The Mental Game

Now that I am officially tapering for my first 50k, and the physical work has been done, I have to start mentally preparing. I’ve been thinking about how to tackle this new distance.

Several weeks ago, I started gathering information from those who have ultra marathon experience.  I reached out and asked the Folsom Trail Runners, the awesome running group that I belong to, the following questions:

  • I have a few questions for all of you ultra marathoners out there…….1. What did you learn while running your ultra? 2. Would you have done anything differently during training or on race day? 3. What was the longest you ran while training for a 50k? Thanks!

These are the responses I received:

  •  1. shoes, nutrition and electrolytes matter. Use the aid stations MORE  2. I would have done away with big back to backs and kept my tapers at higher mileage at lower intensity.  3.Over 30 miles.
  • 1. 31.5 miles is a long way (serious answer: eat and drink lots along the way). 2. Amazingly nothing. 3. 26 miles twice: 4 and 3 weeks out.
  • 1) I learned that I really like being out there. The challenge is a lot different than doing a “road” marathon. You have to think different and keep your eyes and your mind open. Go with the flow more because nature is in charge, not me. It made me a stronger runner and enjoy racing more.  2) The one thing I learned to do different is (because I carry a lot of food and hydration already) to spend way less time at aid stations. I even skip some now. I also learned, I CAN carry less stuff… but the time I end up at aid stations can add up fast.  3) Longest run: Marathon distance (ish). It’s more about hours on your feet. So if you are a faster runner (which you are), you may only end up doing more miles than someone like me that runs slower. The average time I think people aim for is 5 hours for the longest run. I think the longest time I spent on my feet was 5.5 hours. It took me 6.26 hours to complete my first 50K.
  • My last ultra was Fort Ord, and on second thought I don’t think I would have eaten the second half of that torta sandwich the night before.
  • 1) maintain nutrition & hydration  2). chilled mangos  3) 20+ miles and/or 4 hours
  • All the ultras I’ve done were 50 milers. I recommend holding your pace back for the first 30-35 miles (20-25 miles for a 50k). Maintain your nutrition. If you can help it, don’t let yourself walk. It just makes it easier for your body to convince your mind that you need to walk again later.
  • Some people like to be surprised, but I need to run all parts of the course to know how to prepare. For example, just yesterday I ran the first half of AR50 in trail shoes not knowing it’s almost all hard surface. My feet and hips were done 3 miles from the finish. Now I know to wear my cushy Kayanos to start.
  • Nutrition is huge!! I wish I would have eaten more during my 50 mile instead of doing gels, they messed up my tummy.  And Hokas!!!! My new favorite shoe for long runs!  Oh! And relax… Enjoy the experience of it.

There is some great advice in those responses. I love belonging to a family of runners who are always willing to help someone.

I also asked a fellow blogger for some advice. Friends over at Activeharmony suggested, “Think of the race as running from “aid station to aid station”, rather than an all out 50K.”

Sounds simple, but I needed to hear this. I think it’s a great approach to running a 50k. Since the course that I’m running has plenty of aid stations, there’s one every 4 -6 miles, this will work well.

Another thing I do to feel mentally prepared, is break down the course and know how it’s going to feel. This also helps me create a plan for my pace. Of course this is just a prediction.  But, based on how I felt during my long runs, this is how I think the 50k will feel:

  • The first 15 miles easy, miles 15-20 still easy, miles 20-25 I’ll be working, miles 25-31 I’ll be digging deep and I’ll feel some discomfort (maybe a lot of discomfort).

It amazes me how quickly the effort level can change.  I can go from a nice and easy feeling to having to work rather quickly. It’s like someone flips a switch. Mile 20 will feel easy and then all of a sudden, mile 21 requires focus. Perhaps one day the transition won’t come so early.

In mentally preparing for an event, I also look for articles that help me feel stronger, prepared, confident, etc. I came across this quote and it rang a bell.

Each event is different and it helps build my confidence to be as mentally prepared as I can be. I’ve been tested during a race before; for example, I hit the wall during a marathon in 2010. I felt that I stayed mentally strong and I was able to finish even though it didn’t go as planned. Therefore, I like to come up with some encouraging words or phrases so that when it gets tough I have something positive to say. Otherwise, there are several negative words that pop into my head.  Here are some positive phrases I’ve come up with:

  • I’m well trained.
  • I can do this!
  • I’m going to do this!
  • Pain is temporary!

