I smoked that 40 mile run like a cheap cigar.
Have to say, the experience of doing my first 40 mile run exceeded my expectations on all levels — physically, mentally and spiritually. It was my first time attempting a distance longer than 26.2 miles and although confident in my training to date, I was definitely unsure about how my body, and in particular my legs would handle the volume. Mentally I was ready. And spiritually I was enthusiastic. Only my body could hold me back. But I am happy to report that not only did I get through it, I rocked it.
First, I chose a route that was relatively flat — from my office in Venice up the Santa Monica bike path, then onto PCH all the way up to Pt. Dume in Malibu and back. Also factoring into my route choice was the fact that there are several gas stations along the way, so I would always be able to pop in, go to the bathroom and rehydrate. I didn’t want to be out in the middle of nowhere if something went wrong. I think it was a good choice.
I used an Amphipod fuel belt with 5 large 16 oz. bottles. I filled 2 bottles with Perpetum, a high calorie carbohydrate drink from Hammer Nutrition, each with about 350 calories. The other 3 bottles were filled with Cytomax. In my pouch I carried about 20 Endurolytes electrolyte tablets (another Hammer product), which proved essential, plus several eGels. Then of course, my iPhone.
As advised, I began at a very slow jogging pace for the first 10 miles, erring on the side of overly conservative and keeping my HR at 120 and below. Although my legs were still quite fatigued from all my training, I felt pretty good. I got lucky with an unusually cool overcast day in the low 60’s with cool ocean breezes. At the one hour mark, I stopped for 3 minutes at a gas station to take a quick bathroom break and grab some water, then back on the road. Felt good and easy for the next hour, stopping again at the 2 hour mark for 5 minutes to again go to the bathroom. Even though I didn’t feel like I needed it, I quickly grabbed some water, gatorade and a Cliff Bar, making sure I was taking in at least 300 calories an hour and 16 oz of fluid — the last thing I wanted was to bonk in the final few hours. As for my listening pleasure, I chose to listen to an audiobook for the first 4 hours to relax — Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Heady I know, but it allowed me to relax and gave my mind something to focus on other than running. I knew if I listened to music too early, I was likely to get excited and go out a bit too fast.
I began to ever so slowly pick up the pace for the next hour and hit the 20 mile turnaround point at 3 hours and 17 minutes feeling relatively fresh. My legs felt totally fine and aerobically I was great. My heart, lungs and breathing all felt relaxed, almost a non-issue as I maintained a HR around 130-135 bpm.
I began to increase the pace a bit for the next ten miles, raising my HR to around 130 – 135 bpm, switched to my favorite music playlist and built each mile. I made my final quick pit stop around 4 hours, grabbing water and a big Red Bull for the final 2 hour push. At this point, my thighs were starting to really burn, especially on the sides. But my knees, calves and achilles heels all felt fine. I had been worried about injury, particularly in the knees, but they were holding up well despite all the pavement pounding. I started taking in the Endurolytes every 20 minutes or so, worried about thigh cramps and was reluctant to make any more stops for fear my legs might seize up.
At the 30 mile mark I was joined by my friend Arno Kroner, a marathoner preparing for the Long Beach Marathon this upcoming weekend. He was a godsend — brought me another Red Bull and paced me for the final leg, pushing me to pick up the pace. My thighs were screaming and I was starting to leave my body — a very ethereal spiritual experience. By all accounts I was exhausted and without Arno I likely would have slogged to the finish. But instead, we accelerated and I was able to begin holding sub-8 minute mile pace over the last 8 miles, finishing with a surge and far stronger than I ever imagined I would be capable of.
Final time: 6 hours 21 minutes for 41 miles (due to crossing the street, etc. the run ended up being a bit longer than the google map version). The great thing about this was that I negative split the route — my second half was a full 13 minutes faster than the first half (3:17 / 3:04), which is a great indication of my level of fitness. The data shows that most great endurance performances and records are achieved in negative split scenarios, so I was very happy about how I paced this run. I probably could have gone a bit faster from mile 10 to 20 and from mile 20 to 30.
And I never cramped. Endurolytes were huge in staving off my cramping — I highly recommend this product from Hammer Fitness. Afterwards I was extremely sore in my thighs and very tired, but not delerious or overly out of it. I took an ice bath that night which did wonders and the next day I felt pretty good. Sore of course, but nothing too serious.
Although I have to say that I’m not sure I could have run another 12 miles, it was still a huge mental confidence boost at 56 days out from Ultraman. Beyond the additional mileage of the Day 3 double marathon, I will have to contend with tired legs, 85+ degree heat, 90% humidity and strong winds, which will prove quite challenging compared to the chilly drizzly day I had on Saturday. But I’ll be ready. And knowing I can do 40 miles will prove a huge mental boost. The double marathon run has been my biggest worry but now I know I will be able to handle it. It was a quantum leap physically and mentally.
On the spiritual front, this was one of the more spiritual endeavors I have ever experienced. I had several moments of out of my body, a disassociation of spirit from mind and physical, where the pain was gone and I was floating. Akin to a deep meditative state of no mind generally only achieved through a deep meditative state. It was glorious.
Its now Monday morning and my legs are healing and I’m ready for another hard 2 week training cycle. Getting down to the nitty gritty.
Having now run a distance longer than a marathon, I guess I can now consider myself an official ultra runner. Feels great.