Sunday, February 26, 2012

What Does It Take To Run A 50 Mile Trail Race?

I am running my first 50 mile trail race in about ten weeks: The North Face 50 at Bear Mountain, NY.  I consider myself to be a complete newbie when it comes to running ultra's.

To date I have participated in two running races, the Dam Half Marathon and the Seashore 50k.  After the rock covered hills of the Dam Half, I was sore for two days but it was nothing I couldn't deal with. After the flat 50k my hip flexors were non-functioning and my calves and achilles tendons were tied up in knots. I couldn't lift my legs to get out of the car. I spent the Monday after the race shuffling around work like a crab missing more than one leg. I almost fell over when I sneezed as my hip flexors couldn't deal with the force of the explosive exhalation. Basically I felt like I got hit by a truck.

Finishing straight at the 2011 the Seashore 50k - My legs are in a world of pain.

Not wanting to experience the pain felt after the 50k, I have been mulling over ways to prevent pain both during and after an even tougher 50 miles. To areas of training that will be the key to my success include:

1. Downhill running - During the last 5 miles of the 50k my quadriceps protested and the slightest loss in elevation. Luckily for me the race was almost pancake flat and I was able to survive and finish. At Bear Mountain, however, the course has 7,000 feet of elevation loss. This means a lot of eccentric stress on the quadriceps muscles and potentially crippling weakness during the race coupled with a huge amount of post race muscle soreness. I will need to work on both volume of downhills run as well as technique or rocky, slippery slopes.

2. Food Intake - I like to run on an empty stomach. I like to think I am teaching my body how to burn fat for fuel. I don't like the feeling of food jostling around my stomach. I don't care for sticky, syrupy sweet energy gels. Unfortunately, ultra running requires food. And lots of it. Wait to long to eat and your day may end sooner than planned.

Race day also brings two undeniable facts: Pre-race nerves and the too fast start phenomenon. Both of these scenarios can lead to improper usage of fuel early in the race which can spell disaster as the day progresses.

Over the next few weeks I will discuss the physiology behind downhill running and how to prevent muscle soreness. I will also look at strategies to help with race day nutrition to help keep both body and mind functioning.

1 comment:

  1. Kane. Welcome to the world of distance running. Not sure why you chose to start with ultras!! --Kyle