Learn : Ultramarathon Story  

Running Background:

I consider myself an advanced runner and I primarily run for fitness. I decided to run an ultramarathon because I know some people who run ultras and I had heard good things about Lean Horse. The race is relatively close to home, so it seemed like a good choice for my first ultra.


I trained for 3 months following a modified version of Hal Higdon's training plan for the Comrades Marathon (54 miles). During my training I averaged 55 miles per week.

The best training advice I received was to incorporate back-to-back long runs. It really helped my body get acclimated with running tired.

The worst advice was running an ultra in the first place....just kidding. I can't say I got any bad advice.

Race Day:

The Lean Horse 50K Ultramarathon was my first ever ultra and I kind of signed up for it on a whim. I had first heard about it over a year ago and thought it might be something I'd try in a few years. But, after running the Fargo Marathon in May and the Missoula Marathon in July (my 5th and 6th marathons respectively) and talking to some friends who run ultras, I decided to go ahead and give Lean Horse a shot this year. The 50K distance seemed like a good way to test the waters to see if I might enjoy the whole ultra scene.

My training probably wasn't the greatest for this. I was up around 70 miles per week while I trained for Fargo, but was more around 50 leading up to Missoula and the same between Missoula and Lean Horse. After Missoula, I did start doing back to back long runs every weekend, which I think helped some. Like I said, my training wasn't really ideal but I think the solid base I've built over the last couple of years helped out.

The race itself was great and I had a blast. I would be lying if I said I wasn't hurting by the end, but it was still a good time. There weren't many of us 50K runners, maybe 30 or so, and I was leading the pack up until about mile 19 when a guy who was training for a 100 miler in a few weeks passed me and was soon long gone. I ended up taking second behind him.

The course was beautiful, but the section the 50Kers ran on was fairly hilly. We didn't get to run any on the relatively easy Mickelson Trail, like the 50 and 100 milers did. It was a net downhill coming back into Hot Springs, which helped a little. I learned quickly to pace myself on the hills, taking the example of the more experienced ultra runners around me. The hills themselves weren't monstrous, just big enough to ruin your day if you didn't hold back a little.

Crowd support was fairly nonexistent except at the aid stations and a couple of people at the finish. Not really sure if a majority of the people in Hot Springs had any clue that a race was going on. But, the other runners were very supportive and helpful as were the aid station volunteers.

Overall, I think this is a great event. Of course, I don't have any other ultras to compare it to, but I've raced enough in other various distances to have a good idea of how an event should go down and from what I saw, Lean Horse went relatively without a hitch.


My recovery wasn't too bad. I was surprised by how quickly my legs bounced back. I basically followed the same plan I do for recovery after a marathon: 2 days of full rest and then start in on some short, slow runs to get the blood flowing through my legs. Within a week of Lean Horse, I was able to launch into an abbreviated training plan for a marathon that was 6 weeks after Lean Horse.

Running Gear Recommendations:

ASICS Cumulus 9 Running Shoes
My new favorite running shoe. I'm also wearing them for my next marathon. Relatively light and good cushioning.
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Jelly Belly Sport Beans
This is the only solid food I ate during the race. They're easier on the stomach than some of the energy gels, but kind of hard to chew and run at the same time if you're not coordinated.
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Nathan Quickdraw Bottle Holder
I used this handheld carrier to hold one 22 oz. bottle which I refilled at each aid station. Also has a zippered pocket that you can store your keys, gels, ID, ipod, etc. in.
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Tips/Words of Encouragement:

If you're going to run an ultra, put in the miles. Back to back long runs helped me a lot, I think. You must train your body and mind to keep going for extended periods. You will probably have bad spells during the race when you're positive that you won't make it and that you should stop, but they eventually pass and you get into a relative comfort zone.

Plans to Run Another:

I'm a race-a-holic. I ran another marathon a few weeks after this race. It was my 7th marathon (plus one 50K, a couple half marathons and a bunch of shorter races) in the past 2 years. I just can't stop myself...

For my next race, I'll increase my mileage. My solution to everything is to run more miles. Every time I up my weekly mileage, I get a PR.

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