My First 30-Mile Training Run

I generally don’t write about my runs here, since my goal is for you to stay awake when you read No Meat Athlete.  After all, if training were exciting, there wouldn’t be a need for so many amazing inventions to help us get six-pack abs while we sit at a desk, sleep, eat, and/or take care of business in the bathroom.

But going out on a limb and assuming most of you haven’t ever done a 30-mile run in training—this was my first—I figure maybe you’d like to hear about one.

It’s a shame they don’t give medals for these things.  If my 27 miles two weeks ago was my first n’arathon, then this was my first n’ultra.  Not the farthest I’ve ever run, but the farthest I’ve ever run in training.

When I first signed up to run a 50-miler ( the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Miler on June 6th), this was the part that scared me.  Having to run 30-plus miles all by myself, without the hype and adrenaline rush of running a race.  But the day finally came, and without a good excuse to put it off, I found myself heading out for a 5-hour run on a perfectly good Saturday.

I mapped out a 10-mile loop that started from and ended at my house which I would run three times.  This, I thought, would make the whole thing more comfortable and break the thirty up into manageable chunks.  Thirty is a lot.  Ten I can handle.

Loop 1: Cursing Last Night’s Rhone

The first loop was fine.  It made me wish I’d had one fewer glass of delicious wine the night before, but otherwise all good.  My iPod kept me company, I stopped at Charm City Run to pick up a little something for Erin’s first Mother’s Day, and I finished up the first 10 miles feeling good.

I fueled up on some Vega Sport and homefries.  If I’m going to run that far, I’m going to eat whatever the hell I’m craving.  Homefries sounded good, they were in the refrigerator, and I ate them.

Loop 2: Zen Breathing after an iPod Betrayal

Loop 2 started out well, until relative disaster struck: My iPod died.  I figured these things charge in a half an hour or so, but apparently that wasn’t enough.  I entertained myself for a lot of the time with a breathing exercise I heard about recently—four breaths in through the nose, four breaths out through the mouth.  Two steps per breath.

Ready for the weird part?  With each breath, touch your thumb to a finger tip, starting with your index finger, then your middle finger, then your ring ringer, and finally finishing at your pinky.  Then repeat, thousands of times until you’re in a trance.  Stupid, yes.  But it made me feel happy and it killed some time when I otherwise might have gone insane.  Try it.

When I finished the second loop, I was feeling great.  Except my crotch was absolutely on fire; I swore at that moment that I would not run again until I had bought new running shorts.  After applying more Vaseline than I thought necessary, I grabbed some more homefries, some pretzels, two cupcakes, and two glasses of water.  I’m all for natural running fuel, but there’s something about ultra-distances that makes me crave junk.  When I interview Brendan Brazier again (this week), I’m going to ask him about how optimal nutrition for ultras differs from that for shorter distances.

Loop 3: The Road Catches Up To Me

The third loop is when it started to get old.  For one, this was my first all-road run of any considerable distance in a long time.  Second, I didn’t wear my CEP compression socks because I worry about getting addicted to them.  And about 25 miles in, my legs got really heavy and tired of pounding the pavement.

Other than that, it was pretty uneventful.  The Vaseline I applied wasn’t sufficient, and if the chafing alone weren’t enough to make me trash my current running shorts, the horrific blood stain that now graces the liner most definitely is.

But I made it.  Five hours and 10 minutes after I started, I was back at my front door.  As soon as I came in, I lay on the carpet for a long time and had Erin bring me things.  And I was pretty damn proud of myself.

One more of these thirties (or thirty-five) and a few weeks of tapering, and I’ll be ready for the 50.  I haven’t quite made peace with that one yet.

Happy Mother’s Day

I’d like to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to my wife, Erin, who has now been a (wonderful) mother for just over three weeks.  I asked her what she wanted to do to celebrate, and she said, “Go get plants for the garden.”  So that’s what we did.  Plus I got her a gift certificate for some Vibram Fivefingers.

And of course, Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, too.  And to all the other mothers out there.  I now realize how much work you all do.



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  1. I think I got tired reading about running 30 miles; awesome job!
    And happy mother’s day to Erin! It must be a special time in the NMA household this year
    .-= Evan Thomas´s last blog ..Mother’s Day Brunch On Broadway =-.

