Preparing for Superior 50 Mile Race
Here we go! My race needs are all prepped and packed for the Superior Fall Trails 2017 50 Miler. I've put in my training miles and I've accepted that I have trained as well as I can and I will trust in it to get me through. My plan was a 50-70 miles per week hybrid plan, and in July I ran almost 200 miles (including taking a week off after RUTS and also taking a week of vacation where my running wasn't 100% on schedule). In August I ran over 200 miles for the first time in a month. I feel good about my August training but I know I didn't meet all the targets. I am proud of my commitment to strength training and cross training, though I could most certainly do better in both departments next time.
Things I've been planning for and obsessing about include:
1. Weather & what to wear: forecast right now is for clear skies Friday and Saturday. This is good for trail conditions to be more dry than muddy. Mud slows you down substantially and of course is an extra hazard for running. Temperatures will be an overnight low of 47 and a daytime high of 64. Winds less than 10 mph. Sounds perfect to me. Definitely will need to start with arm sleeves but will wear short sleeve shirt and compression shorts. Wool socks. Brooks Caldera trail shoes. I only have one good pair, but I'm bringing my old pair just in case. (That old pair has about 400 miles on them so they are not really good for running anymore, but you never know what will happen in an ultra.)
2. Fuel Part 1: I have 2 hydration vests. They are both new but I have run long runs in both. I will run with water bottles in front and no bladder. That is lighter than how I've been training and provides 34 oz of liquids, and my longest distance between aid stations is 9.4 miles. I have run that distance many times without drinking more than 34 oz of liquids, so I know I can manage this. I'll carry one water bottle of water and one bottle with Skratch. Skratch is one of the lower sugar electrolyte replacer drinks and seems to do well with my stomach. During the last month, I've been practicing running with the front water bottles only so I can adjust fit. It seems I lost some weight over this training cycle and I had to make some adjustments during the last month to my clothes, especially finding a smaller bra that wouldn't chafe and getting smaller hydration packs.
3. Fuel Part 2: All the food. You can see my tackle box in the photo. That's for Jeanette, who is crewing me. She will be at all except 2 of the aid stations, and I can visually see the things I packed and decide which fuels to take with me on each segment of the trail. I also have packed fuel into each hydration pack. Enough for up to 15 miles. I always carry extra too. You never know when another runner will need something, or you will put something in your mouth and decide it's not the right thing for the moment, or you aren't thinking clearly at the aid station, etc. I have a selection of gels, waffles, jelly beans, chews, and candy. I also will eat at the aid stations especially later in the race when I need some protein. PBJ sandwiches are good for that. And I'll eat potatoes dipped in salt, chips, and other treats at aid stations too.
4. Fuel Part 3: Timing of fuel. I've practiced this a lot. I take a long drink of Skratch and a long drink of water at each mile, when my Garmin buzzes. And I drink to thirst too. I also use Base Performance Salts to replace electrolytes. Generally I don't need that right away, but I carry it for when I feel like I need the electrolyte/salt boost. I will start by fueling early and often. Initial goal is to eat a gel or gel-equivalent (100 or so calories) every 45 minutes to an hour. As it becomes harder to eat things, I switch over to real food and find protein. Usually that happens to me between 25 and 30 miles. Jeanette will be checking in on how I'm doing and will force me to eat if I'm not eating enough. When I can no longer face food, there will be Hammer Heed, broth, Coke, and other liquids at aid stations that I can try. Generally I don't have stomach troubles, but I did at RUTS and was able to overcome those. I will need to stay focused on hydration up front and listen to my body.
5. Pacing plan: I'm still working on this but I've built a spreadsheet. I will need to start slow. As Jeanette always says "start slow because you can always ease up." Her voice will be in my head when I want to go out fast. 52.1 miles is a long way to go. I already posted about my goals in a prior blog post and those haven't changed. First and foremost, I would like to finish the race under the cutoff of 16.5 hours. My A goal is a finish time of 14 hours, but my main goal is to finish in approximately 15 hours. I will be happy to meet any of these goals, but I think 15 hours is most reasonable based on my training. I think a starting pace of 16 minute miles will be safe, but I expect I'll end up starting at more of a 14:30-15 minute mile, based on the course descriptions and race excitement. (Gravel road for the first 2 miles).
6. Other details: breakfast before the race and a post-race meal need to be planned. I have to be on the shuttle to the starting line at 3:45 a.m. so that means an early wake up and an early bedtime. Race starts at 5:15 a.m. in Finland, MN. I will be running in the dark for the first part, and likely for the end of the race too. So I have a headlamp and extra batteries.
7. Travel: Jeanette and I are driving and we leave early Thursday morning. We will drive to Jay Cooke State Park in MN and camp there Thursday night, then finish the drive Friday morning. We will drive home on Sunday. It will be a long day, but both of us will need to get home in time for Monday morning routines.
8. What's next: I am still working on this. I know I'm not done running ultras, but I also know that I need to give my body time to recover, and I do not have another race on the agenda this year besides Bourbon Chase. I plan to do some more biking, and to do some relaxing on the weekends, focusing on some other hobbies too. But I know it won't be long before I'm itching to hit the trails again!