On the show this week, myself and really good friend of mine, Bryce Astill, break down the ins and outs of ultramarathons and the psychology behind setting goals for yourself and truly finding your limits. Around five to eight years ago, you and I might have looked at an ultramarathon as absolutely bonkers. The idea of people actually running 100-to-250-mile races sounded insane. Well, fast-forward to today, and ultras are way more common than you might think. In fact, Bryce has completed numerous 100 to 200+ mile races at this point.
In the episode, Bryce and I unpack the human experience and the physical and mental limits that come with ultra running, the empowering reflection of hitting a dark wall and finding the capacity to come out the other side, strategies and tactics for approaching the unique challenges you’re faced with when running and completing an ultra and understanding the preparation that goes into this type of race. This is a topic I’ve always been really curious to learn about, and hearing Bryce share his experience genuinely made this recording one of my favorites.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- [04:48] Background of Bryce Astill and how he got started running ultramarathons
- [12:58] Why curiosity was a huge driver for Bryce to start running
- [15:06] The empowering feeling of crossing the threshold of the unknown
- [16:25] Understanding the physical and mental limits that come with running ultramarathons
- [18:51] Why it doesn’t typically work out for the primarily ego-based runner
- [20:39] The powerful reflection you feel when you hit a dark wall and find the capacity to come out of it
- [21:28] Relying on something beyond the human body and mind in the midst of these races
- [23:28] Understanding the actual time it takes to complete a race
- [25:46] Strategies and tactics for approaching the unique challenges that come with running and completing a race
- [30:12] The psychological test of the aid station
- [34:24] How to manage sleep as an ultra-marathoner
- [37:36] The discovery of figuring out what works for you
- [39:58] What the preparation leading up to an ultramarathon looks like
James Cerbie: Nice long countdown. So we don’t just get shocked and surprised here, but dude, I’m so pumped to do this. I’m so amped to have you on one selfishly, because we just haven’t had an opportunity to catch up in a while. And two, I think this is like a part of your background and your training experience and just your life that we’ve never really talked a ton about. And so I’m Super intrigued to dive into it. And so for people listening, the general vibe of the episode today, we’re going to talk about running ultras and I think exploring in the mountains. I think those two things are very tightly synced together for a lot of folks. And so my really good buddy here, Bryce Astill to come on board because I think you’re one of the only people I know who’s actually run multiple ultras and been involved in this community. I can remember when these things started to come up a couple of years ago. It was something that you just heard. It was a whisper off in the distance. So I was like, oh, yeah, this dude ran ultra and you’re kind of like, okay, whatever, what’s that?
And you’re kind of off with your day. Now I can’t seem to look anywhere without seeing people talking about running ultras, whether it’s 100 miles, 200 miles, and you can see this wave coming of more and more people getting into this very it is an extreme sport, so we can go ahead and call it that. But before we kind of dive into all of that goodness, maybe you can just give people a quick elevator pitch background just on who you are. And I think your experience in this realm because you’ve been around it for a little while.
Background of Bryce Astill and How He Got Started Running Ultramarathons
Bryce Astill: Yeah, awesome to be on here with you too, man. Thanks for the invite. And I always love talking about this stuff because I would say exploring in the mountains and ultra-running are two of my probably deepest passions and they definitely go hand in hand. My background with ultra. It is interesting how much the sport has grown. I was fortunate to get into it just before that huge spike where it was much more fringe than it is now. And it’s still pretty fringe. But I think with the rise of social media and all these things, it’s definitely kind of blasted and people are just realizing these aren’t impossible things to do. So yeah, I got into it kind of by way of a friend of mine who owned a CrossFit gym. He was more of an endurance guy. His business partner was like the strength dude. And so I would train with him a bunch. He was into doing triathlons and such a couple of years post coming out of drug rehab and just really loved the endurance piece and the focus of it. And it got me fit and then got into strength and conditioning because I had a couple of little injuries in my knee from that and learned how to run and how to strength train.
