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How to Run an Ultra

24-Hours-of-Boulder_2Sunset strides on course at the 24 Hours of Boulder. Photos by Glen Delman


If you’re looking for Mountain staffers this Saturday night, check the trails around the Boulder Reservoir. Our relay team will be running into the wee hours as part of the 24 Hours of Boulder race. It’s our team’s first taste of ultrarunning, so we called local coach Cindy Stonesmith to find out what to expect. She knows a thing or two about long-distance running—she finished the Leadville 100 in less than 25 hours. 


The first time I did 100 miles, I pretty much whined my way through the last 25 miles. It was at a 24-hour race up in Laramie, Wyoming. I told myself, if I do another 100, I don’t want to be that person. That meant being more prepared.


You learn more about yourself each time you run one of these long distance races. It brings out different parts of who you are—aspects you can draw from or reject.


A lot of ultrarunners have 9 to 5 jobs and families. They run in the mornings before everyone’s up or they run in the evening. They share the load on the weekend. If your family’s willing to support you, there are ways to work it out.


cindy-stonesmith-ultrarunnerCindy Stonesmith on the Kokopelli Trail, a 146-mile route from Loma, Colorado to Moab, Utah. Courtesy photoI use data. I’m a data driven coach. The first thing I do is get your base fitness level by doing a lactate threshold test. That shows me where your physical ability and fitness level are at, and how we move forward from there.


Then I start springing you towards your goals. Doing a 100-mile race may be a two-year goal. I can help you be realistic about what you can achieve and how you can get to the start line healthy, happy, and confident in your ability to finish the race. 


The drop out rate for these races is 30 to 50 percent. If you want to guarantee you’re not going to be one of them, getting a coach can help.


My clients make changes in their lives after these races. If they can achieve 100 miles, they can translate that to any goal in their life. Maybe they quit their job and start their own business, or they travel more, or they’re more positive in their own life. They use “I can do this” as a framework.


We have so much wilderness at our fingertips in Colorado. You can get up there very quickly and explore miles in a day. That was the first thing that intrigued me about being able to run long distances.


One of my favorite ultrarunning trails is Wonderland Trail by Mount Rainier. You go all the way around the mountain, and it’s beautiful singletrack. Another is the John Muir Trail on the West Coast—a lot of people run that every single day of the year. It’s very accessible.


At the 24 Hours of Boulder, there are different events you can do on the same course at the same time. There’s so much camaraderie and a feeling of community—all these runners are out there living their passion for a weekend. —Olivia Dwyer

Visit ultrarunningtraining.com to learn more about Cindy Stonesmith and her coaching techniques. Interested in running the 24 Hours of Boulder? Find more information here. We’ll be on course from 9 a.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to see if we make it to the finish line.

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