Well I DNF my first 50-mile solo attempt 🙂
Iron Horse Trail. Legs gave me problems. Started with right leg upper calf niggle that got worse. Then the knee had twinges. Around mile 24. Got up to 91deg. Was good with salt sticks, fuel, and hydration. Managed heat. So last half was miserable mentally because I was losing time and couldn’t catch up. I allowed myself to worry about making my family wait a couple more hours for me to finish. So at second to last crew meet-up at mile 41, I ended the day.
Despite all the physical stuff, I was able to run a decent stretch to my family. I had another 1hr15m on the clock to cover more distance, but I was out of it mentally. I stepped off the trail and sat on a bench with my boys.
I think the leg issues were a result of under-training. I did 5 months of low miles, no long runs, and practically no running a month leading up to the run.
In the end, this attempt became a 41 for 41 (run 41 miles for turning 41 years old).
A 50-mile solo run attempt.
- Runner: Me
- Crew Chief: Zenaida
- Crew Rascals: Kaleo and Makoa.
- Crew Special Friend: Nate
Aug 30, 2014. After turning 41yrs old and basically a year from my last ultra run the 40 for 40.
I want to renew my ultra runner card in 2014. Challenge myself to do 50. Didn’t want to wait till age 50 to do it as I originally conceived. Last year’s 40 for 40 set the stage for me to believe 50 could happen at 41. Challenge set.
I can’t remember exactly when the distance goal popped in my head. I knew I wanted another ultra distance run for 2014 after last August’s 40 miler. I just wasn’t sure as I intentionally put off running for 5.5 months because my wife was pregnant with baby #3. We were expecting Hali’a in October and I wanted to focus on the family.
So I literally didn’t run from Sep 2013 to mid Feb 2014. I was ok with it. Viewed the time off as one long recovery period.
From home and head north along the Iron Horse Trail several cities up and back.
North of Dublin, up San Ramon Amador, through San Ramon Valley, Danville, Alamo, Walnut Creek, to Concord, and back around.
Training and not:
From start of running mid-February to end of July, I put in measly range of 4-10 mile per week. Basically, except for one short easy run, August was a taper. All before my Aug 30th attempt at 50. In that 5.5-month timeframe the first couple months incorporated sprints. The rest of the time I focused in zone 2 efforts. No weekend long runs. Just midday lunch hour runs once or twice a week maybe three once.
Aug 2014 run chart:
- A second pair of shoes. I was planning on a shoe change after mile 32.
- Generation UCAN Superstarch. Pack of 6 pouches.
- New handheld sports bottle.
Last minute preparation:
- Mophie Juice Air Pack for iPhone 5s. An iPhone case/battery backup. A birthday gift.
- Planned my 50 mile course along with points my family could meet me with the help of the website Gmaps Pedometer.
Fuel, hydration, metabolism, and nutrition:
For about 2 years, I’ve trained fat-adapted and will use the same strategy.
What I carried:
- 1- 24 oz. Handheld bottle with fuel mixture (plain UCAN, 1 tsp. coconut oil, 1 tsp. Jarrow plain whey protein, water, and ice)
- 1 snack zip bag of raw almonds
- 70 oz. water in a Nathan’s Hydrapak
- 1 roll of fruit flavored Lifesavers hard candy
- Salt Sticks in a Nuun bottle.
What would be waiting for me in a cooler and van:
- 2- frozen 24 oz. mixture (plain UCAN, 1 tsp. coconut oil, 1 tsp. Jarrow plain whey protein, water, and ice).
- Jar of almond stuffed Spanish olives (Nob Hill brand).
- 4 frozen plastic bottles of water.
- 2 1-gallon bottles of water.
The strategy was to layoff any calories until about after the first two hours. I did start the morning with a simple cup of black coffee. Dinner the night before was normal and like every other night. On the run, I would sip on UCAN mixture when I felt I needed the energy. I would only drink water when I felt thirsty. I would take in salt sticks if it got too hot or if I found myself taking in a lot of fluid. When I found myself in a funk and feeling I needed to push myself, as a quick energy boost, I would trickle sugar using Lifesavers hard candy. Most of the time relying on fat for fuel.
