A humbling distance: Headlands 50K race report

Photo by Richard Bolt

Photo by Richard Bolt

I feel like I’ve got marathoning down. I know how to train for it, pace myself, and fuel properly. And barring any weather disasters, I can usually come pretty close to the goal I set for myself. Ultras, as I’m quickly learning, are a whole other beast. The 50K is a humbling distance. Just five miles longer than a marathon, but with that five miles comes the unexpected. So many things can go wrong out on those trails that it’s hard to prepare for all worst case scenarios.

I chose the Tamalpa Headlands 50K as my first attempt at that distance. It’s in my backyard, making travel logistics a non-issue. And more importantly, I could train on the course. Looking at past year’s winning times, I felt I had a pretty good shot at placing in this one. And then I realized it was the USATF 50K National Championships and there was some big prize money on the line. Okay so the field would probably be stacked and top 10 would be cool, but I tried to set my expectations low so I wouldn’t be disappointed come race day. Continue reading

Pro Tip in Pictures: Handheld Bottles

handhelds

I hate running with anything in my hand (mostly because my arm gets tired and it reminds me how weak my upper body is). But buying the right handheld bottle can make all the difference on the annoyance scale. Look for a bottle with a wide cinching strap, like the Nathan bottle on the left. Try it on, pull it tight, and violently shake your hand around. Does it come loose or fly off, narrowly missing someone’s head? If so, you probably grabbed a bottle with a narrow strap, like the one on the right.

The less energy you have to put into holding onto your bottle or re-tightening the strap, the more energy you can channel into trashing your quads on that next downhill.

Bonus: the bottle will protect your hand if you ever dive headfirst into the trail. I may or may not have firsthand experience with this.