A (Super) Detailed Analysis of my First 50K Race

Beyond my Run for the Toad 50K race report (which you can read here), I have tried to record as much detail about my first 50K race as possible so I can refer back to it and jog my memory in the future.  I have a tendency to forget the bad parts so my hope is that this will provide an honest account of my experience to be recalled by future me!  I figured it might also be useful for others considering a longer distance race so they can benefit from my mistakes!  So, as unhappy as I am about HOW I raced this race, here are all the gory details…

I started this race strong, but fell apart in the last half.  When I look at my heart rate data, it shows the opposite effect of a normal race.  I start out in the 160’s, and during the last third of the race, it drops down further and further as I struggled to keep my legs moving at any rate of speed.

Looking back, a large part my problem was a lack of mental preparation.  When I visualized this race in the days leading up to it, I truly only thought about the positives.  I pictured laps getting slightly slower, but cruising along for 4 hours at a reasonable effort.  I didn’t prepare myself for any suffering.  In the final lap I walked so much distance that I should have run.  When I was running it was still in the mid 5 min/km pace, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around pushing myself as hard as I should have.  I know myself, and I know that I need to have the need for some suffering locked into my head long before I get to the starting line.  This was a big takeaway for next time…


  • Awake at 5:30 – ate 2 pieces of toast (1 with PB, 1 with Nutella)
  • En route to race: coffee, ½ 12 grain bagel, bottle of GU Brew Electrolyte Drink (tabs).  I meant to eat a clif bar on the way and forgot.
  • Small coffee at race, bit of water
  • 1 Gel just before start


  • Started out a bit quicker than planned, but felt comfortable (totally ignored/forgot my strategy about making sure I felt too slow as a measure of correct pace!)
  • Carried 8oz of GU Brew (carb/electrolyte mix) and 2 GU Gels
  • Drank all 8oz, ate 1 gel
  • Heart Rate remained around 160
  • No stopping/walking
  • Lap Time: 0:56:28 for a 4:31 min/km avg pace

Lap #2

  • Stopped at Aid Station #1 to replace 8oz GU Brew Flask and grabbed Honey Stinger Candy and another gel (still had 1 gel in my pocket) from my drop bag
  • Started eating HS candies right away – took a few kms to finish them
  • Noticed pace was slower along first road section, but still felt good
  • Grabbed water at aid stations, but no stopping
  • Noticed stomach was feeling off – really full/bloated feeling for the whole lap
  • Lap Time: 1:00:15 for a 4:49 min/km avg pace (this is where I should have been on lap #1)

Lap #3

  • Really started feeling sluggish on this lap
  • Stopped at drop bag at AS#1 and grabbed a new 8oz GU Brew flask and 1 gel (still had one in my pocket).  Also drank some water
  • Noticed I was slower along the paved section
  • Let myself walk a hill at some point which was a big mistake – it set the tone for a lot of walking for the rest of the race
  • Legs were the limiting factor – felt sore, heavy
  • Really started feeling thirsty – was craving water and focused on making it to the next aid station to drink.  Consumed too much water while at the aid stations as a result
  • Stomach still felt really full/bloated
  • Tripped on a root 500m from finish line.  I caught myself, but the quick reaction in my legs caused both calves to simultaneously lock up with cramps.  Stretched them and it went away quickly
  • Lap Time: 1:14:13 for a 5:56 min/km avg pace (way too slow!)

Lap #4

  • Stopped to say hi to my wife and kids at the start of lap – definitely a mental boost, but the effect didn’t help the legs for long
  • From start to finish this lap was a struggle – walked as much as I ran
  • Stopped at AS#1 – new flask of GU Brew (even though I had no desire to drink anymore of it!) and another gel.  Also drank water, coke, and grabbed some winegums (which I didn’t end up eating)
  • Slow running, with lots of walking even through the paved sections
  • Walked every uphill, tried to force myself to run on flats and downhills
  • My mind was concentrating on getting to the next km marker and on getting to the aid stations as I was still craving water.  Stopped and drank a few glasses of water at each aid station.
  • Time goal was way out of reach and I felt like I had nothing motivating me to move faster.  Only people passing me were relay runners (2 of them).  Mentally I had shifted focus to just finishing.
  • I never thought about stopping/quitting but definitely gave up on trying to be fast.
  • Lap Time: 1:28:29 for a 7:05 min/km avg pace (BRUTAL!)

Lessons Learned:

  • I really feel that I need to spend more time running and on my feet as preparation – my legs weren’t there for the last 2 hrs of this race
  • Start slower – I totally forgot the mantra I had been reminding myself for the past 3 months: If you feel like youre going the right pace, it’s too fast.  If you feel like you’re going too slow, you’re pacing just right.
  • Hydration – I was really thirsty between aid stations.  I should have had a mix of water and GU Brew in my drop bag.  It was warmer than I expected, and I really needed more water than I had.  Not sure how this affected me physically, but it definitely hit me mentally.
  • Use the aid stations from the beginning – I skipped most of them in the first 2 laps and shouldn’t have.
  • Mental preparation – I now know what the “lows” feel like and I have to be prepared to expect them and have a strategy to work through them.  Trying to find a way to deal with them during the race didn’t work.
  • Start slower!
  • Do a better job of of trying out nutrition strategies before a race – I had been eating gels, but not in the quantity I did on race day.  My stomach was really bloated from all the GU Brew and gels I had given it.  Looking at what I took in during the race, I might have been a little light on calories although I didn’t notice the usual feeling I get from not eating enough.


  • Shoe/sock (Salomon SLAB XT3/Injinji) choice and clothing choice (Arc’Teryx Incendo Shorts, and Pearl Izumi Tee) was great
  • Glad I used a drop bag so I could have familiar hydration/nutrition.  Worked out very well in terms of quickly exchanging flasks and picking up gels
  • Never considered quitting – knew that I could get through the last lap, just took a long time
  • Still ended up 12th overall out of 125 runners
  • Learned a lot about how to race this distance

7 responses to “A (Super) Detailed Analysis of my First 50K Race

  1. To me, it appears you did very well for the first time. Congratulations and a 12th out 125 runners seems pretty good to me.
    I can’t even fathom a run like this at any time during my life!!

  2. Wow! You’re one of those front of pack runners I aspire to be and you have similar stresses during the race as me (a back of packer). That gives me so.much confidence. Thank you for the detailed summary.

  3. Congrats, great write-up. You might consider a few less complex carbs so soon before the race. They can get trapped in your digestive system (as your blood starts to head to your muscles) and processing them takes quite a bit of water. This might be some of the cause of the bloating as well as the dehydrated/thirsty feeling. Very inspiring though, reading through all the trials and tribulations, wondering how you finally did, and seeing the amazing 25th! Looking forward to the next report.

    • Thanks Mike – I’m thankful for the people that have provided suggestions. I am definitely going to ease off on the early eating – I need to spend more time practicing nutrition when I’m training.

      I was happy with 12th, just disappointed in my execution. Will be better next time!

      Thanks again for reading and commenting.

  4. Pingback: 2012 Run for the Toad 50K Race Report | runbikerace·

  5. Pingback: Mendon Trail Race 50K | runbikerace·

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