On my person:
- Nathan Hydrapak and contents:
- 70 oz. bladder of water
- wet wipes
- debit card and ID
- small zip bag of almonds
- roll of fruit flavored Lifesavers hard candy
- iPod Nano
- 24oz fuel bottle mixture (plain UCAN, 1 tsp. coconut oil, 1 tsp. Jarrow plain whey protein, water, and ice)
- Salt Sticks in a Nuun bottle
- tiny tube of Aquaphor
- lip balm
- Handheld pouch
- iPhone & earbuds
- GPS watch
- Tank top
- Light jacket
- Injinji socks
- Brooks Pure Grit
The night before I made a last minute decision to dust off an old iPod Nano gen 2 which contained a bunch of stuff that I hadn’t played in literally years. I had hoped to load it with a bunch of my favorite podcast episodes from America’s Angriest Trainer but I didn’t want to waste more time trying to figure out how to do that. Quite honestly iTunes app on the Mac sucks balls. However what I had was already awesome and I didn’t know it until I was running. The music of All American Rejects, Jay Z’s Black Album, Lloyd Banks, Young Buck, 50 Cent, Eminem, and (wait for it) THE ESSENTIAL BILLY JOEL Disc One. I really enjoyed last year’s 40 miler without any music. This time I started it with music to keep me company in the darkness of 3am.
My usual last minute prep caused me to have practically no sleep. Down at 1:30 to rise at 2:45. Planned 3am start but actual 3:11 start.
The first 8 miles were fine. Kind of sweaty actually. I started with the light jacket expecting the 3am temperatures to be chilly. I didn’t peel that layer off until mile 8. A whole lot of Jay Z played in my ear over and over and made the 8-mile stretch go real quick. I played around with headlamp a bit too. I can’t remember my last run in the dark so it was kind of fun.
Miles 8-10 seemed the darkest, loneliest, and slightly claustrophobic stretch. Running between freeway sound wall and trees on a narrow dark residential road isn’t that great. Closer to mile 10 looking east through trees and between silhouettes of houses I could see the dawn. It was a wonderful site. For some reason it was coldest between miles 10 and 11. Cold enough that I could see my breath. It was a where the first section on my route where the trail went under the freeway. despite it being brightly lit it always felt like a cheesy gang of troublemakers lead by a character played by Bobcat Goldthwait would come out of nowhere.
After mile 12 that I had my first sip of fuel, the UCAN blend and a couple salt sticks. I also started comparing my progress with my estimated splits, which I printed out and kept folded I my vest pocket. I needed to know I was moving along as expected because I wanted to be at the first crew point on time. I was also anxious to get to mile 14 where I would be close to a Starbucks. The thought of a cup of coffee with a splash of heavy cream was exciting. Unfortunately when I got to mile 14, I didn’t want to spend the time hunting for the Starbucks somewhere in an unfamiliar shopping center. I had hoped for it to be easily spotted. Coffee would have to wait. I settled with the idea that it was a luxury too soon and besides my splits were on track and a long wait in a Starbucks line is not worth it. Proceeded up the trail accompanied by Billy Joel and since it was no longer dark, the headlamp went in my pack. Not a lot of activity on the trail except for a couple woman and dog walkers. Felt good and alive early in the morning. Must’ve been the daylight affecting my mood.
Miles 11-16 were pleasant in the cool early morning. A nice quiet stretch of trail passes through Danville and Alamo. At 16.5 the trail cuts under the freeway into Walnut Creek. Leading up to mile 18 is uninspiring. The concrete sound barriers and hardness and filth of the man-made canal were not pleasant.
A little after mile 18 I got to Civic Park and I crossed a bridge over the creek where a man intently rolls himself a “cigarette” being careful not to lose it off the side of the rail. From the parking lot of the park I did a little out and back to cover up to mile 22 and had the first meet-up with the crew. By this time the trail had more activity. At a circular paved clearing is a spot where a local doctor leads free tai chi and qi gong. A site to see and apparently been happening for about 10 years on the weekends.
