Monday, July 12, 2010

My First 50 Mile Ultra... Post-Race Thoughts!

Sorry for the delay... Yes, I'm alive, I've just been relaxing and resting up after the race!! This weekend was the Dawg Gone Long Run- 50 Miler and I'm happy to say I'm now officially a 50-mile ultra marathoner... and happier to say that the 50 is OVER!

First-- thanks to everybody who was following on facebook and leaving comments of support! I only had so much time to post my updates so I couldn't respond to all of them, but I got them and they helped so much! If you didn't know, on some of the big hills, while I was waddling up them, I posted updates on facebook on my progress for everyone to follow every few miles.

The Trail...
The race started at 6:30 and by the time we got to the start it was already pretty hot and humid. Throughout the race it continued to get even hotter. The trail helped to block the sun, but the trees seemed to help keep in the humidity.

The trail on this course was mostly single track and pretty technical with sections of endless roller coaster hills, tons of rocks and down trees. We started with a quick (1.2miles) out and back on road to get warmed up then we started up the trails. The first/third out-and-back section (we repeated it) was pretty tough and after finishing it the first time and knowing I had 30 more to go I was definitely a little worried. The second trail section (about 10 miles) was a bit easier but included a river we had to run through and a few more open spaces where the sun could catch us.

(Pic Left: Steps on he trail around mile 38... then again at mile 42).

The trail was very well marked with long orange ribbons, but of course that didn't mean anything for me as I can get lost in a paper bag. I did manage to get off the trail for a bit, but realized about a half mile later and back-tracked onto the course. Hey, what's one extra mile when you're already doing 50?
The People...
The aid stations were pretty well stocked and the volunteers at them were fantastic. In fact, the one station around mile 43 gave me an ice-wrapped towel and I just about asked him to marry me. At that point it was so hot and that towel made a WORLD of different in the last section of the run!

With a stretch of 50 miles and such a small race (as are most ultra races) there were very few people to run with. In fact, if there weren't so many out-and-backs you could go hours (maybe even the entire race) without seeing anybody at all! Fortunately there were about 3 guys I was going back and forth with over most of the race. Ultra runners are definitely different from marathoners. An ultra is a collective achievement and they tend to be there for each other to help get one another through the rough patches together. Toward Mile 46/47 there is a "big" (esp after 46 miles) hill that I was struggling to get up. One of the guys stopped at the top and was yelling for me to get up. I told him to turn around so I wouldn't be embarrassed if I had to start crawling on my hands and knees. haha Fortunately I DIDN'T have to crawl... but that was the first time I've ever been forced to physically STOP moving in a race.

The Finish!...
The race was finished without flourish as Jeff (one of the race directors) pointed to a spot on the ground and said you were finished. Ta-Da! No medals, no audience-- as is usual for an ultra. All the other finishers were waiting at tables next to the finish "spot" and said good job as you came in. We all compared battered feet and our marathon/ultra experiences. My finish time was 9:44:40. I would be very interested in seeing how I could do in better conditions-- road course and a cooler day-- maybe so much I'll do another one soon :)

Pic Right: My poor poo feet post-race. Not AS swollen as I thought they were going to be... so that's good.

That Night/Next Day...
Saturday night, after I showered, I was able to get a better look at my knees. During the race I fell over tree roots and rocks a few times and took a few very hard spills, nailing my knees on rocks. Ouch... I DID manage to squeeze my poor little feet into heels and make it out to a bachelorette party for my friend Alissa. I then proceeded to eat everything in sight. However, toward the end of the night I started feeling really sick to my stomach and a little feverish. I also noticed that I had spots of poison ivy popping up on my legs arms and (ew) face. Fantastic! The stomach sickness didn't go away through the night and part of the next day. I went in a cold cold pool which helped, but I think I got a little heat exhaustion and didn't do an adequate enough job at re-hydrating myself.

Sunday left me in a little bit of pain, but not much more than if I had run a marathon very hard. The upper part of my quads were esp sore, but I think a lot of that was from the impact of the trail downhills. I don't run trails often and they definitely trash your quads more than road. I went in a cold pool to create a sort of ice bath... that felt nice!

Lessons Learned!
1) Don't sign up for your first ultra in the middle of a hot spell!
2) Run Trails if it's a trail race! It will help ease the impact from the first few miles.
3) Be Prepared! Make sure to have your drops bags packed with anything you could need. Check my list from the below post. I never felt like I didn't HAVE something I needed.
4) USE your drop bags. I was so worried about wasting time at aid stations that I forgot to grab my ibuprofen TWICE and didn't get any until about mile 30.
5) Walk the hills. I was advised of this and toward the middle miles had no choice but to follow it. Any of the large uphills I had to walk/waddle up to get through them.
6) Learn to run downhill on trails! I had a hard time at first because of all the twist/turns and rocks. I held back and had a hard time letting myself fall. I think a little trail running would have gotten me more comfortable with this.
7) Eating: (I got this advice from Betsy and it worked well) I ate as if I were only running a marathon for the first 26 miles, THEN I started eating a little bit extra-- pieces of sandwich, gummies, etc. Also, I made sure to get salty foods for the heat!
8) Do EVERYTHING before you HAVE to. Make sure to be drinking water so you never get thirsty and eating so you never get hungry. Start including walk breaks before you need and take ibuprofen before you usually do. Once you start feeling any of that... it's likely too late to help.

More Ultra-Marathon Fun
After all the long-hot-tripping good times I would definitely do it again and would love to try a longer race! The most typical ultras are 50K, 50 miles, 100K, and 100 miles. I would like to do some 100K's (~62 miles) and maybe some 12-hour races to try and get 70+ miles in. I would like to do a 100-miler by next year!


  1. Congrats! Way to stick with it in the heat! Awesome job.

  2. Holy cow your amazing!! Great job

  3. Great job! I've done one 50-miler and a 12-hour race myself. 9:44 is a fantastic time for the race, even better considering that it was hot out and a technical course. That qualifies you to throw your name into the Western States 100 lottery... (I've paced it twice, it's an amazing event!)

  4. 9:44 are you kidding me?! You are amazing! I can't believe you just went out and ran a 50 miler on top of all your marathon running. I thought I was hard core doing my little 50k+ at the end of my 100 runs. Great great job. (and your feet look wonderful!)

  5. Wow, girl!! I'm so very impressed, and super proud of you! C0ngratulations!!

  6. Great job! Congratulations!!

  7. Excellent post-race review. I'm glad you enjoyed the experience and even more happy that it sounds like you caught the "ultra bug" :) I'll definitely have to run another ultra with you - I just need to make sure it's in my race schedule next time! It was great meeting you and congratulations on an awesome race!

  8. WOW! Amazing! Great job, I can't even comprehend that distance. Great race :)

  9. You are amazing!! I couldn't imagine doing a 50 miler. Very impressive!!!

  10. I volunteered at a trail 15miler/50k this weekend and you are right...they are a different ball game when it comes to everything from running to support to aid! Great report and CONGRATS ON YOUR 50!!! You are in a league few venture to!

  11. Awesome recap... loved following your updates on FB and I was thinking about you ALL day!

    You handled this sooo well and came out of it in darn good shape if you ask me.


    Did you just say 100-miles!?!?! *Intervention*

  12. Incredible! Way to go, girl! Eek at the thought of 100 miles...but you're amazing! I'm sure you could pull it off.

  13. Congrats on your finish, that's awesome!

  14. you are a beast...heels and party RIGHT after the race? WOW. Congrats on are an extra beast for the foot obviously battled! great effort...

  15. Awesome Steph! Glad to hear your race went well. I would have melted in that humidity.