So that never happened again. So I got into these Ironmans. Then I had a friend of mine. Her stepdad was doing a race called the Wasatch 100, which is definitely one of the more difficult 100 miles in the nation and one of the oldest as well. And there’s 27,000ft of vertical and the same drop. So it’s gross. You’re always going up or down. There’s very few flat runnable spots in that race. It’s legit. But anyways, he was running that we were at a birthday brunch for her, and he kind of broke me into it. He’s like, oh, I heard you really like to run. He’s like, I’m doing this 100 miles race. Do you want to run 40 miles of it with me? And I was like, Dude, the longest I’ve done is 26. I don’t even know if I can run 40 miles. And he’s like, no, you’ll be fine. I’ll have run this far. I’m not going to be going very fast. We can train together as I’m trading for it. And I would love to have you run with me. And he’s like, you can have a pacer most races will give you, and the 100 miles distance will allow you a pacer after 40 or 50 miles.
And so he was going to have me run 40, and a buddy of his from England run the other 20. I told him I would do it without any promise of being able to go that far. And then his buddy from England bailed on him, like, barely at the last moment. And so he was like, well, do you want to just run the whole 60 with me? And I gave him the same promise. I said, I don’t know if I can, but I’ll try. Yeah, but it was pretty amazing because I was training for a full Ironman that year, and while trying to work three different jobs, and most of my training for that iron man just ended up being running in the mountains, because as soon as I started running on trails with him, I just couldn’t get myself to even run on the road anymore. And I just loved it. I’ve backpacked and done a lot of hiking in my life since I was young. And so to combine starting to run on trails and having these races in order to train for them and stuff just became I just fell in love with it because it was just so much fun to run 50 to 70 miles a week in the mountains. And I ended up running that 60 miles with him, which was quite the adventure. It was just enough for my foolish brain to say, well, if you can do 60, you can do 100, which later I realized 40 miles. It’s a hell of a lot more than 6 miles or 40 more miles quite a bit on top of that 60. So I signed up for the race the next year. And it was a lottery at the time because there’s enough people that wanted to do it. And there’s a pretty limited number of spots because of Forest Service permits I got in that first year. So I was like, oh, shit, here we go.
James Cerbie: It’s happening.
Bryce Astill: That started a decade of love with ultra-running. And yeah, that was back in 2010 or 2011. I think it was 2011 that I did that 1st 100 miles just eleven years ago. I don’t know. I’ve done 600 miles races, I think, and for 200 plus mile distance races in a handful of 50K and 50 miles, and then a lot of the self-supported on long runs like that, that’s the main background there. Once I started, I haven’t been able to stop, although the last couple of years I’ve taken a nice rest.
James Cerbie: Yeah. I think you earned a little time down from the mileage.
Bryce Astill: Yeah.
James Cerbie: So I think it’s a really interesting question with regards to this type of thing because people hear this. People hear 100 miles and they fall out of their chairs. Right. Because we’re sitting around thinking about actually seeing a little meme of this the other day I thought was hysterical. It was like a bracket, like a sweet 16 bracket. But the bracket was the thing you hated most about school. And one of the top ten seeds was running the mile because I think that’s what a lot of people still kind of think of in their minds. Right. Obviously, we have people that love endurance and they automatically are drawn to this. But I would imagine the vast majority of the population hears about people going out and running a 100 miles race, and they’re just flabbergasted by this. And I know I definitely was when I first started hearing the distances involved. But what I would love to know is for you was the draw largely the challenge of it? Was it being able to say like, yeah, I can do this? Because when I think about it, it’s so different than running a five K because a five K in my mind is such a performance heavy event.
A 5K, a 10K or a mile even. Sorry, 5K, 10K or like a marathon. Those are performance heavy. When you start getting out to that 100 and 200 miles distances, there is still obviously a performance component to it. You’re trying to do it as fast as you can. But for me, it seems like it’s the monumental nature of the challenge, and it’s more about being able to prove to yourself that you can actually set out to do this thing and then accomplish it and do it. Is that like a pretty fair assessment of what got you into it after you had the small 60 miles exposure with your buddy?
