Our first 50-miler has come and gone, and it was a huge success! We started, we finished, and we learned a lot along the way. Here are the top 5 lessons Tyler and I learned from our first 50-mile race!
- Training variety is key.
- Let your cravings dictate your race-day diet.
- Find the silver lining.
- Make a friend.
- Smile and enjoy the day!
Training variety is key. This year I started doing more cross-training and high-intensity interval training in addition to running. In every race so far this year, that extra training has proven to be an effective way to improve my running. My legs have had more power for the uphills, my upper body has been more conditioned to take over when my legs fatigue, and I’ve maintained a more steady heart rate (and breath), especially following high efforts (like going uphill). Tyler and I are both going to focus on cross-training and interval training as we prepare for future races (instead of doing primarily steady-state running).
Let your cravings dictate your race-day diet. I wouldn’t follow this advice on a daily basis, because if I did I’d be eating a steady diet of cheese puffs and cookies. However, during a race we’ve found that our best strategy is to arrive at an aid station, survey the options, and go for what instinctively looks the best (without giving much thought to how healthy that choice may be).
In this 50-miler, M&M’s and PB&J sandwiches were my exclusive fuel for the first 12 miles. Then I wanted salt, salt, salt. Then fruit. Then granola bars. Then salt again. In our last race, I ate about 7 oranges (and I don’t even like oranges).
When it came to hydration, for the majority of this race I craved electrolyte drinks, and water sounded disgusting. Then, suddenly, I wanted nothing but soda for a few miles. After that, soda sounded gross and diluted electrolyte drinks were my drink of choice. I decided to ride the wave of my cravings, and it served me well.
Using this strategy, I’ve had no stomach issues, no dehydration problems, and no bonking. Unless something changes, I’m sticking with the “listen to your body” approach!
Find the silver lining. When you’re out having an adventure or pushing your limits, there’s a fair chance that something may go wrong. Finding the silver lining in those challenges is the key to enjoying the journey and continuing on with enthusiasm.
For example, when we realized that our pace was slower than we wanted, I thought, “At least we’ll get to be outside longer!” When Tyler stepped in a puddle and soaked his feet early on, he thought, “At least I don’t have to worry about keeping my feet dry any more!”
These little mind games could ultimately make the difference between continuing on or quitting. At the very least, they’ll help lift your spirits for a few moments!
Make a friend. Because Tyler and I run and race together (and because we’re both introverted), we often keep to ourselves. With this race, we intentionally went out of our way to chat with more racers before, during and after the race, and we met some amazing people!
We met one racer who got motivated to change his life after watching online videos of the legendary David Goggins. He lost over 100 pounds and signed up for the 50-mile race. Seeing him along the course was so inspiring. And…he finished!
We met another racer who gave us some tips for running downhill when he noticed that we were stronger on uphills than downhills. His advice quickly improved our speed and technique. We were so grateful for his help!
These are just a few examples of the kind, generous, inspiring people you’ll meet when you say “hello” to the adventurers around you. We’re all kindred spirits, after all, and it’s nice to have some friends out there in the woods with you!
Smile and enjoy the day! Tyler’s co-worker shared this advice with him the night before the race. (This co-worker – who’s in his 60’s – finished a 100-mile race just a few weeks prior.)
We took this advice to heart. We cheered on our fellow runners, we reveled in the sunshine and the spirit of the day, and we constantly remembered how blessed we were to be making that 50-mile journey with our strong, healthy bodies.
There was so much to be thankful for on that day, and there were many lessons to be learned. Of course, everyone is unique and what works for one person may not work for another. These are simply the things that worked well for us, and I think the more we all share, the more strategies we can all try, and the better chance we all have of succeeding!
So what are you waiting for? Grab your shoes and your sunscreen, and go have an adventure!
Photos courtesy of Ultra Race Photos. This particular race was the North Face Endurance Challenge DC – a race we’ve done several times (for different distances), which never ceases to impress!