The Real Cost of a Spring Marathon

Last Fall (2015), I broke down what your registration fee pays for. In preparation for this upcoming Spring season, I thought I’d break down what it really costs you to run a marathon (or any race) by sharing with you what I spent training for GCM 2016.

The first cost to consider is the registration fee. The Mercy Health Glass City Marathon registration fees start at $70.

The second is going to be your running shoes. Depending on what kind of runner you are, you’re probably going to need at the very least 2 pairs of shoes for training (because of all the miles). A lot of non-runners think that this is all you need…if they only knew. My Nike LunarGlides cost approximately $125 each, so $250 total.

Next will be your training plan. There are free plans on the internet. Or you can purchase a book. You can also hire a coach or join a training program. This year I signed up for Dave’s Marathon in Training Program at $125.

You’ll have to learn some way to track your mileage and training time. If you live where there are easily marked courses/roads, that’s awesome and you can probably get away with your standard stopwatch. But if you want to know how far you’ve gone and your current/average pace, you’ll probably want a GPS watch. This year I upgraded my outdated Nike+ Sportwatch GPS to a Garmin Forerunner 230 at $250.

I also prefer to run with a little background music. Thankfully my old iPod Shuffle is still alive and kicking, but due to rain/sweat/use I replace my headphones approximately every two months. Estimated at least two pairs for the training period at $15 each, so $30.

I also use some energy fuel during my long runs. Currently I am using PROBAR Bolt Chews. They come in a box on 12 packs; each pack contains 2 servings. At an estimated $30 per box and approximately 2 boxes to get me thru my training period, total cost should be $60.

I didn’t buy any new clothing during this training period, so that amount was $0.

Obviously it’s winter in Ohio. The weather isn’t always conducive to training outdoors. Last year, I joined Planet Fitness ($21.50/month) because they have the best treadmills in town; honestly, if the treadmill isn’t good, it’s going to make it even harder to get through your workout. For January-April, total cost was $86.

If you do any additional cross-training, such as Yoga, Pure Barre, or CrossFit (I do all 3), your monthly fees will also creep into your total cost. Yoga at approximately $65/month, Pure Barre currently at $149/month, and CrossFit at $100/month. For January-April, total cost was $1256.

Previously, I’ve used massages as a last resort when it comes to body maintenance; I relied on foam rolling (which I own), and a lacrosse ball (less than $5). As a Christmas present to myself, I purchased a membership to Massage Envy and worked a massage into my training schedule every 3-4 weeks. This costs approximately $90/session (90 minutes), and an estimated 5 massages to include a post-race recovery massage brings the total to $450.

Other considerations are tune-up races built into your training schedule. In the Spring I think there were maybe 2-3 races, running a total cost of less than $150.

The last costly venture of running a race is actual race weekend costs.

  • Spending at the Expo. I encourage budgeting to limit your spending. I think after all was said and done, I walked out with a $10 Nike Hat.
  • Parking (Expo and Race Day). For GCM this was FREE, but other races (hello Chicago and Detroit), parking was pricey.
  • Transportation. See above. Not an issue for GCM because it was local. But for big city races, and especially races that require you to travel (by land or air), transportation can be a cost factor.
  • Hotel. For any race requiring more than a 30 minute drive in the AM, a hotel can be nice to cut down on your time in the morning. But this comes with a cost.
  • Food. Most runners enjoy a pre-race meal, often coming in the form of a meal out. Mine is Chipotle for lunch and Sushi for dinner! This usually runs me anywhere from $30-40.

Total cost of Race Weekend was approximately $50.

Using my 2016 expenses for my own Spring Race listed above, to race this Spring it cost approximately $2777.

Obviously if I was on a tighter budget, I would forgo spending money on a new training plan (if I knew my previous training methods worked for me), not purchase a new watch or other equipment unless absolutely necessary, reduce the number of memberships I have, cut down on my massages (unless necessary, which for some people they are), participate in free tune-up races when possible, and stay local to reduce race weekend costs. This tighter budget still includes race registration fees, running shoes, energy fuels, one gym membership, massages and my local race weekend spending and has a total cost slightly under $1000.

