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North Face Madison Goals

I hope you’re not expecting a “PR HERE I COME, POINT ME IN THE DIRECTION OF THE START LINE” type of goal post.

Because that’s definitely not what this is. So settle in for a little less hare style adrenaline, and a little more tortoise variety of race talk.

This weekend is my very last weekend of peak training (cue happy dances and also some whimpering and tears. I’ll be relieved when this shit is over and then immediately miss it.)

I want to get one last 30+ mile in before hitting taper, so I signed up for a 50k outside of Milwaukee. I have no intention whatsoever of racing this course. It’s way way way too close to my 50 miler and I have other plans for shit I need to get out of the event.


Training for a 50 miler involves so much more than physically preparing your legs to tackle the distance. You need to worry about nutrition, and pacing, and when to walk, and how to approach hills, and what to wear for an insane number of hours, and what parts of your body you never knew needed body glide, and how to cope with the fact that you run straight through lunch (hands down, biggest concern). Really, everything that everyone worries about when they first tackle a race of any distance. It’s just been a while since I’ve had to think about this shit and it’s on a slightly more intense level than anything I’ve done, outside of the Ironman.

So, my race goals for the North Face Endurance Challenge Madison 50k are all about getting one step, or 50 kilometers worth of steps, closer to figuring out what will help me figure out what to do about all of that pesky, yet kind of critical, other stuff on race day.

Goal One: Run Slow

Bring on the PW, I want it.

I am terrified about going out too fast at my 50. Race environments fuck with my head. I get all high on adrenaline and take off much faster than I have any business running. I get uncomfortable watching people fly by me. And I obsess over my garmin pace. If I’m slightly too slow, I tell my legs to get their acts together and speed the F up. But if I’m a lot too fast, I chalk it up as time in the bank and carry on.


I can’t do this in a 50 mile race. But I know, even setting out with my only goal being to just finish, that I’m in grave danger of getting sucked into the race and bolting. (“Bolting” being relative of course. In a 50 mile race, my “bolt” will be the same pace as the majority of my slowest recovery runs.)

I’ve slowed my long runs down a lot since I started ultra running. Like, a lot a lot. Like a lot a lot a lot. But, I’m worried it’s not enough for 50 miles. It’s hard to change your pace to be appropriate for a race twice the distance of what you’re used to racing.

Tomorrow I want to feel like I’m going too slow the entire time. I want to end the race feeling like I could keep going forever. You have permission to leave nothing but hate comments if I report anything but complete and total slowness.

Goal Two: Practice Nutrition

During marathon training, I never fuel for long runs. It’s a very intentional move, but one that really only works for distances under 20-22ish miles. Since starting to flirt with the 30+ mile long runs, I’ve needed to introduce fuel back into my weekend long runs.

The thing I am most concerned about for the 50 miler. Okay, ONE of the things I am most concerned about, is a nutrition strategy. There’s only so much gu a girl can eat…and for me, that number hovers right around zero.


So real food will be critical to my race. Hydration and stomach issues were the biggest downfall of my Ironman, and I’m a little worried they will ruin this race for me as well. There is just no way to practice what your body will want and need at hour 7 of a race, when you never train for even close to that long.

On recent runs, I’ve experimented with some fuel options that resemble real food. Granola bars and pretzels and such. But, when carrying my handheld, there is only so much real food I can stuff in the pocket.

So this weekend, with aid stations galore, I’m going to eat a variety of non-gu type of fuel. Peanut butter and jelly, chips, cookies, and flat coke. Bring on all of the food. It still won’t help me understand quite what hour 9 will feel like on my stomach, but it will hopefully help me realize that I can eat all of the potato chips I want on October 6th.

Goal Three: Practice Run/Walking

A part of me (mostly the part that beings with an “running e” and ends with a “go”) wants to run the entire 50 miles.  But I know that’s a stupid plan. Everyone who has ever done a 50 mile race has cautioned me against this approach. Including, I might add, the race director, who I’m inclined to trust, based on his sub 7 hour 50 miler PR. During my weekend trail running, I’ve been incorporating more and more walking to get up a lot of the hills and scramble over rocky patches (although, that’s more like butt shuffling). But, I’m still not very comfortable with it. I’d like to spend a good portion of my SLOW running tomorrow, nailing some walking and really feeling like “hell yeah, that shit works”.

And now it’s time for me to get back to cheese curds and wedding prep. GOOD LUCK to everyone else racing this weekend!

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17 Responses to North Face Madison Goals

  1. Good luck, Emily! You’ll do great! These are very specific and tangible goals, which is ideal. Can’t wait to hear all about the “race.” :)

  2. Of all these things, I’d say you need the most help in the run/walking area. I saw you try to power walk once, and it made my eyes bleed. SWIVEL THE HIPS, HALNON, SWIVEL THE HIPS.

    J/K (kind of), you’re going to do great this weekend and at the Big 50, duh. A wise womancoach once told me “You can’t go out too slow.” Just throwing that out there.


  3. I’m running the North Face half marathon on Sunday. Good luck tomorrow!

  4. Hey, have you thought about Ensure or something like that? It’s been a godsend in my longer races where the thought of chewing something is exhausting. Granted, your ultra won’t be anywhere near that long, but your pace will be a lot faster than our AR pace. Good luck this weekend!!

  5. Best of luck this weekend in meeting your goals – all of which are probably fantastic for that distance. Also, be sure to have fun!

  6. One thing my racer buddy told me to do in order to prevent getting caught up on pace at the beginning of a long race (13.1 miles for me, seems 50 for you) is to start in the back and hang out for a second to let them others on adrenaline take off. Since your chip timed typically, it doesn’t matter if they beat you on the course, just what your actual time was. I still take off too fast but it wasn’t as bad last time. PLus you get the thrill of passing more people that way.

    Good luck, and enjoy Madison. It isn’t the number 1 party school in the US for no reason.

  7. Have a great time at the wedding the the 50k. Find someone to talk to who you think will be a LOT slower than you!

    Jen calls the “walking” of trail running…power hiking…I think that’s an awesome description although in your case for this race maybe non-power hiking is a better term.


  8. Good luck this weekend!!! Hope you nail all your goals so you feel fully confident going into your 50miler.

    PS. I must say you are my FAVORITE running blogger. You are balls to the walls awesome. And your posts describing your hardcore workouts get my lazy butt off the couch. THANKS!

  9. Good luck this weekend! I think regardless of distance we can all learn something from this post!

  10. You’ll be alright gal.

  11. best wishes, emily, i hope you hit all your 50k goals!
    really looking forward to your race report!

  12. I love this post. So helpful, honest & informational. I hope to do a 50 miler someday… and got my eyes on that Madison event. Hope the 50k went well!

    • you should TOTALLY do the Madison race. It was tons of fun, a great course, well organized. I highly highly highly recommend!

  13. I can’t wait to hear how it went! You should be really, really proud if you manage to pull of doing some run-walking and starting off at a reasonable pace.

  14. […] race report later. I had SO MUCH FUN running this 50k. I met all of my goals for the race and had a blast doing it. I didn’t think I could be any more excited to toe the line at Can Lake […]

  15. I started training for the Nation’s Tri with GU shots, but then toward the end I switched to these: http://vegasport.com/en/sustain/endurance-gel. They taste a lot better, and considering I didn’t bonk at any point, they worked.

  16. I love reading your blog, and I hope to do the Madison race next year! Couldn’t make it this time around. :(