I RAN A 50 MILE ULTRA MARATHON. That is still insane to me. I knew I would be able to survive a 50 mile race; my body and mind had been preparing to do hard things, and I knew the only way I wouldn’t finish is if I got hurt on the course. What I didn’t completely understand was just how much I would need to take care of in the days leading up to the race. Typically, I feel bored during a marathon taper week, but during this ultramarathon taper week, I had a lot do. I want to share what my ultramarathon prep looked like, because I don’t feel like this is something that I was able to a lot of information on when I was training.
But before I get into that, here’s what my last week of 50 mile ultramarathon training looked like. Sunday was my final trail run, and this wasn’t necessarily strategic. I would have liked to have more time on the trails, but with work and preparing, it was just easier and more time efficient to run on the roads. It also let me bank just a little more sleep in the week before the race. Monday through Wednesday, I stuck to my plan of running 8 miles on the roads, and working out during my lunch break. The search for a CrossFit box continues, and I was able to check out a new one this week on Monday and Tuesday.
Thursday was a rest day, and I took full advantage of the opportunity to sleep in until right before I needed to log in for work. After work, I walked while my son road his bike on the greenway down to a park that is about 1.5 miles away. He got to run around for a while, and then we headed back. It was a nice way to get in a good long walk, and get him out of the house. He’s starting in person school on Monday, and while homeschooling hasn’t been as difficult as I was concerned about, it will be really nice for him to have more interaction with kids his age without me having to wrack my brain trying to find activities for him to do.
I took the day off work on Friday, because I knew I’d want to have a full day to get in my last minute shopping, laundry, and ultramarathon prep. The day started out with a short shake out run, and then the exciting task of having out hot water heater replaced. When we bought the house, we knew it was probably on its last leg, and decided to pay a little extra for more coverage in our home warranty. This definitely came in handy when the water heater started leaking, and while it wasn’t the most ideal time, I do have to say that I’m very happy with outcome so far.
My race had a waved start, which meant that I didn’t actually get to start until between 8:30 and 9am. Since the park is only about an hour away, we decided to stay home the night before and drive out in the morning. My grandparents came in to hang out with our kid Friday evening, and Saturday my alarm went off at 5:30am (sleeping in for race day!). I had my breakfast, we packed up the car, and drove out to the park. My husband got my drop bags situated, gave me my usual pre-race pep talk, and then I was off! Two of my amazing girlfriends met up with my husband at my final aid station to cheer me on to the finish. I seriously have the best people in my corner.
50 Mile Ultra Marathon Prep
Getting ready for a 50 mile ultramarathon can take almost as much energy as actually running the damn thing. There’s emails to read, course profiles to review, and a LOT of packing. If you know what you’re in for, and give yourself enough time, preparing for an ultramarathon doesn’t have to be stressful. Just make sure you don’t procrastinate until Friday night at 7pm. That’s supposed to be when you have a beer and relax!
In the last couple of weeks before an ultramarathon, your training mileage should begin to decrease. The last week of your training program should involve a fraction of your typical training mileage. You might have the urge to run more than you should; race nerves can really make you do some dumb things. Fight this urge, and make sure you find a balance between decreased miles and over resting. Too much couch time can make you feel lethargic and stale on race day. So keep moving, just…..less.
Carb Load & Hydration
Unlike traditional road races, you probably don’t need to overly focus on carb loading. Running slower and for a much longer time trains your body to burn fat more efficiently than running faster shorter distances. This usually means that your body can handle longer distances without needing to down three plates of pasta dinner. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bump up your carb intake a bit on the day or two before the race, but just know that your body has learned to run long distances using your fueling strategy of choice. Changing up your diet too much the days before a race might give you a small boost of energy, but it can also lead to some GI disturbance if you’re not careful.
What you should be really intentional about in the days before an ultramarathon is making sure you are hydrating appropriately. A dry stomach can be your absolute worst nightmare on race day, and it’s not easy to make up for poor hydration when you’re busy running all the miles. While your hydrating, make sure you also take in some electrolytes (like Nuun or Liquid IV). You can’t control the weather, or how your body will function on race day, but making sure you’re not dehydrated can go a long way to preventing race day catastrophe’s.
Figuring out and planning your race day strategy is one of the most time consuming parts of an ultramarathon prep week. And for good reason. There’s a lot to figure out. Surviving 50 miles of trail isn’t something that just happens for us mere mortals. If you don’t have a solid plan, you might end up having a fantastic temper tantrum when you can’t change your socks at mile 35, or DNFing when your chaffing turns into a bloody mess at mile 40. Here’s a few things to figure out in the final days.
- Drop Bags – You’ll need to review the course map to figure out how many drop bags you can bring, and how many you’ll actually. Most of us don’t actually need a full bag of goodies every 4 miles, so don’t go bananas. It can also be helpful to figure out what the aid stations will be supplying, so you can decide if you need to pack the Pringles or leave them at home. Once you know how many bags you plan to bring and how far you’ll need to run between bags, I recommend making a list for each bag to make sure you don’t forget anything. Get those suckers packed and labeled well before Friday night, so you’re not scrambling when you should be relaxing. (If you’re looking for a good bag option, check out the Sea to Summit bags).
