50 Miles Is Too Many

Some time last year Katherine McIntyre, my partner Ryan’s wife, asked me if I wanted to do a 50 mile race with her. I think she was expecting me to say no, in which case she could have decided it was a silly idea. But my reaction, without thinking about it, was “sure – that sounds cool.” So we both signed up for the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run on April 7th in Sacramento.

Yesterday, I told Amy that this is the only 50 miler I’m going to do again for a while. It’s simply too much training while I work and travel the way I am. I’ve had several 50+ mile weeks in the last month and my weekends are consumed with running. For example, last weekend I had four separate runs totaling seven hours and this weekend I’m doing a double 18 – an 18 mile run on Saturday and an 18 mile run on Sunday.

I love the running. And the double 18s are fun. But for my current 46 year old body, there’s a two day recovery time. During this two day recovery time, I’d love to get 12 hours of sleep a night. That doesn’t work when you get on a plane Monday at 8:15pm to go to Chicago to have a 9am board meeting the next day.

This week I’ve been exhausted every morning when I wake up. My normal wake up time is 5am – I’ve been finding myself getting up at 5, wandering around for a few minutes disoriented, and then going back to bed until 8am. Even then, I’m still tired. I’m not staying up late (I’ve been getting to bed by 10:30pm) and I’m sleeping well, so it’s clearly just the cumulative effect of the training.

I’m easily in the best running shape I’ve been in a decade. I’ve dropped 20 pounds and weighed in at 195 this morning, partly due to the help from my friends at Retrofit. Regular massage has kept me feeling fine, and I’ve even tossed some light swimming and biking into the mix.

Suddenly, a marathon seems really trivial. Katherine and I will put this 50 miler behind us and I’ll be back to my friend, a well understood distance of 26.2 miles. In the mean time, I’ve learned a lot about my physical limits and – with the life and pace I live – feel like I’ve started to bump up against them.

  • MikeJ

    I attempted my first ultra Aug ’10.  I trained like a madman but experienced an overuse knee injury about 2 months prior to the event.  I kept trying to run but finally stopped training for about a month.  After that it was fine but I only accomplished about 70% of my planned training.  Coincidentally(?) I only made it 73 of the 100 miles before my feet gave out.  I like 26.2 🙂

  • Brad – if marathons feel ‘trivial’ and you’re looking for something interesting…but not 50-miles-at-once interesting, multi-day races are an option (and something I prefer).  Many take place over 3-4 days, summing to between 40-100 miles.  Still a ton of mileage, but spacing it out over a few days can make it more tolerable.

    • Yeah – trivial is probably the wrong word. How about “manageable”!

  • Justin Reginato

    Umm…26.3 miles is too long.  But good luck with the AR 50.  My friends say finishing is the most exhilarating thing they’ve ever done.

  • That’s awesome.  Pushing yourself past the physical comfort zone.  You’ll feel that extra level of accomplishment once the race is behind you.  Congratulations.  

  • James Fazio


  • you might want to try a triathalon. A little more variety and the training regimen for the olympic distance should take less time (than training for a marathon).  I just ran my first one and it really was fun… definitely looking fwd to the next.

    • I’m not into the triathalon scene. It overwhelms Boulder and I have some mental glitch against it.

  • Lizelle van Vuuren

    That’s pretty awesome Bard, but it’s key that you’re noticing that your getting your “arse” kicked, and I love that you’re not quitting because it’s hard. Most people don’t look at long-term accomplished in the moments when things are really tough. Way to be! More entrepreneurs should attend “running camps” to test that “mental and physical ability” — now, there’s a thought.

    • Lizelle van Vuuren

      Excuse the typo, I did indeed mean, Brad, not Bard.

      • One of my nicknames is Bard Fled so I didn’t even notice!

    • Thx. It has been interesting how much harder this feels than the four marathons in two months that I did last year.

