Ultrarunning—considered running any distance farther than a 26.2-mile marathon—is a daunting task. Knowing what it takes to complete an ultra-length race can help put such a lofty-seeming goal within reasonable reach. Darcy Piceu certainly knows. The three-time winner of the storied Hardrock 100-Mile Endurance Run (with another three victories to her name at the prestigious Wasatch Front 100-mile Endurance Run), is an overall master of going long, with the sponsorships to prove it (Hoka, SmartWool, Honey Stinger). Benefit from her best advice on training and racing: Follow the key steps that she’s outlined below for ultrarunning success, whether that’s entering an ultra race, or simply getting a step over 26.2.
1. Target quality over quantity.
This might come as a surprise—and a relief—to anyone dreading the amount of time you might think you have to spend training: “You don’t necessarily have to log huge miles in order to run an ultra,” says Piceu. “You can get away with more quality runs as opposed to a lot of quantity—more moderate efforts as opposed to going out for long, slogging miles. It’s still important to have a few of those in your training block—long training runs on weekends—but you don’t have to log really long runs during the week.” Piceu is also a fan of varying workouts between running and other sports, like cycling, strength training, or skiing.
2. Sleep is your best recovery tool.
“Sleep is super underrated and should be at the top of your list for recovery,” says Piceu. There’s no magic number of hours to prescribe for everyone, but make sure you feel rested, especially as you up your training.
3. Eat early and often.
During races and long training runs, it’s important to eat early and often, says Piceu. She adds that an increasing number of ultrarunners are using liquid nutrition (mixing powders with water to ingest liquids for calories), but suggests starting off a long run or race by eating real foods. “I like to build up a storage of good fuel from real food,” she explains. “That said, nutrition is so personal—everyone is so different, so try different things to see what works for you."