many training hours or miles do you need to prepare for an Ultra-Marathon?  Well I just completed the Cowtown Ultra in Ft Worth, Texas.  I prepared using CrossFit and an occasional long run on Sunday.  In fact in the three months leading up to the Cowtown, I only ran a total of 23 miles.

So let me back up a bit here.  There are a number of tenants that I have come to know to help people remain athletic, one of those is to occasionally “write a check you aren’t ready to cash.”   What this means is don’t wait until you  have trained for 6 months to sign up for your first half marathon, Tough Mudder or whatever.  Just decide that completing something like that is worth doing, sign up for it, tell everyone who will listen that you you are going to do it.  THEN start getting ready for it.

This is exactly what I did for my first Ultra-Marathon.  Last year I decided it would be cool to be able to say that I had completed not just a half marathon (2011), or a Tough Mudder (2013), or even the the full marathon (2012), but to distinguish myself as one of the tiny percentage of folks who can say they have completed an Ultra Marathon.  I chose the Cowtown Ultra, it was close to home (Mansfield), it was far enough out (scheduled for February and it was September when I signed up) and it wasn’t too long, (at 50 Kilometers it is one of the shorter Ultra distances).

First 50 kilometer race and no worse for the wear.

First 50 kilometer race and no worse for the wear.

Did I do this to get healthy?  Gosh no!  honestly running that far isn’t really good for you.  In fact it can be pretty bad for you.  But completing something like that is good for your character.  You see I spent a decade severely overweight and unhealthy as a result of the extra weight.  I know that many of you lament the ease with which you gain weight and the difficulty in losing it.  I am no different.  I have some motivation to maintain a healthy weight, I really do not want to have to go back to using a CPAP to control my Sleep Apnea for one.  But I still struggle even though I have maintained a more reasonable shape for several years now.  As I am closing in on 50 years old, I love being fit and feeling comfortable in my skin yet I can still undermine my own efforts at times.  But having something to train for helps keep me motivated.

So what was the plan?  Since I train at CrossFit FerVor, I didn’t see my fitness being an issue.  I had completed my first half marathon (21K or 13.1 miles) in Sydney Australia with literally just CrossFit training.  When I ran the White Rocks Marathon in 2012 my training was just CrossFit plus a few local 5&10K runs.  However, I knew that with a 50K (31 mile) run there were areas that I needed to prepare for that were unlike previous challenges.  Just the amount of repetitive motion can cause some ugly side effects: bloody nipples, chaffed or raw crotch, blisters, lost toe nails, cramps, nutritional gaps and dehydration to name a few.  So I was sure I needed some road time to prepare.  Honestly, that was going pretty well in September and October with Sunday runs from 4-13 miles.

Then it got cold, and we took some time to travel to see family and excuses, excuses…Long story short in the 3 months prior to the ultra I ran an 8 mile run 3 weeks out and a 15 mile run 2 weeks out and that was it.  Friends who had trained for similar events were certain that I was not ready.  One offered to pay me to sit it out.  Gotta love them!

Anyway, So the night before, a dozen of our athletes had competed in a Fitness competition so afterward I prepared like any good athlete.  I hung out with my FerVor Friends at Fuzzy’s Tacos drinking frothy adult beverages.  Oh, and a cup of water that one of my concerned friends made me drink. (Thanks Bethanie!)

Results???  Completed my first Ultra 6:17:21 not blistering fast but not the slowest out there.  Not one blister, not chaffed, toe nails all in tact.  In fact, I was working the next day (a little sore) and able to perform my role as coach, demonstrating movements and doing work.

How is this possible?  The training we do at CrossFit FerVor is designed to prepare people for the unknown and unknowable.  What if you woke up tomorrow and disaster had hit and you had to cover 30 miles on foot?  Could you make it?  Granted, it is not a likely scenario but it is nice to have the confidence that you are prepared for whatever life may throw your way.  Come train with us and gain that level of confidence.

Coach Chuck

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