QT: Lessons Learned from Running My First Ultra Marathon

I never thought that I would see the day when I would run a race longer than a marathon, but that day has officially come and gone.

As of 5 March 2017, I am officially an ultra marathoner!

So I guess that officially makes me quite the idiot too, eh?

Long Play 33.3

The Long Play 33.3 was not only my first ultra marathon, but it was also my first trail race and my first time running on single track trails.

And I can say with a fair sense of certainty that it won’t be my last, on any of those fronts!

Me in Full Ultra Mode

Full Ultra Mode

I had a lot of fun out there, and while an in-depth recap/race report this is not, here are some of the highlights of my day on the trails.

The race started at 6:30, and we spent about the first 3 miles on some roads (paved and dirt/sand).

After that, it was trail crazy for most of the next 27 miles or so.

Early on in the race, the trails weren’t too technical. Mostly smooth Earth with some rolling (Florida) hills.

There were a few sections in the first 18-19 miles where there were some tree roots to navigate, but other than that it was pretty easy going.

Between mile 19 and mile 25, however, there were some pretty gnarly sections of trail with all kinds of tree roots and pot holes and random mess to navigate.

From mile 25 to the end of the race, the trail was fairly easy with the exception of a couple of Florida mountains that just sucked.

Like, seriously sucked.

But all in all, it was a lot of fun.

And I wouldn’t be shocked if I gave it another go next year!

Ultra Bling: The Best Kind

Ultra Bling: The Best Kind

My Highlights

There are definitely a few things from this event that I’ll remember for quite some time.

Getting Lost

At one point in the race, around mile 12 or so, I found myself passing a few people and unable to see the runners that were in front of me.

The course was very clearly marked, until it wasn’t.

Apparently, we were supposed to make a turn at one point, but the markers for the turn had been removed by someone.

So I just kept moving right along.

Thankfully, the trail I was on ran into the trail I was going to get to a bit later, and I got there at the same time some other runners did who were ahead of me. They told me I missed a turn, along with a half dozen others that missed it too, and that we needed to run back down the trail they were on to the aid station.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to do any serious backtracking and my final distance really wasn’t impacted.

A Couple of Near Falls

Like I mentioned before, there were some sections of trail that had some serious tree roots.

For the most part, I did well to avoid them and make sure my footing was true, but there were two or three times I kicked a root and thought I was going to eat it.


Thankfully, I’m an athlete and am full of agility and grace, so I was able to save myself each time.

And for the record, I never once even had to put my hands down to help save myself.

I am an Elite Athlete

An Angel in the Distance

From about mile 27 to mile 30, I was really struggling.

I walked quite a bit in that stretch, and actually thought that I had possibly gotten lost again. (Thankfully, not the case)

After exiting the trail at about the 30 mile mark, I had three plus miles of road (dirt and paved) between me and the finish line.

And my body actually started to feel a bit better being out of the woods as well.

When I hit the pavement with about a mile and a half to go, there was an angel in the form of my wife, waiting to run me to the finish line.

And that was EXACTLY what I needed.

Seeing her definitely put a pep back in ya step, and gave me the strength I needed to go the last mile and a half or so without stopping to walk.

Lessons Learned

Finishing the ultra was a relief, but as I’ve tried to make clear during this entire post and on the podcast version I’m so glad that I finally did it.

And this wouldn’t be much of a quick tip if I didn’t give you at least a few bits of insight, so here we go!

Trail Running > Road Running

Straight Chillin

Straight Chillin

There is just something about the trail community that’s just awesome.

Nothing against road runners and the road running community, but the whole vibe around this race was my kind of vibe.

Low key. Loosy goosy.

It was awesome.

Strength Training Y’all!

Strength training is so important, and this race just reaffirmed that to me.

By the end of the race, my abs were screaming at me and my lower back/ass had had enough.

I clearly haven’t been emphasizing strength training like i should, and this race made that abundantly clear.

Ultra Aid Stations are Everything

Most water stops in a road race are simply that: water stops.

In an ultra marathon, they are everything and more!

  • Need something to eat? No problem.
  • Something to drink? Got you covered.
  • Some vasoline for a hot spot? They’ll lube you right up!

Ultra Aid Station

And the people working the aid stations?

Absolute saints.

Volunteers at any race are clearly awesome people, but the cream of the crop are in charge of an ultra marathon aid station.

I’m Capable

I honestly didn’t think I could have run an ultra marathon a year ago.

And the key word there, in case you missed it, is think.

Too often we don’t give ourselves a chance to do something big because we tell ourselves that it is impossible.

Point blank, some things are impossible.

But not as many things as we may think.

You’re Capable Too

So stop telling yourself that something is impossible and get off your ass and give the impossible a shot.

You might just surprise yourself at how much you really are capable of doing if you get out of your own way…

I never thought I'd run an #ultra, but I did! And I learned a few things along the way as well... #runchat Click To Tweet

What is Something, Running or Otherwise That You Thought You Couldn’t Do Until You Actually Did It?
Where do you stand on ultra running? A veteran? Still unexplored territory? No way in hell?

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