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Training, recovery, and self-care with Ultra Marathon Runner Nichole Abma

Would you ever run a marathon?  What about an ultra marathon? That means any race longer than 26.2 miles! If you’re one of the elite few who would – major respect to you. For those of us who stick to shorter distances, we’ve gotten the lowdown on the Ultra Running experience for you.

We recently sat down with Eir NYC team member and ultra marathoner, Nichole Abma, to talk all things running. Nichole is a trail runner living in Canmore, Alberta, and is currently training to take on the Sinister 7 Ultra, her first 100-miler. Yep, you read that right!

From staying on course to packing the right gear, and everything in between, Ultra Running is no easy feat. We had the chance to find out what got Nichole hooked on this unique sport, and how she stays motivated to meet her goals.

Nichole Abma

Eir: How did you first get involved in Ultra Running? 

NA: I first got involved in Ultra Running back in 2015. One of my good friends was getting a team of girls together to run Sinister 7 and asked if I wanted to be a part of it. I had always run throughout high school and after but 2015 was the first time I experienced an Ultra. Now this year I am going back to Solo Sinister 7, which is exciting since it was the Ultra that got me hooked.

Besides the distance, what do you feel are the biggest differences between Ultra Running and road racing events like 5k’s to marathons?

I feel like the biggest difference between Ultra Running and road races would be the mental aspect of it. Running in general takes a lot of mental strength but running in the mountains for hours and hours, and sometimes through the dark, can be mentally challenging and really tests your limits.

What does a week of training look like for you? What is your peak mileage during training for Sinister 7? How do you balance training with work, family, and your social life? 

A week of training generally consists of two long back to back runs, two speed sessions, and one short recovery run. I love to run in the mornings to start my day off right and I do my long runs on the days I have off so I don't feel rushed. I have a really good support system and I am blessed to live in a mountain town surrounded by incredible athletes, so balancing life with running fortunately has never been hard for me.

It seems like recovery is vital to weekly training. Do you have a recovery and self care routine that you follow? What is your secret for staying healthy and injury free during training? 

Recovery is where the magic happens. I stretch every morning as a part of my morning routine. I stretch after my runs and try to do at least two Yin Yoga sessions throughout the week. I LOVE Eir’s cooling butter and rolling liniment for my recovery days and use it all the time. But I’m particularly excited to have been involved in the testing of their new Muscle Rub!! It’s an awesome product that really helps my body stay in peak shape.

I have also always been very interested in nutrition and truly believe that your stomach is your second brain so I work very hard to make sure I eat a well balanced diet with lots of nutritious filled foods, which in turn helps with recovery and keeping my body strong. It is amazing what good food will do for your body.

Have you ever gotten dangerously lost on a trail run? Have you ever run into a threatening situation with wildlife on a run? Do you carry bear spray? 

I thankfully have never been dangerously lost. I have been lost before but I always make sure I have a map downloaded on my phone and on my Garmin watch so that if I am ever off trail I can find my way back. I try to do my research before heading out into the back country to familiarize myself with that area, which is very important to do especially when you are by yourself. I have also thankfully never run into any wildlife and hope it stays that way (I love nature and animals but from far away). I always carry bear spray with me, a pocket knife, and an air horn.

Nichole Abma

What are your goals for Sinister 7? Is it all about finishing? 

My goal for Sinister 7 is to finish. I have never run this distance before, so I am going to be cautious and smart during this run. I would love to finish at or under 24 hours but if I finish at cutoff (30 hours) I will just be so happy that I completed this distance. It is going to be such an epic experience and I am sure I am going to learn so much.

Tell us about what kind of equipment, food, and fluid you will carry on yourself during the Sinister 7. We have seen everything from burritos to bacon sandwiches at Ultra aid stations. What is your favorite source of nutrition to keep you going? 

I bake these delicious energy muffins and make energy balls that I always carry with me on long runs. Energy gels, tailwind, and peanut butter pretzels. I run with a running vest and always have at least 2 liters of water with me, bear spray, a pocket knife, food, first aid kit, Advil, salt tabs, caffeine pills, and a headlamp. To be honest, I don't have a favorite source of nutrition because my appetite is always changing based on the weather, how tired I am, and how happy or grumpy I am. I usually have a variety of food in my bin from muffins, fruit, pretzels, candy, energy balls, and lots of water.

During an Ultra it seems like you have a lot of time to yourself in nature. What goes through your head during a race?

Anything and everything. Literally. I can think of the most bizarre things, but I always try to reflect after all of my long runs because it can be very therapeutic.

Read part two of our interview with Nichole 

Nichole Abma

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