ONE WEEK TO RUN WOODSTOCK and my first 50-mile ultramarathon.
This weekend is my final long-mileage prep. Saturday was a 59-mile bike ride at an easy pace, and Sunday will be one more long-ish run of 13 to 15 miles. Then it’s a few days of rest and carbo-loading with just a couple of short, easy runs to tune up.
I feel ready. Fired up. But have I really prepared enough? A summer of long runs and bike rides makes me think so, but only the race itself will tell.
The course will be the same as last year’s 50K, only that it will be three laps on the trail instead of two. That third lap, however, makes all the difference. The strategies for running a marathon don’t work for a near-double marathon. Here are just a few things that require a different approach.
Pace. After the Crim race last week, I was talking to a PR Fitness runner who also does ultras, and has run the Woodstock 50-miler before. His advice on pace: Start slow. Keep it slow. Walk the uphills. My last marathon pace was just under 9:00 per mile. My 50K pace last year: 12:00 per mile. Part of the difference was dry road vs. muddy trail, but the rest was about preserving enough energy to finish.
Fuel. For a marathon, I can get by on water, Gatorade, and fast sugar like Gu or gels. For longer distances, however, regular fueling with real food at regular intervals is necessary. This is not always easy. Running shunts blood away from digestion and can make eating uncomfortable. And too much salt or sugar can make you sick, but so can too little. There’s general guidance out there, but I won’t really know what my body can tolerate during a 50-miler until I run one – another reason not to push too hard on my first.
Gear. For most races, one shirt and one pair of shoes is enough. For Woodstock I will pack at least two pairs of shoes, and make sure I have tape, bandages, and ointments. Stuff like chafed nipples, wet socks, and sand/gravel in the shoes are minor irritants in short races; for an ultra they can cause a DNF (*) if not dealt with quickly. The weather from the 6:00 a.m. start to my likely 3:00 p.m. finish can also change quickly, so warmer clothes and dry spare outfits may be needed.
I’ve been training with my Nathan race vest, which can be used either as a small backpack for running errands, or a hydration pack for long trail runs. Among its handy features are front pockets for cellphone, camera, and running gels. The back compartment can hold a jacket, sunscreen, or other light gear. It’s amazingly light and comfortable. (It’s also designed to be a hydration pack, but there will be aid stations at Woodstock.)
Motivation? Nope – why I’m running 50-miler is the same as why I ran my first 5K. Because I thought it would be fun and a personal challenge. And while I believe the first will be true, the second definitely will be. So bring it on. Rock and roll!
(*) DNF = Did Not Finish. Also sometimes expanded (humorously) as Did Nothing Foolish or Did Nothing Fatal. Regardless of the reason for a DNF (including sensible ones) dedicated runners consider it a personal failure and will do just about anything to get over the finish line.