Alright… The time has come and we are down to the last few days before our first 50-mile run! (Read our original conception of this plan here and recaps of our training along the way here here and here) We have put in the time, thrown down the miles and training, laughed, cried, and struggled through months of work and on Saturday we set out to conquer our final goal. My fingers are shaking as I try to type this blog post, so that gives you an idea of where about I stand.
Our training was tough, but who didn’t expect that? Personally, I had a really amazing January and February, an extremely rough March with only one significant long run as I was slightly sidelined staving off an injury in my hip, and April was full of personal commitments that proved to be extra-challenging to find time through. Just over a week ago, we participated in the Ragnar Trail Richmond event as an ultra team and logged our final long run of 31 miles. With unexpected extreme heat forcing us to slow down, I felt strong the entire event and came out with a slight bit more confidence for the Dirty German. I would have to call out Melissa for having hands-down the most dedicated and textbook training of all… If anyone should be feeling ready and totally prepared for what is going to happen this weekend, it’s definitely her. Emily knocked it out of the park as well, especially with juggling so many things on her plate. As moms, we had many heartfelt conversations about the struggles our families were taking on as a result of us training for this event. All three of us have little boys that crave quality time with their moms, and all three of our hubbies had to step up at home and carry us through this work as well. It really only added to the emotional challenge and struggle we have conquered! I also have to think how amazing of an example we are setting for these young men… that we set a really high bar, a really hard goal and they have not only watched us first hand as we struggled and succeeded, but they also had to struggle and succeed. That is not lost on any of us. Now, as we taper, I know I felt a little awkward this last weekend with only a 10-miler planned and some cross training… What do you mean I can sleep in until 5:30am? We aren’t running at 4am? And I can still be home by 9am?? Weird. I even made it to my son’s soccer game on time!
We followed a pretty consistent weekend running schedule of build – build – taper – build – build – taper, with back to back higher mileage, usually a long run on Saturday and a mid-to-longish run on Sunday. There were a few times we were able to use races as “supported long runs” such as the Mid-Maryland 50k, Seneca Creek 50k, and our latest Ragnar Trail Ultra… I totally stand by this as a solid training strategy and would have done a few more had my schedule allowed it.
There were not many weeks that I ran during the weekdays, as I’ve found less running is better for me and I focus on yoga, cross training and strength training throughout the week. A typical week for me was:
Yoga Monday (and the last month I’ve been doing a slow 3.5 mile with my hubby during soccer practice)
Aqua Spin Tuesday
Power Train Wednesday
Rest Thursday (like complete, no workout rest)
Power Train or Yoga Friday
Long Run Saturday (peaking around 30 miles)
Long-ish Run Sunday (peaking around 10-12 miles)
This strategy kept me mostly injury free, and fresh for my weekend runs. Supplementing something like Power Train Boot Camps has been an essential training strategy for the past year and a half. I have a chronic foot issue (here) but for some reason, I also refuse to stop running so I have found this balance is really important for maintaining my fitness level while letting my foot pain recover throughout the week. Additionally, I think it prevents me from getting burnt out! When I run less, I actually crave those long runs on the weekends instead of dreading them. Anyway, it works well for me and keeps my muscles strong!
I always run with my Nathan hydration pack. Mine is an older model – I feel like I got it before they started making them in pretty colors and more functional systems; however, it works really well and I have no reason to get a new one (other than I like the colors!). Here is what I have and use. Nathan really stands behind their product and I have to attest to the durability and quality, as I’ve had this vest (and abused it!) for almost 8 years and just this month had to replace the original bladder!
I also carry a small water bottle in the front pocket that is filled with Tailwind. If you’re late to the game, Tailwind has been a literal game-changer for endurance fueling for me. I’m not an ambassador (yet), I’m not paid or incentivized to say this, but you can tell that this product is made by people in endurance sports. It’s also the first sports drink that doubles as mid-run nutrition for me. I still supplement with foods, but I need it far less frequently, and I don’t have any gut issues during or after the race, and I feel so much better afterward as well.
For mid-run nutrition, I’ve been relying on Honey Stinger Waffles. During some of the races we have used as supported training runs, I have used additional supplements such as chips, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bacon, grilled cheese, Cheetos, Oreos, and other miscellaneous junk-turned-quick-fuel.
Race Day and Strategy:
Oh man… the big kahuna.
Leading up to race day, I’m cutting out most processed foods and sugar, focusing on whole foods, high-quality nutrition, and about 40% of my macros are fats at this point. By Thursday, a slight shift will occur to more focus on carbohydrates. I’m consuming close to 2500 calories a day and drinking upwards of 160oz of water. Being in the military, my brother always said “The water you drink now will help you later” so it’s vital that we go into Saturday’s race extremely well hydrated. My workouts are low intensity, with my last run being 3.5 miles Monday night. The goal is to keep the heart rate low, stretch and work out any muscle kinks, and I’ve been using the Cold Plunge at work a lot!