When I returned to the parking lot I spotted the van and made my way to the playground and found the crew rascals at play. Makoa said “Hi dad!” after he struggled to recognize me. He rarely gets to see me in a visor and vest. Kaleo was on the swing. He called out to me smiling and gave me a “Good morning daddy!” Zenaida asked me how I was feeling. “Fine” I replied, because honestly I was and especially because I got to see her and kids. I asked how the morning was so far were her since she had to round-up the crew, get them ready and fed before meeting me on this adventure. She said I looked fine and way different compared to mile 18 of my first marathon where I bonked and could not utter a clear sentence. We got to the van where I topped off my hydrapak with more water, replaced empty fuel bottle with a full and frozen bottle and shoved it on my vest pocket. I also grabbed a frozen water bottle and kept it as a hand held and mainly used it to help cool me down later in the run. I popped open a jar of almond stuffed olives, sampled three and washed it down with some water. I posed for a few pictures, got hugs and kisses from the family/crew. Kaleo didn’t care about me being sweaty and funky and gave the best hug. As much as I wanted to stay with the family I couldn’t. But plans were made to meet again up north in the next town just 5 more miles. The tricky part for me was making good time for the next crew spot. I had to be there on time because our guest crew mate, Nate, had to be brought back home. Missing it would mean not seeing crew until mile 40. Sure I had places to stop in between via “the other aid stations” aka Starbucks, but seeing family always beats seeing any barista any day. So before leaving my family, I hit the public bathroom, check my pee color, and headed back onto the trail as Makoa bid me bye. I crossed the bridge where cigarette man was long gone and replaced by transient looking guy with a cell phone. The tai chi group was large and they formed an impressive circle while all following the good doctor’s movements. This time I believed qi gong movements were in full effect.
On the trail, I covered a familiar two-mile stretch and by mile 24 I noticed some tightness developing behind my right leg from the top of the calf and up. I took in more fuel, water, and salt. I moved cautiously since I was not halfway yet. I wasn’t tired. Energy levels were fine, but my leg started to betray me. My right knee started to have occasional twinges and I became hypersensitive to the camber of the surface I was trying to run on. Mainly the right side of the trail. By this time I employed frequent run-walk-runs. At this point, running and walking was the same pace. Running just produced cramping and twinges. At any rate, I pushed myself mentally to physically be somewhere by a certain time. I told myself I wasn’t going to trickle sugar till the second part of the run. So after mile 25 I slipped a Lifesavers hard candy inside my cheek. I couldn’t remember to last time I had one of these. Probably 25 yrs ago. After most of the candy had dissolved in my mouth, I felt slightly nauseated. So I spat it out, cleaned out my mouth with a sip of water, and ignored the gross feeling because I really needed to be somewhere.
I planned a counterclockwise 2 mile loop on my route through Concord and then planned a crew meet, but since I started falling off pace, a last minute change was made to meet up first and do the loop clockwise. This way Nate could be taken home on time and I can still see family. When planning the route, crew points had to be kid friendly that way the rascals wouldn’t be bored out off their minds. So at mile 27 I met the everyone at the parking lot of Krispy Kreme where I picked up a new frozen bottled water and frozen bottle if fuel. Also Makoa had a car seat accident and wet himself, so even after running more than a marathon distance I make time get him into fresh clothes and find a small towel to line his car seat with. The crew heads into the donut factory and I say goodbye again, thanked Nate for his support, and went on my way. By this time it was about 81 degrees, so I decided to skip the full loop. The last half of the loop was an unfamiliar section of the trail and I predicted it was exposed to the sun and I wanted to be smarter about keeping live on this adventure. So I did half the loop and back tracked onto the trail to cover the same distance and remained on as much if the shaded part of the loop as possible. The next best thing to meeting up with family was accidentally coming to a Starbucks at the turnaround point. Did I go in? Bet your ass I did!
