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When our West Coast Tech Rep, Sablle, decided to run her very first ultra marathon last week at the Way Too Cool 50K, we wanted to know everything about it. So we sat down with her before and after the race to get her thoughts. She made new friends on the course, became a running aid station, and even made a complete stranger wipe her forehead! Read below for more on the race, and her unique perspective on making the leap from marathon to ultra!
What made you decide to run an ultra?
Somebody in the company has to do it! Just kidding...
What I know about running and what I tell everyone is you get the "itch."¬ù The itch is when you do a race and say you definitely will not be doing it again, but then you want to do another. Whether it's farther, faster or on different terrain, you always get the itch for something more challenging. After running in high school, college, and having completed two marathons, I've gotten the itch AGAIN! I wish I could tell you when it's going to stop. Also, working for Nathan this past year has given me the opportunity to learn so much about the sport of ultra running. I have met so many inspiring runners with the best stories, and with their constant encouragement it made signing up a little less intimidating.
How has training been going?
I don't know that I have ever felt fully trained for any race I have ever run. I never properly trained for cross-country season (ask any of my teammates and coaches), I never properly trained for my marathon, and I'm pretty sure I didn't properly train for this 50k either. Training for these longer races is really time consuming and you only have two days in a weekend, sometimes a 4-hour run just doesn't fit in the sched, ya know?
If you want me to go more into detail: I have done one 19 miler (which was absolutely miserable), and a 20 miler (which went a lot better than that 19 miler). In between those two long runs I have done a lot of 8-13 milers, but that's the extent of how my training has gone.
What's been the most challenging part about training for this race?
You would think working for a running company I would have all the time in the world to actually run, but that's not always the case. I travel to a different state ALMOST every week, which makes it hard because I'm usually meeting a lot of people for the first time. There are plenty of runners I come across who want to and are fully capable of running the distance, but finding a time between both of our schedules in the 5 days that I am in that state is tough. I have no problem running alone; in fact, I enjoy it (most of the time), but I don't find it safe to run on long trails in cities I'm unfamiliar with.
I've also been dealing with a lower back "injury."¬ù I put it in quotes because I don't really know what's wrong, it just always hurts, and I'm constantly uncomfortable. Don't worry, I'm going to get it checked out right after I finish this ;)
How do you keep your mind occupied on the longer runs? Music? Deep thoughts?
I've never run with music because I was never allowed, so I've grown accustomed to not listening to anything. I find a conversation with someone or listening to the sounds around me better than any Pandora song I could ever listen to. Lets be honest, between driving and airports, I have more than enough time to listen to music throughout the day. Although Taylor Swift singing "Shake it Off"¬ù might just be the pick me up I need during this thing : )
If you know me, you've probably noticed that my mind goes a mile a minute, and it doesn't shut off very often! Running gives my mind time to slow down and sometimes even shut off for a bit. It's really peaceful to think about anything and everything I want to, or not have to think about anything at all?
Working for Nathan, you have access to all sorts of hydration options. What has your hydration plan been while training for the ultra?
One thing Nathan has taught me is that hydrating affects the color of my pee, and that IS CRUCIAL. I try to make sure I'm on the right side of the hydration spectrum with a nice light yellow color pee (gross but necessary.) I also think hydrating pre-race is just as important as during the race, so I carry my Nathan LittleShot around with me everywhere I go. When I'm running under 10 miles, I prefer a handheld, and for anything over 10, I've been rocking the new VaporAiress, with water in the 2 liter bladder, and a SpeedDraw bottle in the front for my electrolytes. Post race... back to the LittleShot.
Do you have a goal for the race?
I was always taught to set three goals when running races:
Now that it's a week away, how are you feeling?
I'm actually writing this from 32,000 feet in the air on my way home to San Francisco on the Thursday night before the race. Maybe it's the turbulence, but of course I'm feeling nervous. Along with never fully feeling trained, I've never gone into a race that I've NOT been nervous for. I think it's natural, so I always try to stay positive. I'm confident enough in myself that I know I will finish - I just hope I can walk to the car afterwards (its the worst half mile of any race).
Post Race Questions:
Congratulations on completing your first ultra! How does it feel to be part of this extremely exclusive club?
It feels great to join a community of awesome human beings; everyone is so kind and supportive!
What was going through your mind before the race and at the starting line?
I wonder what the caption on my Instagram post is going to be if and when I finish this thing? KIDDING!
They tell you to get there super early because parking is tough so I drove alone in my Nathan-mobile, and as if the wrap on my car doesn't get enough stares, there I am sitting all by my lonesome in my car eating a PB&J. Thankfully I saw our local Brooks rep (shoutout to Meghen Newell) and walked with her to the start. She kept me company until my friends arrived to watch me start!
How did your VaporAiress work out for you during the race? Give us a quick, completely-biased pitch for why it's ideal for ultra racing.
I love our Vapor Series in general because of the way it moves with your body. You don't even know you have it on, which is ideal for running - trail running in particular. The VaporAiress has a ton of smart storage pockets that are so useful! I had a pocket for everything....my gum, my gels, my bottle for electrolytes, my phone, my trash, etc. This vest will hold up for the long haul!