Question: What items are including in your racing/training budget? Are there things you have to have and things that you can forgo to cut costs?

Jes

Preparing for the Incline

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Running a race that is known for it’s hilly course means having to prepare for those inclines. When I signed up to run PGH, I knew I would have to make sure I included hills in my training plan.

The number one way to prepare for a hilly course is to run similar hills in training (and run them often). For example, if you know there is a Half Mile long 5% incline about halfway through the race, then at least once a week you should be running a similar hill halfway through a training run.

But what if you don’t have similar hills to train on, or you’re running a flat course? Hills are like speed work, and can strength your legs and help make you faster, so even if you’re preparing for a flat course, you should still pepper hill workouts into your training plan. Hal Higdon includes Hill workouts in some of his advanced training plans; he recommends only three hill workouts during the training period, but suggests that additional hill workouts can be substituted in place of interval or tempo runs.

If you don’t have similar hills to train on, or you’re preparing for a flat course:

  • Find an “ideal” hill: 4 to 7% incline at least 0.25 mile to 0.5 mile in length and repeat 4-6 times. Warm-up and cool-down with a mile each before running hill repeats.
  • Substitute a treadmill: 5 to 8% incline, running hard for 30-60 seconds and recovering easy for 3 to 5 minutes.

If you live in an area that is predominantly flat, and don’t have access to an “ideal” hill:

  • Use a treadmill (see above). In addition to substituting for an ideal hill, you can also use a treadmill to simulate the hills you might see on your race day course.
  • Parking Garages. These are great places to get short bursts of decent inclines with flat areas for recovery. Be mindful and safe. I would recommend that Parking Garage runs are performed when traffic is minimal or restricted.
  • Bridges and Overpasses. While not always “ideal,” like Parking Garages, Bridges and Overpasses offer great inclines with declines for recovery.
  • Stairs. No this isn’t your standard hill workout, but running stairs work your legs similar to running an incline, while also having similar cardiovascular effects.
  • Use what you have! Make do with what’s available. Some coaches even recommend shorter hill sprints in their training plans. There isn’t a one size fits all approach. Personally I prefer to use longer inclines even if they aren’t 2% in grade over using extremely short steep inclines.

One of my favorite ways of getting in regular hills in my workouts are to include an ideal hill in my route and do mile repeats!

I hope you enjoyed this post. Good luck training for your next race!

Question: How do you use hills in your training?
Tell me in the comments!

Jes

P.S. If you’re interested in running the DICK’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon you can save $10 off Race Registration with the Discount Code TAYLOR2016. You can also save 15% at the Official Gear Store with the same Discount Code (TAYLOR2016)!

 

GCM16 Training: Week Five

Last week, I harped on common mistakes. This week I’m going to discuss goals. This topic isn’t new on my blog, but I feel it needed to be revisited. The first reason being is that I completed my first Yasso 800 speed workout this week. The idea of  “Yasso 800s” is to run your 800 in the same time you plan on finishing your marathon. For example, if you’re aiming for a 3:35 finish, you should run your 800s in 3 minutes and 35 seconds each with equal rest. You start with 4 Yasso 800s and build up to 10 about two weeks before your race. If you can sustain finishing your ten 800s in 3 minutes and 35 seconds each, then you are in 3:35 marathon shape. [SIDE NOTE: I met Bart Yasso, the creator of this workout, during the 2014 Shamrock Marathon weekend down at Virginia Beach. He is an extremely nice guy, but this workout is extremely sadistic! It will make you realize very quickly, if your goal is out of reach for your current abilities.]

The second reason for this discussion is because I’m entering the second month of training. This is the time when your goals need to be hammered out because it determines the paces you are going to be hitting for your speed workouts. It also helps you focus on the intention of each workout.

