"Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not."

50 Mile Training Run

Woke up at 5 AM to that goddamn alarm clock (“Crickets”) and would have gone back to bed, had my g/f not immediately said “You can do it.”

“If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.”

Well, sure as hell everyone ain’t getting up at 5 AM to run 50 miles, so I got up.

There’s something about the haunting glow of a stove-top clock…

My stuff was packed from the night before. I had my Salomon bag, a metric ass-ton of fuel, about 2.5 L of water or less, and my clothes. I figured since it was hot and sunny on Sat, I’d wear my shorts and compression calf tubes, for maximum ultra-runner visual indication. Nothing says “endurance” like compression socks!

I also wore a t-shirt (Fueled by Fine Wine!) under my Adidas long sleeve, instead of a jacket, and brought a hat as well as my beanie, and sunnies. I wore the g/f’s arm sleeves as well. All amazingly good decisions, I must say. Well, for the most part…

Ok, got all my stuff put on, stuck my phone in my chest pocket and … broke the drawcord on my pack. Goddamn this Salomon pack is a real piece of shit. So I had a loose pocket where all my stuff was going to fly everywhere. Had to strap it across my chest to some random loop. Better than going without the pocket, I needed all the room I could get.

There’s about 1880 calories there, plus the 2 Werther’s, which were awesome, btw.

So while the city slept, I headed out under cover of darkness.

The way out…

Just me and sparrows, out there.

It was freezing cold and my Garmin took it’s sweet time getting a lock. I was feeling good, nice and loose in my shorts. So much better than tights. Legs felt good, and ankle wasn’t hurting. I felt a few minor twinges in my Achilles / calf but nothing major and didn’t reappear the entire run. Good! By 3 km I was warming up, and by 5 km I’d already taken off the gloves.

As you run into Stanley Park, there’s this bench / bus stop looking thing (except it’s in the woods) at a major trail junction. And it seems like there’s always someone sitting there. I even said to myself “I bet there’s a fucking weirdo sitting there…” and I swear to god there was. I have run by that bench at 1 AM, 5 AM, you name it, there is always a sketchy dude sitting there. WTF! Is it always the same guy!?

Ran to the top of the park and took a photo of the sun coming up over the city. Was a bit early for sunrise but I think I caught the best part of it.

Go West! Life is peaceful there…
Slumbering city to the South

From there I ran down onto Ambleside beach. Very few people out. I was surprised there wasn’t more cyclists. Saw a very few hardcores but really no one until the way home, many hours later…

The beach was nice. Tide was really super high, and the light was great. I was feeling wonderful, but was only about 10 km in!

From whence I came.

It was a full moon only a couple days ago, and the moon was shining brightly over the ships in the harbour, was freaking awesome. My iPhone captured the glory in spectacular iPotato picture quality, but you get the gist…

Was nicer in my eyes, but you get the idea.

From there it was a few km more. Finally was able to stop and lighten the load at the spectacular Ambleside beach washroom facilities. I can say without a doubt the best part of the running at 5 AM is that I’m the first person to ride the porcelain cruise after cleaning. Oh blessed disinfectant, I say a prayer unto thee.

I look like a freaking Navy Seal with all that crap.

(Apologies for the scungy mirror photo, we don’t have a mirror in our house capable of such an all-encompassing view.)

Ok, so now the running is getting more serious. I’m on Marine drive, and I’m pounding out the miles. 20, 25… Finally make it to the end of Whytecliff Park, turn around (another pee break) and start on back.

Not much of a finish line, kinda desolate looking….
End of the line at Whytecliff Park… only 53 km to go…

The way back…

Here I get the bright idea to set a new 50 mile “PB” while I’m at it… when I noticed that my pace is freaking awesome. I am putting down nearly 5 minute km (8 minute miles) and feeling like it’s easy as pie. I am daydreaming of winning Leadville. I am thinking “If I can run this fast why don’t I just hang with the leaders and see if I can take like… top 10??” … Aaaahhh, the blessed naivety of the first-half-of-the-race runner! Why can I never remember the pain!??!