Also, the stabilization harness inside the Vapor Series is ideal when you're running for hours on end. I met a new friend named Will at around mile 16, and he was wearing our new Vapor Air too! It was his very first Ultra - or anything over 20 for that matter - which is pretty impressive if you ask me. I showed him the stabilization harness while we were running and he was stoked (shoutout to Will for keeping me company for a few miles!)
Let's talk nutrition. What sort of food, gels, and electrolytes did you eat throughout the race?
You can never have TOO MUCH nutrition but I definitely over packed my Vapor because of all the horror stories I had heard. Any and all scenarios went through my head leading up to March 7th, including a few along the lines of running out of nutrition.
Here are a few completely irrational scenarios (I know I'm not the only one either...)
Scenario # 1: Reaching into side pocket, no fuel left, have mild freakout, no aid station in site, no people in sight... pass out and don't finish.
Scenario # 2: Not enough sodium, need more sodium... no more nutrition with enough sodium... CALF CRAMP, QUAD CRAMP, HAMMY CRAMP...Don't finish.
Here's what I had:
NUUN (in my speed draw bottle)- Strawberry lemonade&Grape flavor
2 Clif Shot Bloks (Margartia flavor, they have 3x sodium than regular bloks)
Gu Gel: Salted Watermelon, Vanilla, and a few Roctanes
Huma Gel: Strawberry, Mango, Chocolate
I had so much nutrition that Kris (my other new friend) and I were joking that I was a running aid station. Throughout the race I gave him a gel, and I ended up pouring my Nuun into two different runners bottles because they ran out of fluids without an aid station around. Have no fear, the Sablle aid station is here...
Were there any unique moments that brought unexpected humor or additional challenges to the race?
A few different things...
I was told that the aid stations would have different items than your average road race but WOW, THEY HAD SO MUCH VARIETY! My eyes were bigger than my stomach. Come to find out, I LOVE SALTINES - although dry I would grab 3 at every aid station and eat them while I ran. Also, at the top of this climb called Ball Baring they had chicken noodle soup, which I inhaled. I ate a slice of a salted potato, a few potato chips, and a rice crispy (half of which is still marinating in my Vapor vest). I grabbed a Jolly Rancher that I never ate (also still in my vest,) a few pretzels and M&Ms.
I see cool photos of people jumping through these big creeks all the time during Ultra races, but have never experienced it myself. I thought it would stink because your feet would get wet, and it would be uncomfortable. It was THE BEST! It gives your feet a quick cool down/ice bath and they dry super fast - I made sure to jump through every creek possible.
At the top of Ball Baring, around mile 20, I ran past a woman and her husband cheering on the runners. I heard her say "this girl, she's not even sweating"¬ù, and I jokingly turned around and touched my face and said "I am too, I swear I am!"¬ù. Later in the race, at the top of Goat Hill, around mile 26.4, I saw her AGAIN and she started laughing and said, "you are not!"¬ù. To prove my point, I made her touch my forehead to feel the salt caked onto it. You had to be there, but it was a pretty weird and funny moment to have a complete stranger touch my forehead. Something I imagine only happens in an endurance race like this.
What was the toughest part of the race - physically or mentally - and how did you push past it?
I keep going in circles about how to answer this question. I think the toughest part was trying to pace myself while still seeing how much I could push my potential. Since it was my first 50k, I was not sure how fast I could go. I know that speed wasn't my goal, but I was definitely thinking about it. For example, I didn't know how much running a hill rather than power hiking in the beginning of the race would effect me around mile 26. It will take a few more 50ks, or maybe even a 50 miler to figure that out.
How did it feel to cross the finish line?
Crossing any finish line is always one of, if not the most rewarding parts of any race. I felt like I had accomplished such a big feat in my life that I never though I would ACTUALLY do. It was also the first big race that I was doing ALL BY MYSELF, and for myself, which felt amazing.
Alissa and Kyle (best friend and boyfriend) were also there to greet me at the finish line, which was icing on the cake. I am so thankful for their support. They woke up at 5am to drive 3 hrs just to be there for me when I started, which is amazing! They even rented mountain bikes to try to see me on the course (although it didn't work out). I felt so special, and they sure made the waterworks kick in.
What was your post-race reward meal?
PIZZA! I LOVE PIZZAAAAA!!!! Garlic chicken with white sauce and BBQ Chicken. I also had a cold piece for breakfast the next day...oops.
What advice do you have for runners considering their first ultra?
Make sure you train with what you will be using in your ultra - clothes, hydration, nutrition, shoes, etc. so you know what works for YOU! Be prepared and don't rely on every aid station. It goes to show, since I was handing out water and nutrition to runners throughout the race. Why rely on an aid station when you can rely on yourself?
Lastly, enjoy it, appreciate every second you have on your feet because not everybody has the opportunity or is capable of something like this.
Sablle...from all of us here at Nathan, we're proud of you! Congrats on crushing your first ultra!
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