Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lessons Learned from my first 50k

Training

I managed to log 500 miles during my training cycle and hit most of my planned workouts. The  missed workouts came when I was travelling and recovering from the Troop Trot 39k. My training plan worked well for my lifestyle. The back to backs on weekend were essential and number of miles made me confident and in good fitness by race day. Overall, I was happy with my level of training, but there are a few things I would change (aren't there always?).
50k training plan I followed. Green items were races (2 more were later added).
  1. More time on feet. My longest run both in terms of mileage and time was the Troop Trot 39k (~5h20min), but I didn't have another run over 3 hours. All of my other super long runs, were on road/treadmill, and my pace kept them under the 3 hour mark. Next time I would make sure to have several 3+ hour training days (regardless of the mileage) because we all know things get different after you've been on your feet that long.
  2. More time on terrain. I only logged a minority of my training miles on the trails and some more practice would have benefitted me. This is not to say I ever had trouble on the trail sections, but I think I would have been more comfortable and confident had I logged more time on them pre-race. I also probably would have been less sore post race and figured out the bloody feet issue earlier than in the middle of the Troop Trot.


No joke, I brought ~15 Island Boost with me to the race and ate 3.

Fueling

This is always my favorite topic but often the most stressful! I've never been good at fueling for a marathon, so the task of fueling for a 50k while sweating buckets in 90 degree heat had me pretty nervous as race day approached. I knew I hadn't fueled as much as should have during the Troop Trot and even noticed I was having salt issues in the late miles (my hands started swelling), so I really focused all raceday on fluids, salt, and fuel. This is probably why I wasn't phased by the actual mileage: I was too busy thinking about food. Here is a rundown of what I ate during the race and in true EB fashion, I even tried new things. Note: this is what worked for me, I'm not saying it will work for everyone. The salt concentration in sweat varies person to person and this salt intake worked for me during a hot, long race. I don't think I would need nearly as much in a cooler race.
  • Fluids: I kept my hydration pack loaded with full strength lemon-lime flavored NUUN (the caffeinated kind because that was all we had in the house).  I often run with half strength just because some of the flavors taste strong to me, but I went full strength on race day to get the extra electrolytes.  I carried a few extra tabs in a baggie in my pack and had an extra tube in my cooler with the Jayhawk (he needed to hydrate too) so I could make more when I refilled. I also had a ton of ice in our cooler that I would put in my pack each lap to make the fluids more enjoyable.
  • Salts: This was truly the black box item to me. I decided to carry a fuelbelt bottle in the front pocket of my hydration pack (~8oz) and kept it full of The Right Stuff salt solution. My goal was to drink the whole bottle every loop and refill from my cooler (I had a premade bottle in there) so I didn't have to lug extra. I also bought a 3 pack of SaltStick Caps (I chose them because the balance of electrolytes they offered is similar to sweat, affiliate link) and had the goal of taking one per lap (I only ended up taking 2). They advise taking them more frequently, but having never taken them and as I was also supplementing with NUUN and Right Stuff, I took 1 at the first (5.5ish) time and second (16ish) times I passed the midpoint aid station. No hand swelling this time.
  • Fuel: This one I went a little wacky (No I didn't eat GU). My goal for fueling was to use Island Boost out on the course and utilize the aid station for all the junk food they had to offer (less to lug). I did a fairly good job, but I still think I am under fueling as my energy was dipping on the 3rd lap. Lap one I ate 1 Island Boost, 1 Rice Krispie treat, some gummy bears, and a banana half at the midpoint, and a cutie, a banana half, and some Smarties at the start/finish. Lap 2 I had another Island Boost, another banana, and a few Fritos at the midpoint and Coke, Smarties, and 2 cuties at the start/finish. Lap three I had another Island Boost, Fritos, Smarties, and grapes. I think that is everything. I know that sounds like a lot of junk food, but at a certain point you eat what you interests you. Not everything sounds good. Recovery was dominated by beer, ice cream, and everything else I could get my hands on. :)
First pumpkin beer selection of the season, Harpoon's UnFiltered Offering Pumpkin Ale. It's a good one.
Also tried LA 31 Biere Pale. A lot of flavor for a pale ale and I liked it.

Learning

This is a big one. I learned (and am still learning) tons from this experience. I know a lot more about what my body likes and dislikes in terms of training and recovery. I've learned that my body is much more capable at handling higher mileage than I have given it credit for. I've learned that I still need to figure out what is the best way for me to accomplish speed workouts (I really slacked on this during this training cycle) and I've learned that wearing the correct size shoe is essential for feeling comfortable during a race. I've learned to not fear the treadmill. I've learned to relax and taking training day by day and races mile by mile. Most importantly, I've learned that I really love long distance running for both the challenges and the rewards it offers.

Do you ever look back to see what you've learned from a training or racing experience?

26 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting these reflections post-race! I'm glad you mentioned time on terrain - I've been thinking a lot about how to get more time in on the trail because I am afraid I'm going to be underprepared once I get on the trail for racing. I know you said you were fine but the observations you did make, particularly about needing less time to recover after, confirmed some of what I was thinking. I'm also always so interested to hear about fueling strategies too!! It's the most interesting topic but hardest to get right for sure!

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    1. No problem Brenda. It was funny because I was very well prepared for the road and road-like parts of the race. There was definitely a mental comfort (and a big pace increase) in those sections. More trail time would have made me more comfortable taking the technical parts at a faster speed and have helped with those tweaky post-race feeling you get only from trail running.

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    2. One of the guys I ran with this morning was telling me that he had the opposite problem at last year's American River (because i mentioned I am signed up for 2015) in that he was unprepared for more paved bike trails than he anticipated. Gotta be prepared for everything!