And last as a runner, you might be asked by a first-timer, what their goal should be for their first marathon. My favorite response is that as a first-timer they shouldn’t have a goal, they should just go out and enjoy the experience and celebrate making it through their training, isn’t always well received. Sometimes I’ll ask questions about their previous race finishes to gauge a response. It is not uncommon for a runner to PR 30-60 minutes between their first and second full marathon. A lot is learned during the process, and as you better know what to expect, you become better prepared. But this is not always true, so I tend to direct runners of all levels to prediction calculators, such as one from McMillan Running. Runner’s World also offers a Race Time Predictor. Another tool I use is part of my runcoach program where it will predict my finish times based on my most recent race. Now all 3 programs have some variability. But let’s use McMillan’s as an example. I entered my current 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon PRs and it was estimated that I finish a Marathon in 3:55. This is the shape I am in based upon those finish times, it does not take into account any training will be done. [Another Side Note: this week over at Salty Running they discussed Prediction Calculators.]

Many training plans include certain shorter distance races, and this is to help determine what your projected ability is for your marathon. I tend to focus more on the Half Marathon times, because typically runners don’t run “just double” for a Full Marathon. Using McMillan, let’s look at some Marathon Goal Times and their associated finish times:

  • 3:35 Marathon
    • 22:04 (7:06/mile) 5K
    • 1:42:10 (7:47/mile) HM
  • 3:45 Marathon
    • 23:05 (7:26/mile) 5K
    • 1:46:55 (8:10/mile) HM
  • 4:15 Marathon
    • 26:10 (8:25/mile) 5K
    • 2:01:10 (9:15/mile) HM
  • 4:30 Marathon
    • 27:43 (8:55/mile) 5K
    • 2:08:18 (9:48/mile) HM
  • 5:00 Marathon
    • 30:47 (9:55/mile) 5K
    • 2:22:33 (10:53/mile) HM

It’s a gut check to think mentally that I am training to run a certain distance, but I am not quite yet there for some of the shorter distances. While I do realize prediction calculators don’t always take into account important factors such as any changes in training. Regardless, whether my goal is 3:35 or 3:55, the plan is to PR because it’s been a full two years since my Marathon PR and I’ve PR’d my Half Marathon 3 times since then.

Monday:

  • Schedule – 5 Miles Easy
  • Actual – 6.0 Mile Run Outside in the AM.
    • This morning’s run was easy easy. I settled into a comfortable pace early and just relaxed. I rocked my ProCompression socks, which is a new thing for my Recovery Runs. And as always I warmed up by using my TriggerPoint and Rumble Rollers. I cooled down by walking my pup then doing a short little yoga flow.
  • Body Maintenance – 90 Minute Full Body Massage

Tuesday:

  • Schedule – 4-6 Yasso 800s
  • Actual -4.0 Mile Run Outside in the AM. 5.0 Treadmill Yasso 800s in the PM.
    • For my morning run, it was 30 Degrees but zero wind made for a great morning stroll.
    • In the evening, I warmed up with a 1 mile jog, completed 4 Yasso 800s, cooled down with a 1 mile jog. But to be honest, indoor mode on my Garmin didn’t match up to the treadmill. For my first 800, I was set at 8.2 mph which is a little slower than the 8.6 goal pace; as 1 minute passed I looked down at my watch and was shocked to see it read 8:35min/mile pace, so I cranked it up to 8.6 but still came across to 800m in 4:10 according to my watch’s calculations. I experienced the same issues over the next 3-800m to include that last when I increased the treadmill speed to 9.2 mph (or 6:30 min/mile) and my watch actually had me slowing down. The goal was to push through 6 Yasso 800s, but I was pretty much mentally defeated at that point and I knew I needed to regroup. I posted a pic and heard positive feedback from two coaches who I respect greatly. I can look at it one of two ways, I can stick by my watch, or I can consider that I might have actually ran 800+ meters for each repeat (0.56-0.62 miles). I’m going to go by effort and feel and conclude that this workout was a success.

Wednesday:

  • Schedule – 5 Miles Easy
  • Actual – 14.0 Mile Run Outside in the PM.
    • I decided to take my long run to the park today to work in a few hills. Most of these hills are short, but I did add in a 1/4 mile 2% incline 5 times into this run. Transitioning back and forth from trail to road also made for some inconsistent splits, but judging by feel I think I ran with a consistent effort.
    • I fueled by eating a later lunch and by consuming 1/2 a Luna Bar and 1/8 cup of Almonds at Miles 4.7 and 9.0.