By mile 29.4, my GPS watch lost power. I switched to backup GPS, located a bush and tree between me and the freeway and proceeded to whiz on the ground, as the cars whizzed by, while Billy and I sang “Honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard. And mostly what I need for you…”
Getting to mile 32 was more battling with my legs. I was compensating for the right leg that somehow developed left shin tightness. It was around this stretch where I finally had a few almonds. These were raw almonds. My taste buds must have been heightened because wholly smokes did they taste especially sweet. Weird and yummy! Just before 50k I stopped by some picnic tables alongside the trail to losses my laces a little bit. I was beginning to think my feet were swelling slightly enough for my feet to hurt. True or not I needed to trick my mind to thinking I was fixing things. While there I met a man with some serious hardware on his knees. One knee was braced and the other wrapped and with signs of previous knee surgeries via lines of scars. We greeted each other and he asked how long I was running for. I told him 50 with 32 just covered. We chatted about the trail and he had a map with him as he described how he was planning to bike thirty some miles of the trail. I told him as much I knew about the trails, which was not a whole lot, but expressed interest learning more about all the various connected trails. I adjusted the last shoe and I wished him the best. He recognized I spent a long time on the trail running so far and he wished me well too. As I jogged away I made like I was fresh and full of energy but I was really looking for my next pick-me-up. A couple hundred feet later and around a corner, I see a mermaid. She had a crown, two tails, and sold coffee in an air-conditioned store. Not a hallucination, but a Starbucks. Sure I just had some 3.5 long slow hot grueling miles ago, but Let’s see what happens. What happens was me walking in like a hobo, used the restroom to give myself a monkey bath. Just head, face, neck, and arms. I had to use paper towels to wipe up the floor I dropped water on. I took a while in there but it was so worth it. I hoped the staff wasn’t thinking I was a transient person stinking up their facilities and trying to steal their toilet paper. I took a few more minutes to grab another coffee with heavy cream. Admire the place and headed back outside to go of course slightly before correcting.
By about mile 34.5 it is pretty warm, and what was left in my fuel bottle is close to rancid. By this point I’d taken an alternate route to bypass the uninspiring stretch of the trail between a sound wall and apartments. I turned a corner right by a different coffee house and I stop in. I quickly made my way to their clear plastic dispenser of ice-cold water with lemon slices and poured myself a full glass and I took care of it pretty fast and left just as fast. I was grateful and promise to stop by again and spend some money.
Working to mile 41. This section felt like a lot of work. The temp got up to 91F degrees and it felt endless as I was still trying to make my estimated time to the next crew meet-up. I had about 4-5 Lifesavers hard candies during this stretch.
Actual/Goal Distance: 41.3/50 miles
Here’s what actually was consumed:
- Black coffee(pre-run/breakfast).
- 36 oz. of UCAN mixture.
- 15-20 raw almonds.
- 3 almond stuffed Spanish olives.
- Several salt sticks.
- Half a roll of lifesavers
- 70-100 oz. water.
- Two tall Starbucks coffee with heavy whipping cream.
Chafeage of the inner thighs. It started as a nuisance. I let it go, then eventually at mile 10 used a small tube of Aquaphor to lube the chafe hot spots. At mile 36 was too tired to reach back into the pack to fish out the tube of lube. At mile 38 I figured it’s never too late to stop on the side of the trail while a lady walks her dog, assume a Captain Morgan stance with the help of a bench along the side of the trail, inspect the damage, and proceed to smear lube inside my upper thigh in a non-pervy way.
The legs deceived me to some extent. Sure they carried me along and I am thankful. But niggles on my right calf began at mile 18.5. By 20 it impacted the run. I suspect a lot of reasons. Under-training, heat of the day, nutrition, or all of the above.
To quote David Goggins, “When you think that you are done, you’re only 40% into what your body is capable of doing. And that’s just the limits we put on ourselves.”
I was my own limiter. I chose to call it quits, which made sense at the time. After I did, I wasn’t destroyed. I just smelled bad. I knew I could have kept moving forward, but doing so would have kept my family out waiting for me to finish longer than I would have wanted.
Did I disrespect the distance?
I don’t think so. I was confident in covering 40 miles because I did it without destroying myself last year. I didn’t think it was going to be easy. I was highly aware of the amount of time it would take. I just wasn’t counting on my legs cramping they way they did.
Did I neglect training?
Perhaps. I worked with what I had. I always knew I could rely on confidence and muscle memory to get me to at least my furthest of 40.
Always meeting Zenaida and the boys. They have fun being out and about getting to spots along the course to provide aid and encouragement.
