book review: relentless forward progress

 a guide to running ultramarathons

 – Byron Powell –

An absolute bargain, this book is and a no brainer for anyone preparing for a long race (even a marathon). Not only a lot of critical information is covered, but is presented in a simple, pragmatic, crisp way that is easy to read and reference.

Relentless Forward ProgressByron Powell has been a personality in the ultra running community for a number of years thanks in not short measure to his website , one of the best hubs for all things ultra. With race reports, gear reviews, interviews, articles and many more resources, the site has been a constant read through my running journey.

Back in October 2015, when I decided to to run my first 50M, I rushed and picked up this book and Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run (which I will also review). Through them, Byron and Scott became my mentors-in-absentia.

Byron’s book is a comprehensive recount of all aspects of training, preparing and executing an ultra event. He presents all the relevant information in a way only somebody that has done it repeatedly could. Furthermore, he leverages a few articles from his website written by others to strengthen and deepen (and sometimes even counter) his points. The general structure of the book is as follows:

1. Building blocks (chapters 1-3): where he discusses the key elements and concepts of ultra training, from types of training sessions, mileage and frequency, the thinking behind long and bonk runs, taper, recovery, among others

2. Training (chapters 4-6): 3 full chapters that present training plans for ultra distances up to 100M. The plans themselves are worth the price of the book, but the additional information on how to tailor them to your objectives and constraints is priceless. One can easily pay many times the cost of this book through website subscriptions and not get the same value. Had the book ended here it would still be a bargain

3. Trail running (chapter 7): most of us start running on roads, and many will likely never experience the trails. In this section, we are shown what to expect, how to deal with it, and the etiquette to preserve them

4. Hydration and Nutrition (chapters 8-9): yet another very valuable section with great ideas and tips on how to recognize and solve problems

5. Injuries and pain (chapter 10): chafing, blisters, general pain prevention and treatment

6. Gear and racing (chapters 11-13): all one needs to know on what to carry, prepare and strategize a race. One full chapter on running at high altitude. This section alone is also worth the book’s price

7.- Other (chapter 14 and appendix): where the ultrarunning community, barefoot running and other more extreme races are covered

I have read this book a number of times, and some chapters I read almost every week as I develop the mental picture of what my first trail ultra will be.


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