Anyway, I trundle on. I am absolutely killing it, feeling fine and wondering if I can make sub 4 hours for two marathons in a row. That would be cool, eh?? Yeah, ask me again, after 80 km, if I want to run another 4.4 extra at 5 minute pace…

Mostly things are going great. I ran a marathon and actually felt pretty good. I didn’t feel very good last time I ran the marathon (when I did 67, or 55 two weeks later) … and I wondered “does it always feel bad??” … well this time I actually felt pretty reasonable, so I guess the answer is no.

I was kinda feeling it in the quads though, feeling a bit heavy. I was gradually reminded of why I don’t win marathons, because I’m actually slow as shit and old as dirt, and that “running on air” feeling had long since passed. I was grinding ’em out though. I’m sure there was lots to talk about, but I’ve forgotten most of it… I need to bring a voice recorder. I guess I could use my phone? I’ll try that next time.

The funniest thing is how goddamn emotional I (presumably anyone) gets when doing these types of things. I guess your brain and body are just so exhausted that chemical imbalance becomes increasingly severe. I imagined me and my whole family running across the finish line at Leadville, visualized how it was going to feel, my shambling pace, tears of joy, and I almost started crying on my run! Another time I was thinking of the dog, and started tearing up. Best to just let the mind go blank, really, avoid reducing yourself to tears on the side of the highway!

Towards UBC

Ok, so after a whole lot of uneventful but increasingly painful miles, I’m on the “out” stretch towards UBC, and life is sucking. I’m like at the 53 km mark, and I’ve got to run away from home for another 13 km! Christ. Does it ever end? My legs are killing me. I was still running really fast (almost 5 min/km pace still) but really was struggling to slow down. So I stopped, massaged my calves out, and feet, and then forced myself to go really slow. I wondered, “Does going slow actually feel better? Will I recover somewhat?” I still am not sure. I think once you’re fucked up, you’re fucked up for good. It ain’t coming back. I also don’t think running faster is particularly more stressful on flat ground. I need to do some experimenting though… maybe I’ll run the same run in a couple weeks and use a different pacing strategy?

My toes were hurting. I wear my shoes really loose which means on the downhills my toenails get mashed into my shoes. Ouch. I wondered if I’ll finally lose one. I didn’t in my 50 mile race, so I don’t think I will.

Ok, I finally get up that damned UBC hill, and turn back for home. Only 13 km to go. Christ, that seemed far. It just wouldn’t end. The heat was getting to me. I was feeling nauseous. Why the hell did I wear a black t-shirt?? Why do they even sell black running clothes?? My socks are black too. Stupid Salomon piece of crap bag is mostly black too. Great idea Salomon, why not just make it out of ski boot warmers??

Back in the city, down by False Creek. 5 km to go. Some dude wearing my shoes passes me. He’s the only person I’ve seen wearing the Elixir 7’s, and he blazed passed me in a cloud of dust. I was so pissed. Man. Passed by my own shoes! I looked down at my poor battered footwear with a disgusted look. “You two make me sick. Allowing us to be passed like that? You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Despite my loathing, they were unable to go any faster. Struggling now to maintain 5:30 or even 5:40.

I came to the Cambie Bridge and took the stairs up to the deck so I could cross the water. There’s no way I’m running any further than required. The plan says 80, and that’s it man. My dreams of 84.4 km (double marathon) were long gone, replaced only with pain and suffering.

In the end I did well, I managed to easily break 8 hours for 80 km, despite what seemed like a million walk, pee and bathroom breaks. I guess for Leadville I will take 12 hours (at best!) to do 80 km, so I’ll slow down and do more hills next time. I finished 80 km in 7:48 almost exactly. Pretty good, my last 50 miler was in 8:27. Granted that was a epic uphill course and in much hotter weather.

The Aftermath

I was really tired and crashed for a nap for quite a while. My legs from the knees down were really quite beat up. More than I thought. My feet were very sore, and some of the toes (like, inside them) felt bruised. My calves feel really good but my left Achilles was tweaky. I took the dog for a walk and went barefoot and that felt much better. Oddly, my hip adductors are quite sore. It seems to be really high up, and so I would guess that it’s my psoas, especially since that seems to tie into the lower back. I know that I run “broken at the hip” a fair amount, but that I try hard to rectify that (“hips forward”) and so perhaps I was working that muscle a fair bit. I’d have to read into it more.