Thursday:

  • Schedule – 6 Miles (Miles 3/4/5 at MP)
  • Actual – Rest Day!
    • Because of Tuesday’s tough workout and adding hills into my long run yesterday, I knew I needed to give my legs a day to recover before finishing out the week. I did wake up and foam roll.
  • Attended a 75 minute Yoga class at Yogaja Yoga.

Friday:

  • Schedule – Rest Day
  • Actual – 6.0 Mile Run Outside in the AM.
    • After Wednesday’s 52-42 degree run, today’s 21 degree (WC 16) run was a little tougher. I wanted to hit my MP at Miles 3, 4 and 5, but it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. So I didn’t stress too much about it and just enjoyed the run, while still making sure those middle miles were between my easy pace and marathon pace.
  • Attended an hour Vinyasa Yoga class at Thank Yoga.

Saturday:

  • Schedule – 11 Miles Easy
  • Actual – 6.15 Mile Run Outside in the AM.
    • I loved this run this morning. Something about being out so early, that I didn’t realize how slow my first mile was. I honestly thought something was wrong with my watch. I was so distracted just sightseeing that I wasn’t really focused on the running. So starting with Mile 2 I dug in and aimed for a fast easy pace. It was a success, although I did catch myself multiple times taking in the view.

Sunday: Rest Day! But I did enjoy a less-than 15 minute morning workout.

  • 5 x (2 Flights of Stair Sprints + 10 Push-ups + 20 Calf Raises).

Total Mileage: 41.0 Miles

You can view all of my weekly workout recaps here.

Looking ahead to Week 6 of Training, here is what I have planned:
Monday- 6 Miles Easy [Training Plan-6 Miles Easy]
Tuesday- 4 Miles Easy; 3 x 1600m + 2 minute Rest [Training Plan- 2-3 x 1600m + 2 minute Rest]
Wednesday- 6 Miles Easy [Training Plan-5 Miles Easy]
Thursday- 7 Miles [Miles 2-3 + 5-6 at MP]
Friday- Rest
Saturday- 16 Miles Easy [Training Plan-14 Miles Easy]
Sunday- Rest

Question: How do you decide what goal time to aim for?
Tell me in the comments!

Jes

P.S. If you’re interested in running the DICK’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon you can save $10 off Race Registration with the Discount Code TAYLOR2016. You can also save 15% at the Official Gear Store with the same Discount Code (TAYLOR2016)!

GCM16 Training: Week Four

As I enter my fourth week of this training period, I thought about some of the mistakes that many runners have made over various training periods.

  1. Going out hard every time. It’s easy to think that in order to run fast, you have to run fast. But that doesn’t mean that you need to run a PR every time you lace up. Some days need to be easy so that your body can recover. Those easy days are what will make you faster. Think about training like a Kenyan.
  2. Too much too soon. Many times runners come into a training program lacking the necessary base built up to the mileage. The classic conservative training guidance is to not increase your total mileage by more than 10% each week. So if you came into marathon training only covering 20 miles/week, you’re probably not ready to tackle a first week of 30-40 miles. Base building is very important, and often training plans will have base building as a part of the first few weeks, but that assumes you have been running prior to starting the program.
  3. Forgetting to Warm-Up, Cool-Down and Stretch. Simple body maintenance will help make your runs easier, prevent injury and increase recovery time.
  4. Rest. (See 1 & 2).
  5. Listen to your body. There’s a difference between being sore from working hard, and being in pain because you’re injured. And sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference; when in doubt, get checked out.

Monday: 6.0 Mile Run Outside in the AM. I’ve been a bit in my head about Saturday’s long run. So today I really wanted to focus on running but making sure it was easy. I did what I always do, sang and bobbed my head as I ran along. My legs felt fresh and happy. I warmed up by using my TriggerPoint and Rumble Rollers. I cooled down by doing a short little yoga flow.

Tuesday: 3.0 Mile Run Outside in the AM. This was in roughly 37 degrees with 20+ mph winds. Nice and easy with no music 🙂 My morning warm-up and cool-down were the same as Monday.
5.21 Mile Treadmill Run in the PM. I ran 12 x 400m (with 1 minute rest) at Threshold Pace. I warmed up with some dynamic stretching and cooled down with a short walk and static stretching.

