You don’t run 50 miles without a plan. (If you know me, I don’t do anything without a plan!) Therefore, I have two main goals for The North Face Endurance Challenge – Wisconsin 50 miler:
- Finish in 6 hours and 15 minutes
- Have fun
How am I going to accomplish these goals? Check out below.
Finish in 6 Hours and 15 Minutes
When running an ultra, strategy becomes very important. It doesn’t matter how fast you can run. It matters how you pace yourself and how you fuel.
6 hours and 15 minutes is a 7:30 min/mile pace. The trail has rolling hills but no big climbs. Talking with Mark, we have estimated that to be a 7:00-7:10 effort on flat roads. I think I can do that.
I’m sure we will talk strategy on the car ride to Wisconsin, but I would love to run the first 10 miles with fellow Thorsmen, Mark and Joe. I would like to ease into things and run around a 7:30 pace for those 10 miles. I don’t want to start out slower, but I definitely don’t want to let adrenaline push me below a 7:00 pace. After 10 miles, I need to find a good rhythm. I think that rhythm can be around a 7:15 pace. From there on out, it’s about staying in a rhythm and finishing strong. For a perfect day, I’ve got to be able to put in a push between miles 40-50.
Do I think I can run faster than 6 hours and 15 minutes? Absolutely. However, for that to happen, pacing and strategy will have to be on point. As you just read, I do plan on starting out a little faster than goal pace. I want to give myself a chance. If I die a little bit and lose pace towards the end, that’s okay in my book. If I crash and burn, then I really did something wrong.
Fueling will be key. They say an ultra is not about how fast you can run. It’s about how much you can eat. The goal is to fuel early and often. I will be wearing a hydration pack with two 16oz bottles. One bottle will hold water, and the other will hold water with 4 scoops of Tailwind (100 calories per scoop). I will carry 4 more scoops of Tailwind in my pack, so that I can refill once near the halfway point. During my last 20 mile run, I took two drinks of Tailwind every two miles, which worked very well, so I will continue that during the race. I will carry Clif Shot Energy Gels (100 calories) on me. I plan on taking at least two. As I’m sure I will want real food at some point, I will also carry two Honey Stinger Waffles (150 calories). If I accomplish my fueling goal, which is easier said than done, I’m looking at 1300 calories. Lastly, I plan on refilling the bottle of water at each aid station.
Placing depends on who shows up to the race, so my finishing time is more important. In past years, 6 hours and 15 minutes would get 2nd. I just found out that the 3-time defending champion, Tyler Sigl, will be running the 50k. That leaves the podium wide open for Iowans. Scott Gall (pictured above), who I travelled to Colorado with this summer, is a nationally known name who will be the favorite. There is the definite possibility of another fast person, but without an entrants list, I think I fall in line next. Of course, I would definitely like to be on the podium. Mark and Joe will be challenging me too. Last ultra, Mark snuck up on me during the last 5 miles. Furthermore, I can’t forget that if I run a great race, I could challenge Gall near the end. Anything can happen in an ultra!
Finding out about Sigl definitely changes things. Knowing that I have a shot to win (it’s not a big chance, but it’s there) certainly makes pacing more difficult. I know my heart will want to go out with Gall, but I have to let my head rule. I cannot let myself start too quickly.
Lastly, I have to be flexible with this goal. I must be willing to adjust along the way. I haven’t seen the course, so I don’t know what I’m truly capable of running. I’ve talked with previous runners, examined the elevation chart, and read about it online, but I won’t know what I can do until I’m on it. There is also supposed to be rain leading up to the race. If the course receives a ton of rain, it could get sloppy and slow things down.
What do I think is going to be the most challenging part? Mile 35. The mental aspect of an ultra is huge. I’m in new territory after mile 35. (However, I can tell myself I’ve ran for 5 hours before, so maybe that will get me to mile 41.) When I reach a low point, which will happen, I have to do four things:
- Think of my other goal. Have fun and smile!
- Remember running up and down Pikes Peak with Gall.
- Remember grinding out those long runs during my big weeks.
- Think of all the awesome support you guys have provided!
I tried to prepare myself for the low point. That’s why I ran 124 boring laps around a track. That’s why I purposely ran long runs on legs that wanted to collapse. If I stay positive and patient, I can get out of the low points quickly.
This goal is not flexible. It’s easy:
- I’m going to smile.
- I’m going to cheer on fellow runners during the out and back sections.
- I’m going to chat with aid station workers.
If I can following the strategies I just laid out, Saturday will be a great day. I can’t wait to see what happens!
If you want to follow my progress, you can sign up for live updates here.
If you missed it, check out how I spent my summer training for this race.
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