I’ve just signed up for my first 50 mile marathon. The Salt Flats 100 offers a 50 mile event and that’s the one I’m going to run.
The plan I have had since 2013 was to work my way up gradually to a 100 mile race. I figured that I wasn't done running yet and that running is a lifestyle for me and not just something I am interested in doing for a few months and then quitting. So, why rush to get to 100 when I can have fun and learn along the way? So I decided that in each successive year I was going to run a longer race than the previous year and finish with a 100 mile race. So last year was my first 50k race (and it was my first trail race, too). This year, a 50 miler and then a 100k a year after that and a 100 miler the year after that. Who knows if I’ll stick to this exactly but sticking to it isn't the point. The point is to have fun running.
This particular 50 miler intrigued me because of its location mostly. If you didn't know, west of the Great Salt Lake are some of the largest salt flats anywhere. It is also pretty very remote. The nearest city, Wendover, is little more than a town that offers the closest gambling to those who live in and around Salt Lake City area. The Bonneville Salt Flats, as the area where the race is located is called, is where land speed records of many kinds have been set. And on race day will be the location of the start and finish of my first 50 mile ultramarathon.
The first 13 miles or so takes place on the salt flats and is essentially an incredibly flat, straight run until you reach the bottom of some mountain “islands” that rise out of the flats. The race then takes a turn and follows the base of the mountains before going around and up a pass and then back down on to the flats to the finish.
In the coming months I have to train to run this race. This will involve back to back long runs in which a 30 mile run on one day is followed up by a 20 mile run the next day (or some variation of this theme). The intent of the training is to get the body and mind used to staying on your feet and moving forward for greater lengths of time. The training is also an opportunity to find out what works nutrition-wise when your body has 30 miles on it. Sometimes, with that many miles, a stomach can get picky and cranky so it’s important to know as best you can what works and what doesn’t. One of the most important things involved in an ultramarathon is drinking and eating along the way.
I finished my first ultra last June. It was a 50k race (about 33 miles) and I finished feeling pretty good. Pacing myself was perhaps the most important thing that I did second to drinking and eating at regular intervals. The nutrition part of that race was according to my intent. I knew what I was going to eat and when I was going to eat it. The pacing, however, was thanks to a buddy that I ran into. My body wanted to run faster and more often but he kept me in check. I believe had I not let him slow me down I would have had energy problems near the end of the race and ended walking a lot and not finishing as strong as I did.
I might be crazy, but no more so than all of the other ultra runners out there, so that makes me feel good. I can’t wait to experience a 50 mile race and spending, I don’t know, something like 10+ hours on my feet moving forward.