A pirate wearing a Utilikilt. Chunks of glazed donuts. Twitter hashtags galore.
You’re either wandering the hollow subconscious of that douchebag in the White House… or running one of the 2017 Siskiyou Outback trail races in Ashland, Oregon.
This past weekend I was doing the latter (and totally crushing it-btw.)
It was my very first time officially running the SOB 50k. I’ve volunteered at the race before and have spent plenty of time running the PCT on Mt. Ashland, so had a general idea of what to expect (runnable, rolling hills, cushy trail, lil bitta elevation, wildflowers, the BEST people.)
I hoped to finish in 6 hours or less. This was based on the 6:08:55 I finished GC in, subtracting the precious minutes I wouldn’t be spending taking photos of the Grand Canyon.
So how did I magically knock an extra 20 minutes off my time? I have some ideas…
I hired a running coach
Not just any coach, but the indomitable spirit that is Jenn Shelton. My shero. This is big huge news!
I’ve only been training with Jenn for about three weeks, but it’s already made a huge difference in my body and my mind, both of which worked their friggin ass off to get that time at SOB.
The best thing about having a coach is not worrying about your training schedule. Jenn builds it all for me. My weeks are a mix of easy runs with long ones, spiced with speedwork at the track and some killer hills.
One hill workout, in particular, was really intimidating me. I had to do it at the end of a week when my leg muscles already felt like sandbags. When I set out before sunrise to get it done, I was legitimately scared but promised myself I’d give it everything I had.
By the end of that hill workout, I’m pretty sure I was breathing fire and had blood shooting out of my eyes. But I kept my promise of going 100% balls out and I survived. Later on, when I looked at my pace data, I felt really, really effing pleased with myself.
Like, really pleased.
There are always points in an ultra when I feel tired and want to slow down or stop to rest. This usually happens around mile 24 and going up dusty, exposed hills.
Whenever I felt that sense of inertia creep up on me during SOB, I conjured up the feeling that brutal workout stamped on my heart. Just like a magician.
I told myself I was so close to being done. This race and this fatigue won’t last forever. Nothing does. I wouldn’t let myself walk if I knew in my heart I could move faster.
I sang praises of positive affirmations
For the first 8 miles of the race, I had Puff the Magic Dragon stuck in my head. I was even singing it out loud to myself as I shuffled past PCT hikers through fields of beautiful flowers. I told myself I was a strong, beautiful magic dragon AND I CAN FLY BITCHES!
I’d also like to thank Jenn for helping to reinforce this positive mindset. She really is more like a life coach.
Any negative thoughts that crept up were immediately cut off and left behind me on the trail. Mental baggage really weighs you down out there.
I fueled right
Jenn suggested I take in about 100 calories every 30 minutes and just use the aid stations as extra bonus calories. I NEVER eat this much during a long run. I usually wait for aid stations during races. But she’s a pro, so I obeyed.
SOB had tons of aid stations. Some were only water jugs, but the ones that were manned offered all the awesome you could hope for in a race as far as food, beverages, and entertainment goes. (Pirates.)
At mile 25ish, one of the AS volunteers told another runner, “you run an ultra on your stomach, not your legs.”
I get it now. More food = good.
Most of my races and long runs are fueled by “real” food. I typically eat things like dried figs, granola bars, candy (rarely, but it happens), pb&j, etc. I carried a variety of different snacks in my backpack for SOB, only to discover a newfound disgust for solid food. I assume this was related to my increased level of effort (and the HEAT).
The only way I could get the calories I needed was with gels. Just looking at the pb&j squares arranged so neatly on the aid tables made my guts twist in protest. I grabbed gels at every station and grazed on things like chips, potatoes dipped in salt, pickles, watermelon wedges, and as much Coke as I could gulp down.
***side note- I have yet to find an aid station that pours just the right amount of soda into those cups. Always too much or too little. Goldilocks complex?***
I couldn’t even really eat at the finish… except for beer, chips, and more pickles. Weird!
I carried a soft flask I used to mix up my own electrolyte drink. I’m a fan of Hammer Endurolytes Fizz and went through 3 tabs throughout the 50k. Between the fizzy drink and the electrolytes in the gels, my body felt good the entire time.
I also took Hammer Endurance Aminos every hour. I started using these recently and can honestly say they’ve made a huge difference in my energy level during long runs. Seriously, everyone should be taking these all the time!
I also took a yerba mate shot around mile 25 as a little pick me up. So many B vitamins!
After this race, I’m considering using some kind of sports drink with calories to fuel my long runs and races.
I kept my eyes on the prize
I told everyone, even Jenn, that my goal was 6 hours for this race. Deep down, 5:38 was the time I really wanted. I wasn’t sure I’d get it, even as I picked up and sprinted down the final stretch. I could have sworn the clock already said 5:39… but, hey, I can’t see for shit!
I’m weird about sharing my goals. They’re mine. They’re personal. If I fail, I want to be the only one disappointed about it.
And, really, the best piece of advice I ever got was that goals are arbitrary. Sorry, but it’s true! If you’re not in love with the process, then boy are you skrewwwd!
So, when people ask me what my goals are for a race, I might answer like this:
But I kept my real target time in mind. Every time I wanted to slow down, or linger at an aid station, or take a photo, I knew it would pull me farther from that goal.
Somehow I balanced it perfectly, getting exactly what I wanted and still having a good time. A great fucking time.
I had an “on” day
This was the most important thing. I didn’t encounter any injuries or digestive issues. I didn’t even fall, which is a miracle considering I’m having a record year for blood loss on trails.
Things don’t always flow so smoothly. Some of my friends shared tragic tales of their own struggles with the evils mentioned above when we met at the finish, so I want to express extra big gratitude for the good day I had.
Time to celebrate!
I want to thank the SOB race directors and volunteers for putting together an amazing event and awesomely good time!
A lot of my running friends were up there with me and a lot of them crushed their own PRs in both the 50k and the 50-mile races. I’m so, so proud of everyone who was out there <3
But honestly, my personal highlight of the whole thing was watching my friend Lee Ann finish her first 50 mile race among a group of really sweet friends.
High vibes and happy times.
Now that I’ve finished writing this, I’m going to finally crack open my race beer ;)
Freelance writer. Trail runner. Relentless savage.