  2. I love reading about other people’s training runs…it makes me realize the weird things I do to get through them are not that weird! I’m also impressed your body can handle 30 miles while having a 3 week old in the house….must be all that vegetarian food.
    I too have run in new shorts before and it is the worst idea ever. Luckily I got a ton of free samples from Body Glide in miniature carry-able size.
    Good luck with the rest of your training!

  3. WOW! Way to rock through it. The chaffing issues sound frightening! Happy Mother’s Day to Erin! What a great way to spend the day- she looks fabulous
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Cauliflower Pizza Crust & MIA =-.

  4. Happy Mother’s Day to Erin & congrats on your 30 miler!!! Way to go! I’ll be doing the North Face Endurance Challenge half marathon relay the day before with a few other bloggers…we should come cheer you on!
    .-= Heather @ Side of Sneakers´s last blog ..Gold Medal Oats =-.

  5. congrats on your first ultra distance training run. I used to have issues with thigh chafing until I switched to long briefs – I use RRS brand, but others should work fine too

    still lube to avoid chafing between the cheeks on anything more than 15 or so. I prefer bag balm over Vaseline – if it keeps a cows udder from getting raw, it’s ok by me… :-). seems to last longer when sweating too.

  6. Great job on the run, though the blood stained shorts sounds pretty scary. When I was marathon training, I also ran a ten mile loop that went by house (but I only ran it twice!). Also, just wanted to say that I love the redesign – it’s really clean and the header is super fun and cute, while still being tough and hard core, of course! 😉

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I enjoy reading about other people’s running and training. Congrats on finishing the 30-miler! Blood-stained shorts sounds pretty scary, but way to push through. I’ve run long in shorts that were not meant to be run long in. Not fun! But again, congrats on the run and happy mother’s day to your wife! 🙂

  8. Vickie says:

    Well… thanks Matt! Love Mom

  9. Reading about your training really gives me the courage to start training harder for my half. I know it doesn’t come close to a 50 mile run, but it’s the biggest run I’ve ever attempted and for some reason the name of it “Half Marathon” has really been giving me the creeps!! I’ve stopped calling it a “Half Marathon” and now refer to it as “My Run in October!” So far the longest distance I’ve gone is 4 miles and I didn’t even run the whole thing, but I feel more confident just by reading what you go through during your runs. So I just wanted to say thanks!

    And thanks for the Mother’s Day wishes!!!

  10. I’m intrigued by that breathing exercise. I will give it a go tomorrow on my nxt run.

    20 miles without an ipod sounds tough to me!
    .-= AndrewENZ´s last blog ..Toughing out 20 miles =-.

  11. The breathing exercise sounds really interesting. I usually just look down far enough to see the tips of my feet as they reach the front of my stride and watch them to make sure I’m running with good form. Then i realize the lines in the concrete are passing underneath me pretty fast and that makes me smile and go for another mile. I’ve been working so much on speed for shorter runs lately that I don’t plan on even training for a marathon till next year sometime. Can’t wait to hear how the 50 goes and happy mothers day to your wife!
    .-= Billy´s last blog =-.

  12. That was a great post – I love reading about other people’s training runs, especially for that distance since I have no desire to go that far!
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Mother’s Day Challenge =-.

  13. An amazing accomplishment! I think I would have had to change shorts after the first loop. I chafe really bad also, mine is usually from my sports bra. Congrats on the great run!
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..My New Bike =-.

  14. Its reading stories about chaffing like yours that make me glad I’m a lady! 😉
    Well done on the loops though – I try and avoid doing laps as I know I’ll drop out before I should! 😀
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..Running Tour: Richmond Park =-.

  15. Happy Mother’s Day to your wife! It’s not easy being a new mom:)

  16. I wouild like to hear what Brendan Brazier says about the ultra fueling. I’m about to start training for my first ultra here really soon, and trying to find as much info as possible.

  17. Congrats on the 30 miler! That is a big milestone! Can’t wait to read about the race!
    .-= Krista@CommitmentisLiberating´s last blog ..It Must Be Windsday!! =-.

  18. Happy Mother’s Day Erin!!

    My iPod broke down today, too. But I just wanted to listen to it at home, where I am hiding from the miserable weather.

