UltraSelf II: Running My First 50k

It didn’t take as long as I thought it would in the last chapter to get to my first 50k (31 miles)- I ran one yesterday. Originally, my plan was to do a week of 10 miles every day, but that ended up being unrealistic. For me to run 10 miles on a work night means I’d be going to bed late every single day, and that’s a quality-of-life hit I’m not willing to take. On the bright side, I’m moving from Reno to Raleigh in a little over a week, so I’ll be free from Tesla’s 12 hour shifts and will have significantly more time (or at least a more flexible schedule) to train.

Some backstory, before we get to the run.

The weather has sucked basically the entire time since I ran the marathon. I was able to get in a 20 on Monday of last week, but other than that, I haven’t run very much. This is what prompted me to make the attempt on the 50, because I figured that I was as well rested as possible. On top of that, getting in a good long run (while not ideal) does help to make up for not running as much. To help compensate for the lack of running, I started doing the Marine Corps “Daily 7” workout, which seems to be a great all-around bit of training, would recommend.

Now, for the run.

I slept pretty poorly the night before, so I ended up pushing my alarms back to 7:45. Despite not sleeping well, I did wake feeling fairly well rested. I had intended to get up earlier (because my projection for the length of the run was seven hours), but that obviously didn’t work. For breakfast, I had some chorizo and two cold pieces of pizza, almost as soon as I got up. The primary goal here was to eat three hours before leaving, so as to prevent any digestive unpleasantness in the first part of the run. This seemed like it was a good balance of carbs and protein, and it didn’t give me any trouble on the run, so that’s good enough in my book.

It’s probably worth noting what I did the day before, as well. On most days, I do OMAD (one meal a day) fasting, and this day was no exception. Because I wanted to build up my glycogen reserves (stored blood sugar), I had pizza for dinner (hence the leftovers in the morning), though normally I do carnivore for my one meal.

Over the weekend, I went hunting for a running vest. I had previously been using an Ultimate Direction belt with a water bottle, but that proved to be insufficient on my marathon. There’s a really cool Salomon vest that I wanted to get (based on reviews), but it’s sold out everywhere, so I ended up with a slightly different model from Salomon. Fortunately, it worked perfectly, and I have no complaints with it.

I stocked up on GUs (and I got a stroopwafel, which in retrospect was only OK), and I filled the two water bottles in the pack with an amino acid mix that I have a container of. Initially, I considered putting my phone in the pack, but after stuffing it with GUs and a stick of BodyGlide, there wasn’t really a good spot. At some point, I’m going to try and get a fitness tracker watch, because my phone is too cumbersome to run with. Finally, I threw in my debit card and a piece of paper with the road directions on it. I had driven the whole route earlier in the week when I was vest hunting, which I recommend for familiarity sake.

Windy Hill is the bend near the middle of the long vertical section of the blue line.

I left the house at 11:00 AM. It was a bit cloudy, and the temperature was around 60, which is essentially perfect. There was a very small chance of rain, but I wasn’t too worried about it. The temperature was supposed to move towards 70 in the afternoon, which is warmer than I prefer, but still negligible. All in all, a pretty ideal start to things.

The first 8 miles or so were completely uneventful and exceptionally relaxing. It was probably a combination of the weather and how fresh my legs were from all the time off, but I was really feeling it. This is super helpful, because a bad mood early into a long run tends to snowball as time goes on.

I stopped at my first “aid station,” a convenience store just over 8 miles in. It’s at the foot of Windy Hill, which is one of the bigger obstacles on the route I take for my long runs. The hill essentially divides the far end of Reno’s strip-mall area from the beginning of a large section of ranches at the foot of the mountains. From here, there is nowhere to stop until the turnaround, nearly 8 miles ahead. I refilled one of my water bottles with a gatorade, grabbed a pack of trail mix, and I was off.

Traditional ultrarunning advice is to walk hills/inclines, but I was feeling good, so I pushed up, and then down, Windy Hill. The thought occurred to me that this is was a dumb name for a hill, but I kept that to myself, so as not to offend the hill spirits.

The light smell of manure hit me as a reminder that this was ranch country. One of the cool things about this side of town is that many of the houses are fancy or oddly designed, and there are tons of people driving sports cars (and unsurpisingly, lots of Teslas) around. Also notable is the fact that not many of the old people driving in the area give the customary “head nod” in passing, which may be either because this isn’t the south, or because they’re pricks.

Who knows?

There are also a surprising number of bikers in the area (the spandex kind, not the leather kind), and they at least appreciate the unspoken conduct of head-noddery.

Around twelve miles in, there was a small incline that I decided to walk up, which was the first walking I had done. This area was pretty uneventful, because the bees that tormented me prior were nowhere to be seen. Eventually, I came to the street where I turned around for the marathon, but I wasn’t even close to the turnaround yet.

