Ultramarathon Essentials


It takes a village not only to raise a child, but to help a person run an ultra. I'll blog later about the actual race itself, but for now I just want to extend some internet love to the products and people who helped!

1. Nathan Hydration Pack

You know how in junior high you were NOT cool if you didn't wear Lucky jeans? At ultras, apparently, the same holds true if you don't have one of these suckers on your back. But unlike Lucky jeans, they serve a purpose. The reason why Nathans are so ubiquitous at the starting line is because they are amazing. They carry just enough water to get you from aid station to aid station (about 70 ounces) and have zippered pockets on the front shoulder straps that give you easy access to any PowerGels, chapstick, iPod, etc that you stash in there. And, unlike most packs, the weight of a Nathan is carried completely on your shoulders and not on your hips. Plus, the straps are made of a supersoft, breathable material that doesn't chafe. I am definitely putting one of these suckers on my Christmas list (I borrowed my dad's at the race).

2. BodyGlide

Probably the best $7 investment you can make if you want to run any distance over a half-marathon.

3. Wright Socks

I'm one of the few outdoor enthusiasts who hasn't hopped on the SmartWool bandwagon. I think their socks are too tight-fitting and too hot. But for long runs, cotton just won't cut it. I found Wright Socks at a local running store and love them as an alternative to SmartWool! They're much lighter, more breathable, and achieve the same aim as SmartWool: keeping your feet blister-free. I wore these socks for the entire 50 miles and hadn't a trace of blister at the finish line.

4. PowerGels

Don't even waste your time trying other gels (Gu, Clif Shots, etc). PowerGels are the best-tasting, hands-down. I like the gels with 2x caffeine--it gives you a noticeable kick of energy. Best flavors are tangerine, vanilla, strawberry banana, and chocolate.

5. S-Caps 

The main electrolytes you lose in heavy sweating are sodium and chloride. Chemistry 101, anybody? NaCl = salt. Popping a salt pill every few hours will help replace the electrolytes your body loses through sweating, which prevents cramps (especially in hot weather).

6. Hokas

While there is no doubt that these babies are the fugliest things you will ever put on your feet, they are worth every penny of the $180 you'll have to shell out for them (once again, borrowed my dad's--sadly, our shoe sizes aren't too far off from each other!). They look huge and bulky, but surprisingly each shoe only weighs 12 ounces. And there's a ton  of cushy room inside--perfect for the last 10 miles when your feet are tired and swollen. I wore Hokas for the last six miles of the race (3,500 feet of descent) and it literally felt like they were propelling me forward.

7. Trail Shoes

Brooks Cascadia 5, what would I have done without you? I love these because unlike most trail shoes, they don't weigh 4 lbs each and aren't embarrassingly bad-looking.

8. iPod

I may or may not have stopped to physically shake my booty at mile 16 to Nelly's "Ride Wit Me."

9. Ibuprofen

Liver schmiver. I don't care what the studies say about ibuprofen--it's a godsend! 

10. Excedrin

I packed some Excedrin thinking I might get a headache from dehydration or the altitude. While I ended up having no problems with either of those, Excedrin came in major handy at mile 35 (4pm) when I felt like taking a nap right there on the trail. After the caffeine boost from Excedrin, I was golden.

11. Your Crew

It felt so good seeing Brock and my family at miles 22 and 28! It gave me such a jolt of energy. Not to mention that they operated like a Formula 1 pit crew! All the other runners were totally jealous. My mom massaged my back with Biofreeze, dad topped off my Camelback, my siblings got me food, Brock showered me with compliments... :)

Special props go out to my dad for helping me get through the race mentally. Right before the race started, he attached a strand of five safety pins to my pack. "You're not going out for a 50-mile run," he said. "You're going out for a 15-hour hike in the woods. Every three hours, take off one of these pins. Just focus on that." At the end of the day, I gave him back one pin.

12. God

As great as it is to have the encouragement of your crew and aid station volunteers, that doesn't change the fact that for the majority of the race you're on your own (with scarcely another runner in sight). For me, the going got really tough at miles 35-39. I never thought about dropping out, but I knew I'd need a little heavenly support to help get me through. Saying a quick prayer helped remind me that I wasn't really alone out there. Likewise, when I crossed the finish line I knew it wasn't really all my doing. Philippians 4:13.


In the pre-race briefing on Friday, the race director told a story about a guy who hit a mid-life crisis. He saw that he was in the same routine, in the same rut as everybody else his age. So he started running and eventually founded the NYC Marathon.

Our race director referred to this act as "getting off the train."

"You will hit a point tomorrow when this grand, romantic idea that you had six months ago of running an ultramarathon will seem like the dumbest idea you ever had. You will hurt. It will be painful. It will suck. But if you quit because it's too hard, or because you're in pain, then give me back the finisher's T-shirt that you got in your packet tonight. Because you got off that train a long time ago, and you don't deserve it if you get back on."

I'm proud to say I'm still off the train. But like I said, it took a village 


  1. um wow. &to think i thought my training for a marathon was difficult! PROPS TO YOU!


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