My guest today is someone that I’ve followed on social media for a few years and for most of that time his workouts were more focused on lifting heavy rather than running.
That all changed recently when he did 3 ultras in a short period.
I am looking forward to going a few easy miles with Mike Samuels, the powerlifter turned ultra runner.
Mike Samuels first started running around the age of 15 to get into shape.
Along with running, he also began to strength train.
He did both activities while in high school, but when he entered his 20’s he began to focus more on weight lifting.
For quite a few years he focused on getting stronger and only ran when he had to.
The pandemic changed all of that for Mike.
His gym had shut its doors for a period when the pandemic began leaving him without his usual form of exercise.
He needed and wanted a goal to focus on and the most accessible sport at the time was running.
Mike wasted no time contacting an old friend that was a running coach and worked his way up to running his first half marathon one year ago.
Mike enjoyed the half marathon distance so much that he wanted to keep going farther.
Over the years he realized his body was more suited to endurance events and he loved the idea of a mental challenge as well.
In his mind, defining fitness meant combining strength and endurance.
In his search to find a race, he came across a 24-hour ultra event where each participant runs as many laps as they can in the allotted time.
The race was a year away, and Mike knew he had a lot of training to do in that time.
His strength background helped him to climb the distance ladder quicker and kept him injury-free.
It’s All Connected
Mike’s experience strength training has taught him that everything in the body is connected.
If one area is weak, it can throw off everything else.
Strength training for runners doesn’t have to be complicated.
Effective training can be done in as little as 2 days a week for less than an hour each time.
Mike suggests focusing on a few big movements.
Some important exercises to include are single leg work (lunges, split squats, step-ups) and posterior chain (Deadlifts and variations).
Mike emphasized to not overlook the benefits of a stronger upper body as a runner.
Pull and push exercises can be quite effective in becoming a more efficient runner.
Stepping Into The Unknown
Being new to running and specifically to the ultra world, Mike would learn by trial and error.
His first ultra was a 53-mile point-to-point race at the end of May.
Training leading up to the race went well with his longest run being 27.5 miles.
His relative naivety before the race helped him rather than hindered him.
With so many unknowns, he wasn’t able to stress about what he didn’t know.
His hydration and nutrition didn’t go exactly as planned, but he was able to finish the race under his goal time.
His feet took the longest to recover after the race.
After 3 weeks of no running, Mike was headed into ultra number 2.
Ultra number 2 was a drastically different format than the first one.
His second race was a backyard ultra.
The race consisted of a loop that was just over 4 miles and each person had to complete it in an hour.
There was no formal end day/time so the winner was the person that lasted the longest.
Mike had a goal in mind to go 100 miles.
He succeeded in running one loop every hour for 24 hours to complete almost 100 miles.
The recovery took longer following this race and it was almost 6 weeks later before he felt back to normal.
Pushing His Limits
The final ultra of the 3 was Mike’s goal race that he had signed up for a year in advance.
He had 24 hours to complete as many loops of a 10k distance as he could with no forced rest, unlike the backyard format.
Mike went into the race hoping to run farther than he ever had before.
He successfully achieved his goal, covering 110 total miles and ultimately coming in second place.
Each ultra that he has done has been unique and had both pros and cons.
Mike has found pride in doing something that most people would never consider trying.
With each event, he has learned how much he can withstand both mentally and physically.
Developing his mindset has been the key to helping him continue to improve.
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