Lessons From My First Ultramarathon

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Iwas looking for a race in Idaho this summer and came across the To Bone and Back 40 Miler in Idaho Falls. I’ve been thinking about doing an ultra for quite a while. In fact, I said that after I qualified for Boston I’d run one but had never found the right opportunity.

In many ways doing the Leadville Marathon made me more confident about taking on an ultra because I survived a tough course and over seven hours on my feet. I also enjoyed the more laid back and non-traditional aspects of the trail marathon.

So in a haze of post-marathon euphoria and Colorado’s thin air I signed up for this race. Even though I was registering just a few days before the event the fee was only $45.00!

To Bone And Back 40 Miler

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This was the 25th annual To Bone & Back Relay and Ultra which starts in Idaho Falls, ID. Runners could choose from a 2-8 person relay or do the ultramarathon. The 20 mile and 40 mile runners started at 5:30am and the other relay participants started at 7:30am.

Pre-race/Packet Pickup

Packet pickup was located at Summit Orthopedic on Friday from 5-7pm. We got a nice reusable bag, tech shirt, pen, chapstick, small first aid kit, computer mouse pad, granola bar and coupons. I got a poor night’s sleep due to a son who coughed half of the night (the *joy* and reality of being a parent).

Race Morning

Race morning was on Saturday, June 27, 2015. Temps started out in the low 50’s. Our family stayed at a hotel a couple blocks away and I got there around 5:10am and was one of the first people there. In fact, race organizers arrived a few minutes later to set up the start/finish line. There were only around 12 runners doing the ultra so we all just lined up by a line on the road, the race director counted down the time and then yelled “start”.

I wore shorts, a short sleeve tech shirt, Injinji toe socks (mid-weight version), Newton Energy shoes, hat and Nathan Intensity hydration pack (filled with ice). I used my normal UCAN before and during the race supplemented with orange slices and trail mix from the aid stations. I also used Hammer Endurolyte Extemes and Anti-Fatigue Caps every hour.

The Course

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The course was an out and back starting in Idaho Falls, going through the small town of Ammon, and climbing through the foothills of the mountains past lots of ranch/farm land and many wind turbines out to the 20 mile mark located in tiny Bone, ID. The course was mainly roads with a small amount of gravel and it wasn’t closed to traffic. Fortunately there wasn’t much traffic other than the support vehicles for the relay runners and some cyclists doing training rides.

The course started at 4,800 feet of elevation and there was around 3,500 feet of elevation gain throughout. Miles 0-5 were fairly flat, 5-10 went up hill and I did a lot of power walking, miles 10-20 were a series of hills including one hill that was 1 mile long and another that was 2 miles long. I continued my strategy of walking the hills and running the flat and down hill portions.

Aid stations

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There was an aid station every 2.5 miles with water and sports drink. These were unmanned during the first couple of hours. At every 5 mile mark the aid station also had some first aid supplies, gels/gus, orange and banana slices, and trail mix. It was mostly self-serve.
There weren’t many spectators except for the volunteers at aid stations and friends/family of the other runners. Many times I was running by myself or could only see another runner in the distance. At one point a rancher on a 4 wheeler said, “Sure you don’t want a ride? It would be a lot easier.”

Finish Line

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My energy level was pretty good through the whole race and I continued to keep my energy expenditure conservative. My legs felt good, despite doing Leadville one week previously. I did get some chaffing and had a couple of bruised toenails which is normal for me. I met a lady named Joni from Utah who was dealing with some nausea mid-race and gave her an electrolyte pill. She later shared some chips with me that her friends had brought. Let me tell you–those were some of the best tasting chips I’ve ever eaten!

The weather started getting really hot and unbearable around mile 22. At every aid station I was dumping cold water on my head and trying to stay well hydrated. Even though I wanted to run I still did a lot of walking in the final 4 miles as I was trying not to overheat. During the final 3 miles we went back into town and had to deal with traffic and stoplights, all while wondering if I was going the right direction. I was very thankful to finally see the finish line!

My finish time was 7:34:02 and I was able to run it in becoming the 2nd woman overall. I was happy to be able to add Idaho as my 28th state completed in my 50 State Goal (see my map below). The race had soda, sports drink, water, soft serve ice cream, hamburgers, hot dogs, and chips at the finish. There was also a bounce house set up for the kids. Ultra marathon finishers got a nice glass plaque and those who placed first through third got medals at the award’s ceremony held at 4pm. We weren’t able to stay around for the award’s ceremony so they nicely mailed me the finisher’s medal. I was also interviewed for a few minutes by a local reporter.

Questions from Academy Members

Be sure to listen to the full episode to hear me answer the great questions sent in by Academy members.

  1. How do you keep your mental toughness going that long? -Teri
  2. I am starting now to train for a 50-miler that will happen in May of next year and am just beginning to lay out my training plan. How far should my long runs be by next May? -Jill
  3. What would you recommend in terms of protein vs. carbs vs. whatever else? -Henry
  4. I plan on doing a 50 miler by age 50 and as everyone who knows me will understand that my goal would be to run it as fast as I possibly can. I know almost everyone would tell me to just focus on finishing and don’t race it . But Angie you know me and you know that I’ll have to race it. So my questions are how risky would injury be to do that? How long should I train to race a 50 miler and how far off my marathon pace should I expect to drop ? -Lee
  5. Did you do anything different for recovery? -Molly
  6. I’m curious about the differences in approach in Ultras vs. Marathons. I’ve volunteered a few times at Ultras and noticed that they are more laid back in a way…meaning, walking (particularly on hills) is not unusual, etc and runners will spend 5-10 minutes at aid stations rather than racing through them or skipping them all together like you often see in shorter races. -Sonya
  7. How do you deal with repeated glycogen depletion? If most runners have trouble at 18-20 miles, how do you deal with it on an ultra, both physically and mentally? Also, did your Garmin last long enough, or did you outlast your Garmin? -Johanna
  8. How much more challenging was the race mentally and physically than a marathon? -Sharon
  9. After running this & Leadville do you think you will be bored with a mere marathon now? -Colleen
  10. What will you do differently (if anything) in preparation or in running a future ultra? -Steve
  11. What was your strategy at the start? -Kristi
  12. How did you feel at 26.2 miles? Herb
  13. Can we do a MTA group meet up at an ultra marathon? Also, maybe you should be marathon and ultra training academy now:-) Joellen

Shout Out From the Community

Today was a great day for me! I qualified for the Boston Marathon with 3 min 22 seconds to spare. I’m definitely on cloud nine since I didn’t expect this going into the race. Angie, thank you for your training plan! I followed the last 8 weeks of your training plan right after my last marathon and it got me this BQ!! The MTA podcast, your training plan and the wonderful MTA community definitely were big motivators in helping me get to this point. -Luice


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