    • more entrepreneurs should NOT attend running camps…. most people will injure themselves running as the are laden with tight hip flexors  and multiple myofacial adhesions….

      most entrepreneurs sit on their ass leading to this massive biomechanical compromise… 

      just because feld attempts a run and his built himself up to a level (which is now obviously destroying his body) does not mean… en-masse… entrepreneurs should attend a running class… 

      indeed a herd of idiots.

      learn something about this.. start here: http://tptherapy.com/ and then open you mouth… otherwise STFU.

  • Citations (3)
    Displaying 3 of 3
    Export citations (RIS)
    Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running.
    Howatson G, McHugh MP, Hill JA, Brouner J, et al.
    Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports [2010, 20(6):843-52]

    Montmorency cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise.
    Bowtell JL, Sumners DP, Dyer A, Fox P, et al.
    Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise [2011, 43(8):1544-51]

    Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage.
    Connolly DA, McHugh MP, Padilla-Zakour OI, Carlson L, et al.
    British Journal of Sports Medicine [2006, 40(8):679-83; discussion 683]

    • More cherry juice! I’m a huge believer – I started drinking it when I had gout.

      • Nice. Carry the concentrate with you during long runs. Skip the commercial goops.

    • i didn’t know that. Same effect if you eat lots of cherries? 

      • Yup

        • Cherries are my favorite fruit, and I had no idea about that great side effect. As a kid, I’d spend time at my grand-parents summer home where they held an annual Cherries festival & they’d decorate the floats with different colored cherries.

      • Sure..the issue is though is what is the concentration  of the biologically active compound. This is why concentrates “should” be more effective particularly for repair. Most folks don’t realize the amount of free radials that intense exercise produces.

  • Hey Brad! IMO – training for a road marathon doesn’t have to be much different than 50k/50mi training. It doesn’t have to mean higher mileage either. 

    A lot of folks are big into back-to-back long runs, running 60-80 miles a week, two runs a day, etc. And you can benefit from a good B2B long run weekend and a high mileage week every month. But you’re right: it becomes time consuming, exhausting, and at least from my experiences, increases the risk of injury.

    When going back and forth between training for marathons and ultras, the three things I changed were my trail nutrition (muchos calories!), what I ran with (handheld h2o/camelback and other supplies), and the terrain I ran, mimicking the race I was training for (most ultras are run up and down mtns).

    Ultras force you to plan ahead, listen to your body, and constantly make adjustments. Great ultrarunners use that to their advantage, and it can make a huge difference. A well organized crew and thought out drop-bags can save you an hour in a 50mi. Marathons are great for turning off your brain and running even mile splits 26 times in a row. 

    When training for an ultra, I rarely ran more than 45mpw. I’m a believer that anyone can train for an ultra on that kind of mileage. But everyone is different when it comes to ultras… this is just what worked best for me after years of trail and error. 

    Anyways – good luck with your training. Looking forward to a race report next month 🙂

    • I’ve been focusing on the double long weekends and that’s been working pretty well. But I have increased overall weekly mileage by more that 25% which is clearly having an impact.

  • Very impressive. That’s all I can say.

  • Good for you for doing it once. 50 is a heck of a lot of miles. I hope I can do the training that requires some day.

    I ran a 50k (31 miles) in 2006. It was on trails (a nice variation in its own right – I recommend doing a trail marathon if you haven’t done one) and right before new year. Pretty fun: http://huff50k.com/. The nice thing is that it’s just 6 miles longer than a marathon, so you don’t really need to train much extra for it – just endure the pain. 

    The year I did it, it was 50 degrees and MUDDY. A lady passed me (!) in the last couple of miles with no shoes, because she lost them in the mud. I actually cried a fair part of the last 5 miles. It was awesome. 

    I ran 26.2 in October of 2006 in 3:52.39. Nine weeks later in the mud, I ran 31 miles in 7:22 🙂

    One other cool thing I remember about HUFF – it was three loops … so by the time I was starting the 2nd loop, the eventual winners were passing me on their 3rd. It was breathtaking to see their speed. I got lapped by about 30 people, each one slightly less amazingly fast than the previous one.