I also found that after my run I wasn’t hungry at all, and when we sat down to eat dinner I just couldn’t do it. Sweets yes, but the steak salad and Thai curry just wasn’t going to happen. I nearly barfed. I wondered if this was “running related nausea”? I know that previously I complained about never experiencing nausea in my training runs, so I was glad to have finally (seemingly) done that this time. I guess you need to push the pace a bit in order to do that? I had no problem eating the Cadbury Caramel Eggs though, you’ll be happy to know.

Another interesting first experience was that my ribs are bruised, on the jutty parts at the far edges. I assume this is from my phone and 10 oz fuel bottle that I kept in the front pockets. Ouch. Something to look out for during race day. I’ll probably be running with a lot less gear during the race though, so shouldn’t be a factor.

Lessons Learned

  • I was easily able to do pure gels and “sugar fuel” for 80 km without any issues.
  • About 100 calories every 30 minutes seemed to work well. Even more sometimes (Thanks, Powerbar!)
  • Pee breaks and walking for fuel eats up a LOT of time over an 80 km distance. Despite running fast I struggled to exceed average speed of 6 min/km because of all the stopping.
  • As pain increases, the urge to stop increases significantly. Get into a groove and do not let yourself stop, no matter how bad you want it.
  • Get white running gear for sunny weather.
  • Set your goal distance in stone, because after 80 km, “just 4 more” is the most ridiculous thing you can imagine.


  1. Ben

    “As pain increases, the urge to stop increases significantly. Get into a groove and do not let yourself stop, no matter how bad you want it.”

    This troubles me. Why not stop when you want or need to? Seems like kind of message bypasses running for fun or pleasure or health. Surely runners can meet goals and break personal boundaries and/or records without forcing themselves not to stop?

    • Mitch

      Hmmm… I think the problem is that if you give into your desire to walk after 6 hours or 7 hours, you’ll be walking a lot! Keep in mind that pain and pleasure are not opposites. I can be in great pain (indeed, I was) and still enjoy the overall endeavour. I don’t necessarily think it’s *healthy* to push through that pain, but from an ultra-marathon point of view, I think it’s a requisite ability; I don’t think you’ll sub 25-hour Leadville without a measure of pain and willpower.

      You are correct in noting that my bullet point doesn’t apply to all running. In regular day-to-day running, I don’t think you should push through pain at all (except maybe on that last tempo interval). I meant it more specifically: When you’re running a really long distance, stopping *seems* like a great idea, but in fact if you get into a groove and just keep a steady pace, you’ll probably feel better in the long term, rather than starting and stopping all the time.

      Also keep in mind I was running for time. Lots of ultra guys (from what I’ve read) do these 50 milers in upwards of 10 to 12 hours, so they walk a lot. I will be doing that too, just not when I’m trying to PR my 50 mile time.

  2. Suza

    Found you from reddit!
    You did a 50mile run, in the morning, on a MONDAY? Do you work? My day is usually a bust if I jog/walk a half marathon, let alone RUN (as fast and) as far as you did! How did you not waste the rest of your day?!

    • Mitch

      Haha. Run was on Sunday, and yeah, the rest of the day was a write-off, of naps and painful dog walking. I actually don’t work on Mondays, which is good, because Monday is pretty well useless too. More time walking dog, and a short recovery run, but basically sat on my arse and did nothing!

  3. Alasdair

    As a newbie runner, I’d like to say I found this blog post very inspiring.


  4. Dad

    Incredible…. It’s an inspiration … you have attained an elite level athlete few have even imagined… very proud of you Michel….will be so proud to be a part of your experience at Leadville…Love you,

  5. Peter Speight

    Pee breaks slowing your down? Solution – pee yourself on the run! 🙂

    • Mitch

      I tried this during my last race and just peed my shorts… I might try again for Leadville though, I can imagine saving up to 30 mins or more if I could figure it out…!

  6. Jardine

    Quick question: where’s your fu*kin’ beard? Fact: beards increase pain threshold.

  7. Johnny Rodgers

    Mitch: you are one tough son-of-a-bitch! This sounds like a seriously epic run. The mind boggles at doubling it through mountains, but I know you’ve got the tenacity and fitness level to do it. Keep on rocking, and thanks for the inspiration.

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