(Yep, I can sound like a broken record at times. Hopefully I will feel strong and have a great race that I won’t need to use any encouraging words.)

I’ll be putting together a race plan soon.  I’ll share it as soon as I have it completed.

How do you mentally prepare for a race?

Do you have any advice on running a 50k?


This entry was posted on April 15, 2014. 3 Comments

A Deep Sigh of Relief

At this point, I have just over 2 weeks until race day.  I feel like all the hard work/training has been done and I can let out a deep sigh of relief!  And let me tell you, training for this first 50k has been an eye opener.  Remember, I’m more of a short distance runner training for my first ultra.

First of all, I have a new respect for all the ultra marathoners out there.  I knew the ultra distances were challenging, but I didn’t know exactly how challenging until I got out there and trained for one.  And, mind you, I’m running the shortest ultra, a 50k.

Secondly, the training cycle in itself is tough.  I’ve run 2 -22 milers, 2-24 milers and 2-26 milers in the last 12 weeks.  By just completing the training, I feel like I’ve accomplished tons.  Not only did I run the most I’ve ever run, but I didn’t get injured!  The last two times I’ve trained for a marathon, I ended up with injuries.  So, when I took on this challenge, I wasn’t sure how what would happen.

I’ve never been happier to reach the taper phase of a training cycle.  I have enjoyed all the workouts until the first 26 miler.  It was at this point that my feet started to hurt.  Now that I know it was just my worn out shoes that caused the problem, I’m anxious to give my feet some extra rest.

Lastly, my legs are ready for a little break, too.  They were tired during my last long run making the last few miles difficult.

I have definitely challenged myself with this goal.  I’m gonna relax and enjoy the few runs that I have left.  I’m definitely looking forward to getting out there to run the 50k!

This entry was posted on April 10, 2014. 4 Comments

Rookie Move

Over the weekend, I had what I call a “freak out” moment.  I thought that I was dealing with an injury.  I spent time researching it, coming up with a plan and writing a blog post about it.  This is how the post began:

2 Words a Runner Fears……..

Do I dare say, “Plantar Fasciitis?!!”

On Facebook, I recently posted that my feet felt bruised.  I also wrote in a recent blog post that I was having a little issue with my foot.  Well, I do think that my feet were bruised as well as having an unhappy ankle.

This pain led me to believe that I may have plantar fasciitis.  However, something just wasn’t right.  It seemed that when I stretched and then iced, the pain would go away.  I hadn’t heard of this nor read about this happening with plantar fasciitis.  Another factor that didn’t add up was when I woke up yesterday, my feet felt great!  I was under the impression that morning was when plantar fasciitis was the most painful.

Over the weekend, I bought a new pair of shoes and decided to take them on a trial run yesterday since my feet were feeling so good.  When I started off, my feet were a little sore, but the pain was soon unnoticeable.  The new shoes provided just what my feet needed, support and cushion.

I had a great run and felt relieved!  After the run, I did a few of the exercises, stretched and iced.  By the afternoon, I could feel a little soreness, but nothing like I had in the past few weeks. I don’t want to say that all the pain is gone.  But, I think I found the source of the problem.

After letting out a deep sign of relief, I now think that I did bruise the bottom of my feet a few weeks ago and that they have been sore since.  They may be sore until they have enough time to heal.  Hopefully during my taper phase, which is coming up really soon, they will heal.

I have to take full responsibility for this issue/discomfort.  I have always been one to keep an eye on my shoes’ mileage.  Somehow, I racked up the mileage really fast and without being aware.  I had over 400 miles on them which is a lot for those particular shoes and my body.  I guess I’ll consider myself lucky if sore feet is all I have to deal with.  It was definitely a rookie move on my part!

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be taking a 3 day running break which will give my feet a chance to rest.  In addition, I’ll continue to do these stretches to help reduce the chance of getting plantar fasciitis.