  • The tiredness is the result of Adrenal Fatigue…..

  • It’s a core indicator that you must pull this back…. the fact the you get to bed at 10:30 and still experience this morning confusion are classic symptoms…. the similar level of weakness between 5 and 8 shows that you liver has been compromised… essentially your body is producing too much cortisol… and your liver is not detoxing it.. this overflows to the adrenals… the liver toxicity is easy to pin point based on how tired you feel at both intervals (5am and 8am)… 

    liver toxicity and adrenal fatigue require at least 60 days to reverse…. which should also be accompanied with a liver specific cleanse.

    bottom line you have stressed your body significantly beyond its ability and have elevated cortisol substantially… triggered by this stress.

    liver and adrenal compromise are something you should not ignore…  

    if you want to attempt to get close to this level again i highly suggest you get to bed at 8/8?30 and arise at 3;30/4 at the latest… your bodys biochemistry will be radically altered by this… specifically  your ability to detox cortisol and your production of Growth Hormone…. without these elevated levels forget attempting to do these stunts… you are only hurting yourself.

  • Brad, have you thought about doing more high-intensity intervals but less volume? I read this blog post a while ago and thought of you. This guy finds his recovery time is drastically reduced but his performance actually improved.


    • I’ll probably give this a shot as part of the summer marathon training.

  • 50 Milers = Double Knee Replacement 60 – Dont kill yourself Brother (Life’s too short)

    • Eh – I’ve got zero knee and hip issues. I’ve studied this – some people are just fine biomechanically and work for a very long time.

  • Respect! and thanks for the very enjoyable post! I recognize your feelings while preparing for my first sub 3hr marathon next month … Rest seems to be an important ‘exercise’ as well. Speaking of tiredness… I’m sure all your training hours will provide sufficient energy for all your other activities…if not now, then it will be somewhere next month!

    Good luck with your preparations… and especially have Fun!

  • Danny

    Just finished “born to run” and my takeout is enjoy your runs, which is what I am trying to do. Maybe if you lay off the pressure to make the training schedule and will not force yourself to make it to the finish line but just have fun, the way for the duality of ultra running and working for a living will find its equilibrium

  • Congratulations on your strong will and hard training. Be careful though, don’t forget to have proper nutrition while you’re preparing for the 50 mile run. Nutrition is as important part of every success as the training itself, if not even more important!

    • Yup – and lots of cherry juice as I’ve recently discovered.

  • quitter

    • The next time we are together I’m taking you for a long run. A very long run.

  • Adam Rentschler

    Saw this and thought you might be interested: CU research on barefoot running’s efficiency vs. running shoes http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/21/making-the-case-for-running-shoes/

  • Meena Srinivasan

    50 miles is a ve-rry long distance, even for a commute by car!  Hats off to you for taking on such a big challenge. 

  • I can scarcely imagine the runners mind. 

    I regularly walk 60-70miles per week (at a cumfy 4mph+ pace) and it’s a serious time cost, but one I pay gladly. The concept of running near continuously for 50 miles is mind boggling. 

    At this point you could probably go down the rabbit hole further than ever before, but only at the cost of the rest of your activities, in short running would have to become your one thing.


    • Mark,

      I have a friend from my high school basketball days (http://www.gameonsportsmarketing.com/) who at 54 competes in Iron Man competitions and he is really hardcore about them.

      He talks about “the high” he gets from exhaustion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endorphin) and he is always trying to entice me with the concept of an endorphin rush….

      I told him that I get my endorphin rush from chocolate cake and ice cream! Which in turn is followed by a 5 mile brisk “guilt” walk….

  • Drink more beet juice. And see if you still feel this way one week after your 50 miler. In the meantime, enjoy a smug, satisfactory smile that you’ve dropped 20 pounds and are running like a champ.

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