Why Curiosity was a Huge Driver for Bryce to Start Running
Bryce Astill: Yeah. Curiosity was one of the strong drivers of it and particularly with the timing of my life. Two years prior to running that marathon, I had had a decade of pretty heavy alcohol use and Coke and heroin use and lived a very different lifestyle. And in that first couple of years in recovery was really just trying to get an emotional hold on my life, which took a good amount of time. And then in that time I was trying to be more active, but I was inconsistent and I had gained a decent amount of weight. I was like 50 pounds overweight and I had run a bit. My dad ran marathons while I was growing up and I trained for one in high school and then didn’t run it. And out of spite because I got in a fight with my dad, which was really funny because it was a perfect example of passive aggressive behavior in the moment you think it’s like, I’ll sure show them and really it’s. I sure showed me because I put in all the training, I was ready to run this race. We got in a fight and then I chose not to run because it was like, screw you, I’m not doing this thing.
Which really left a curiosity in my mind, like, would I be able to do it? It was helpful for me to have some goal to work towards. And so I signed up for that same marathon and it got me consistent and it was similar to any distance and any challenge. It’s like, can I. There’s the concept in your head that I think I can do this thing. And then there’s the actual experience of it. I remember finishing that first race, that first marathon, and the longest I had run was, I think, 20 miles or something like that. So you have 6.2 more miles than that. And so when you cross that threshold of the unknown, like, can I do it? There’s just a really empowering feeling that comes with that. I remember I was a mile away from finishing that race and it was really funny. We’re turning this corner that’s a mile into the St. George Marathon and you’re in town at this point. And this cop that was blocking traffic was like, you guys are almost there, 1 mile to go. And it just hit my brain and I was like, Holy shit, I’m going to finish this thing, this unknown distance, this unknown challenge, and I knew I was going to finish it and I’m running next to this guy and we’re running a pretty good clip and I just started bawling.
The Empowering Feeling of Crossing the Threshold of the Unknown
I just have this overwhelming feeling of gratitude and joy and accomplishment, which was really funny because he had no idea what was going on inside my head. He just gave me a strange look, like, Dude, if I hurt that bad, like, just slow down, like, what’s going on? But it was like, really just pure happiness and pure joy, and that carried me into the finish line. So then that just kind of got me hooked on getting it. Like, what is the limit? What is our human limit? And not just physically, but really, the longer you go, the more mental it becomes, the more, in some sense of the word, it’s almost like a spiritual type of a challenge where you’re really digging deep to see where will you quit and where will you keep going? How hard does the adversity have to get? How difficult mentally can it get? And can you still push over that edge or push beyond that edge in some sense? Ultra races just became this next level thing. And it’s like I said, the 60 miles. I mean, I remember hearing when he told me he was running 100 miles race, I was like, that’s the stupidest fucking thing ever.
James Cerbie: Yeah, exactly.
Bryce Astill: Just period. I told him that. I said, that sounds absolutely stupid, and it did. But then watching him complete that and watching him go through the roughest moments and there’s some rough moments. I mean, I remember there was a number of miles where he was just barely shuffling along and stopping every, like, five minutes to fix his feet. He had blisters and all this stuff. And you’re trying to be like the sweet, supportive friend, and you’re kind of being the asshole, and then you’re trying all these different methods of inspiration. And what worked with me finally getting a little bit, like, tough love with them, it was just like, you’re not stopping anymore. You have to move faster so you can finish this day of things. You just got to go. And it took him like ten or 15 minutes for that to kick in, and then all of a sudden he just started going, and he was in this weird, dark phase that he couldn’t really comprehend or understand what was going on. And then something snapped him out of it and he kept going. So it’s fun to see in those events too, even just supporting people that are doing it, to watch that psychology happen in real time, and to see it becomes really important.
Like, why are you doing it? What’s the point? And each person has their own individual reason why it’s important to them. And you can often see when people don’t have a very if it’s completely ego based, oftentimes it doesn’t work so well. There’s got to be, at least in my experience and with what I’ve seen of other people and stuff, if it’s primarily ego based, like, those people oftentimes don’t make it or don’t finish it, it’s just like, oh, I want to be able to say I did it.
