Last year I ran with someone who was prepping for his first ultra. I didn’t really understand the reason behind wanting to run so far or so long, but the challenge intrigued me. So of course.. I signed up for one, a 50k in January. But since I have never run an ultra before I didn’t really know where to start, how many miles should I be running? What sort of workouts should I do? I turned to EFAST for some help. They are a coaching/training group in Reno, NV and have helped me train for previous races. Lauren was excited to write up a plan for me and shortly after Richmond the journey began!
As you know Richmond wasn’t a PR for me, but I still felt encouraged by the race and my time was fairly close to last year. I made some mistakes in preparation that I can easily fix if I were to run it again. Leading up the the 50k I was in and out of town a lot. I traveled to Colorado and Minnesota during thanksgiving and during Christmas drove to Chicago and Minnesota again. Lots of time on the road, and in unfamiliar running routes made training a bit tougher. However, I was able to stick to Lauren’s plan for the most part and get the key workouts in.
I was a little worried in the reduction of miles leading up to the 50k, as I was peaking 70 mile weeks for marathon training and only peaking at around 50 for the 50k training. But I understood why, the goal was to reach to race 100% healthy and un-injured. Well, come race day I was healthy and injury free. I was a little overweight from the Christmas cookies though…
Salem Lake is about a 15 minute drive from Winston Salem and the course is roughly a 7 mile loop, for the 50k they extended it with an out and back making it closer to 8 miles. Those familiar with Salem Lake know there are some hills along the route, nothing too insane but none the less you have to be prepared to slow down on a few of them.
As an added incentive and motivation for both myself and for the race I decided to raise money for the American Cancer Society. I set a goal of $350 dollars and not only did my friends and family help me reach that goal but also surpass it, I raised $392 for ACS and it felt great!! I was so proud to run this race for them. I wore a ACS winter headband and kept it on me the whole race, either around my head, neck or arm.
Come race day I was a little tired, but all in all ready to run. I ate a good amount of pasta the day before and my usual pre-marathon breakfast. Bread, peanut butter, banana, with a little bit of a banana nut muffin. I drove down a bit early to try and secure closer parking and met up with Jake, a friend who I train with in Winston Salem. He said he would run with me for the first loop to help pace and keep my sanity. It was about 30 degrees at the start of the race with it forecasted to reach 49 as a high. So optimal conditions for me, though colder would be nice too. I decided to line up near the back of the field since the 25k and relays all start at the same time. I knew I would be starting slow and figured there would be no rush to push the pace in the early miles. A couple things to note about Salem Lake, GPS always lies. The trees tend to interfere with signals and you can never really get an accurate measurement.
Here we go….
Mile 1: 9:23 — Was incredibly slow. The intention was to use this mile as a warmup and being so far back in the pack almost forced me to run slow. Looking back I should of started a little faster though as this ended up being my slowest mile of the entire race.
Mile 2: 8:52 — Talking with Jake figuring out who we should pass, trying to waste energy. Had a bite of a granola bar and a blok.
Mile 3: 8:25 — Reviewing the pace strat here and reading our mile splits back to each other, our GPS average out to be around where I want so I think we are good to go.
Mile 4: 8:17 — Settling in. Full blok here.
Mile 5: 8:15 — Get behind a group of runners who are running a relatively same pace as us, we stick with them for a bit and listen in our the conversation. They run ultras every month and this is just what they do i guess. lol.
Mile 6: 8:12 — But… after a few miles they slow down as we are going a little too fast for them.
Mile 7: 8:04 — A little fast this mile, partly due to the out and back. A little motivation and a straight-away.
Mile 8: (first loop)8:23 — Jake cut off before the out and back and from this point on I was on my own. Helped a ton to have these first few miles running with someone though. Another blok here.
Mile 9: 8:25 — Getting back into it now.
Mile 10: 8:07 — Chatting with other runners along the course as I pass, trying to keep my mind off things.
Mile 11: 8:12 — Feeling good
Mile 12: 8:06 –Coming up to a few runners who are running my pace and slow down to chat with them. Blok here.
Mile 13: 8:14 — We talk about ultras, running etc, anything to get our minds off what we are “currently” doing.
Mile 14: 8:17 — Coming up to the turn around point soon…Talked with a runner who said something that I sort of repeated to myself over and over. CONSERVE. He said ultras are all about conserving energy.
Mile 15: 8:05 — Out and back, feeling good still.
Mile 16: 8:10 — Run through the start line and see I ran my second loop faster than my first, alright! Blok here.
Mile 17: 8:24 — Heard a couple cheers as I went by and also noticed the guy I was running with the last 4-5 miles stopped at the start line for a quick break. I put my music on at this point.
Mile 18: 8:10 — The 25k race also stopped after 2 laps, so I noticed the course is VERY empty, no one for me to pass no one passing me.
Mile 19: 8:57 — Stopped to fill up my water bottle at the aid station here, also grabbed some coke and pretzels.
Mile 20: 8:20 –Remember getting passed by another runner shortly after the aid station, passed him earlier, tried to stick with him and pass him. Blok here.
Mile 21: 8:21 — Ended up passing him around this mile but he passed me later on.
Mile 22: 8:24 — Another blok here.
Mile 23: 8:41 — Stop briefly to get some coke and some more pretzels.
Mile 24: 8:19 — Still feeling good at this point. Another blok here, taking every 2 miles.
Mile 25: 8:48 — The hills are starting to hurt.
Mile 26: 8:35 — I remember passing by the 26.2 mark on the course and looking at my watch and seeing sub 3:37ish on my watch. Another blok.
Mile 27: 9:26 –Stopped for another water fill up, drink of coke, only 1 cup left so i took a swig and left it for others.
Mile 28: 8:43 — Took another blok here. I knew I wouldn’t get my sub 4:10 goal but was fine with that.
Mile 29: 9:08 — Hills were hurting, everything else was fine.
Mile 30: 9:04 — Man this hill sucked, felt like i was crawling up the short incline.
Mile 31: (GPS read short) 5:44 — Last mile or so I am running hard as soon as the hill was over i knew the finish line was next. I saw Anu shortly before the finish line and was super happy, i wasn’t sure she would come out but she braved the cold and was there to cheer me in. I brought it in and the clock read 4:20 and change.
4:20:27 — 11th place — 2nd in Age group.
I was about as tired as I was after finishing a marathon, so it didn’t hit me as hard as I thought it would but the amount of time it took was draining. My music definitely helped for the last few miles, but ultimately running with someone was the best method. Could I run another loop after that last one? Probably yes, but it would have been slower and I would have had to walk up the hills. Could I have run this better? Yes, I think there were some things I could of changed, the beginning miles could of been a bit faster, 30 secs or so. And I could of picked it up more overall.
But again, my first ultra, the goal was really for me to finish and have fun doing it, which i did. Will i sign up next year? Maybe, it depends on where I am schedule wise and health wise. what about a 50 miler? Maybe one day, for now I want to work on getting some speed back.
Thanks as always to my lovely fiance for the support, my friends and family for always supporting me throughout training, and Lauren from EFAST for helping me with a solid race and training plan.
Special thanks to Jake for not only running the first 7 miles with me but for also donating and having his parents donate as well! Also thanks to Mr. Shew, Nick H, Nick D, Mom and Dad, Sox, Yu Chong, Brandon, Brian and Johnelle, Hannah and Craig, Tom and Pam Boyd for all donating to the American Cancer Society.
Up next: Possibly Wrightsville Beach Half marathon in March…?