Tag Archives: 50k

Water Gap 50K

When I decided that along with some of my friends we were going to try to run our first 50k this year we initially only planned to do one. Then during the process of training one of my friends training for our first 50k with me mentioned that there was another 50k later in the year that she was considering doing. That sounded potentially fun and something we could possibly do if we felt like it after our first 50k and we still had any interest in running that distance. Over time the idea of running a second 50k this year just kinda fell by the wayside. After our first 50k we never really discussed it.

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Then my other friend who ran our first 50k together this year mentioned to me about one and a half months ago that she was thinking about running the other 50k we had talked about previously. And that is all it took. I was in for a second 50k. And that is how I ended up running the Water Gap 50k from Red Newt Racing. All it takes is that one friend who is a bad influence and you get sucked right into another race.

I did not have a particularly good summer of running leading into training for this race. I had no idea what to expect for this training cycle or race. I had battled a lot of soreness over the summer, but I was ready to add in some miles and see how things went. I basically just ran normally during the week and added one long run in at the end of the week. Because of our condensed training time, we only decided to commit to this about a month and a half out from the race we added two miles to our long run each week with no decreases in mileage along the way, just a constant increase in miles. The only week where there was a decrease in miles was the week before the race where most people would taper and for the taper I rested most of the week and then another tough trail race, the Green Monster Trail Challenge 25k which has over 3000 ft of elevation gain. So not really a restful taper. We don’t really do things by the book around here.

Our goal for this race was to finish the 50k in under six hours. I really had no idea what to expect from this race particularly with the condensed training, but after all our long run results we felt pretty confident that we would be in good shape.

I prefer to run in cooler weather, so I was pretty happy as the race approached and the forecast was showing that it would be cooler than the week before. What I was not prepared for was sleeping in a tent overnight in the nearly freezing cold temperatures and then starting only my second 50k race at those same nearly freezing cold temps. That was a little bit of overkill on the, I hope it is colder than last race, wish-fulfillment. But it was still better than being too hot.

This was a very different type of race for me. The course was relatively flat and relatively straight. I have never run a road marathon before (However it looks like that will change next year.) so running 31 miles on flat straight terrain was new to me. I always feel like the constantly changing course of most trail runs benefit my legs by constantly changing my stride and that keeps my muscles from tightening up, but with this course my stride was mostly the same the whole way. I think the combination of that factor and the cold made my hips especially very tight and uncomfortable for most of the race. Even in the beginning when I should have felt good. There were points during the race where we were wishing we could just do a little climbing, something that anyone who knows me knows I never say. We just wanted to break stride and activate some other muscles. I usually love downhill running and there were some very nice little downhills in the beginning of the course that I enjoyed, but by the second half of the race what downhills there were I couldn’t really enjoy because I was too stiff and tight.

Despite all the challenges of training for and then running this race we were at the half way point and pretty sure that unless something catastrophic happened we would be able to make our time goal. During the second half of the race we spent a lot of time doing mental calculations and figuring out how much time we could afford to give back as we got more tired and the wheels started to come off. We would have to run about seven miles farther than our longest training run so one never really knows how it will go. I also spent our training runs trying to work out a new fuel strategy which I never really figured out and then made some unwise choices for pre-race meals the night before that lead me to completely abandon what I was planning to do for fuel that had worked on my previous 50k. Instead I ran the whole race on gels and tailwind until the last aid station where a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was calling my name. It was the first time I felt like eating any solid food other than M&M’s.

We slowed down significantly in the second half of the race but did succeed in finishing under our time goal at 5 hrs and 47 min.

The course was a really nice course and had the opportunity to be gorgeous, but the freezing temperatures and cloud cover most of the day made it hard to enjoy the scenery.  There were a few burst of sunlight peaking through the clouds to brighten things up, however when you are in the middle of a 50k those only serve to heat you up more than you would like. A lot of the course is run on a nice wide gravel trail with trees on one side and an open field on the other side. Those sections are primarily flat. I really loved the sections of the course when you are running through the woods. Some of those sections were more technical and had more elevation changes to them. The woods, the technical trail, and the elevation changes are all thing s I love in the sport of trail running. There were some nice sections where you run pretty close to the river, which again would have been a little nicer if there wasn’t complete cloud cover. My favorite part of the race was a section where you are in the woods and you drop down across a short but relatively steep decent that is narrow and drops off to both sides and then when you get to the bottom you pull a U-turn and go back the way you came at a completely different elevation level and you enter this section of the woods that is like a small twisty canyon for a second. Its kind of narrow and wooded. When I got to that spot I was just like, wow this is why I do this.