James Cerbie: Yeah.
Bryce Astill: But there’s definitely some ego in there. It feels cool to be able to say it.
Understanding the Physical and Mental Limits That Come with Running Ultramarathons
James Cerbie: Yeah. I think I love the way you described it because I think there’s something just so inherently beautiful about asking that all powerful question of like, can I do this? What is my limit? And then actually setting a goal and an objective for yourself and working hard towards that goal and objective and then seeing it through to the end and proving to yourself that I can do it, I can push past these limits that I thought were in place. I just think that’s one of the most beautiful parts of the human experience overall. And you see it in many different endeavors. Right. It doesn’t have to be in ultra. I think ultras are a really great example of it because it is such a unique challenge, as you mentioned, I think that at a certain point into that race, again, kind of the distinction between that 5K, 10K marathon, where that’s a very performance heavy events, that old chart really drifts so heavily into the mental space because you can keep going. You can almost always keep going. You can just keep shuffling and putting 1ft in front of the other. Right. And at some point you’re going to run into that wall and hit that really dark space like your friend did, as you mentioned, and your capacity to come out of that and to conquer that moment is just so huge.
And I think those wins are things that you end up carrying with you forever after that moment, because they are such a powerful reflection on the human experience.
Relying on Something Beyond the Human Body and Mind in the Midst of These Races
Bryce Astill: Yeah. No doubt that again becomes, at least for me, and was one of the bigger draws to that. I feel like I was primed well for getting off heroin because it’s something a lot of people don’t do and it’s terribly difficult. But that also gave me that curiosity, and that’s why I bring in the human spirit, whatever the hell that means to each person, because in some ways you end up relying on something that’s beyond the body and beyond the mind, and that’s really, really deep within us that to me, it can only really be described as the human spirit.
James Cerbie: Yeah.
Bryce Astill: And it’s really amazing to be able to tap into that. That experience alone is very intimate and personal. And the other thing is like, okay, well, if we have this indomitable human spirit and limitless human spirit, what does that really feel like?
James Cerbie: Access it?
Bryce Astill: And how do we keep pushing it? And it’s like you said, it doesn’t really matter the endeavor, whether it’s in lifting weights, whether it’s in running, whether it’s in other areas where you’re pushing beyond an edge and a limit. There’s so many opportunities for that. For me, that’s the big draw to it, and that’s what has kept me in it, as well as just the time training for those races. I get an incredible amount of time in nature, which to me doesn’t ever feel like time poorly spent.
James Cerbie: Yeah, no, I 100% agree there. So I think the next place I would like to take those are two broad categories. The first is with regards to the unique challenges of actually running and completing one of these once we’re actually there and into the race, because it is so different from pretty much everything else out there. Because the time domain involved for 100 miles, you’re looking at under 24 hours is kind of the goal, right? That’s kind of the threshold that you’re shooting for, more or less. I could be wrong there. I think those are, like, the numbers that I’ve seen floating around. Maybe it’s more like 20 hours.
Understanding the Actual Time it Takes to Complete a Race
Bryce Astill: Depends on the rate. Like the was thatch 100. With that much elevation gain and loss, it’s a really stout and an incredible time to be under 24 hours. The cut off for that race is 36 hours. And so each race is a little bit different. Races that are more in the domain of like, 15 to 20. 0ft of vertical will typically have like, a 30 to 32 hours cut off, and the winning times will be in the 17 to 20 hours range or something like that. For the real elite, like the elite elites. And really, any 100 miles, you can do it. 24 hours is a pretty stellar time.