    Hehe. Methinks I should get in a proper workout before the day is ended… I don’t think that cleaning my kitchen *really* counts 😉
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..Sneaky Cupboard Strategies for Weight Loss =-.

  19. Nice run!

    I like that breathing exercise…I’ve done something similar but without the forethought or conscious intent…usually it’s just a method for making sure I run slow enough on an easy run by limiting my oxygen. (That, and if I’m running on roads I try to filter as much incoming air through my nostrils as possible so that I don’t give the pollution a bee-line to my lungs…)

    Definitely sounds worth trying, though.

    I’m most impressed w/going out for another 10 miles after getting the chafage…ignoring the fact that finishing the 30 miler proves you are physically ready for the 50 miler, I’d say that that proves that you are mentally ready for it.

    I doubt that another 30 or 35 mile run is really necessary in your training. You could rock out the 50 where you are at. You’ll do well.
    .-= Blaine Moore´s last blog ..Do Your Shoulders Hurt When You Run? =-.

    • Blaine, that’s very interesting about limiting your oxygen on purpose, to make yourself go slowly. Breathing quickly like that definitely does limit it and would never work at a fast pace.

      It’s really comforting to know that a runner/coach like yourself thinks I’m ready for this thing. It’s kinda making me not want to do 30-35 more next weekend…

      • I tried your breathing trick briefly last night, but it was a little chilly and I kept getting distracted by my fingers getting cold and missing. Definitely going to take a little practice and a lot more coordination!

        As a point of comparison, I just checked my training log before my 50…my longest run was less than 25 miles. Starting 4 weeks before the 50 miler, I did 3 runs in 5 days of 20+ miles that ended with that 24.3 mile run, so I did stress myself, just never that far at once.
        .-= Blaine Moore´s last blog ..Do Your Shoulders Hurt When You Run? =-.

        • Blaine, I’m seriously thinking about skipping the remaining 30-35 and running consecutive 20’s or something similar, since I’ve really never done any long runs within a few days of each other. I’d never thought of getting the mileage that way, but it sounds like it worked for you (and another commenter once said Scott Jurek trains that way, never running more than 30 at once).

          I’m curious to know what you think about tapering for an event like this. Should it be longer than for a marathon? I usually give myself three weeks of tapering (which covers two full weekends). So this coming weekend would be my last hard one.

          • It depends…I am not a huge fan of the big taper for a marathon, unless I’m sore and need the recovery time. But I race marathons a lot harder than I do the longer races and haven’t put in as long weeks in before a marathon like I have for the ultras.

            I know for my 50, I definitely had some sore muscles and needed the few weeks or so to run easier and let my muscles recover. Since I didn’t have to worry about losing speed, and base endurance takes longer to lose, it made sense. It was also pretty easy to taper since my race was at the beginning of January, so between holidays and a week long vacation I was able to find plenty of other things to occupy my time!

            I just checked my training log and I basically took 4 weeks of easy running…my 3×20+ milers ended in the middle of the week and I kept it easy from that point to the race, with my weeks coming in at 66, 63, 46, 30, 13+50 (calendar)

            So…see how you feel. If you are sore, take some extra time and roll out with the foam roller, wear your recovery socks around, and make sure you stay really well hydrated. If you are feeling really good, get some medium/long runs in and get out and enjoy your runs so you don’t go too stir crazy.
            .-= Blaine Moore´s last blog ..Do Your Shoulders Hurt When You Run? =-.

  20. Wow…congrats on your long run! I can’t even imagine running 30 miles!

    Go buy some new shorts right now! Why are you waiting?
    .-= Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)´s last blog ..A Perfect Mother’s Day =-.

  21. Breaking your run into 3 10-mile loops is a great idea…I’m going to do that on my next long run. Also, sidenote, Charm City Run is where I was properly fitted with running shoes for my first time. I’d always suffered from foot pain/blisters; the woman working there took one look at my feet and shoes and brought me a new pair that was 2.5 sizes larger than what I’d been wearing (casually noting that foot-binding is no longer “in”) – annnd my running experience was forever revolutionized. I like picturing you running past one of the places that had such an impact on my own running career. Congrats on finishing 30 miles!

  22. I am completely amazed at your distance running! After this marathon, I’m trying to decide between training for a triathlon or an ultra; both scare the crap out of me, which is why I want to do one or the other! Beat the fear out of me, right? Plus it’s great to do something you never thought you could do! It makes all the other “impossible” stuff seem more possible. I also love the new layout!
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Being kind to me =-.

