What was hard to endure is sweet to recall.
I recently completed my first 50k; while you might not be surprised to hear it’s a lot different from a 25k, there are a few lessons to glean from the first ultra distance:
You will suddenly need a lot more sleep than normal.
I felt remarkably good for finishing my first ultra. I was a little sore but not in any pain, and recovery was going swimmingly. When I randomly conked out for 2 hours a week after the race, I was a bit surprised. Since I wasn’t feeling poorly, I had returned to my normal schedule (minus the training). Next time I’ll know better! I’d recommend allotting a couple hours extra sleep the next few days following your race, no matter how you feel. Sleep reduces inflammation markers; it will help aid your recovery (even if it’s already going well). This article has good info regarding running and sleeping.
Take the next few work-outs easy.
I co-lead a local running clinic and and I couldn’t skip out on training with my ladies, even after a 50k. The Monday following my race I was feeling frisky and REALLY wanting to run, so I led a 5k at a reasonably quick pace. Big mistake. I hurt the next day in a way I hadn’t the preceding week! Give yourself plenty of time to ease back into strenuous work-outs, even if your legs are getting twitchy. Try a new sport for 2 weeks – give yoga a try, do some cyling – anything to make sure your body has time to adapt to the changes you threw at it.
The low/high points will fade from memory. Don’t let them.
If your race went satisfactorily, your brain is going to want to forget the low points – those moments where you struggled to keep going, mentally or physically. Don’t. Remember those moments. Remember what got you through those moments! Congratulate yourself for finding strength you didn’t know you had and get prepared to use it next race. Rehearse finding motivation when you need it – it’s a skill like any other, and it needs practice.
On the other hand, if you didn’t finish the way you wanted to (or at all), there’s definitely going to be a lot of gut-wrenching analysis. Good – there should be. Don’t neglect to revel in the high points though! Did you get to see old friends, make new ones, see gorgeous scenery you hadn’t before? Running is a gift; be grateful you’re able to spend your life doing this.
Follow up on those new friendships!
Along the way, I bet you found some cool people. Stay in touch! If you’re on Twitter, check for your race hashtags and get to know who will be racing with you. Meet them in person if you can on race day. If you ran with some new people, check for them on Facebook and keep that conversation going. If you don’t know their whole name, check the race results. The trail and ultra running gang are really friendly and welcoming; keep those friendships going during the race downtimes too 🙂
What did you learn after your first ultra?