It’s been said that “no other sport involves as much time to think as distance running.” Gavin Coombs (Runologie Run Program Coordinator + Coach) may know a thing or two about that. He recently completed his first ultra marathon, a distance among distances. Below is Gavin’s first hand account, written by himself on what his first ultra race meant to him, how he prepared and the race itself:
I decided about 3 or 4 months ago to try my hand at Ultras. Most people thought I was pretty crazy, especially considering I was coming off a few good half marathon races. There are a few reasons why, but ultimately I just wanted/needed a change of pace (literally and figuratively). Like most people who have been doing something for a long time (I’ve been running for about 21 years) I needed to mix things up a bit. So, I started looking up some 50k Ultras. I wanted something that was going to give me a taste of the distance without being overly technical or challenging. I choose the Salem Lake Frosty 50k because it fit exactly that. Gently rolling, dirt path, 12.5 k (~7.75 miles) loop. It is the perfect race to try out the ultra distance. I highly recommend it.
I went into the race not expecting much. I wanted to run well but also to survive it, learn from it and keep moving forward. The race started like most races; a countdown, a gun, and a mad scramble for position (this being an ultra that “scramble” lasted only a few steps). The course is relatively flat, with only one major climb right at the end of each loop was a challenge. The first two laps went by pretty quickly. I had trained for this, I knew I could get through this part. As in all races, the race is not won in the first half but in the second half. It is with this mindset that I went into lap 3. I was feeling good, strong, heading into lap 3 and I decided to start pushing the pace. I had the goal of negative splitting which is typically hard to do. Lap 2 was faster than Lap 1 and I wanted to make sure Lap 3 was faster still. To be honest, I felt better than I thought I was going to. I attribute that, in large part, to my fueling strategy. I elected to use Hammer Nutrition’s Sustained Energy for the first 3/4’s of the race and Huma Gel+ for the last 1/4. With this mix of complex carbs and protein early and simpler carbs later gave me the energy to push through when the going got tough, which really started to happen early into Lap 4. I went into the final lap feeling strong and well on pace to run my goal time. A few days before the race I was reading in Haruki Marukami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” and he was talking how some runners have a mantra running through their heads. I rarely have ever done that, but I relied heavily on that on my long training runs and through the later stages of this race. I kept repeating, “Just keep going, one foot in front of the other.” I knew I was going to get to the finish line, baring anything catastrophic, I was going to get there. But how I was going to get there was the question. “Just keep going, one foot in front of the other,” worked to keep me rolling when, over the last three miles my hips, back, and hamstrings started cramping. Pushing through what I thought might knock me out paid off. My last mile was pretty much on pace with my previous laps and my last lap was my fastest. This led me to the second fastest time ever and all in a all a pretty positive start to my ultra adventure.