Beyond my first 50k
|April 22, 2014
|Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized
Let’s say that you didn’t want to wade through all the info in the last 2 posts (but you looked at the pretty pics right?) but still want a run down of the most important take-aways. Or maybe you want to know “you’ve completed your first ultra….now what?”
You are in the right place! Writing the last 2 posts allowed me to organize my thoughts and I’m ready to consolidate it down into something useful for the person who has no intention of ever running an ultra, but does other endurance sports like endurance RIDING.Many of the same lessons can be learned and applied in both sports. And, I’m ready to talk about some of my bigger running goals.
For more information/details about any of these, refer back to the “nitty gritty” posts.
- Spend your time wisely. Keep moving forward on the trail, don’t rush the aid stations. By running/riding the trail and the checks smarter, you can finish faster without going faster. Before increasing the pace, examine the strategy and see if you can pick up time somewhere else. Time isn’t irrelevant in an ultra….but there’s also more important things than slicing every second possible off your time (at least for the majority of us mid and back packers!)
- Be prepared. Bring the necessities even if it’s usually provided. Bring safety pins to races. Bring a flake of hay to vet checks (unless expressly forbidden).
- Sometimes you aren’t going to have a great day. But through careful management you can still have success. If it happens more than once, try to find a pattern.
- Endurance is a sport of mental fortitude, and adequate physical preparation. You can and should be training the mental component as much or more as the physical. This goes for our horses too!
- Pay attention to recovery. Keeping records of recovery can be as important as records of training or records of events. I keep formalized recovery records after races (how many days until I wasn’t sore any more etc.), and make comments about recovery in my training log (but not after every workout).
- Hydration. Think about it. Evaluate it. Don’t get complacent. Doing a good job with hydration is as important to know as identifying there is a problem.
- Gear. Don’t be afraid to tweak it. Gear doesn’t take the place of mental and physical preparation, but it can be the icing on the cake.
- Pacer. Think of it like an endurance ride crew on steroids. Funder did a bang up job on pacing. She said all the right stuff, validated what I was feeling while pushing without shoving. If you want to read a good article on just how nuanced pacing is….here’s a good article from Ultrarunning.com
My biggest strength in endurance sports is also my biggest weakness
I deal with heat really well.
Whether it’s because my schedule over the years has only allowed me to run in the heat of the afternoon, or because I grew up without air conditioning in CA’s central valley – heat conditioning comes really naturally to me.
What’s my weakness?
I HATE cold water. Hate it. Cold water against my skin triggers a pure hate/adrenaline/pain response that comes from some emotional reptile section of my brain/gut.
Which means I’m really really really bad at doing active cooling during warm weather activity. While Funder “screamed like a porn star” (her words, not mine) when cold ice water was poured over head at an aid station, I was as far away as possible ready to lash out with bared teeth and claws if anyone approached me with that ice bucket.
That was OK on Saturday when it was 80 degrees and I was going slowly.
It is NOT going to be OK when I step up my distance beyond an LD (Funder and I kept calling the aid stations “vet checks” and distances under 50 miles as “LD’s”. LOL) or when it gets significantly warmer this summer.
Here’s what my logical mind is telling my emotional gut response right now:
- Getting outside help to keep my core temperature low will reduce the amount of energy my body has expend towards cooling.
- It will help keep me hydrated
Here’s what my emotional gut has to say to my brain
- “but I HATES it!”
So, I need a plan. Because at mile 20, guess what’s in charge? Not the logical brain…….
- I could probably handle a coldish bottle of water over my head. I could carry a bottle in the afternoon specifically for this purpose.
- I could handle a very cold soaked towel on my neck.
- I could work up to ice cold water over my head and hair as long as the person doing the pouring was careful not to get in on my neck and shoulders and shirt.
I will consider this my own homework before my next big event in guaranteed hot temperatures – the ride and tie championships in July.
Where do I go from here?
At the end of the race Funder and I sat down and ate BBQ with a guy who ended up being Errol Jones, “The Rocket”.(link to his FB page). If you are into podcasts, here’s one where he’s being interviewed and giving advice.
Now, without even knowing who he was, I knew he was the “real deal”.
I was just getting ready to open my mouth and see if I could start a conversation. Maybe mention I had finished my first ultra, and how much I had enjoyed the course.
Funder beat me to it. She had a different idea of how to start a conversation: “Melinda here is going to run the western states some day!”
Well, yes, but that isn’t’ the sort of thing you actually tell someone, especially if they are actually in “the industry”.
Funder had just done the equivalent of plopping down next to Barbara White at a local ride and announcing my intention of doing Tevis now that I had completed my first ride.
There are HUGE similarities between endurance running and endurance riding. Funder wrote up an excellent post on being a newbie in the world of endurance running and how it is similar to being a greenbean in endurance riding. You should go read it. Yes, really.
Until you have proven yourself a little bit, it’s easy to say something, and you need to do something before you can go around saying crazy stuff like “I’m going to vet school”, or “I’m going to ride Tevis”.
Except, Errol didn’t laugh at me. He looked at me seriously and said “this was your first 50k”. I nodded and wanted to die of embarrassment. Funder beamed.
And I realized that perhaps now that I had my first ultra under my belt, wanting to run a 100 miles doesn’t sound nearly as obnoxious.
Apparently I hadn’t picked the easiest 50k in the area. It was of moderate difficulty – doable, but challenging.
He said that both of us looked good – we had finished well. I was beaming now too.
And then he started talking about how to train for longer ultramarathons (50 miler, 100 miler) and it was EXACTLY the advice you would hear around any ridecamp potluck. Go on long runs by yourself to build mental toughness. Recovery is as important as training miles. Run an LD once a month. Throw in a 50. Do some back to back long runs (multidays) when you are bumping up a distance. There’s going to be times on the trail that you don’t think you can do it and you wonder why you do it. If you don’t have any DNF’s (pulls) on your records, you haven’t done enough races.
Funder pointed out later what he didn’t say.
- He didn’t say I needed to work on my speed, or that I didn’t go fast enough on the 50k to move up.
- He didn’t say that I looked pretty rough at the finish and needed to work on my mileage.
And that is as important as what he DID say. If an LD rider came up to me and said they wanted to do a 100, and I thought they weren’t ready for a 50 because their horse looked beat and they barely made cut offs, it would be different advice from a rider whose horse finished and LD tired but strong with time to spare.
My life is volatile and chaotic right now. I’m not in a position to put races on the calendar and have any certainty that I’ll actually be ready or able to run them. So, I’ll do what I’ve done for the last 10 years. Run when I’m able, educate myself as much as possible, and take advantage of possibilities when they come up. And someday, you might come to the blog and find that I’ve signed up for my first 50 miler – without a horse.