James Cerbie: And so that’s where the unique challenge of this really comes in, because now we’re starting to think about sleep maintenance, calorie manipulation, making sure you’re getting in enough food, making sure you’re getting in enough water and hydration. Those are things and, like, temperature regulation as well, because you’re probably going to run at night, and it’s probably going to be pretty cold Because in the mountains, when the sun goes down, it gets a little frigid. So those are, like, three really big things that leap off the page of me in terms of the actual execution of the event, in terms of where things are going to get really hard outside of just the physical demand of doing it, what are the extra things? Right. You’re going to have to do it and not really sleep. You’re going to have to figure out how to make sure you’re getting in food and some type of sustenance along the way, and then you’re going to have to figure out managing these large temperature swings. What are some strategies or tactics or ways that you approach those when you’ve been running the ultras? Because the sleep one for me, I think, would be the hardest because you can’t lay down and go to sleep for, like, 5 hours.
It’s like you kind of just grab 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there if you can, or you just don’t do it at all. With your experience, what does that actually look like?
Strategies and Tactics for Approaching the Unique Challenges that Come with Running and Completing a Race
Bryce Astill: Got you. Yeah. Those are typically the things that destroy races for people or get them to drop. The number one thing is nutrition, figuring out how to Because once you’re beyond so many hours, it’s like if you’re not continuing to fuel, you will run out and being able to eat while you’re moving, even if you’re stopping to eat becomes a really difficult thing for most people. And there’s a whole array of options. If you feel like you can do it fast enough and your stomach can handle it, you can do, like, just these 100 calorie gels, and you do a couple per hour. So you’re getting, like, two to 300 calories per hour. It’s kind of the general formula that seems to work well for most people, but gels are also merely pure sugar. So at some point 20 hours in, I’ve literally pulled out gels at, like, mile 85. And the sight of it made me throw up. I literally pulled one out, threw up, opened it, ate it, and was like, it actually went down better. Now that I like PewDiePie, you’re dealing with gastrointestinal stuff throughout the thing, and then it’s like, for a while, solid food might work or fruit might work.
I think that’s probably in my experience and really just watching others in this field, it’s the thing that is one of the most, other than just putting in the time to train, it’s really the next thing that, if you can figure it out, gives you a big advantage. And people have tried all sorts of crazy shit. One guy who’s always a hell of a runner, I’ve raced with him a handful of times. He had to drop from several races because of gels and this and that. And so he figured out that drinking those core Power protein drinks the entire race worked for him. And then there’s people in the there’s a handful of people that are doing more of a fat burning style keto-ish kind of a deal and relying more on the fat stores. And that works for some people and not for others. And then there’s ideally, if you can make the gels work, it’s like the easiest thing because they’re just quick.
James Cerbie: They’re so light.
Bryce Astill: They’re easy.
James Cerbie: They’re light because that’s the thing I’m thinking. I’m trying to think, what do I want to carry with me when I’m running 100 miles? Because the extra weight matters significantly.
Bryce Astill: And the joy of those long races is that there’s eight stations. Every, like, seven to ten ish miles. And so you don’t have to carry much with you.
James Cerbie: You can have, like, a team that meets you at those stations and can do things.
Bryce Astill: Yeah. Typically, if you have a crew that can get your stuff ready, people have dialed it into a science with specific races and stuff. And then the races typically provide a handful of those very quick carb type foods at the aid stations and stuff. My thing was always, like, run into an aid station, throw away my old gels, fill up my water, grab the new gels I need, and then typically in one hand, I would leave the aid station as fast as I could with a handful of potato chips and a handful of whatever else sounded good at the time, which could have been watermelon, it could have been brownies, it could have been whatever it was. You get into the longer distances, the 200 miles, and you’re moving slower. So those, like, the sugary foods didn’t work very well. And I was eating really just three meals a day. And I would eat quesadillas and burgers and pancakes and whatever the hell else they had. They make, like, real food stations.
James Cerbie: That’s great.
Bryce Astill: They’d have to order cooks going, making some of the best burgers you’ve ever had.
The Psychological Test of the Aid Station
James Cerbie: I was going to say, I feel like the aid station, while necessary and 100% needs to be there. The aid station is also an enormous trap. It’s that moment of comfort, right, because you’re suffering and this thing sucks. But, hey, I get to this aid station, and they’re going to put me in the blanket and I’m going to sit down in a chair, and people are going to bring me food. It’s necessary. But the psychological test of the aid station is so real because it’d be so easy to just sit there and be like, Fuck this. I’m not getting up. I am done.
