Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ready or not, here it comes: My 1st ultra marathon

When my alarm went off on Saturday and I hit my snooze for another 10 minutes it hit me: this is the last time, other than race day, that I will have to get up early to run until February! An ultra marathon is anything beyond the distance of a marathon. This weekend, I will attempt my first at the North Face Endurance Challenge on trails on the Marin side of San Francisco. It's a 50K, so it's what I consider a 'baby' ultra when compared to the 50 or 100 milers that "real" ultra runners do. But, it still counts! Although it is the shortest distance as far as ultras go (33 miles), here's what really has me nervous: the 6,000 foot elevation gain, resulting in a 5 out of 5 difficulty rating. Especially since El Morro Canyon, where we did the majority of our hill and trail training, only has about 1,000 feet of total elevation gain.


Maximum Elevation - 1,360 ft
Eleavtion Gain - 6,331 ft
Elevation Change - 9,750





COURSE OVERVIEW:

Situated in the visually stunning Marin Headlands just north of the city, The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship course has surprised runners with both its scenery and amount of elevation change. Participants are encouraged to train for repeated uphills and downhills of several hundred feet at a time. A majority of the course covers a runable fire road (very little technical single track) overlooking the Pacific Ocean with occasional glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Elevation Change: 5

Technical Terrain: 2

Overall Difficulty: 5

Scenery: 5


There will be aid stations approximately every 5 miles. For this reason, I'm not bringing anything new with me - just my normal 1 water bottle pack that I carry with me during most marathons.


Here's the aid station menu:

The following food and beverage items will be provided:
• Salty Snacks (Chips, Crackers, and/or Pretzels)
• Cookies and/or Brownies
• Assorted Candy
• Chicken Broth
• Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
• Potatoes
• GU Energy Gels (Vanilla Bean, Chocolate Outrage, Strawberry Banana, Jet Blackberry)
• GU Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Gels (Roctane Blueberry Pomegranate)
• GU Electrolyte Brew (Lemon Lime, Raspberry)
• nuun Electrolyte Tabs
• Soft Drinks
• Water
• Salt
• Assorted Fruit


Some of the aid stations are unmanned, so I hope they don't run out of food or water! I'm bringing at least 5 GU packs just in case.



I'm also really nervous about getting lost on the course, which is marked by different colored ribbons.Although Delia and I plan to stick together, I bought a case to clip my cell phone onto the belt of my running pack...in case I get lost. While I may not have cell reception, they should be able to find me based on cell tower pings. Get lost??? It can happen on ultra runs. I actually run with a girl who got lost, along with several other runners, while attempting an ultra. They were following what they thought was a trail, and it dead-ended into a stream. Unsure if they were supposed to cross, they back-tracked and saw a ribbon tied to a tree, a signal to go a different way. This ultra is sponsored by North Face, and should be both better supported, and better staffed. But I can get turned around on our normal runs in the hills above Irvine, so I'm not taking any chances! I really don't want to end up on that show I Shouldn't Be Alive.


From the website:
COURSE MARKING:


Ribbons: At The North Face Endurance Challenge, each distance will follow a unique color of marking ribbons. The color of the ribbon your course follows will match the color of your race bib. The colors associated with each course are as follows:
Gore-Tex 50 Mile: ORANGE
50K: BLUE
Marathon: PINK
Marathon Relay: RED
Half Marathon: YELLOW
10K: RED
5K: PURPLE
Images 1 and 2 show an example of the ribbon used to mark the courses, and typical placement of ribbons. In this example, the runners in 50 Mile (orange), 50K (blue), Half Marathon (yellow) and 10K (red) races would be following the trails marked with these ribbons. If the course was only for 10K and Half Marathon, only red and yellow ribbon would be placed. Anytime runners do not see their race color among the ribbons hung on the trails, they should take it as an indication that they are no longer on their race course. They should return to the last place they saw ribbon matching their race.



Image 1


Image 2

I imagine us out there, any mile after mile 20, not noticing the ribbons! I get spacey when I run farther than 20 miles, and the photos above are from their website! Can't they make them bigger? I could easily miss the ribbons shown here!


The last major thing I'm worried about is making the 10 hour cut-off time. I just want to finish. Our 'easy' 10 mile taper run on Saturday wasn't easy, and this has been playing on my mind all week. Part of that was due to the almost 80 degree heat, and it will be much cooler outside of San Francisco (expected high of 60), but it was still more difficult than I expected, given how high our mileage has been. You would think it would get easier, but those 10 miles still felt like 10 miles. If I don't finish, all that training since August - all those back-to-back weekend runs have been for a good attempt, a good try, but not a finish. At this point, I've done all I can. We finished our last run - a short 3.7 miles tonight with a beautiful sunset and now it's time to rest and carbo load. And stay away from sick people! There's a lot riding on this, and I desperately want to finish, so I can cross doing an ultra off my list! 

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