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    3. Exactly! Always important to know what you'll be faced with on race day.

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  2. You did a great job on running your first 50K! So many factors go into race day and the best way to eat and drink is a common problem - so hard to pin down! I had plans, but didn't get to do what I planned to in my 50K. Maybe next time!

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    1. Thanks Tina! I think I did well for me in terms of eating and drinking, but a little more fuel wouldn't have hurt. I'm just happy I kept it all down! :)

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  3. You did such a great job on your first 50K! How are you feeling a few days out? It's interesting what seems appealing when you are feeling tired isn't necessarily your normal choices. I am so challenged running two hours I can't imagine going that long, but you are sure able to handle it :) Are you thinking about the Pike Peak event now? You are amazingly strong, you can do it!

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    1. Thanks Karen! I was sore for the first few days afterward, but I started running again the Saturday after the race. I feel great now and the only thing that's keeping me from a full schedule is work being so busy! I really want to do the Pike's Peak event next August, but we will see if we can squeeze it in the budget.

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  4. Amazing job on your 50K and great reflections. You are awesome!

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  5. Thank you so much for taking the time to share what you learned and what worked well for you! Hopefully it will help other runners prepare for their first (or second or third...) ultra. That Pumpkin UFO sounds amazing. I remember a few years ago they came out with a Raspberry UFO that I absolutely loved.

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    1. It was really helpful to write the post and reflect on everything. The Pumpkin UFO is great, but I still think my favorite pumpkin beer is Shipyard's Pumpkinhead.

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  6. I (still) love looking over your schedule, and wish I had been able to follow one for mine!
    My observation is that you had plenty of long runs. If you do some of those planned 20 milers on trails with elevation or other obstacles, you will be able to get plenty of 3+ hour runs, and then you will be hitting both #1 and #2 !
    You nailed it about the right size shoes. Unfortunately sometimes we don't know until it's too late, but the 3+ hour runs will help :)
    Still amazed by your run in such intense heat, and looking forward to the marathon training you're doing.

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    1. Thanks Raina. I really liked my schedule and would use it again no question. I would change how I execute some of my miles (i.e. more trail running), but other than that I think the volume was perfect.

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  7. You really did amazing. Lots of positives and good things came from your training. I can't wait to see how you do at the next one. :)

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    1. Thanks Captain! I'm already looking for another one!

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  8. Nice job!!! I LOVE looking back. Each race teaches so much about what sort of runner I want to be, what kind of running I like and need more of in my life, and I eliminate fuel options every race, which is good because it gets me closer and closer to what does work well for my tummy! Can't wait to see how the next one goes for you!

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    1. Thank you Jen! I agree, each race helps me fine tune the whole process. Always learning!

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  9. I just registered for my first 50K and stumbled upon your blog after a Google search for training plans. First of all, belated congrats on successfully training for and completing your first 50K! Second, thanks so much for posting your plan and reflections. It's hard to sort through all of the info out there, and your training plan v.2 is one of the more sensible plans I've seen.

    Happy New Year!

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    1. Hi Jen! Thank You! There are a lot of plans out there and I too had trouble finding one that would work for me. I really like this plan and will be using it again. The mileage total and distribution worked well for me and next time I will just add in more trail time. Best of luck with your first 50k! Keep me posted on how it goes and feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions!

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  10. Looking at my first 50k this year, and bumped into your posts, which have been really helpful. Anything else you'd add in retrospect?

    Thanks for your blog!

    Vince

    http://vince-anila.blogspot.com/

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    1. Hi Vince! I was really happy with my training plan and will use it again this year. For me it was the right amount of mileage and the spread across and over the weeks worked well. The biggest things are listening to your body (take recovery seriously) and really paying attention to your fuels (getting enough and having different options). Good luck with your 50k! Feel free to email me if you have anymore questions!

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  11. I'm looking at my doing my first 55k in March; I just finished a 16 mile trail run. (Only did a marathon once 7 years ago!). i usually run 3x a week, but just started doing four/week. I'm not eager to run 5x a week. Do u think it's necessary? I haven't found a plan (50k) that does 4. :/ also, when did u start taking salts during training? Ovet

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  12. ((Sorry, my baby "helped" to send that post before I was done!)) I.e Do u take salts over 12 mile runs? I've never run with a pack before. How did you go about that? Ive run carrying a 16 oz bottle that I refilled at aid stations and that worked ok, would rather find a comfy pack. I'm not s fan of running with my camelback but I think it's designed for hiking. I don't want blisters! Speaking of....What kind of shoes worked good for you? I loved reading your posts! Thanks for sharing training and post race thoughts.

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    1. Hi Janelle! Your baby might be the youngest reader I've had! I've found training on tired legs really helpful in all my ultras. For me this meant 5-6 days of training. I would encourage you to run 4 days if possible. Increasing to 6 days from 3 while increasing mileage might risk injury, so adding in cross training is another great way to build strength and endurance. I started taking salts on long, hot runs. The majority of my ultras have been in the south in the summer, so my sweat output has been very high. You may not need them for a March race depending on your personal sweating and if you are taking electrolytes other ways (drinks, etc). I used to be against the idea of a pack, but once I found one that fit me well, I love it. I run in the Nathan's Intensity pack designed for women, so it fits really well. Shoes took a little trial and error for me. I ended up with bloody feet several times before I found the right shoe/sock combination. For trail races, I currently use Brooks Cascadia and compression socks. I get some solid feet swelling after long miles in the heat and this combo seems to accommodate that. I would encourage you to hit up a local running store to have a good shoe fitting and discuss with them the type of terrain you plan on running.
      I hope that helps! Feel free to ask more questions or drop me an email (over on the contact link)! Happy running and I would love to hear how the race goes!

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