Melissa, Emily and I are driving up Friday afternoon to check-in to our hotel and get settled. Dinner the night before a long race like this is usually very plain spaghetti and sometimes a glass of wine to calm my nerves. I’ll probably take a melatonin, and practice some breathing techniques I’ve used in Yoga Teacher Training in addition to a short meditation.
Saturday morning, I’ll wake up with sufficient time to eat, relax, stretch and get the bathroom breaks out of the way… I like to kick off with a cup of coffee, and some plain steel cut oats with cinnamon and tart cherries. Tart cherries have some benefits such as anti-inflammatory properties and they’re a rich antioxidant. I aim to eat about 2 hours prior to the race and then a small snack like a Clif bar or banana about an hour prior. I pack most of my own meals for events like this because I want to keep the variables as much to a minimum as possible. Practice how you want to perform… Perform how you practiced. The park opens at 6:30 for bib-pickup and our event begins at 7:30am.
We have a group of friends coming to support our efforts and to participate in the shorter events hosted by the Dirty German Endurance Fest. According to the event website “This race course is located within Pennypack Park, a hidden gem within Philadelphia’s Fairmont park system. The park stretches along Pennypack creek for about 7 1/2 miles, and is home to many trails, huge old trees, birds & other wildlife.” The 50-miler is broken up into three loops with aid stations every 3-6 miles. I broke it down as best I could from the race description and map:
Since we have friends running various distances, we will have a pretty solid support crew not only during the run but at our Homebase (HB) as well! They are prepared for a variety of requests on Saturday, but hopefully the most we will need is a solid cheering section to keep our positivity high and our focus on the mission. A lot of ultra running is mental, so it’s really vital to have that support just in case our mental game starts slipping.
Pack list: Supplies:
Nathan hydration pack – Hoka shoes – Salomon trail shoes (backup) – compression socks – KT Tape – running outfit (TBD) – 1 extra running outfit TBD – Garmin Forerunner35 + charger – GoPro x2 – external chargers – extra socks, 1 pair for each loop – wipes – ibuprofen – Pepto Bismol tabs – salt tabs – petroleum jelly – Garbage bag, one to wear, one for trash – GOTR hat – Buff – rolling pin/foam roller – post race outfit TBD
Pack list: Foods:
Tailwind – Honey Stinger waffles – Salty plain potato chips – Cheetos – Campbell’s chicken noodle soup – pickles – watermelon – Gatorade – Simply Balanced fruit chews – Nature’s Path Organic toaster pastries
This was almost the most stressful part of the process as none of us consider ourselves very good at asking for money. But we partnered with a local chapter of Girls on the Run through one of the women in our MRTT running group and were passionate about our cause to spread some good through the community (world!) throughout our journey. That passion must have been palpable because you guys blew our expectations OUT OF THE WATER! Seriously! We started out with the thought that we might have 50 friends and family members (one for each mile we would conquer) who we could probably count on to throw down an average of $10 each, thus the $500 goal was born. When all was said and done, to date we have $1772 total raised throughout 53 donors MORE THAN TRIPLING OUR EXPECTATIONS!!! We cannot thank everyone enough who contributed to our cause. Click here for more information about Girls on the Run of Central Maryland and where that money will go for local programming. (And yes, we will still take donations for our event: here).
The good stuff:
The weather looks a little questionable, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m nervous about it. Last weekend for the Ragnar Ultra, we conquered 90F+ temps and high humidity, and this coming weekend looks like a high of 57F and a possibility of showers. So if you’re into things like “weather dances” and superstition, get on that stuff right now!! I’m not so concerned with the temp, that will be very welcomed; however, running for 10-12 hours in the soggy rain is a little daunting.
My plan for race day is simple: Walk the uphills, jog the flats and downhills, take in 100-200 calories every 45-60 minutes, and use the aid stations as markers to stretch and shake out. I’m taping my knees for support, as I felt some peculiar tenderness prior to Ragnar and this strategy felt amazing during those 31 miles. We are going to comfortably make the time cutoff of beginning the 3rd loop by 3:45 pm, and then crush out those last 15-ish with pride.
I think that just about covers it all! I can’t wait for the experience, and to see what all this prep has actually prepped us for… I am nervous to work this hard, but am excited to see how our strength will persist and pull us through. Tune in to our IG (TheFermentedSole (Amy) emily_rising (Emily) Mediocreinstarunner (Melissa)and 3WomenRunning4Good) for last minute and race day updates!! Here we go!!!