For the Grit and the Glory

The Why and How of our 50/50 Run

Team inov-8 athlete, Lisa Mikkelsen, and her husband Thomas have decided to do a 50/50 run. Read on for what it is Thomas’s thoughts on the race:

One of the first things people say to me when I tell them I like to run 100 milers is typically “Why would you want to do that? I don’t even like to drive a 100 miles!”

There are plenty of ways to answer that question and I think I’ve probably given most of these ones at some point or another:

Because I can… Because it’s there… For the adventure… Because I wanted to see if I could… Because of the lows… Because of the highs… For the camaraderie… For the isolation…

You name the answer, I’ve probably used it.

This time around the reasons are a little different. We’re doing the 50/50 run as a  shakedown for our Last Annual Volunteer State (Vol State) run next year in Tennessee which will cover 314 miles over the course of 4 to 7 days. That run is historically run unsupported meaning you get dropped at the start and are expected to make it to the other end under your own steam carrying everything you need or buying it along the way. It’s a go-as-you-please race too, so you get to decide how far you run each day and where you sleep. Traditional 100 milers on the other hand have a 30 or 36 hour limit, strict cut offs, well stocked aid stations and crew points, and no chance for sleep along the way.

So “Why the 50/50?” then:

  • To figure out what exactly we need in our packs, less is more in this case, but there won’t be chances to buy new running gear along the way either
  • Learning to navigate: you’re on your own at Vol State and we will be here too, with just our turn sheets and a GPS in hand. There aren’t any course markings
  • Dealing with logistics: because we have to buy our dinner, lunch, and breakfast along the way we need to prepare for store open/close times or we’ll go hungry
  • Experiencing multi-day racing and getting out the door on day two on tired and sore legs

Having followed Vol State for years and run it once (crewed) myself I’ve seen all sorts of approaches to these issues. Some people bring only the clothes on their back, cash, meds and food and plan to (and do) sleep in cemeteries  and will run to exhaustion each day. Others already have goals and hotels booked for each day.

Ultimately though the best approach seems to be adopting a willingness to change plans and adapt, and that’s ultimately what the 50/50 is about: our plan is going to break down at some point over the weekend, how will we respond to it and what can we learn?

Next, “How do we tackle the 50/50?” and what’s going to be in our packs? In a nutshell…

  • Try to cover 5 miles an hour accounting for all stops along the way, anything slower and logistics get hard
  • Carry enough water to last for 20 miles or so since this is the typical distance between stores
  • Minimize our pack contents as much as possible: sleeping/hotel clothes (we have to be decent for the B&B Breakfast after all), toothbrush & toothpaste, ibuprofen, cold & wet weather extra clothes, and of course, nutrition and electrolytes, and of course: cash, credit cards, ID, and health insurance cards

Lisa, Paul, and I will all have varying items in our pack but that’s a pretty close description of what I’ll be carrying.

The most difficult part of the “How” element is figuring out how to maintain a 5mph pace. Even if you’re running a 9 minute pace for your actual running time and you stop three times for a total of 12 minutes in an hour to buy supplies, wait for traffic, or fix some problem, you’re getting very close to that 5mph pace with only 3 minutes “slop time” to account for any other unforeseen stoppages.

Here’s to being completely on our own for a couple of days.

And here are Lisa’s thoughts of shoe choices and packs for the big race:

It’s been a few years since I’ve run an ultra run and even then they were done on trails.  The 50/50 is on roads and we are unsupported so there isn’t any changing shoes part way through.  I have been living in the 1-arrow Inov-8′s, cycling through the road-x 155s (still my favorite), the road-x-treme 158, the f-lite 240 and 230  for every day use and CrossFit workouts.  For any speed and interval running, it’s the f-lite 195, on the trails I switch back and forth between the x-talon 190 and have loved the trailroc 246 but what do I wear for a long road event?  The f-lite 230 and 240s were just too minimal after 15 miles.  I tried the road-x-treme 188 and loved the ride and how light weight they were.  But the toe bumper was just a bit snug for my feet over longer runs.   So I went back to the road-x 238s, which I hadn’t used since their launch and have been very pleased.  They are super cushiony and yet haven’t messed with my stride.  Fact is, I forget they are on my feet so I’m convinced they will be the shoe for this adventure.

Thomas, on the other hand, is wearing the road-x-treme 208s.  He had them modified to remove the toe bumper.  Does that make them 204s?  (-:

Packs in the past I’ve used the Race Pro 12 for everything from running to work to running the Green Mountain Relay as a 2-person team (yes, this was another of Thomas’s hair brained ideas that sounded like a good idea at the time).  The updated design of the bladder and pack on the Race Pro series is fantastic!  The Race Pro 10 is the pack of choice for me.  Dealing with the bladder is easier, re-filling it while still in the pack is much better and I expect that to save us time on the road.  The wing pockets are just fabulous!  What an improvement.  They are bigger and far more accessible.  My challenge will be to only bring what I absolutely need.  Although if the weather holds, I may possibly try to squeeze into the Race Pro 3.  Hmm.  It’s wonderful to have so many viable choices.

Thomas has chosen to use the Race Pro Extreme 4.  Initially he was concerned about the lack of wing pockets but has added the bottle holder and mesh pocket and that has him covered.

Good luck to Lisa and Thomas!!

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