  • Calf Raises

Strengthens the tendons in your heels and calf muscles, which support your arch.
To Do: Raise up on the balls of your feet as high as possible. Slowly lower down. Do three sets of 10 reps. Progress to doing the raises on stairs (with heels hanging off), and then to single-leg raises.

  • Step Stretch

Improves flexibility in your Achilles tendon and calf—when these areas become tight, the arch gets painfully overloaded.
To Do: Stand at the edge of a step, toes on step, heels hanging off. Lower your heels down, past the step, then raise back up to the start position. Do three sets of 10 reps.

  • Doming

Works the arch muscles and the tibialis posterior (in the calf and foot) to control excess pronation.
To Do: While standing, press your toes downward into the ground while keeping the heel planted, so that your foot forms an arch (or dome). Release, and do three sets of 10 reps on each foot.

  • Toe Spread and Squeeze

Targets the interossei muscles of the foot, which support the arch.
To Do: While sitting, loop a small resistance band around your toes. Spread toes; release. Then place a toe separator (used at nail salons) in between toes. Squeeze toes in; release. Do three sets of 10 reps of each exercise on both feet.

  • Towel Curls

Works the toe-flexor muscles that run along your arch to increase overall foot strength.
To Do: Lay a small hand towel on the floor, and place one foot on the towel. Using just your toes, scrunch the towel toward you, hold, then slowly push the towel away from you back to start position. Do three sets of 10 reps on each foot.

In case you’d like to read more about plantar fasciitis, here are some good links:


This entry was posted on April 1, 2014. 1 Comment

Update week 16……….

Thank goodness for easy (rest and recovery) weeks!!!

After last week, I was ready for an easy week.  Not only was the total weekly mileage high, but Saturday’s 26 miler was long and hard.  Here is what last week looked like:

2014-03-22 weekly mileage


On Saturday, I ran 26.31 miles and that’s just about all I had in me.  I really don’t know how ultra runners do it!

We started the run at Beal’s Point State Park and continued along the Pioneer Express Trail and Western States Trail past Granite Bay, Beeks Bight, Sterling Pointe, Horseshoe Bar and just about to Rattlesnake Bar before we turned around.  There were several of us at the start, but only a few of us were running the full 26 miles.

After briefly stopping to fill our water packs at Granite Bay, I only saw a few runners the rest of the day.  But, thankfully, I had company out there. I always enjoy my conversations with the people I run with.

The run itself was great.  The trail has wonderful views right along Folsom Lake and the North Fork of the American River.  Now that all the plants are green and lush, it makes the views even prettier.  Unfortunately, there was so much poison oak.  It’s a miracle I didn’t have a breakout.

2014-03-22 26 miler map

 Saturday’s Run

By the end of Saturday’s run, the bottom of my feet felt bruised.  Perhaps the problem comes from the shoes I’m using.  I’m wearing road shoes because I’ve never owned anything but road shoes.  I’ve been fine up until the last two long runs.  I’m starting to think I may need to try some trail shoes.  I probably still have time to get a pair and break them in before the race.  On the other hand, I only have 1 long run left before the race.  Maybe I could just get through the training and race with the shoes I have.  Oh, decisions!!!

The reason that I decided to run 26.31 instead of 26 miles is because my kids told me to.  The idea was born when we were discussing my upcoming run one evening last week. My daughter challenged me, “You should run 26.2 miles and make it a full marathon.”  Then my son added, “Actually, you should run 26.3 and make it an ultra.”  Well, we have discussed that by definition, 26.3 is an ultra, but it’s really not by intention.  I will not claim to have run an ultra until I finish my 50k!  However, on Saturday, I ran the extra .31 for my kids.

This past week, I’ve been struggling with a sore spot on my ankle and the bottom of my left foot.  I’ve been icing and rolling my foot on a ball.  I keep hoping the pain will just magically disappear.  After all, how does one heal a foot when it is used so much?!

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy my easy week (32 miles + 1 ride).

5 weeks, 1 long run, and lots of fun runs left until race day!!!  But, who’s counting?!