Wednesday: 7.0 Mile Run Outside in the PM. I had an early morning at work. So I woke up and did about 20 minutes of foam/rumble rolling. After work, I headed outside with a Wind Chill below 20 Degrees and 15-20 mph headwinds. It was a little rough, but I felt very satisfied when I finished. My music also died because I forgot to turn it off after my treadmill run on Tuesday, so I ran the last few miles unplugged.

Thursday: 5.0 Mile Treadmill Run in the AM. Before I left the house, I did some rolling action; when I arrived at the gym, I did a short yoga flow. This run was 5 miles with Miles 2-4 at MP. Immediately during Mile 1 I knew I was in for a rough road ahead. It “should” have been easy as this is my “comfortable” 5K pace. I’m not sure if I was gassed from yesterday’s easy run, or if it was because I was on the treadmill; regardless it was a struggle to get through this workout. My Garmin and the Treadmill also didn’t match up in mileage. Mile 1 was on point, but by Mile 3, my  watch was almost a 1/4 mile behind the treadmill distance. Even though the speed was set to MP, my watch was telling me I was almost 30 seconds behind on pace. I was definitely frustrated, but I reminded myself that this is only week 4. The strength building really takes place during that second and third month of training.
In the PM, I took a 75 minute Yoga class at Yogaja Yoga.

Friday: Rest Day! I’ve spent at least 15-30 minutes each day this week with my rollers.

Saturday: 12.0 Mile Run Outside in the AM with Dave’s MIT. I ran with the 3:35 pace group in the back maintaining a comfortable 9:05 min/mile average pace.
After the run, I headed over to a 75 minute Yoga class at Yogaja Yoga.

Sunday: Rest Day! I did attend a 90 minute Vinyasa class at Red Yoga in Ann Arbor to start off my morning.

You can view all of my weekly workout recaps here.

Looking ahead to Week 5 of Training, here is what I have planned:
Monday- 6 Miles Easy [Training Plan-5 Miles Easy]
Tuesday- 4 Miles Easy; 6 x Yasso 800s [Training Plan-6-8xYasso 800s]
Wednesday- 14 Miles Easy [Training Plan-5 Miles Easy]
Thursday- 6 Miles [Miles 3-5 at MP]
Friday- Rest
Saturday- 6 Miles Easy [Training Plan-12 Miles Easy]
Sunday- Rest

Question: What goal(s) are you training for?
Tell me in the comments!

Jes

P.S. If you’re interested in running the DICK’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon you can save $10 off Race Registration with the Discount Code TAYLOR2016. You can also save 15% at the Official Gear Store with the same Discount Code (TAYLOR2016)!

GCM16 Training: Week Three

I’m going to apologize because my training posts so far this training period have been very basic at most. I’ll try to make sure that they fully reflect all of my 2016 Glass City Marathon (and Pittsburgh Marathon) training.

Prior to this training period, I vowed to make 2016 the year of body maintenance. I’ve been blessed that over the years, my body has seemed very resilient when it comes to all that I put it through. In reality, I am putting a lot of wear and tear on my body, and need to be more devoted to taking better care of myself. I have elected to receive a sports massage every 3-4 weeks as part of a plan to prevent injury and encourage recovery. I also am attempting to include more mobility exercises in my day-to-day. And if you haven’t already noticed, I do enjoy a bit of yoga in my life. While yoga has done wonders for both my mind and my body, it is not enough for all of the activity that I do, so I have begun incorporating it into my warm-up routine (again) as well as my cool-down stretching. Warming-up and cooling-down are often somethings I have neglected because I am always rushing, but I am focusing quite a bit on both. Range of motion and mobility exercises are perfect for that instead of the old-school static stretches. I have also become more dedicated to foam rolling.

Other things I am looking to work on include core strength and explosive movements. Both of which have been known to increase speed in runners.

Monday: 6.0 Mile Run on the Treadmill in the AM. Followed by some Yoga! I attended a 75 minute Vinyasa class at Red Yoga in Ann Arbor.

Tuesday: 3.0 Mile Run on the Treadmill in the AM; followed by some strength training. 4.55 Mile Fartlek Workout on the Treadmill in the PM.