Bryce Astill: And you have no idea, because typically these aid stations have an aid station captain and a crew of people that have been volunteering at these particular beautiful mountain locations for years. And they dial it in and they want to be like the best aid station. Some of them will have lights, they’ll have music, they’ll have comfortable chairs, and they’ll be cooking good food. And you can very easily spend a lot of time at those aid stations. The first 100 miles I did, I totaled up my aid station, like, sitting. And it ended up being like, I don’t know, a couple of hours total over the 100 miles. And so I made a promise to myself. I was like, in and out just what it needs to do. And so unless I needed to sit down to change a pair of shoes or socks or something like that, there was no sitting. And it was like, get in there and get the hell out as quick as you can. Because they are seductive. And certain aid stations, they’ve done a great job of making them more seductive. And some people that do the races and they have no intentions of doing them fast, they’re just there to do it and have a good time.
James Cerbie: Please support it.
Bryce Astill: They love those.
James Cerbie: Yeah, like a little party every so many miles.
Bryce Astill: The good thing is there’s typically ultra-runners, other ultra-runners that are volunteering at these aid stations. And so those people are usually the ones that are, like, kicking people’s ass to get out of there and really try to support people to push them along. But yeah, there’s aid stations, man, that you’re just like, fuck, it would feel so when you’re really hurting and no food is going down well, and like, that kind of stuff. There’s nothing a good chair and a fire I’ve done somewhere. It’s just absolutely freezing. And you’ll go inside of an aid station tent, and they’ve got heaters. And one of the 200 miles races I did, I think it was eight degrees outside in the Lasau Mountains, and there was a really nasty north headwind coming the direction you were running, which made it almost negative in the fan with the wind chill or something like that.
I came in there, I took a 15 minutes nap, and I knew I was like, I got to get the hell out of here because the aid station captain was like, nobody’s left here in two and a half hours. So when I got up to leave, he’s like, oh, all right. You’re the first person to leave in the last two and a half hours. Good job.
James Cerbie: Yeah.
Bryce Astill: I was like, I can’t stay here.
James Cerbie: How do you like to try to manage the sleep bit, like, on 100 miles, or is it just I’m just not going to sleep. It’s just 27 hours. I’ll sleep later. And then I guess if you start getting to the 200 plus mileage, sleep becomes a major part of the strategy. It has to, yeah.
How to Manage Sleep as an Ultra-Marathoner
Bryce Astill: So the 100 miles distances, the very first one I did, the 100, I sprained my ankle, like 20 miles in, and I was running in a nice deep and five fingers. So it got pretty rough and slow once the ibuprofen stopped really doing anything. And so that one, I ended up like, it took me 32 hours or something like that to finish that one. And so I went through some harsh sleep deprivation. Kind of the morning dawn hours after running and kind of moving all night. And it was rough. It was like head bobbing on the trail, and I was trying to lay down and take a nap, but my pacer wouldn’t let me know. You have to keep moving. So that was just brutal. The other ones I did, I was fortunate enough to do them fast enough where I never hit that point. I was always kind of under the 24 hours Mark, which I was like, oh, man, that’s so much easier. So it really just depends on your speed. In the 100 miles race. If you can avoid going beyond that, like, 26 to 27 hours Mark, you can probably get through without any, like, sleep deprivation trouble or too harsh of a desire to sleep.
But, yeah, the 200 miles you’re running for anywhere between 70 hours, three plus days. And so you’re going to deal with sleep deprivation no matter what. And some people, everybody does it differently. Those races will have aid stations that have sleep aid stations, which I found were terribly difficult to sleep in because you got people coming in and out. One of them, for some reason, they were ringing a fucking Cowbell every time a runner came in. So that was going on. And then another runner came in with his wife and their baby who was crying and he was taking his shoes off and had a fever. I realized with those for me, scheduled sleep was not effective. I would just run until I started doing the head Bob, like when you drive too tired where you’re literally almost falling asleep while running. And kind of my run would become this unproductive kind of drunk stumble. And so when I get to that point, I just throw a jacket on and I would go 20ft off trio and just curl up in the fetal position on the softest ground I could find and I would set an alarm for 15 minutes and I would pass the fuck out completely.
