Sunday, June 13, 2010

What I learned from my first ultra

I think my first ultra was a success, solely because I learned so much. I finished and had fun (my priorities), and I have a ton of room for improvement.

When I first read that time on your feet was all that mattered, I didn't really consider it an important point. First, I did not put in enough miles, and then I missed a key, big, long run due to family plans and my inability to find a good trail in Western New York. I honestly can't believe that I finished (and felt great after) a 50- mile run on this training, since my IT band injury:
I put more into my weekly mileage for MCM, for goodness sake.  I had a lot of setbacks, I had to recover from Boston (it took a lot out of me), I hurt my foot, I was really, really busy last month, and I needed to re-build my mileage. I had some good long runs, did some training in the mountains, and ran two marathons as prep. My training focused on only running about 3-4 times a week: a long run with a few days off to recover, and a few 10-12 mile runs. My focus was solely on endurance. I was really focused on recovering fully to keep from getting injured and introducing myself to trail running. I was only over 50 miles one week--the week of my double-20 miler.

It wasn't the lack of mileage that hurt. Honestly, I felt really good throughout the race and I wasn't sore, and doing so on such a low mileage is crazy. Maybe it was the cross-training and strength training. It was time on my feet that I wasn't prepared for. The longest I had been on my feel was the 32, 6-hour long run I did in March. Other than that, my long runs kept me on my feet from 3-4 hours tops. I was on the course for over eleven. On the trails, I did the mileage, but I ran uphill and took no walk breaks. In the future, I will focus on time on my feet and make sure that I run my long runs at my race pace, not 2-4 minutes under it.

My "moving time" for the race, according to garmin, was 10:13, meaning I spent over an hour not moving. This had to do with Dani and I running together and stopping and waiting for each other for bathroom breaks, but I clearly spent too much time at aid stations. Granted, the volunteers were great but didn't help us much. We had to find our own bags (my first time at Great Falls I couldn't find mine), pour our own drinks, etc., but I need to learn how to do all that more efficiently.

If I'm not ready to spend 12 hours on my feet, I should avoid it. I wish I went out a little harder, while it was cooler, because once I hit that 10-10.5 hour mark, I really wanted to just sit down already. It was a very long day. I paced myself, but next time I'll keep in mind that I'm racing. That when I walk uphill, I need to learn to start running right away. Also, not to take my time, but march forward. There were also some tricky, rocky sections that I just did my best to get through, but I may have taken it a bit too easy.

Clearly, there were some stomach issues. I'm gonna try to limit my fiber intake the night before, no matter how much I say I'm used to it. I think I did a great job hydrating that day but it really did get hard to eat after awhile. I would like to try some new products and strategies, but I need to make sure I take time to prepare for it on my long runs. I am signed up for three 50ks in July to work on my eating and aid station habits.

In prep for Grindstone, I am going to do hill workouts until my head spins, get in more time on my feet during my long runs, learn what my stomach can and cannot take, recruit a crew, convince Dani to pace me, and do my best to get out on those mountains. Knowing this course and having experience on the trails was probably the key to my success and me not pulling my hair out from nervousness the day before. I need to stimulate race conditions more and get my uphill charge down. I will keep up strength training and make sure I stay healthy by slowly adding miles and making sure I recover. I have 3.5 months to prepare for my "A" race of the year.


  1. I had some similar realizations in terms of what I learned. I am also planning on doing a lot of hill work to prepare for my next 50 and an autumn 100 (not sure which one yet). I got some advice from a veteran ultra runner to use the treadmill at 15% incline at 3.5-4mph and work up to 4 hour workouts. I did just an hour of this on Saturday and I quickly learned I have a long way to go to get to 4 hours. Good luck with your upcoming 50Ks!

  2. This is a great reflective post. I love that you think through all these things and don't just plow into more training. Lots of luck as your training continues! Hill workouts are not for sissies! :)

    Also, love the new blog-look!

  3. Way to go BeeZale! Awesome considering Boston was not even two months ago.

  4. I think you did GREAT at your first ultra, and that you had the absolute perfect strategy: Finish, and Have Fun.

    Smart observations, too. You're already mentally ahead of the game. You are gonna be a standout ultrarunner if you decide that's what you want to do. Suddenly, I'm glad I'm so old and not in your age group!