Around mile 37 it was 91F degrees on the side of the trail was a man sitting while his dog, a boxer, lied flat on its side on the hot trail pavement. It had its mouth open and it was heavily panting really loud and painful. I offered the owner the bottle of water I had in my hand, which I kept for cooling me down. It was half full regrettably. The owner looked like he was trying to use his cellphone to call for aid. The trail is in the middle of residential homes and businesses. Easily accessible. I sure hope they got it. I felt horrible. I don’t know anything about it but I think the pooch was suffering from severe heat stroke. I hope I’m wrong.
- After the run and had general tired legs but able to walk.
- Day 1 after still sore and the unavoidable active recover of picking up children and walk through the mall.
- Day 3 post run – made not just in time for kindergarten drop-off. Son and I ran for parked parking to classroom felt good knowing I could still run after a few days. But soon after right knee niggle.
- Day 4 left shin soreness. Evening roller.
- Day 5-6 shin still sore.
- Day 10 shin tightness completely gone. Ready to do stuff again.
- 145lbs: start weight
- 142lbs: 5 days post run
- 145lbs: 9 days post run
What I would change if I could do it all again?
- Have a couple long training runs beforehand.
- Prepare to be out on the trail longer.
- Try MAP Master Amino Acid Pattern.
- Not a big issue, but curious to do it again 5lbs lighter at 140lbs.
What lessons did I learn?
I can suffer. I don’t know it at the time, but I like it. Walking away from completing 40 miles last year, left me a little confused. I did it but it felt almost like an empty accomplishment. I shouldn’t feel that way. The fact that I was able to handle covering 40 miles at the time was gratifying. I believe it goes back to learning more about you when there are struggles. A lot went into DNFing a 50 mile run. It’s a failure, but man do I feel like I’ve grown because of it.
“The cells needs to learn how to get there.” ~Vinnie Tortorich
“When you think that you are done, you’re only 40% into what your body is capable of doing. And that’s just the limits we put on ourselves.” ~David Goggins
So here I was. Approaching 40. I had a planned another ultra distance run for the summer of 2013. I had drafted a training plan at some point, but in the end life, work, and family proved how any well-thought out plan is simply that, a plan or a guide. Plans change. The goal didn’t. I was fine with it all. I used to freak out if I missed a specific planned long run like when I trained for my first (and only) marathon. Back then the thought of the 26.2 distance scared the crap out of me.
There is something special about the solo mission or the solo run. The beauty of the solo run to me is flexibility with the training schedule. Basically, I had no training schedule. I ran when I was able to run. You get what you can get. For the big run, this time around it came down to either a Saturday or Sunday run. It depended on what the family needs were around the run. The run day’s weather kind of mattered, but I had no control of it. I would either have a hot day or a slightly less hot day. You definitely have to be able to operate without the adrenaline rush of a huge paid event. No medals or shirts. Simply run for enjoyment and the time on the path.
Months had gone by from the drafting of a training schedule and I blew past its estimated written run date. After that point I never really locked down on the actual run date, but I was pressed. Ideally I’d put in a few more “long” runs to build up. All I had done were 1-1.5 hr Z2 runs during work lunch breaks. Plus, I would have to get the run done while my lovely and pregnant wife capable of driving from city to city meeting me at specific areas along the run. I never really locked down a run date. Life did it for me and I realized it 1-2 weeks before the run. I know. That’s plenty of time to up my miles and taper. 🙂 I wasn’t worried. My confidence was high and my body wasn’t beaten up from over-training.
What: 40 mile solo run.
When: Aug 31, 2013. After turning 40 yrs old.
Why: A cool challenge to do 40 miles for turning 40. Heard a guy do it the year before and it stuck to me as a goal. Seemed like a totally do-able goal. Just do a 50k and add 8 more miles to challenge myself. Plus a bonus of seeing what I’m capable of on an fat-adapted NSNG approach.
Another reason to do it is to celebrate my youth at 40.
Where: From home and head north along the Iron Horse Trail several cities up and back.
Who: Me, and crew of my 7 months pregnant wife and 5 yr old son.
How: Trained whenever I could. Had set a training plan based on a 50k training schedule, but it never panned out. So got what I could get as far as run days, which usually ended up being 1-1.5 hr lunch runs 1,2, sometimes 3 times a week and no real long weekend run. The longest training run was maybe 12 miles.