Wednesday: 6.0 Mile Run on the Treadmill in the AM.

Thursday: 6.0 Mile Run on the Treadmill in the AM. Miles 2, 3 and 5 were at Marathon Pace or faster. In the evening, I attended a 60 minute Power Yoga class at Tonic Maumee. Before bed, I tried some foam rolling.

Friday: Rest Day! I did foam roll for a bit and do some legs up the wall before bed.

Saturday: 14 Mile Run Outside in the AM. The training schedule said 10 miles, but my personal plan was for 14. I woke up and did some morning yoga and foam rolling then headed to the park. I got in 4 miles before meeting up with my Dave’s MIT pace group for 10 miles. It was a struggle because the “group” pace was barely less than a minute slower than our Marathon Pace, and just a touch faster than my normal easy pace. I hung out in the back, but eventually lost the group. After the run, I headed over to a 60 minute Yoga class at Yogaja Yoga.

Sunday: Rest Day! I spent the afternoon reviewing my training plan and inserting some hill training. While GCM is perfectly flat, Pittsburgh is not. GCM is, of course, my goal race, and PGH is just for fun, but I would be an idiot not to at least prep my body for the hills that I will face in Pittsburgh. I also attended a 60 minute Power Yoga class at Tonic Maumee, as well as foam rolled and did some trigger point therapy with a lacrosse ball.

You can view all of my weekly workout recaps here.

Question: How is your training going?
Tell me in the comments!

Jes

P.S. If you’re interested in running the DICK’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon you can save $10 off Race Registration with the Discount Code TAYLOR2016. You can also save 15% at the Official Gear Store with the same Discount Code (TAYLOR2016)!

GCM16 Training: Week One

This year I have decided to train again for a Spring Marathon: the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon. Training officially started Monday January 4th. I was really nervous leading last week because we had yet to receive a training plan. Finally an email was sent Saturday evening, but still not training plan. Eventually on Sunday I found out that there was a hyperlink in the email, which I hadn’t noticed because my iPhone likes to underline dates and the like in emails. A sigh of relief. Reviewing the training plan though has been a tad bit concerned. It averages 36 miles per week with a peak week of 50 miles. And only one 20+ mile run, one 19 mile run, three 18 mile runs, and seven that are 10-16 miles long. That means there are 4 weeks where there are zero double digit mile runs. But at my first training session with Dave’s Running Marathon In-Training on Tuesday, I heard many of the faster paced runners discussing their mileage for the weekend. It sounds like there are some modifications; I think I’ll be discussing them with my pace group coaches next week.

Monday: 5.15 Mile AM Run Outside in the Snow Flurries. I warmed up with a little bit of light stretching and lots of foam rolling. (Training schedule said 4 Mile Run Easy)

Tuesday: First Training with Dave’s MIT at BGSU’s Perry Field House! We did about 6 laps during warm-ups and then a Fartlek of 2 minutes on + 1 minute jog x 8 then a 2 lap cool-down. I think overall we ran about 32 laps (or about 4 miles), my Garmin wasn’t really tracking my indoor running. When I calculated out this run based on the total weekly mileage, it should have been a 5 mile run.

Wednesday: 6.00 Mile Run Outside. I was experiencing flu-like symptoms, so I didn’t run the full 7 I had planned. (Training schedule said 4 Miles Easy)

Thursday: 5.00 Mile AM Run Outside. On the training schedule it said 5 Miles with Miles 2 and 4 at Marathon Pace. That didn’t happen.

Friday: Rest Day!

Saturday: Training Schedule said 7 Miles, but based on my base mileage, I had planned on running 11. In reality, I ran 0.

Sunday: Rest Day!

See all weekly workout recaps here.

Question: Are you training for a Spring Race?
Tell me how your training is going in the comments!

Jes

 

HUFF 50K: Lessons Learned

Since the HUFF 50K was my first ultramarathon, I knew that it would be a great learning experience. With that being said, here are some of the lessons I learned.

Stop when you need to. Often in road races, we push through because it’s probably only a mile or two until we can get what we need. In trail running, if you need to use the restroom you better stop because there might not be another one for 4-8 miles. Same if you need to stop to eat or stretch.