From here, I had two and a half miles to go to the midway point.

It was mostly downhill, and I was moving out of ranch country into the suburbs. Although it was a pretty simple navigation task, I referenced my directions to see what my turnaround was.

This is where I got confused.

The name of the street I was looking for was White Cedar Drive, but at around 15 miles in, I passed a street on the same road called Whites Creek. I kept going past it (although I knew I was very close to where I was supposed to turn around), but this was bugging me. Though I was pretty confident I couldn’t have misread the directions this badly, I was still uncertain. Eventually, I turned around when I felt like I had gone far enough. Upon later reference, this was exactly where I was supposed to turn around, I just couldn’t see the street sign from where I was at.

From there, it was time for “aid station” two, 7-11.

I got three of those fried, rolled up taco things (I believe they’re called taquitos), and I refilled my water bottles with a beverage I had heard of but not tried called Electrolit. Why their slogan is not “it’s lit, fam” escapes me. The coworker who told me about the drinks referred to them as “Gatorade for Wooks,” and that seemed pretty accurate. They seemed to be basically the same thing as Pedialyte (which is incredible for hydration/hangovers, for the record), so I grabbed a Mandarin Orange and some sort of “special edition” berry flavor.

The orange one definitely tasted like Pedialyte (which is like a more medical tasting Gatorade, if that makes sense), but the berry flavor was like sucking down fruity Juul pods/vape liquid- not great. The saving grace of this stop was the delicious nature of the taquito things, combined with the humor value of being drenched in sweat, in full running gear, and stuffing taquitos into my face as gas-pumping onlookers eyeballed me strangely. That, and then immediately running off after I finished them.

Sometimes, it’s the little things.

It had started warming up a bit, but I was running off the taquito-and-halfway high, so I was in good spirits. Some walking ensued maybe two miles after the 7-11, but not any great stretches. The return through ranch country was largely uneventful, though there was one point where I could see all the way across the floor of the valley that Reno and Sparks occupy. My apartment is on a hill on the far side of the city, and I could barely make it out, which was both cool and somewhat intimidating. However, being on the second half of the run is always better in my book, so I kept it moving.

reno running first 50k ultraself

Here’s a pretty good approximation of that view, I live somewhere in the hill on the left behind the city.

I returned to Windy Hill, but this time I walked up it. There was no sense in pushing any harder than I had to, as this was somewhere around mile 22 (right around the end of the bonk-zone, if you’re familiar). I picked a bit on the way down the hill, and then went back to “aid station” one, that convenience store. The kid at the counter tried to make a joke about the cost of the Gatorades I was buying, but I was pretty out of it and totally didn’t get it.

Awkward- for him. After 20 or so miles you’re not really concerned with the finer points of human interaction. I walked out, filled up my water bottles, then ate my mediocre stroopwafel. Feeling sadder but wiser, I pushed on for another few miles, then I hit up Eclipse Running to grab a GU (I already had several, but the flavors I had left all sucked) and take a pit stop. At this point, it was 4:30 PM, and I had about 6 miles left to go.

From here, I was back into Reno proper. I enjoy running through Midtown and Downtown, simply because the people and buildings make things feel a lot faster. Downtown also has an abundance of traffic lights, so you end up getting little breaks when you’re waiting to cross. This is a good thing in some ways, but bad in others, because there is nothing less fun than starting running again once you’ve stopped. I tend to average two grunts of pain per crosswalk.

After Downtown, it’s the UNR campus, which is rolling uphills (re: not great). This wasn’t terrible, but there is a huge hill at the edge of the campus that I basically walk every time, and this was no exception. I probably walked a half mile, because the deal I made with myself was that afterwards I wouldn’t stop until the end. For reference, Midtown is four miles from my apt, Downtown is 3, UNR is two, and after UNR, it’s one mile till the finish.

Usually, towards the end of a long run, I’ll pick a point in the last mile or so and tell myself “to the end,” at which point I attempt to get a song with those lyrics stuck in my head and just power through. This is because the last mile to my apartment is all uphill, the whole time, and it sucks. The suck is made worse with the fact that at the final mile mark, you can actually see the top of my apartment over a hill, and the elevation gain is all the more apparent.

Suck aside, I hobbled my moderately happy ass up that hill, and I hit the crosswalk button that signifies the finish line.

I know I said this last time, but it’s going to be a while before the next edition of this series. I’m going to try and work more on building a foundation and potentially some speed before I do another super long run. I may cap them at 20 miles for now, because that’s not as debilitating the day after. For reference, I’m limping hard and have to walk down stairs sideways at the moment. My feet feel surprisingly fine (shout out to the New Balance Minimus, probably my favorite shoe I’ve ever run in), but my knees are thoroughly swollen and my Achilles tendons are pretty sore.

All in all, good fun- and I’m officially an ultrarunner now.

Until next time!

Originally Published as: