So I’ve done it. I’ve signed up for my second race. Earlier in 2016, I ran my first marathon, the One City Marathon in Newport News, Virginia. Well I took the plunge and signed up for my first Ultramarathon, The North Face Endurance Challenge in Washington D.C. The race is in April of 2017. It’s a 50 mile race.
Now most people would say, “50 miles! Why not run a 50k as your first ultramarathon?” To that I would say, and have said “But that is only 4.8 miles longer than a marathon.” Now I’ve never been one to make decisions that made any sense to my family and friends. I’ve made decisions based one what felt right to me at that time. The biggest of which was made a few years after my father passed. I packed up my motorcycle and left home to ride out to the west coast. It was the best decision that I’ve made to date.
My running goals till I ran my first marathon, were simple. Run 3 miles. Run 5 miles. Run 10, run 13.1, etc. Following the marathon, I started dreaming of an ultramarathon. I even considered the 50k. But the more I thought of it and with the encouragement of my coach, I made the decision. It only took me 4 months to click the mouse. And once I did, it was a relief. All that is left is to train. No more thinking, doubting, or reasoning.
So as I pursue my goal of 50 miles, there are smaller decisions to be made. I’ve been researching and following other ultrarunners that have the experience that I’m hoping to get as I make my way towards my end goal. I’ve been reading books for knowledge and inspiration. Books like Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes and Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell are my current go to books.
My first order of business was to find a nutrition plan to have in place when the big day comes. I learned that ultramarathons have aid stations that not only supply water, but that they also have food. Not just gels and the like, but real… food! I’m talking about pb&j sandwiches, m&ms, and watermelons! Nutritional demands are very different in ultras than in marathons. Your body will tap into all of its sources of energy. So over the last few weeks, I’ve experimented with eating some food while running. While it never caused me any issues, it still felt strange to eat mid-run. It’s just something else that you have to carry while training. Then I found a great product called Tailwind. It’s designed to be an all in one nutrition plan. You place the powder in water bottle and go! So far it’s working for me. So I’ve made the nutrition decision. Tailwind it is.
Another decision that I’ve made is regarding footwear. Shoes are a personal choice. I ran in a pair of Altras when training for my marathon. They served me well. But not long after my marathon, I started running in a pair of LUNA sandals. My whole idea of what running was changed after just a few runs in a pair of LUNA sandals. I’ve run in a pair of trail Altras a few times. But the bulk of my training has been in my LUNAs. My coach has said I’m not the average runner. I’m learning to embrace that.
Through my reading, I’ve started creating a list of the items that I may need for my first ultramarathon. As I continue through my training, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to narrow that list down to just the bare essentials. If there is anything that I’ve learned through my running and my life, with all the decisions that I’ve made… It is to remain flexible. Knowing that the decisions that I’ve made yesterday, may not line up with the decisions that I make tomorrow. The same can be said for race day. While my decisions may change the goal… remains the same. 50 miles. One mile at a time.