I figured my body and mind knows how to get to 32 miles already. Or as Vinnie Tortorich would say my “cells need to learn how to get there”. The real run would happen after mile 32.
Body and nutrition: Trained to be fat-adapted for about a year. Eleven pounds lighter than the year before.
What I carried:
- 1- 24 oz mixture (plain Generation UCAN, 1 tsp coconut oil, 1 tsp Jarrow plain whey protein, water, and ice)
- 1 snack zip bag of raw almonds
- 70 oz water in a Nathan’s Hydrapak
- 1 package of fruit flavored TicTacs
- Salt Sticks in a Nuun bottle.
What was waiting for me in a cooler and van:
- 1- 24 oz mixture (plain Generation UCAN, 1 tsp coconut oil, 1 tsp Jarrow plain whey protein, water, and ice).
- Jar of almond stuffed Spanish olives (Safeway brand).
- 4 frozen plastic bottles of water.
- 1 gallon bottle of water.
Fueling strategy and what was actually consumed:
The strategy was to use fat and UCAN and to consume them when I felt I needed the energy. I would only drink water when I felt thirsty. I would take in salt sticks if it got too hot or if I found myself taking in a lot of fluid. A tic-tac as an experiment it case I was really in a funk and needed some sort of sugar to trickle.
Here’s what actually went down:
- Coffee with heavy cream (pre-run/breakfast).
- 36 oz of Generation UCAN mixture.
- 25-30 raw almonds.
- 6 almond stuffed Spanish olives.
- Salt sticks.
- 1 orange flavored tic tac pill.
- 70-100 oz water.
- Half a short Starbucks black coffee (4 oz) after mile 33.
Comparison to a sugar strategy,for this distance would have been consisting of gels and sports-drink of about:
- Bagel with peanut butter
- 15 Hammer Gels
- 118 oz of Heed
40 miler notes:
At 7.83 miles Danville
Miles to six almonds.
At mile 8. Warmed up and ready for a 50k.
In 10.2 miles and I’ve only had almonds and one sip of UCAN mix..
11.09 miles I’m feeling a little high.
Mile 14 I took the seconds sip of you can.
Watch my footing at mile 14.16 almost tripped.
Mile 15.2 after two salt sticks.
Mile 16.78 near the got swiped by a cyclist zipping by my left from the rear.
Mile 17.5 met up with the family and had to Olive’s with almonds.
Mile 19 I got to Treat Boulevard bridge and I took my third swig of Ucan.
At mile 20 took another swig of UCAN mixture.
Mile 20.5 I had UCAN mixture.
Mile 25.67 miles stumbled and nearly fell.
Tried trickle sugar (1 tic tac) 32.7 miles.
Mile 33 GPS watch died. Slipped into an aid station Starbucks.
After Starbucks, switched to iPhone GPS. Switched on some tunes.
Met up with family at Central Park.
Sore outside my left foot at the base of my small toe noticed sometime after mile 30 and general sore feet. No blisters. No black toenail. Did develop some forehead acne from the heat, sweat, and visor.
1 and 2 days post run felt a little sore in the morning in the legs, but usual loosened up as the morning carried on an I got coffee in me. Generally felt healthy and fine.
I started and ended the run at 144lbs.
I noticed after a week, I was down 5 lbs in weight. Not sure why. Perhaps it took a week to reduce any sort of inflammation in my body and release any excess fluid it may have kept?
Thoughts & what I’ve learned:
Felt this run was not that big of an accomplishment as I thought. It could be I only feel this way because it was not a battle with my nutrition or body. My body held up and if it weren’t for being fat adapted I would have come apart.
If I was able to switch shoes after mile 30 or at least loosened up the lacing a bit , my feet would not have hurt as much towards the end.
Despite my sore feet, I felt I finished stronger .
Thanks to following supporters and inspirations.
- My crew: wife and son (Zee & Kaleo)
- My trainer and friend: Vinnie
Podcasts and Facebook groups:
- America’s Angriest Trainer Podcast
- Vinnie Tortorich’s No Sugars No Grains Facebook group
- Endurance Planet Podcast: Ask the Ultrarunner, Ask the Coaches, & Sports Nutrition