Ultra Marathon Training: Crush Expectations

by | Jan 28, 2019

Most people running their first, or second, or third ultra marathon carry expectations into the race.

They had training expectations; they planned the miles and hours they’d have to train, running and strengthening and stretching their way to ultra endurance.

When race day comes and all of those miles and hours are behind the ultra marathon runner, the questions of concerned family and friends linger in the air.

“How long will it take?”

“What about your knees and feet?”

“What will you eat?”

“You’re doing what?”

The runner, now toeing the line to a great adventure, has answered these questions aloud and in his or her own mind.

This person’s expectations are set. It will probably take about 27 hours. My knees and feet will be protected by my training and my injury prevention measures. I will maintain energy by eating whole, calorie-dense foods at each aid station and by having a supply of quality nutrition available in my hydration pack. I’m running an ultra marathon!

Let’s rewind a few months to this person’s training.

Expectations in training are bars we construct for ourselves, bars that we place over the windows of opportunity. We build these obstacles, these bars, out of our past experiences; you know what you’ve been able to do in previous training sessions, so ‘expect’ something similar.

‘Expect’ distance or speed or strength or endurance to be somewhat like yesterday, the day before, or last week.

Expectations are self-limiting thoughts; they give us a way out, a time to quit. “I expected to do this much, and I’ve done it.”

I expected I’d be able to do 100 squats, and I’ve done 100. Success!

Change your approach in training, ultra marathon runner.

Imagine if we always went beyond our own expectations. Rather than ‘expecting’ a certain result or metric of your abilities, plan an ambush.

When planning your training session, thoughts like “I could probably do…” or “Last time I did x, so today I will be able to do y…” run through your mind.

They run through mine every time I plan my week.

When you hear these thoughts, speak these words, or write your plan down in your training journal, prepare your ambush. Prepare to kill. Prepare to destroy

Prepare to Go Farther.

Think ahead to the time in your workout when the ‘expectation’ will be fulfilled.

Is it after the eighth interval? The fifth set? The hundredth squat?

What did you write in your plan, what words ran through your mind?

Find the moment of expectation and set your ambush. When that moment comes, when you’ve met your initial expectation, attack it. Keep going. Go Farther. Push your mind beyond your perceived limits and crush the expectation.

This attitude, this ambush on ‘expectation,’ instills a drive to Go Farther in other areas of your life; it is a revolution of thought.

Ambush your expectations intentionally; don’t water-down the importance of intentional discomfort.

Acknowledge expectations.

Crush expectations.

Expectations in training are an opportunity to Go Farther, enter discomfort, and prepare our minds for the rigors of the ultra marathon, and of life.

Expectations on race day, in my experience play a much different role.

On unfamiliar terrain and courses, what do you do with expectations?

I found out the hard way during my very first 100 mile race (and only second ultra marathon) that expectations can be detrimental to a runner’s mental state.

I say, when venturing in completely unfamiliar environments, down Wicked Trails we’ve no experience on, to let go of expectations.

Writing your first book? Starting a new business? Getting married? Participating in your first ultra marathon

Abandon expectations.

Why? Why not evaluate possibilities and examine circumstances that may lead to a specific result?

Any task of great importance, in vast and unfamiliar territory, will provide much challenge and adventure and change. The opportunity to be present in your moment, whether its 100 pages into your new book, two years into a struggling new business, five years into a marriage, or at mile 90 of your first 100 mile race, will provide a plethora of information that can be taken and used elsewhere in life, information that can be used on your next book, your second business, a friend’s struggling marriage, or your next ultra marathon.

These could be your thoughts at mile 90: “Why didn’t I reach mile 80 as fast as expected?” or “Why are my feet in such bad shape?” or “I didn’t expect it to rain!”

Take a step back. You’ve never been here before. Why did you expect anything? Why are you not focused on the end, the actual goal, rather than reminiscing about expectations for something completely unknown and mysterious?

Be present and focused on the goal, not the thoughts, hopes, and fears that plagued you before starting.

Mental fatigue is real; abandon expectations and learn from the moment you’re in.

Experience this Wicked Trail and grow.

Written by: George C.

Written by: George C.

Writer, Wicked Trail Running

When he's not running with his Cattle Dog, Cowboy, in Raleigh, North Carolina, George likes to kick back and keep the content on Wicked Trail Running fresh and engaging. He's got a few Ultras coming up in 2019, so if you need to get in touch with him, the local parks and greenways around Raleigh are a good place to start looking.

He really doesn't like cooking, so if you've got any quick vegan smoothie ideas or recipes, shoot an email to george@wickedtrailrunning.com. He also enjoys talking about running, mental toughness, and the art of mindset alteration.

Follow George on Instagram @georgecarterc!

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Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds is a dive into the demons that plagued David Goggins -elite ultra endurance athlete and Navy SEAL- through his early life and an exploration of what it took for him to become a master of his own mind against all statistical odds. His tools for mental stimulation and growth are useful for anyone interested in venturing into endurance sports, becoming a better person, and mastering his or her mind. A must read!

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