My first 50k Ultra Marathon experience
I registered for my 50K ultra marathon in July after the Schaumburg full marathon. I had done two marathons by then and I wanted to go beyond 26.2. The options were 50k or 50 miles (80k). After some deliberations I decided to do a 50k as physiologically 50k seems gettable as it is in the neighborhood of the full marathon distance and won’t be much of a stretch for someone doing ultra for the first time.
I had logged 315 miles since June for the ultra training for this ultra at an average of 63 miles per month. During this training I managed to get one 26.2 and two 20 miles. My confidence level shot up with the 26.2 miles as I managed to do it in 4hrs 34 mins. A big improvement from the earlier race. The key was understanding my pace and executing it accordingly. I had an injury during Schaumburg marathon by going too fast early in the race and completing the race in 5:13:24.4 (chip time). This meant that I had to work on my technique and understand the ideal pace for me. I read a lot of articles about it and one of it said “Arm carriage and correct foot fall are important for developing a precise running gait, but the easiest way to improve your form is to focus on running cadence. The correct cadence can vary by individual. Optimal cadence is generally considered to be somewhere around 180 strides per minute”.
I slowed down on my pace and focused on taking smaller strides. I’m still working on placing the feet closer to the center of gravity when it lands (whatever it means technically). I have a tendency to land on heel than on the mid foot. Technically the feet supposed to land on the mid foot and then roll towards toe as we take the stride. A friend of mine who is a vivid runner told that it may cause knee pain as lot of exertion falls on the heel and thus on the knee. This will also slows down the pace during the run.Per the researches landing on mid foot will give the necessary momentum during the stride.
Read this interesting article on this topic.
I was more relaxed this time unlike the first marathon (Chicago) where I went through some anxious moments due to lack of the necessary training. I was watchful of what I was eating during the race week. I collected the bib the day before the race; this time very early in the day as I didn’t want to spend lot of time outside. I did the necessary carb loading and packed all the necessary things for the race. The weather was 100% chance of rain and thus had to dress up appropriately. I managed to get some good sleep as well.
I woke up early and got ready. I had a Bagel with Cream and a banana and of course lot of water. I reached the place at 7.30am. There was lot of time as the race was scheduled to start at 8.30am. The race started at Grove 19A, near the 63rd Street Beach House in Jackson Park, located on the south side of Chicago, along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. As was predicted it was pouring in the morning and continued to rain the whole day. There were close to 300 participants for 50k and around 100 for 50miles. The race started on time at 8.30am. As per my plans I started slowly as I had instances of going too fast early in the race. I did my first mile in 10:38.8. It was little difficult to run due to cold weather and rain made it worse! The wind impact was very high as it was right next to the lake shore. As shown in the picture below the track is pretty flat which made the run lot easier. 40K was a three-loop course with the distance of 10.34 per loop. The volunteers had arranged for aid stations at the start line and at the end of mile 5,right at the U-turn for loop.
I completed my 10k in 1:04:15.By now the rain had made enough damage; the clothes and socks were totally wet making it very difficult for the runners. I was feeling as if I was running with extra 5 lbs. bag but I still managed to keep up with my target pace. The run continued uninterrupted and I took 2:05:17 to complete 20k.
Rain continued to pour and I had stopped worrying about it and also I was used to run in that condition. I worked mile after mile and in no time was in the 25th mile. I was determined to better my earlier performance so sprinted that mile. By the time I reached the point where we make the U-turn it was 25.9. So I ran further 0.3 miles and came back to the aid station and filled my bottles and was ready to run the remaining 5 miles. The miles 27-31 took almost 11.5 – 12 min/mile as I was pretty tired and legs were refusing to move.
Per Garmin, I completed the 31.4(additional 0.4) in 5:41:32. The move time is 5:32:45. The Average Run Cadence is 163. The fastest mile and the only mile under 10mins /mile is the 26th mile.
The average time is 10:52 min/mile. Not a bad one for the first ultra and that too in rainy, windy and cold 46.0° F (9°C) conditions.
BTW, I upgraded my watch from Vivo active to Garmin Forerunner 920XT. Vivo didn’t had any major issues but lacked some capabilities that XT920 provides.
I should say it has been a very satisfying first ultra marathon run for me. Something I will cherish for a very long time. The volunteers did a great job throughout the event. Not to forget Beth’s delicious hot and spicy Rice and red beans.
Interested runners in Chicago area should definitely consider doing this. The website for this ultra is