This is the story of my first 50 miler.
It was a snowy day in February, the middle of training for my first marathon in May, and after a few glasses of wine I decided it was an excellent idea to sign up for this race. I had been masochistically looking at ultras for a little while so it was a decision made with at least a few minutes of non-alcohol tinged thought. Afterward I was so focused on the marathon that I didn’t give it too much thought for the next few months.
In May I ran my marathon. While I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and happiness at having finished, I didn’t really LOVE it. It was boring and at the end I thought my legs were going to seize up and stop working and I really disliked that feeling. And there were a lot of people (even for a small race), and I didn’t like all the jostling for the first few miles.
Side note: I trained for a marathon a few years ago and got an overuse injury weeks before the race and withdrew, so the fact that I trained for and completed this race without injuries made me happy. Especially because I ran it in under 4 hours, the arbitrary goal I set for myself.
Once the marathon was over it was like OH GOD I SPENT >$100 ON A RACE WHAT HAVE I DONE??
With the marathon I was following some semblance of a training plan. I couldn’t find a good free one for a 50 miler that didn’t include trading my soul for running all the time. No thanks. I didn’t want to get hurt because the snow-free hiking season in the Rockies would commence right after the race AND I don’t like running enough/am not fast enough to do it for >50 miles a week.
So really, my “training” peaked at 52 miles a week about 4 weeks before the race and my longest trail run was 20 miles, which I did three times over the course of my training. I had high hopes of doing a 25 to 30 mile training run at some point but generally speaking I can’t bring myself to wake up super early for long runs on my days off. So if I started at 7:00 by the time I was hitting 20 miles it was HOT. Wah! I know, but it was good enough for me. I tried to run as much on trails which was WAY more fun than marathon training on roads. I would do a medium run of 8-10 miles during the week and 5-7 miles a few days to get up to 40-50 miles for the week.
For long training runs I would try to eat 100-150 calories of something every 45 minutes or so and drink to thirst with my non-ultra backpack. It gets great reviews and for short runs it works. Having said that, I don’t like this backpack. I would eventually like to get something with front pockets and maybe a front-accessible water bottle.
Back to the eating: it was usually homemade no-bake things consisting of dates like any of these, or if I felt like a big spender gel shots, blocks, Honey Stingers, and Cliff Bars for the longest runs. My dentist said that she sees more cavities in people training for long distance events – wait,
pure sugar gels AREN’T GOOD FOR YOUR TEETH??
Also it may be a placebo thing but I like Nuun and would drink it during and after runs.
So race day. I felt really nervous the day before. The marathon I KNEW I could do after having done a few 20-22 mile training runs. It may not have been pretty but I knew I could go for 26 miles. I really didn’t know if I could go for 50 miles without dying. I’m only partially kidding because I have spent enough time googling “death and ultra running” to know it can happen. If you’re a semi hypochondriac like me you know googling medical things is the fastest way to a panic attack. So all these thoughts were swirling in my head the day and night before so I got about 3-4 hours of fitful sleep. It probably wasn’t helped by the fact that my cheapskate-ness decided to sleep in my car the night before, in the woods of Leadville, by myself. But adrenaline was pumping when I woke up in a cold sweat at 3:45 AM so I just went with it. I ate the oatmeal breakfast with coffee that I had eaten before every long run. I had nervous-stomach so I only ate about half (which never happens). I tried to force water down without much luck.
I showed up at 5:15 AM and lots of people were already going through the porta-potty routine. I think the whole “keep getting in line for the porta-potty” was a good piece of advice I had read a while back. Go to the bathroom, get back in line (because you’ll have to wait another 10 minutes), repeat until start time.
It was cold, in July. In the 40s. I was wearing a t-shirt, a long sleeve, gloves, shorts, and sweat pants (to drop before the start). While in the Porta potty line, I put my sunscreen on, ate a little more food, got everything ready in my backpack, etc. Then the race organizers started to corral people to the start. IT WAS HAPPENING.
Part two to follow.