Tips for running your first Noble Canyon 50k Ultramarathon

20 runners at one of the 2014 training runs.

20 runners at one of the 2014 training runs.

On a recent training run Ben Arp, going for his first ultramarathon at this year’s Noble Canyon 50k, asked me if I had any advice for him to be successful. Another runner, going for their first ultra as well, said they were “terrified” at the distance.

What I shared with Ben that day could help you if you are going for your first NC50k, especially if you have questions about how to prepare to run your fist ultramarathon. If you don’t plan to win the thing but want to finish within the qualifying time and enjoy your day these tips may be for you.

Tip 1.) TWENTY MILES:  Be sure you go 20 miles on some if not several of your training runs. Build up your miles slowly to reach that distance; adding a few more miles each week.

  • When the race is three months away make sure you go on at least two training runs that are 20 miles that month.
  • When you are two months away from the “big dance” make sure you go on three to four training runs that hit 20 miles.
  • When the race is four weeks away start your taper, there is no need to hit 20 miles that close to the race. Your “longer” runs could be 13-17 miles during those weeks.

Here is the big key: do not worry about how long it takes you. These runs are about time on your feet not quickness. It could take you all day and that is fine, just make sure you complete the 20 mile distance. Most of these special training runs should be in the mountains. You may want to recruit a family member or friend to meet you at various trailheads and crew you.

Tip 2.) HEAT ACCLIMATION: The Noble Canyon 50k has historically been a hot race. It is reasonable to plan for triple digit temperatures on race day. Some years are hotter or cooler than others, so use the Boy Scout motto and “be prepared.” About five weeks before race day consciously spend time in the sun and heat. Wear a hat and sunblock and stay hydrated of course. Consider starting your run later in the morning so you will be in the heat of the day for more hours. On your lunch break eat outside and not in the shade. While driving leave that A/C off and roll down your windows (your fellow passengers may have something to say about this one though!).

During this time, when you’re hot and uncomfortable say to yourself “think of it as training.”  Come race day your body will be more prepared for the hot temperatures. If you can get in a 20 mile run in the middle of a hot day at Mission Trails or better yet on the actual race course you are doing proper training for the Noble Canyon 50k.

Much of the course is exposed with few trees. Plan for a hot race day.

Much of the course is exposed with few trees. Plan for a hot race day.

Tip 3.) LEARN THE COURSE: Do your homework and know as much as you can about the course. The Noble Canyon 50k course is always marked well using orange surveyors ribbon but runners who did not pay attention and who didn’t study the course have gotten off route.

At the very least, print the maps and read the course description so you know in general what the course will do. For example, if you are running it in 2014 you should know that the course will be a lolly-pop shaped course with the start/finish line at the bottom of the handle and the route will do a counter-clockwise loop at the top.  The loop portion starts after the Big Tree aid station which means you will be making left turns around the loop until you connect again to the main Noble Canyon trail where you will turn right and retrace your steps to the finish. Make note of the approximate miles of each of the key turns so on race day you will generally know if you are looking for a right turn or left turn.

Ideally you should try to run all of the course with someone that knows where to go. Come out to the training runs that the Race Director organizes. Use the forum to reach out to other runners who can meet up with you. Knowing the course will help reduce your stress on race day.

Noble Canyon trail near Big Tree Aid Station

Noble Canyon trail near Big Tree Aid Station

If you get in 20 mile training runs, heat acclimate, and learn the course you can have confidence that you are properly prepared to finish the Noble Canyon 50k ultramarathon. You may not win it but you will kiss the rat and will be successful at your first ultra. Over the years you will incorporate new ideas to make your time faster.

See you on the trails.

Tracy Johnston completes her first ultramarathon at the Noble Canyon 50k - 2013

Tracy Johnston completes her first ultramarathon at the Noble Canyon 50k – 2013

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