Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Sunday, December 9, 2012

. . .five-oh . . .

A few weeks ago, while perusing the "inter-webs,"  I came across a race scheduled for early May that I'd not heard of before, although it's been around for several years.  Something about it stuck with me, and after frequent visits to the site, as well as reading multiple race reports from the past few years, as well as a YouTube video or two, I signed up.  So, on  May 4, 2012, I will run the Collegiate Peaks Trail Run 50 in Buena Vista, Colorado.  The fifty mile event consists of two loops of twenty-five miles each.  The first loop is run clockwise, and then it is run again in a counter-clockwise direction.
 As with any new undertaking, I'm both excited and nervous about the event, but mostly excited (I'm sure the nerves will kick in as the race gets closer).  I've been reading every article on ultra running and trail running (the two are very connected as most ultras are on trails), to get up to speed on this new challenge.  From what I can gather, there are some key points to remember in order to put together a successful training plan and execute an effective race.
Just like in marathon training, the cornerstone of successful ultra training is the Long Run.  The long run just happens to be a bit further.  Many of the plans I've seen also suggest doing a couple of longer runs on back to back days to simulate the "tired" feeling that the legs will experience during an ultra.  For the immediate future, I will plan on doing a long run on Friday morning before work, followed by an extra-long run on Saturday.  This means no sleeping in for me for the foreseeable future.  I hope to do most of my longer runs early in the morning so as not to interfere with family time during the day.
Another key factor in ultra running is walking.  Unlike a lot of marathons and other races, walking is pretty much de rigueur for an ultra distance race like this.  In fact, part of my strategy will be to walk much of the steeper parts of the race.  Because of the varied terrain, it's impossible to have a set pace to follow throughout the race.  The key is to keep pushing forward, taking walking breaks when necessary. 
The elevation profile demonstrates many opportunities to practice "walking."
Similar to triathlon, nutrition is another element of the ultra.  I anticipate that the race will take me anywhere from 9 to 12 hours (12 is the cutoff in fact).  That means I will be eating and drinking throughout the day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner (well OK, it won't be three squares).  A big part of my training will be learning to eat and drink while on long runs.  I hear good things about Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches!  I will likely try some other things too.  During the HITS 70.3 Triathlon last summer, I did experience some trouble with feeling nauseous during the race, so this is an area I will have to work on.  My hope is that I can get to where I can consume just about any type of nutrition without it wreaking havoc on my stomach.  During HITS, I discovered that the de-fizzed Coke was very effective in helping my stomach, and I was pleased to see that this will be offered at aid stations throughout the course.
Weather is another factor unique to ultras.  While many road races boast "rain or shine," this is almost always the case with trail runs.  What makes this more significant is that the race takes place in the mountains which means that weather conditions are subject to both greater extremes and more variety.  It will likely be well below 32 degrees at the start of the race, and if it's a nice day, it may be into the 70's by the afternoon.  If the weather is extremely hot or cold, then it will be an opportunity to reassess goals and determine what to do.  This will also impact the gear that I bring.  Runners are allowed to have a "drop bag" at the 25 mile turnaround so I can use that to stash anything I might need.  Anything else will have to be carried for at least 25 miles.  That means I will be looking into some lighter weight shirts and jackets to wear for this event.
Takes as long to watch as a Marathon and may in fact be more painful!
At the heart of the ultra (as well as many other endurance events) is the battle between mind and body.  It is accepted that during an ultra, a runner will experience several peaks and valleys in terms of emotions and the will to go on.  The body and mind will conspire to "convince" the runner that it would be best to stop this nonsense, go home, and rest.  It is the duty of the "spirit" to persuade the runner to keep moving forward.  In my previous experience with Marathons, the psychology of the thing was always the most formidable part.  Standing at the start of the first two races, I was filled with anxiety about whether or not I could actually finish.  The distance intimidated.  Yet each time I ran, I managed to finish.  In preparing to do my third marathon last May, I took a different perspective to running the marathon.  Since my goal was just wanting to finish, I was able to relax and not worry about times, etc.  Instead of thinking about having to run 26.2 miles, I thought about it as just a part of my morning.  Running for a few hours before lunch was all.  Hell, sitting through an Oliver Stone movie takes nearly as long!  This relaxed point of view will be my approach to the ultra.  Instead of fifty miles, I'll remember that it's less than four half-marathons.  It's just a long hike on a Saturday.  Nothing to sneeze at, but not insurmountable.  After all, there are thousands of people that complete an ultra distance race every year.  Besides, it's not like I'm doing a 100 miler.  Those folks are crazy!

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