And I would always wake up at twelve minutes for whatever reason. And I would feel fresh and that would be good enough. And I’d get up and I could run again and felt pretty good. And each of those races that I did, some of them I got away with just maybe three to five of those and other races that took me seven or eight of those. But then there’s people who schedule their sleep. They’ll sleep like a full 3 hours or something like that. And then that works better for them. So a lot of it is really discovery of figuring out what works for you. And then there’s the freaky elite people like Courtney Dewalter, who set the original record on the Moab 240 by beating all of the men for over 10 hours.
James Cerbie: If she could have slept the full 8 hours and still had a couple of hours of spare time.
Bryce Astill: She slept 60 seconds. She laid down and took a 1 minute nap. And that was like she was mad when she woke up at her husband because she thought he let her sleep for like 20 minutes or an hour. And it was literally a minute. So some people can do it like that. But yeah, everyone’s a little bit different. For me, the ten to 15 minutes dirt nap when necessary seemed to work really well.
James Cerbie: Excellent. So the last question here in this realm, what does preparation do? This would be an entire podcast by itself, obviously, talking with preparation for these things. So I’m going to try and narrow in on this for kind of coming up towards the end of time. And I guess my real question is in preparation for this, what kind of distances do you work up to?
Bryce Astill: Right.
James Cerbie: Because you’re not going to go run a 100 miles. You can’t replicate that in training fully. So are you cumulatively just doing a lot of 20, 30, maybe 40 miles runs on a build up to your actual game day? That’s the hard part there, because more in my world, in the strength and conditioning world, we can get pretty darn close in training from a specificity standpoint to like exactly what you’re going to do on game day. You’re probably not going to get to a point where we’re going to peek at you, hey, go run 100 miles this week, and then we’re going to delay so you can run 100 miles again next week. It seems like a very different game. So I was curious what kind of distances you do build up to on the tail end of a training program leading into one of these.
What the Preparation Leading up to an Ultramarathon Looks Like
Bryce Astill: Yes, it’s definitely one of those things where, yeah, if you’re running 100 miles to run 100 miles, you’re going to burn your body out very quickly that way. The breakdown from those longer distances, it’s too much. You need more space in between, particularly when you’re starting. And just like a marathon, you might get up to 18 to 20 miles total before you do 26, but you don’t really need 26. And the longer the distance, it’s really not much further. The first year I was training, I did like a handful of 30 to 40 miles runs on the weekends. And even those seemed to be just long enough to cause kind of a negative. Yeah. They were hard to recover from. And so I figured out pretty quickly after that first year training, I found somebody sent me this training plan that was quite a bit different from what I was doing. Rather than doing these big long these 30 plus 40 miles, 50 miles runs and that kind of thing, you were doing 50 to 70 miles a week. But I never ran more than like 25 miles at a time. But what would happen is I would run Friday, Saturday, Sunday would be like 15, 2025. So you’re getting the bulk of the mileage for your week in three consecutive days or two consecutive days. But you’re getting a recovery in between. You’re getting food, you’re getting rest, you’re getting sleep. It’s pretty amazing. And the longer you kind of go into it as you build your base for it, I think you can get away with some of those longer ones without negative effect. As I was getting into the 200 miles races, I did some fun runs that were kind of self-designed that ended up being in the 40 to 60 miles distance or something like that. But for the most part, if I was going to train for another 200 miles today, I don’t think I would run more than 25 to 30 miles at a time and train for it. But I would add that I would do back to back or back to back to back long distances so that your body knows how to run a little bit beat up. You get time on your feet, time on the joints, and you really build that part of your resilience and your body up through that. But it’s pretty amazing. It’s like your longest run at one time might be 25 or 30 miles, and then you can do 100. Yeah.
James Cerbie: It’s incredible.
