Fridays Off

One of the things I've done differently on the build to my first 50 miler is taken a fair amount of time off work. In fact, by the time I toe the line on March 19, I will have taken off 5 days for Friday long runs, including this past weekend. The reasons are simple:

1.) Five hour runs are difficult, both emotionally and physically. When I do them when the family is at work and school, it's easier for me and, I suspect, for them. By the time they get home, though, I'm showered and ready to enjoy the weekend, same as them.

2.) When it comes to taking off work, in the words of Jim Rome, "I get a lot of time, so I take a lot of time." Not an insane amount of time, mind you. I couldn't, for instance, take a week off work to train every season. But this is a year when I get a 2 week sabbatical in addition to my already generous vacation plan, so when coupled with #1, it made sense to do so.

The long runs themselves are going fine, though not like I'd expected. I had planned on doing most of them on the Conewago Trail, a mostly flat twenty mile rail-trail where I have done most of the long runs for all my marathons. But snow came early and often to PA this year, so I had no choice but to do them on the roads around my house. Though I feared this would lead to injury early on, it hasn't at all, and I've seen pretty much all there is so see near my house.

Though many ultra runners prefer to run 6-8 mile loops, stopping at their house or car to refuel, I'm not a fan of that. There's something too tempting to me to be so close to home with an hour (or hours) to go before I can stop. So instead, I load up my jacket with tons of food and hit the road. On my 30 miler, I did a simple out and back... meaning out for more than 2 hours, turn around and head back (I turned around about 3 minutes before the half-way point, feeling I'd fade a tiny bit, which I did). Most recently, I did a 35 mile loop which took me from my home in Lancaster to Marietta, Maytown, Elizabethtown, Mount Joy, Salunga, Landisville and home. Between Sheetz and other clean mini-marts and gas stations, refilling my water bottle every hour or so was simple, too. And the distraction of figuring out where you're going to stop next is welcome, too.

Though carrying that much food isn't fun (more about that), you get stoked every hour as your supplies become lighter and lighter.

Speaking of food and gear, here's what I take with me:

1) Handheld water bottle. I put a new Hammer Electrolyte FIZZ in to start.
2) In my other hand, Hammer Nutrition flask with gel. I take a little gel every hour and a little extra if my blood sugar is trending low (less than 120)
3) Energy bars. Mostly Cliff Bars. One per hour for the first hour.
4) Protein bars. Though I'd hoped to try Perpeteum solids from Hammer, they were back-ordered on my last Hammer order (guess they're popular!), so I have a Cliff Builder Bar hourly from the 4th hour on. This gives me the carbs, plus a nice dose of protein.
5) Supplements. I'm not messing around, folks. I have a little sandwich baggy for each hour. Inside: 2 Endurolytes, 1 Anti-Fatigue capsule. 1 Energy Surge, which I place under my tongue once I'm done eating.
6) iPhone 4, set on Shuffle.
7) Credit card, just in case I need something else.
8) Garmin 405. Though I love using Runkeeper on my iPhone, it's a little less accurate and - more important - a fully charged iPhone goes dead after running Runkeeper more than 4.5 hours. Learned this one the hard way.
9) One touch mini

I have spent much of this training period figuring out my walk/run plan. As in most races, I expect to finish around the 15th percentile. This is a curious place. I'm not going to be one of the fastest guys, so you won't see me running 50 miles straight. At the same time, I don't expect to be walking that much, at least not for the first six hours.

While I've tried walking every 20 minutes, the best thing right now seems to be stopping every hour, testing my blood sugar, pounding food and supplements while walking and then getting going once I'm settled back in. It equals about a 3 minute walk break per hour. From the 5th hour on, I've added in additional walk breaks as needed, though I still don't need them more than every 30 minutes or so.

As the miles have gotten longer, I haven't had too much of a fall in pace. In fact, on last week's 35 miler I went through the marathon mark in 4:03, my fastest yet on the training runs. While this all translates to a 50 miler in about 8 hours flat, it's unreasonable to not expect some sort of slide. Still, I'm hopeful I can beat my original goal of 8:40. I expect I won't know until those last few miles come up. One of the things I've learned in these long runs is that thinking about the latter miles is wasted brain juice. Just put in the early miles and the middle miles and - soon enough - the latter miles will appear.

For my blood sugars, I am keeping my pump on and actually keeping my basal rates at 100%. Simply put, the goal for an ultra is to consume as many calories as you can. To do that, I'm not reducing my insulin rates at all. In most cases, this has worked well. Between the energy bar and supplemental gel, I'm able to keep my blood sugars in a pretty good place.

All in all, I'm pleased with my build and my health. Awesomest coach Missy Foy has been her usual awesome self and my teammates from TeamType 1 have given me needed encouragement, too. Right now, I'm only two super long runs away from the NJ Ultra Fest and I feel as if I couldn't be any more prepared, given my lack of experience at the distance. As always, though, time will tell.

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