This entry was posted on March 25, 2014. 2 Comments

One of My Favorite Quotes

It seems only right to share one of my favorite quotes this week as not only am I peaking, but I am going to run more miles this week than I have ever run before.

favorite quote by tseliot

I’m in week 15 of my 20 week plan.  I have 6 weeks until race day!!!  I’m getting really excited to complete this personal challenge.

Here is this week’s workouts:

Monday – 10 miles

Tuesday – ride 45 mins.

Wednesday – 12 miles

Thursday – 4 miles

Friday – off

Saturday – 26 miles

Sunday – off

What is your favorite quote?

Are you currently training for anything?

This entry was posted on March 17, 2014. 5 Comments

Exploring a New Trail


During the last few months, I haven’t had the chance to go out exploring any new trails.  It seems that each time I’ve gone for a run I’ve been on a mission; each run has had a purpose with a required mileage.

Today, I met up with a few friends for a run. One of them led us on a trail that I had never run before.  It was just what I needed. I really enjoy learning new trails, especially when they are local ones. I’ve seen parts of this trail from my car several times, but never knew where it started or where it actually went.

The other 2 friends turned around earlier than we wanted to, so Beth and I continued on.  We ran a little less than 4 miles before we ran out of trail and headed back.


Along this trail there is a hill that I have seen from my car.  I thought it might be good for hill repeats.  It turns out to be way too steep!  To the right of that hill there is another possibility.  I’ll have to give it a try the next time I’m out there.

2014-03-14 trail run

2014-03-13 Trail run (from Promontory Park) elevation

You can see from the elevation chart that there are some good rollers.  The was a hill right at the start of the trail and then one other that were good climbs.  Other than that, it was a nice trail.  It is exposed, so I wouldn’t want to run it on a hot summer day.

2014-03-13 Trail run (from Promontory Park) map

Here is a map of where the trail is, just in case you’d like to go out exploring.

Once we were back, Beth showed me another trail.  This time we ran up Beatty Dr. a short distance and turned left onto a trail.  This beginning of this trail was tree covered.  It took us to the top of a ridge.  Along the way, we passed a flock of wild turkeys.  I never get tired of  seeing the male turkeys fan their feathers trying to win over the female turkeys.

Once we got to the top, the trail continued behind some homes and down through an undeveloped area.  We ran to the end of the trail (El Dorado Hills Blvd.) and turned around.  By the time we got back to our cars, we had completed 10 miles.

I appreciate it when someone takes the time to show me a new trail.  Thank you, Beth!  I feel so fortunate that there are several local trails in El Dorado Hills.  I could easily spend the day out on the trails!

Do you prefer exploring or do you run the same trails over and over?

This entry was posted on March 14, 2014. 3 Comments

Update week 13…….

Things are going well for the most part.  My mileage is increasing and can become a bit intimidating at times.  I’m in the middle of a hard week and by the end of the week I will have completed a weekly mileage that I’ve never run before.  Granted it’s just 2 miles longer than my highest mileage week ever.  Last time (2.5 years ago) I had a weekly mileage this high, I ended up with an overused and unhappy IT Band.  This time around, I’m not having any “issues.”

Here’s a look at the last few weeks.

Week 11’s mileage looked like this:

2014 week 11 mileage

By the end of the hard weeks, I am more than ready for a little break.  I’m physically tired, but mentally strong.  I still crave to run (that’s a good thing!).

Week 12’s mileage dropped down to 28 miles of running and allowed my body to rest.  I had one of the worst runs I’ve ever gone on during this week.  I knew that I was tired and I took the next day off to recover.

I’m in the middle of week 13.  I felt recovered and ready for another hard week.  This week’s mileage is back up to 48 miles.

At this point, I have a little more than 7 weeks until race day.  To keep me motivated, I start to dissect the plan.  I look at it in ways that make me feel like the next few weeks are completely doable instead of difficult, even though I know they’ll be tough.  I’ll be peaking in just a few weeks.

For example:

  • I only have 4.5 more weeks of hard training then I’ll taper.
  • Out of those 4.5 weeks, only 2.5 are truly hard weeks.
  • I only have 3 long runs left.

Taking a look at the training plan and keeping things positive and simple will help me stay calm, focused and not feel overwhelmed.

How do you handle hard weeks?

What’s your highest mileage week?