Bryce Astill: And so a lot of that comes from figuring out your food, your sleep, your rest, your recovery. All those little things that we oftentimes don’t think about but are just like if you’re strength and conditioning, like if you’re doing strength and conditioning and really pushing towards the edge there, the closer you get to your own personal edges, the more important all those little things become. Dialing all of that stuff in. But yeah, most of the training that I would do for a race, the biggest week I would get to is maybe 70 miles and more averaged out at like 50 miles a week.
James Cerbie: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Yeah. Dude, this has been amazing. I’m so glad we got to do this. This has been fantastic. This is honestly one of my favorite podcasts that we’ve recorded like over 100 by now. But this is something that I really don’t know much about. But I’ve been super curious about it for a while and I think it taps into a lot of psychological things for me that I just really dig and enjoy. That’s not to say I’m going to ever run 100 miler. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be my first person to call for pacing. But this was so wonderful. Thanks so much, man. I’m so glad we got to do this.
Bryce Astill: Super fun. Yeah. Like I said, I love talking about this stuff and never count yourself out. There’s a guy that I ran into at a few races, he’s a German guy. I think his name was Hans Peter, but I don’t think he started running until he was like 60. And when I met him, he was 70 or 71 and he had the most 100 miles finishes of anybody out of 170 of them. And he would just walk them all, he would just hike them all and sometimes he would make the cut off, sometimes he wouldn’t and he had none of the fancy stuff. He would do him in like a fishing vest with some plastic water bottles in it. He was really charming. So sometimes he would pick up like cute girls at aid stations to pace them through the next section.
James Cerbie: Just enjoying life.
Bryce Astill: So again, man, you can start at whatever age or these bigger distances. It is hard to comprehend in the mind, but it’s like anything, it’s all relative and it just started when I started running as 50 pounds overweight and literally running a mile destroyed me. But consistency, it’s the same principles of any sort of endeavor. Consistency, getting help through the coaching and to find out what you don’t know is a huge one. And then just if you have a genuine curiosity to see if you can, that’s the big time to me. It’s like, are you interested in seeing if you could? And if you are, you probably can.
James Cerbie: I love it, dude.
Bryce Astill: Cool.
James Cerbie: I love it.
Bryce Astill: All these different sports and endeavors that we do. The basic principles are all pretty similar and then it’s just figuring out the little details and you find those out by just doing it for sure.
James Cerbie: So I’ll ask this question and you feel free to say no to this. But I always ask this, I always ask this at the very end And I always phrase it very specifically perfectly. If you would like to be found. If someone is listening to this and they’re like, Bryce, this is super inspiring. I would love to just learn more about this and chat you up or something. If you would like to be found. If the answer to that is no, that’s totally okay. But if you would like to be found, where is the best place people go to Ping you or to reach out or follow you?
Where to Find Bryce Astill
Bryce Astill: Yeah, so you can find me on Instagram. I don’t really get on Facebook, but I still have one. And yeah, I get on Instagram more than I’d like to and it’s just @Bryceastill it’s my handle. If you have questions about ultra-running or the mental part of it. I’m a meditation mindfulness teacher and in Salt Lake , running in the mountains and meditation mindfulness psychology, that kind of stuff are really two of my biggest passions. And so I can talk about that stuff for way longer than most people want to. I’m always happy to help. I was helped by so many people getting into these different things And I think it’s very easy to think that that person has more mental toughness than me or that person has a better build for running and sometimes that’s true, but in general, it’s really a matter of starting where you are and having the desire to do so and then finding the right people and the right help to move you towards that direction and that goal. So if ultra-running or building mental resilience and those kinds of things are important to you or you’d like some pointers or tips or have conversations about those, I’m happy to have those with people.
Bryce Astill: So yeah, you can find me on those or yeah, that’s probably the easiest way.
James Cerbie: All right, we’ll throw those in the show notes for people as well. Easy to find, but thank you for tuning in for this week, everybody. Hope you all have a beautiful rest of your week. And yeah, we’ll be back, as always, next Monday. All right, folks, have a good one.
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