- Packing – If you’re running a race that’s out of town, you’ll need to get everything packed and ready to go, obviously before you leave. Again, I like to have a list that I double (or triple) check, because I HATE having to go to an unfamiliar store to try to find something specific. One trip to a small town WalMart in Florida at 10pm will teach you not to forget anything. If you need some ideas on what should be going into those suitcases, take a look at Essential Ultramarathon Gear & How to Pack It.
- Prepping Crew – If you are fortunate enough to have a friend or two that is willing to take on the absolute chore of crewing you, make sure you spend some time getting them prepared for the unfortunate adventure they may be in for. Let them know where they will be most useful on the course, make sure they know how to get there, and give them a good window of time in case you are (miraculously) ahead of schedule. Be a nice person, and buy them a couple of beverages of their choice and some snacks to tie them over. You’re not the only one who needs to eat during the day, after all.
- Course Profile – You’ll want to get somewhat acquainted with your course profile. You shouldn’t worry about trying to remember every turn or where the aid stations are, but you should have an overall feel of where you’re going. It’s also helpful to know when to anticipate the big climbs, so you make sure you don’t over-exert yourself right before you have to climb up a mountain for 3 miles. When you start to get a little delirious towards the end of the race, it can be reassuring to hit those last markers and know that you’re at least probably going in the right direction.
- Fueling Strategy – Now here’s the thing with coming up with a fueling strategy; no one ever sticks to them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable or worth your time in figuring out. You just never know how your stomach is going to cooperate on race day, which is why it’s important to have an overall plan and a backup. What works best for me personally, is to have a mix of solid and liquid calories (like Tailwind), along with some back up snacks. For example, I usually take in about 300 calories of liquid calories during the first 10 miles, exclusively. Once I hit mile 10, I start adding in solids (HoneyStinger Gels and Chews every 5 miles after. I still take in about 200 calories of tailwind every 10 miles so that my stomach doesn’t have to work as hard to digest solids. My backup plan is to have some salty snacks (chips, pretzels, etc) that I can alternate instead of gels/chews when they start sounding unappealing, or to switch over exclusively to Tailwind if everything goes south. I’ve figured out this strategy during my training long runs, so make sure you’re using those long runs to determine what works for you so you don’t have to overthink it on race day. And make sure you have packed the absolute essentials, so you aren’t disappointed if what you want isn’t available at the aid stations when you arrive.
The time spent prepping can feel a little overwhelming, but it definitely helps calm race day nerves and usually means 70% fewer race morning freak outs; at least for me.
Related Post: Complete Guide to Running Fuel
This Weeks Workouts
Total Miles: 86.81
Total Workouts: 3
50 Mile Race Week
How the Runs Felt
I’m planning on doing a full 50 mile race report later this week, so I won’t get too much into the details here. My final trail race was out at the powerlines, and I felt really good moving up and down the loose gravel. As much as I have feared for my life on those less than stable climbs, I’m so glad I included them in my training. A big part of this race had a very similar terrain, and all that hill work really paid off. All of my other taper runs felt pretty normal, and keeping the mileage consistent helped my legs to feel rested without feeling stale on race day.
How the WODs Felt
On Monday and Tuesday, I dropped into a new CrossFit box. In full transparency, while the culture seemed nice, I didn’t love the programming. Monday’s workout was primarily cardio and upper body, and it just didn’t feel like the workout was very well thought out. I decided to give it a shot and see if it felt differently than I thought it would, but I finished up and was still not super excited. Tuesday’s WOD was a little tougher, and I liked that there was a solid strength piece. My hands did rip on the toes to bar, and that is not one of the parts of CrossFit that I have missed to be honest. The search for the right box continues!
Related Post: CrossFitting At Home
Wednesday was my home workout, and it’s very similar to one that I have programmed for myself in the past. It never seems all that taxing until I actually start moving that 35# kettlebell. I do appreciate how simple it is, and how it keeps me moving and working from start to finish.
What I’ve Been Listening To
I found a podcast that was so good, after 3 episodes I decided to save the rest for my race. I’m so glad I did, too, because it did not disappoint. Happy Face is a podcast about the Happy Face killer, as told from the perspective of the killers daughter. She tackles some really salient issues in a very honest and transparent way. Covering things from the experience of finding out her father was a killer, growing up in poverty, how her past has impacted her romantic relationships, and her fears of carrying the same genetic makeup as a murderer.
What Went Well
While I was anxious about the race, and had all the usual pre-race jitters, I felt really confident and excited for most of the week. I had everything I needed going into the race, and I got to sleep in my own bed the night before the race, which was a real treat.
What Went Shitty
As much as I hate to admit this, I did not make the best nutrition choices leading up the race. I gave in to the temptation to overindulge in the sugar, which isn’t the worst thing, but it didn’t help my race day stomach.
Plans to Improve Next Week
Next week, I’ll listen to my body. I’ll eat nutrition foods that help me recover, I’ll stretch, get a massage, and move when I feel good and ready 🙂