(Only a month late, but that’s usually how I end up doing these analysis type of posts. Have to think about things or a while, forget about it, get tired of it sitting around in a draft, realize I’m done thinking, and just post it.)
Obviously I couldn’t be happier with the ultimate outcome: my first ultra finish, and while it involved a lot of sweat, there was no blood, and there weren’t even any tears this year. I got a whole lot right, and most of the “change or do better” category are minor bumps and nitpicks versus major game-changers.
Since I’m still very, very new to this ultra game, this will not be a streamlined list. This will be me laying out lots of details, mostly for my own purposes of future reference and remembering.
What I Wore
I was vacillating on what to wear for two weeks ahead of the race. First the weather was going. Then it was going to rain. Then snow. Then be perfect. Then cloudy. After some indecision, I finally settled on:
- InkNBurn “Sakura” singlet. This was actually a brand-new design release from them the week before the race. I have a deep love for cherry blossoms, so I took it as a good omen as a “meant to be” race shirt for me.
- InkNBurn “Dragon’s Gate” capris. These were a good pick for multiple reasons. 1) I was afraid my leg muscles might get cold in shorts, and stiffen up. But capris aren’t as warm as tights. 2) Have done a fair amount of training in these and they’ve never done me wrong. 3) Thigh chaffage is a real thing. The longest run I’ve done in my InB shorts has been 15 miles; I was unsure of the chafe factor/how much BodyGlide I would need beyond that point. 3) InB always has a really cool “meaning behind the design” story, and this one resonated for me:
“These capris were inspired by the legend of Dragon’s Gate. The story tells of a huge, glimmering school of koi swimming upstream in the Yellow River of China. Gaining strength by fighting against the current, they came upon the waterfall at the start of the river. Many of the koi turned back at this point and let the current carry them away. The remaining koi refused to give up and leaping from the depths of the river, they tried to reach the top of the falls. This caught the attention of mean-spirited local demons who raised the height of the falls just to be cruel. After a hundred years of jumping, one koi finally reached the top of the waterfall. The gods recognized the koi for its perseverance and determination by turning it into a dragon, the image of power and strength.”
My goal was to be that koi. No turning back, just keep jumping, one step at a time, no matter how long it took.
- Nathan VaporHowe race vest. A new acquisition for me, I was able to put all of two training runs and 10 miles on it ahead of time. Overall I really like this vest. Doesn’t bounce at all, super comfortable, and tons of pockets and storage. The hydration bladder is really easy to access, to re-filling at aid stations was super-fast. My only gripe is that I think it runs a little small for the measurements, at least for us busty gals, so I had to undo the straps during the worst of the climbs so that I could breathe easier. (That said, I’ve had to do that with every hydration pack, and even some of the bands on my sports bras, so it may just be me and having a hard time handling any rib cage constriction whatsoever.) I would like to try adding some elastic pieces or extra length to the straps to see if I can fasten it a little looser — straps are extended out as far as possible. Even with un-doing the straps, I didn’t have issues with the pack bouncing or slipping.
- Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 shoes. I have two pairs of Challengers, one with ~ 200 miles on them and one with ~ 25 miles on them. I started with the newer pair with the though of having the most amount of cushy padding for the faster, harder-packed section of the course. I think they could have done with a little more breaking in, though, as they were a littler tighter around the toes and I ended up having a blister rubbed on my right big toe from them. I had my well-worn ones waiting for me in my drop bag at mile 15, though, and I switched over to them for the remainder of the race. Definite difference in toe space, so the newer ones will be in for a thorough round of getting even better broken in over the next couple weeks.
- Balega Blister Resist merino socks. I’ve had really good luck with these socks. Small aforementioned blister was due to the shoes and part of my tape getting scrunched up. Socks are super-comfortable, and even when my feet got a bit wet during one of the creek crossings, the merino kept my feet warm and comfortable.
- SmartWool arm sleeves. These are a really good option for me when conditions are slightly cooler. I tend to warm up very quickly when running, especially once the sun is out. So it has to be near-Arctic conditions (or raining) for me to wear jackets or long sleeves. I started with the arm sleeves, ditched them in my drop bag at the halfway point, and only briefly wished I had kept them with me for a couple miles of cooler, cloudy weather between mile 20-23. And then the sun came out again and I was perfectly warm in my tank top.
What I Consumed
I did sooooo well in the food/drink department this time around, and it made such a difference. I followed the mantra of “eat early and often” so I never got behind on my intake as the race went on, and as foods got a little less appealing, I still had reserves left in my tank from earlier.
I’ve also learned that consistent calories is more important for me that hitting an exact number of calories, especially taking in large quantities at a time. I do much better with a few bites of something every 30 minutes rather than a gorge-fest at the aid stations.
Huma Chia seed gels were a surprise hit — I could have managed a couple more of them. They were a great option for when I hit the level of “but I don’t wanna eat.” More substantial than Gu/other gels (most of which were concocted in a chem lab test tube), and made with all natural ingredients, they’re easy to slurp and swallow, sit well, and don’t have a fast-hit-and-crash effect on me. Strawberry, Raspberry, Mango, Lemonade, and Strawberry Lemonade are all ones I’ve enjoyed.
Hydration went really well, between carrying my water pack and a soft bottle in one of the pockets that held Skratch labs drink mix. This is definitely my go-to for any kind of electrolyte drink…about the only thing that tastes good when it gets lukewarm, and it’s really mild-flavored. Also not concocted in a chem lab. Has passed the approval test for both riding and running.
Misc Thoughts on What Went Right
I was really surprised at my fast recovery. I’ve felt far worse after shorter races than I did after this one, so obviously I didn’t over-do it, and went in with sufficient training. I even went to the gym the Tuesday after the race…not at all-out capacity and effort, but enough to engage in “active recovery.”