Why did I want to run 50K?
Why not? To be honest, being impressive is a big motivator for me. A lot of people have goals to run 5K or 10K, so why not just push for something ridiculous? Similar to what Goggins says ‘be uncommon amongst the uncommon’ is something that really resonates with me. Most people have goals – I prefer to have challenges, it makes them all the more rewarding when you achieve them. Other examples:
Why was this my time to run an Ultra Marathon?
Firstly, the plain definition of an Ultra is a long-distance running race that is longer than a marathon (42.2K). My definition is more like Trail Running for any distance 42.2K or longer. Some people think you need years or months of training to run this length. There are plenty of stories out there saying otherwise and I tend to stick with the belief that almost any semi-fit person can complete an ultra – the manner or time in which you complete it is to your own standard. It may take someone with next to no training 10 hours to walk the whole thing, but they will have still completed one!
With this belief, one late night I finally made the plunge onto the internet to find some challenges. I found this one: Warburton Trail Festival – Lumberjack 50K.
As I read through it, I thought I had seen it before. It took a while, but I remembered the Beau ‘Bean’ Miles ran this same one in his video: The Human Bean: 40 days on a tin-bean diet.
As a giant fan of Beau, I knew this was the one. With next to zero training, I signed up there and then, locked and loaded for my first Ultra. Upon signing up, I just wanted to complete one in a decent time without walking – i.e not first, or at 5min/km pace. The goal / challenge of 50K was enough – or so I thought.
My Preparation and Training
Checking through my emails, I signed up at:
Time: 11:17 PM
The race was on Saturday, 6 March 2021, so that gave me a massive 36 days to train up. After looking at my Strava history, it was clear that I had not put in the training yet to get anywhere near 50K. I knew that I would have to really start upping the KMs to even have the confidence to get down to Melbourne and to the starting line.
Extract of longer runs from sign up date:
It was clear that over the next few weeks I would have to put in a lot of time into running. I would usually write up a plan for these things, but I just knew I needed to put in the time. In hindsight I would suggest POST TBC: How to prepare for an Ultra Marathon. I had a look at the elevation profile and type of running that would be expected and tried my best to mimic my training around that.
Pretty simply, it’s easier to run long distances when you carry less weight. At registration I was around 78kg. I thought anything under 74kg would be good and that would naturally come through more running. I ended up coming down to 72kg.
Food provides you with energy. I needed energy so I was eating a lotttt. Breakfast usually consisted of muesli with some fruits (banana, mixed berries). I cannot stress how important bananas are for me. Lunch and dinner was usually 1 part vegetables, 1 part protein (meat or vegetable protein) and 1 part carb (flat bread). So 67% of my meals were a burrito mix 🌯.
Listen to your body
This is the most important. Listen and learn. I found that bananas really gave me energy. I made my own energy gels using bananas, BCAA capsules, caffeine pills, frozen berries, cinnamon, muesli, etc. I stored it in a chilli bottle.
I went out the first day and ran 21K on trails. Knowing that’s not enough, I thought running on tired legs would help build strength. I think I pushed too hard as my knee started to feel pain towards the end of the 21K footpath run. In hindsight I should have stopped but being around 18K in, I couldn’t do it to my pride. It wasn’t anything serious, but to recover I had to keep it to the elliptical machine.
Training types and environment
I’m a firm believer in training in the environment you will compete in. Luckily for me, Lane Cove National Park is basically my backyard, so it was easy to run trails. I would recommend mixing it up to incorporate hills, long distance and short speed (maybe not sprints though).
Study the map
Load gps on watch.
Probably better for another article – Working Holidays – making the most of COVID changes in workstyle.
- Collect your bib! Day before if possible
- Charge your GPS watch
- Prepare your gear the night before
- Prep your breakfast
- Eat big eat early
- Arrive with time
The hardest part of the day was waking Kel up early to drive me there and back! We arrived early and I couldn’t believe my eyes, Beau ‘The Bean’ Miles was there, as the Lumberjack again! I walked straight over and introduced myself and wished him good luck with the race.
As with anything that means a lot to me, I felt nervous at the starting line getting the racing brief. Unlike most races, the starting bell for this one is not a horn, but when the Lumberjack cuts through the log (see video).
The run started well and I was probably towards the middle/front of the pack which was unexpected as the athletes looked very fit. Started at roughly 5:00mins per Kilometre until we hit the wall of elevation – roughly 700m of 20-30% incline. I had often thought of myself as a downhill specialist, however I was powering past my initial group and took off once we got to the top.
It was cold which helped keep the heart rate down as I raced onwards through the more technical and wetter terrain. I had skipped past the first few aid stations as I wasn’t drinking as much water in the cold as I would during my Sydney training. I eventually caught up to a few others on the trail and actually made somewhat of a trail mate as we paced well together. At the 30K mark I had to let my running buddy go as I started to feel ill, a first. I quickly realised I hadn’t had anything at all to eat, so squeezed down my whole chilli bottle of Banana energy. After 10-ish minutes I was ready to roll and hammered down hill, barnstorming the next 15kms.
With only 5-10K’s to go, I realised I had this in the bag! From roughly 45kms, the course was mostly gravel. I kept looking back to ensure no one was trying to pip me towards the end. I had originally told Kel I would be roughly arriving after 5:00hrs assuming I was running a solid time. I had to text her mid water crossing to let her know I was ahead of schedule. As I was streaming down one side of the river I saw her running towards the finish line. Crossing the line I thought I would feel something – all I felt was exhaustion. Asking the officials for my place, they had surprised me to the extreme. I had come in 10th out of 152 athletes – for my first Ultra Marathon. There it was – that sense of accomplishment and jubilation that I had way overachieved on my expectations.
Celebrated with an ice bath in the Yarra River. The freezing water I think helped with recovery and muscle soreness as I wasn’t completely gassed the next few days.