On August 2nd, 2013, I completed my first 50 mile run as a benefit for Run For 1 Million — a virtual race that benefits the Green Beret Foundation. It was a fun and challenging course that I completed 11:51:15.
I got involved with the Run For 1 Million because the guys that put it on are fellow GRT’s who are helping with Goruck’s goal to raise $1 million dollars for The Green Beret Foundation. The run for 1 million is one of several fundraising activities that people can participate in.
Picking The Most Scenic Route
I have always wanted to either bike or run the 49 Mile Scenic Drive around San Francisco. The only draw back is that it’s only 49 miles (actually, according to wikipedia, it’s only 46.3). Thankfully, I found the route below that turns out to be 52 miles.
The nice thing about the 49 mile drive is that it has these fantastic signs that (mostly) guild you along the way. The map also came with some links to Google Maps for the details of the original route and the extra 3 miles that are off the original drive but are well worth it.
Roman Style Running
If you have read some of my other race reports (like the one from Diablo Trails, you would know that I run in Teva sandals. I have been doing this for the last 3 years and it’s been fantastic.
When I ran the Diablo Trials 50k, hot spots on the bottom of my feet (foot pad) flared up big time. For this race, I decided to learn from that and put some tape all along the bottom of my footpad. This worked amazing well for my footpads but I failed to consider the rubbing on my pinky toes. That rubbing caused the blisters I had the whole run.
One odd thing about the tape was that it embedded itself into the sole of my sandals. This made my foot stick to the sandal just like that Stickum stuff they used to use in the NFL. I think this is the main reason I did not get any blisters on the bottom of my feet.
Foot care is important and thankfully I knew what I had to do with the two blisters on my pinky toes — pop them and tape them up. Once I did that, the pain went away and I could continue on pain free.
The Motivation of Getting Others Involved
The great thing about this race is that it had a tremendous amount of other people doing it all around the world. That made it a ton of fun to send it updates via Twitter or Facebook.
During the run, I’d sent in periodic Twitter and Facebook updates from the historic landmarks that I would run by (it’s not called 49 mile Scenic for nothing). This was a good way to pass the time and motivated me to keep at it since I can’t let me Twitter and Facebook fans down :)! See below for all the pictures I took along the way.
Breaking Through The Struggles & Challenges
There were plenty of struggles & challenges along the 50 mile route. Most of these struggles revolved around the mental toughness to push past being uncomfortable.
Discomfort takes many forms — hunger, thirst, chafing (BodyGlide helps), rocks in my sandals, not knowing the route, odd ankle pains and thigh tightness. All of these discomforts can wear you down if you let them. Pushing past them requires a lot of mental toughness.
Two techniques really helped me push past the discomfort more than any others included: focusing on the incremental and visualization.
Focus on the Incremental
Running 50 miles is a pretty big goal. Taken all at once, it seems daunting and almost not doable. That’s why it’s important to breakdown this bigger goal into smaller, what Brad McLeod over at SealGrinderPT calls, micro-goals.
These micro-goals are good because they give you the small wins that build into the bigger wins. When I was out running and felt tired or discouraged, I’d give myself the micro-goal of running to the next light pool, bush, bar, gas station or landmark. This kept me focused on specific and actionable goals in the here and now.
Endurance athletics is about 80% mental once you have properly conditioned your body. Your mind — not your muscles — will get you through the tough times when your body wants to quit.
Visualization is a method that works well for this. The basic premise is to build a mental picture of what needs to be accomplished and accomplish it.
Paige Bowie, the only Selection 003 candidate to finish, explains it well in her Selection 003 AAR with this quote:
I also visualized finishing. I saw myself completing movements, succeeding. I came up with mantras and things to tell myself when it started to get hard. — Paige Bowie
Selection (48+ hours) is much harder than a 50 miler but this is the same technique I used to push past some of the more painful moments when all I wanted to do was quit.
Overall, I’m happy with my time given the amount of training I did (which was not much more than my normal training schedule).
If I did another one, clearly I’d need to do more long runs. The longest training session I did was a 7 hour ruck with some of the guys doing the Goruck Heavy. That was actually a pretty good way to train since weight amplifies fatigue and you want to get used to performing when you are tired.
Some of the other lessons learned include:
Run with a Buddy: it gets kinda lonely running by yourself although I did try and make friends with the tourists.
Tape my feet: I should have realized the pinky toe hot spot and taped them like I did my food pad.
Carry less food: I ended up only eating about half the food I brought because I stopped for food along the way including some delicious donuts from Dynamo Donuts
Do Longer Training Runs: this ones kinda obvious but I needed to do more training runs to condition my legs for all those miles.
Knowing the Why Helps
Running for charity provides great motivation. It’s one of the best ways to stay focused when the demons come to tell you to quit. This sense of meaning can pull you along when quitting seems like the only options.
The fact that this race benefits The Green Beret Foundation made it even more motivational since every single one of our silent warriors had to endure much more physical and mental challenges then anything I encountered on my scenic stroll through San Francisco.
To all those that serve and have served, thank you for your service and commitment.