Mark Shainman is a friend of mine who’s been competing in triathlons for a couple years now. It’s funny because when I first met him he was into jujitsu, abhorred spandex, and preferred to be on the race sidelines cheering on his girlfriend, Caritta. And now he’s an Ironman who trains like a beast every weekend. He recently completed his first 50K Trail race – The North Face Endurance Challenge. I caught up with Mark and asked him if he’d be willing to give us a North Face 50K Race Review. Here it is. Enjoy!
Tell us about the race. What made you decide to sign up for it?
There were a number of reasons I decided to sign up for North Face 50k. First, North Face 50K is one of the most scenic and challenging 50K’s in California. It covers ocean and forest in Northern California. It also has around 6,500 feet of climbing in the race, making it one of the most challenging 50K’s out there. I like to always push and challenge myself, so if I was going to do a 50K – why not do one that was both beautiful and extremely challenging? I also had the advantage of having teammates who had done the race in the past, as well as a number of teammates who signed up for the 2014 race as well. This gave me the opportunity to both train and compete with friends.
How did you train? Did you feel prepared on race day?
I had a set training schedule put together by my coach Gerardo Barrios of Fortius Coaching. I had done two half Ironman competitions earlier in the year, so I already had a fitness base to work from. My coach had me running on average 5 days a week, with swimming, biking, yoga and strength training mixed in as well. I did shorter runs during the week, with my longest weekday run being on Wednesday (usually 2 hours of trail) and then my longest trail runs on the weekend.
My longest single day run was around 23 miles, about 4 weeks out from the race. My longest single weekend was three weeks before the race, when I ran 19 miles (30K) with 4,000ft of climbing on a Saturday and then raced the Malibu Canyon Trail run 25K with 3,500ft of climbing on Sunday. Going into the race I felt confident that I would finish. I just wanted to finish well and strong.
Did you change your eating habits in preparation for the race? What were they like?
Nutrition has been one of my weak spots, so I recently went to see a nutritionist, Dr Phil at PFC Nutrition in Santa Monica. Based on some blood testing, Dr Phil determined I was an efficient Protein and Fat burning person, and not as effective in burning carbohydrates. He also determined I was under-eating based on my body composition, so I changed my diet around.
My new diet consisted of increasing my protein and calorie intake- cutting out bread and milk and increasing the quantity of water that I drank. The actual food that I took in when I was running – i.e. dried fruit, nuts and gel’s did not change, since I had already been training with it and he did not want to mess with it so close to the race.
Before longer workouts I started to eat Dr. Phil’s special MASH recipe – which consists of 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce, 1 cup single ingredient carb – i.e. rice, yam, shredded wheat, 1 TBSP almond butter, 1 TBS natural Jam, and 2 eggs.
What was the hardest part of the race?
I think mentally there were two stretches that were the hardest. The first was the climb up Cardiac Hill. Because of the recent rains, the course had to be modified before the race, and we were forced to ascend 4 1/2 miles up cardiac hill and then descend the same way we came up. The single track trail was extremely muddy with water running down the middle of it. Trudging up the hill was difficult on its own, and the super fast front runners flying down the same trail right at you at the same time made for a harrowing experience. Then I ended up wiping out once on the descent, and got covered in mud.
First the unexpected will happen! I did not expect the mud to be as bad as it was. It made the climbing a lot more difficult. If the race throws you a curve ball, don’t let it get you down- just continue to enjoy the day.Second, manage your nutrition well. The key to a good race is good nutrition! I had run slower on some of my training runs, so eating food was easier. I quickly learned that trying to eat banana chips while running at a good clip leads to inhaling banana chips and coughing a lot! That kind of got me off my game of eating at my set 30 min intervals and eating enough – so I can not stress enough how much nutrition and hydration is key!Third, you must get your long runs and training in on similar terrain! A 50K trail race is not only super long, but since there is usually so much climbing it is tough! Its not an event that you can just phone in.