Do Trial Runs. Yes, I meant to say trial not trail runs. Test out your race outfit, preferably on a trail with similar weather conditions at your race pace. Learn if your hydration bite valve will freeze and how to thaw it out. Find out before race day if your gel, chew or bar will freeze and become impossible to chew. Learn what modifications to do with things happen. If the weather gets colder do I have to replace my either outfit or just my socks; if it gets warmer what is the first layer I take off?

It’s Okay to have Music, but it’s probably best to leave one ear bud out. Going into this I read repeatedly that you don’t listen to music on trails because they are narrow, people need to pass and because of safety reasons. While all of that is true, I was surprised to see the number of runners bust out their headphones as we approached the start line. I was thankful I had packed mine just in case (because I train with music), but I left one headphone out. Music doesn’t take away from the beauty of running trails, you’ll still see and experience it, but it was nice when I passed the mile 15 marker to have a great jam to rock out to as I headed in towards the finish.

If you bring it with you, Take it with you. When you’re out in mother nature, you don’t litter. If you have trash, you dispose of it properly. After the second manned aid station, I was surprised to see the runner-related trash on the ground in the coming miles. I started to stop and pick it up but really it was too much. Sometimes we might accidentally drop a wrapper, but remember that this isn’t a road race that has a clean-up crew to pick-up those gel packs.

Plan for the Weather. You’ll be dressed to run for hours, but don’t forget to check the forecast and be prepared. If there’s a chance of rain, pack a poncho or rain jacket. If it’s supposed to be hot, you might want to change out of sweaty clothes if you plan on running after the sun goes down. I wore layers and ended up taking off my Buff and Gloves after mile 2 to avoid overheating and sweating. But I carried my gloves for the remainder of the race because they helped warm me up quickly when I got cold in the shade or wind conditions.

Pack Accordingly. If it’s summer, you might want to include some bug spray or sunscreen (to reapply due to sweat). If there’s a chance you’ll run when it is darker, you’ll want to pack a headlamp (and batteries).

Don’t be afraid to Walk.  Especially on trails, the hills can steep. There is no shame in walking them because it saves your legs for the rest of the course.

Watch your Step. In road races, we look ahead; keep our eyes on the horizon. If you do that (and I did) on a trail run, you’ll probably trip over a root hidden under the leaves. And on downhills, you don’t want to roll an ankle.

Eat and Drink Early and Often. Also known as the Eat-Drink-Repeat plan. This concept is still hard to grasp after finishing my first ultra. In a road race, I’m intaking about 100 calories every 45 minutes and grabbing sips of water every two miles. It’s similar to how I train as well. But during a trail run, your body is doing much more work and needs the extra fuel and hydration.

Plan your Fuel and Hydration. Similar to the tip above and below. Know at which mile or time marker that you will consume your goods, or what and how much you will consume at an aid station.

Remember to replenish your supplies. I ran out of water at mile 25. I barely downed half a liter during my last 20 mile training run, and here I am out of water. Well at least I was hydrating through out the race. But unfortunately the next aid station was unmanned and it had run dry, so I was without until the finish. It was a scary place to be for 6 miles. But I was thankful that I had brought my own water and was able to drink when I needed to during those first 25 miles, instead of only relying on aid stations for hydration.

There is no right-way. I’ve read a few bloggers who take that a hydration pack is unnecessary for a 50K, but I saw plenty of runners out there with them (myself included). Some runners relied solely on the aid stations and others were completely self-sustaining. Then there was a mix that did both. Because I train with a full hydration pack, I didn’t feel that there was any extra weight to carry during the race.

Lastly, Rest and Recover. Make sure you have a detailed plan for how you will recover. Includes making sure you refuel your body, and rehydrate as well as when you will do body maintenance. I included some simple stretching and foam rolling, plus wore my ProCompression socks. I scheduled yoga daily after my race, and knew when I would take my first recovery run. But most importantly was my hydration plan especially in the first few days.

NOTE: Keep in mind that that every race is different, and many factors will change based on the season in which the race is run. So try to learn the special considerations to the conditions you will encounter.

Question: What was the biggest lesson you learned from your first big race?
Comment below!

Thanks for reading!
Jes