Preparing for a ‘Real’ Ultra

Preparing for a ‘Real’ Ultra

Having successfully finished two 50k races now I can officially call myself an Ultra Marathoner. Unlike some I feel that the additional 4.868 miles of a 50k over a marathon counts as an Ultra. It’s like doing a Marathon plus a 5k race and then some.  It counts. Period.  The reason I think so it that personally it takes more effort and planning to crank out 31+ miles over marathon. No it is not the same effort as a 50 mile, but it is still requires a little more fuel and hydration, extra time on legs and most importantly the mental strength to go just one more 5k and even more so to go beyond that.  That’s my take on it anyway and frankly I don’t give a rats rear if you’re an elite 50 miler who doesn’t think a 50k qualifies as an Ultra, because it does so there. :p

That said I am not going to lie, I am more than a little terrified to face my first ‘real’ ultra 50 mile race. This weekend’s Go Longer 50k in the subfreezing temperatures and winds reminded me just how horrible the pain can be during a race and at the end of 31 miles; now add on top of that another 19 miles and I am frankly challenged to wrap my mind around how I’m going to be able to do that.  Saturday was a real struggle for me. I hurt, a lot, mainly because of the cold. My head was in a bad place due to fear of some unknowns and the cold wind just made me feel absolutely miserable. It was my turn to be down and need support and that is exactly what I got. Trex was more than upbeat and cheerful the whole way and helped me not to sink too far into the doldrums. I am grateful.

So if I have learned anything from this journey it is to trust my training, stick to the plan (as best I can), lean on your partner if needed, and remember that with every distance the accomplishment is going past the wall, and the wall comes when it comes.

So that’s all there is to it. Right? I mean really it’s just tackling a little less than two marathons back to back. Right? As if one marathon isn’t hard enough?!!! Why am I doing this? (((Begin Panic Attack)))

…..  10 minutes later  (((End Panic Attack)))

Okay with that over and done with I can resume my plans to pack and prep for Rocky. I have exactly one day off every year, today, MLK Day, when my kids are in school, the spouse is at work, and it’s an observed company holiday for me. So after I write this post I will make the most of my time and pack and plan for my race. I actually enjoy packing and prepping for a race, so it will be nice to do it without constant interruption. But before I start packing I am reviewing what I learned from this weekend, revising my To-Do and packing lists, and making notes to ensure I prep and pack having gained more insight. So here’s a list of things I learned from this weekend:

I learned that I can’t eat nearly as much food as I planned, but that having it sorted in go bags was brilliant and saved time. Some tweak need to be made to how label/number by bag sets.

I learned that a combo of Spring Energy fuel with some Huma and PB, Hot Chocolate and Hot Broth sprinkled in does a body good.

I also learned that subfreezing temps slows me way down at the aid stations because my whole body is stiff and my hands are shaking and ridged. Let’s hope it’s not this bad at Rocky.

I learned I should have remembered to use handwarmers on my exposed bottles to prevent freezing. If it hadn’t been below freezing and the straws on my bottles hadn’t frozen I could have saved more time in and out of rest stops.

I learned I need to have rubber gloves or a dry change of gloves so I can more quickly refill my bottles without having to expose my fingers in extreme cold temps.

I learned I am going to have to use the volunteers at the aid stations and need to have an efficient method for handing off my bottles and drink mixes so that the required communication and time are minimal. For this I plan to separate my food and drink mixes and I plan to rotate 4 bottles in my pack and have pre-filled bottles in my drop bag. Two full and two empty so I can easily add mix to empty bottles and just hand those to be refilled. I actually had this setup ready for this weekend but I failed to execute my plan due to a few issues. First I still had water in my front bottles when I arrived at the car aid stations. So rather than swap them I opted to refill them. Two I struggled with getting to my empty bottles stored in the back because the rear storage in my Nathan Vapor Krar 12L is nearly inaccessible without taking the damn thing off or having Trex help me retrieve stuff. I find this to be dangerous on trails as I am likely to trip doing this, especially in the dark. Which is the reason I just bought a Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Set. I lucked out and it was on sale today so it should arrive just in time for the trip.

I learned that sticking to Trex’s well planned out pacing workouts does the trick, except for when one of us decides to break pace and “reel-in” some other runners with whom we were not technically competing since they weren’t even doing the same distance as us.

I learned that Altra Men’s Paradigms sort of fit my feet. Remind me to rant about shoe sizing in a later post.

And most of all I learned that I am very very lucky, fortunate, and grateful to have a wingman like Trex by my side.