Another aspect of this race that I could not possibly oversell is the fact that myself and two of my friends ran the race and then two more friends crewed us at the race the whole time. I ran the entire race with my friend who talked me into running the race. I have never before run an entire race with someone before, that was a nice experience and if nothing else it makes the concept of a race less stressful. Its more like just another long training run with your friend. I highly recommend that if you are going to run an ultra and can make a weekend with your friends out of it, do it. You will not regret it.

At this race I again tried something a little bit different. I only shot video with my GoPro’s and no photos. I then used my software to extract photos from the video. I am not happy with the results of those photos. The photos did not turn out as well as I would have hoped. After these last two races I will go back to some of my methods I have used in the past. This is what happens when you are always pushing the limits and trying new things. Sometimes things don’t go as well as you would like.

50 K Training: Week 3

Training for a 50k has been a big change to the way I run. I have never done any kind of official training program for any race I have run. If I set my sights on a run that is a little different in the past I just change the way I run to suit the type of race I am striving for. If the race is longer than what I normally run I just try to run a little farther each time I run until I can run that distance. If my goal is to run a familiar distance a little faster I just focus on trying to run each run of that distance a little faster and improve over time. If I am focusing on a a trail run instead of a road race I try to spend more time running trails.

Following a plan that tells me what days to run and how many miles to run is so much more regimented than anything I have ever done in my running or in any aspect of my life really. In a way its good because there it eliminates the decision making. Do I want to run today? How far do I want to run today? What kind of run do I want to have today? Not having to make decisions regarding the running is good. It alleviates a little bit of stress and indecisiveness. I know exactly what I am doing. I just have to look at my calendar.

On the other hand, following a plan feels a bit daunting at times. There is a limited amount of flexibility one can create within the structure if a plan. I sometimes can push a run back a day or run a day early. But other than that I wake up and I know, I am running TODAY. I think that as runners we have all had days where we just don’t feel like running. But when you are trying to follow a training plan to train for a very specific event you can’t decide I just don’t feel like running today and let that feeling win on a very regular basis. If you do you will show up to your race an be unprepared.

On Sunday 1/21/18 I finished up week three of my training plan. It felt like a particularly tough week. I felt tired several days I had to run. I just didn’t feel strong on most of my runs. There were days I just didn’t feel like running. There were days I almost stopped mid run and just called it good enough for no real reason than I didn’t feel like running anymore.

Part of this is I am running more miles on a more regular basis than I ever have before. I am running more days a week than I ever have before. And the biggest factor for me I think is, that due to it being the middle of winter in upstate NY, I have spent more time running on a treadmill than I had ever imagined I would. I am a hater of the treadmill. The monotony kills me. I can’t wait for Spring and more light an nicer weather.

On a positive note, Sunday I was scheduled to run a nice easy five miles the day after my weekly long run. My long run had felt like a struggle even though it was my shortest long run of the plan so far. I was kinda dreading going out for a run for fear that I just wouldn’t feel good. I procrastinated as much as I could. Eventually I laced up the shoes and stepped out the door.

It was relatively warm compared to recent weather trends here. I left my house and started slowly heading down the road. The run started off slow. But the longer I ran the more I wanted to run. The running started working its magic. I started to feel better. I felt better physically and I felt better about being out for a run. My run was supposed to be at an easy pace, but I was feeling good so I just ran what felt right. I didn’t check my watch much to make sure I was running the planed pace. I think just letting go and running the pace that felt right helped me feel better physically an spiritually. It was just the right thing to do for me in the moment.

I finished the run with an average pace that was 30 seconds per mile faster than what I was supposed to run but I also finished the run feeling satisfied. I left the mindset of training behind for one run and just enjoyed the run. I want to be prepared for my race. I want to be conditioned so I can enjoy the race but I also want to enjoy the training as much as I can. I think that this might be the approach I take throughout training from now on. As long as I feel good physically I might just run casually without minding my training plan once in a while for a refresh. It’s like hitting the restart button.

So if you are struggling take a minute and reset. Then get back to work.

Tanglewood Nature Center - January 13, 2012-183-2
Tanglewood Nature Center