Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book review: Hal Koerner's Field Guide to Ultrarunning

Hal Hoerner's Field Guide to Ultrarunning is what you would write if you had a beer with Hal, asked him to tell you everything a runner who is just getting into ultra marathons should know, and just listened and took dictation. The tone is conversational, approachable, heavy on anecdotes and substance but light on details. For example, you will find recommendations for speed work (hill repeats, tempo runs up to an hour duration, and fartleks are all recommended) and weights (light weight, lots of reps) are important, too. But you're not going to find VO2 max tables or detailed speed workouts here. This is not Lore of Running or Daniels's Running Formula - it is a casual, practical explainer of everything one would want to know before training for and toeing the line at their first ultramarathon. 

The relaxed vibe is the text's strength. Hal's matter-of-fact descriptions of topics and explainers what works and what doesn't sets out the basics with casual ease. For example, Hal himself idoes not follow any specific diet and is not burdened by any restrictions on his intake. His diet used to be burritos, bagels, and beer. He simply focuses on carbs before, during, and after runs. "If my meals aren't measuring up to my mileage, I know it from the first step, and this self-awareness helps me stay on top of deficiencies," he writes. As someone who credits his first 50 mile finish to a change in eating habits and has tried to run after eating something less-than-nutritionally optimal, I completely understand the statement. 

Should you get it? Yes.