I ran the NYC Marathon just under two weeks ago. I took six days off from running to allow a sore ankle to heal. I took it easy for the past six days, running about 16 miles since Sunday. I stretched, worked my core, and nailed my nutrition plan by eating all the leftover Halloween candy and pie of which a boy could ever dream. Essentially, I followed the runner’s plan in some ways, and completely disregarded it in others.
Despite all that, I will run the NYRR NYC 60k, my first ultra marathon, tomorrow! I first found the 60k around the time I was accepted in the lottery for the NYC Marathon. At that time I was reading Born to Run and all amped up about ultra marathons. I kept it in the back of my head throughout the year, and decided to add it to my schedule over the summer.
While I was injured and on crutches in April, May, and part of June, I doubted whether I could train for this race on only four months of training (July-October), with July being a slow return to running. After reading numerous recaps of the race, however, and realizing that many people ran and finished it after the NYC Marathon on marathon training only, and reading further that people training for a 50k often train based on a marathon training plan, I realized that I could enter the race on my limited training and treat it as an opportunity to learn about ultra running.
And here we are.
The race follows a very straightforward course in Central Park:
- Beginning at Engineer’s Gate (90th Street and Fifth Avenue), run a 5.2-mile lower loop of the Park (no Harlem Hill)
- Upon returning to Engineer’s Gate, run eight inner loops (four miles each)
- Collapse, arise victorious, eat all the food known to man, collapse from insulin shock, arise beaten but not broken
The race also carries limited fanfare: no professional photographers, no live tracking (the race is manually scored by an NYRR worker checking off how many loops you’ve run whenever you cross the starting line), and a much more lax participation policy: anyone can hop in and run a loop or four with you. Friends, who wants to keep me company/sane?
Further, NYRR allows us runners to bring a clear plastic bag filled with liquids and foods of our choice, to be placed on a “nutrition table” at the starting line and filled with whatever food we want.
Sounds easy, right? You get your own food and all the friends you could ever want supporting you. Here’s what’s going to make this run a beast (besides the 37.2 mile aspect of it):
- Nine cat hills. Yes, we get to run Cat Hill (3.3% gradient, .25 miles) nine times. As my friend Sam joked, “By the end, it’ll feel like Cat Mountain.” For real.
- While Cat Hill complicates the east side of the Park, the cluster of three rolling hills that I call the lesser Harlem hills dominates the northwestern corner of the loops. None of these hills are particularly long or steep. However, the constant up and down could affect pacing. Because I’ve trained in Central Park on these hills many times, and in training I tend to run the hills slowly so as to keep my heart rate down, I think I have an advantage here, and will run as if training.
- Nutrition nutrition nutrition. Having never run an ultra before, I have limited knowledge about how to fuel properly for the race. A friend told me to employ my marathon fueling strategy over the 37.2 miles, make sure to drink a lot of water, and to recognize that most people experience some kind of wall around miles 29-30. He recommended bringing a decarbonated Coke to slam back at this point in the race.
- So, based on my marathon nutrition and my friend’s advice, here’s what I’m going to bring to the race:
- 10 GU gels with sodium and caffeine
- Smaller bags of pretzels for extra sodium and carbs (I’ve eaten them in training run before, and they don’t hurt my stomach)
- Extra water bottles
- One 20-ounce decarbonated Coke
- Faith, hope, and love
Even though I’m going into this race at less-than-top shape (you know, having run a marathon less than two weeks ago), I have two basic goals: 1) to finish; and 2) if possible, to break five hours (an 8:00/Mile pace gets you 4:57ish). I will try to settle into a rhythm and see how I feel around the marathon point. If I’m dying, I’m happy to adjust and focus on finishing. If I’m still going strong, giddyup.
Ultimately, though, the goal is to finish so that I can earn the right to wear this year’s race bling:
And seriously, who wouldn’t want such a handsome belt buckle?
I might not sound like it, but I am PUMPED about this race. I’m currently trying to figure out if I want to run a 50-miler next year, so this race will help me sort out 2016’s running goals. It also seems like it’ll be fun to run with friends as I attempt to go farther than I’ve ever gone before. And also, why not? If 300 other folks (about how many who finished last year) are attempting something awesome less than a mile from my apartment, why would I stay in bed?
Happy running, everyone!