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First Steps: What NOT to do During a 50k

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Making monumental mistakes during my first 50k so that you don’t have to.

Words & Photos by Tiona Eversole

The author snagging a photo op at the top of Mitchell Mesa.

We all make mistakes. The real bummer is realizing that multiple mistakes have been made over the course of 32.5 miles. If you are thinking about attempting your first ultramarathon in the near future, I’ve got five tips for you based on my own errors.

Monument Valley at sunrise on race day.

Do your research

When I first started looking into 50k races, I landed on the Zion Ultra, as it would’ve given me six months to train. Then the Monument Valley Ultra kept coming up in discussion. So I changed my plans, cut a month and a half of training out and registered. I had never been to Monument Valley; why not experience this magical place by running through it?

Turns out this magical place is covered in sand- who would’ve thought the desert would be this sandy?! The race also experiences a significant elevation gain around mile 22: something like 1,500 feet in a little over a mile.

I underestimated all of these things. I read about them on the website and listened to friends that had run the MV Ultra talk about mile 22, but it wasn’t until the night before the race when the race director talked about the difficulty of the course that the “oh shit” moment really hit.

Look at all of the options I had that I didn’t use!

Pack your bag the night before

Guess how many miles I got into my race before realizing that all of my Nuun tablets and Clif Shot Bloks were still in the car.

Two.

Luckily, an aid station at mile 10 offered several snack options. I grabbed a pickle and ran to the Three Sisters Aid Station nine miles away, where my boyfriend met me with the Shot Bloks and Pickle Juice Shots I had left behind.

Pack your bag the night before to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you. Not all races are as fortunate as the Monument Valley Ultra to have well stocked aid stations throughout the course.      

 

The fabric triangle of doom.

Give your outfit a test run

Chafe: a distance runner’s worst nightmare.

You know what makes chafe even worse? Clothing with seams in delicate areas.

While I did wear the purple running tights above on a training run prior to the race, they didn’t see more than 20 miles. Next time, I’ll be testing out the whole outfit during a longer training run.

You’re going to want that drop bag

Prior to committing to the ultramarathon distance, the longest race I had ever run was the 17.1-mile Imogene Pass Run. The only thing I knew about drop bags were what I read on the internet.

When I first read about the drop bag option, I thought, “Why do I need a change of clothes for midway through my race?”

I (almost) learned the hard way.

The Monument Valley Ultra was hot, windy and sandy. My shoes were full of sand by mile five and my feet were outraged that their once roomy shoe space had been invaded by millions of sand particles. Guess who didn’t have a drop bag with a fresh pair of socks?

Luckily, the boyfriend came through once more at the Three Sisters Aid Station at mile 19, showing up with both snacks and socks.

Race directors are good about making sure that your bag makes it safely back to you. I highly suggest packing a drop bag. Even if you don’t end up using the items you stashed, it’s better to have options than get stuck in a tough spot.

Take a wild guess where the trail is to the top of Mitchell Mesa.

Pace yourself

The gun went off. The adrenaline kicked in. I ran the half marathon at my Imogene race pace.

I figured that since I was feeling good, I would just go with the flow and slow down when my body felt like slowing down. By the time I hit mile 22 and faced Mitchell Mesa for the first time in my life, I wanted to cry a little bit.

No matter how good you feel in the first 10 miles of the race, keep in mind that at this point, you’re only one-third of the way. Save some face and slow it down. If anything, you’ll know towards the end of the race whether you want to push a little harder in the last few miles.

The view from the top is always a reward in itself. Looking down on Monument Valley from the top of Mitchell Mesa.

Looking back, there were A LOT of things I could’ve done better; but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I had completed my first 50k. I hope that you will learn from my mistakes and cross the finish line of your first 50k with fresher socks, half-eaten Shot Bloks and a less chafed upper/inner thigh.

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