  23. hahaha I’m so sorry but your honesty is truly refreshing and I can’t help but say that this really cracked me up.

    Hope the chafed area is all healed up now!

    Congrats on the run! You’re totally crazy but I respect it!

    • Thanks, Diana. Yeah, all healed up. Usually it only hurts until I shower, at which point it’s excruciating, and then it seems to heal right away.

      No more of that.

  24. Guy McPherson says:

    Now that you have a baby, try spreading a little of the baby’s ointment for diaper rash on any parts that are red an irritated from training. I use “Desitin” and it works wonders. I have no small kids, but I keep this on hand for these situations. Any runners or bikers out there will be amazed at how quickly you heal from the redness and soreness.

    • Guy, that is such a great, obvious idea. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it before or thought of it. I’ll try it out. Thanks!

      • I’m curious, does Bodyglide not work, or does it only go so far? I’ve heard raves about it, but not from people who are running as far as you are.

        • Jill, Bodyglide and any other lubricant designed for sports that I use generally work very well. I used lots of it for the first two loops of my run. I really think the problem is just that my shorts are so old… maybe 2.5 years of being used once or twice a week. Even Bodyglide is helpless against their power.

  25. Thanks for all of the mother’s day wishes everyone! I am so happy to have Holden as my son! He is amazing!

  26. I got stuck on the part where you said “five hour run.” Ummm… FIVE HOURS? Wow! 😉

    Happy Mother’s Day to Erin!

  27. Wow! Congratulations on your run!! You made it sound so easy (well…besides the chafing part ;)) Breaking it up into 10 mile loops was a great idea — seems like it would be a lot more manageable.

    Question: about how much time would you say you rested between loops to eat? Did you find your legs cramped up at all while you were doing this? And did you have any trouble digesting? Just curious because I’ve never run that far and always have a hard time with my stomach during long runs. So I’m wondering how hard it is to keep stuff down…
    .-= Lauren @ Health on the Run´s last blog ..The Power of a Playlist =-.

    • Lauren, I probably took 10-15 minutes each time at home. Which is good, because I felt like I was running much faster than my overall pace would indicate. But I also think resting that long helped keep me full and comfortable. In a race I certainly would try to do most of the maintenance on the run though, to save time.

      I didn’t have trouble digesting. As long as I stick to solid food for these very long runs, I usually don’t have any trouble. It’s gels that upset my stomach most. But the pace on a 30-miler run is much slower than even on a 20-miler, so you might find that your digestion is less an issue. Only way to know is try!

  28. I’m sitting here giggling at how you write…so entertaining. Love how Erin “brought things to you” as you lay on the carpet. I can so see that. 😉 And keep those training stories coming, they are great!

  29. Interesting post! 2 things… I’m surprised that your longest training run for a 50m event is only 30m! Come race day you can just add on the extra 20? Second… what kind of pace do you keep when running that long? I feel your pain on the chaffing… I have some nice fat stores on my inner/upper leg and it’s bad if I don’t wear compression shorts!

    • Mike, from the people I’ve talked to, 30-35 miles for your longest run before a 50 seems to be pretty standard. The problem is that when you start running distances greater than that, the amount of damage it does and the recovery time are high. I’ve heard you need 30 days to truly recover from a 30-miler, 50 days to recover from a 50-miler, etc… I don’t believe that, but that’s the main idea behind not going much over 30.

      So yeah, you just tack on the extra 15-20 miles on race day. I guess the excitement, aid, an slower pace just help you make it. As for pace, I’m not completely sure because so much depends on the terrain of the course. I ran 11-minute miles for my last 50K when I was in worse shape than I am now and on what I believe to be a harder course. So I’ll make 11- to 12-minute miles are reasonable to expect.

      How do you like compression shorts? I’m waiting for my first pair to come in the mail.

  30. compression shorts are the best thing ever… I pretty much wear them all the time! I usually end up finding them for cheap at tjmax, marshalls, ross, etc, etc (hit or miss though).

    • Mike, I just got my pair in the mail! I’ll be reviewing them on the blog soon. I had no idea you could get them at that type of store; that might actually make them affordable!

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