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
- 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)
- 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!)
- 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!)
- 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