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Three mistakes (and learned from) in my first 200 mile ultramarathon

I signed up for the 2021 Cocodona 250 only a couple of weeks before the actual race. I had never run a 200-mile race. I had never even run a 100-mile race. My racing background was a series of fun runs, middle school track (fastest time in the district in the hurdles), and one 50k race that I struggled through. I had no idea what I was doing. My world was FKTs, hundreds of miles of self-sufficient adventures, and untimed long days in the mountains. A 250-mile race was something totally new. That is why I signed up. It would be the rare step down in distance and a neat opportunity for some immense learning.

I entered the 2021 race with the fitness of training for the Barkley Marathons, and a few hundred miles spent in the desert leading up to the race. My body was ready to cover the distance, and my mind was prepared for days spent in the midst of a race, but logistically I had no idea what I was doing. Here are a few things I learned along the way:

Drop Bags are essential

I didn’t know a thing about the structure of long races. During my 50k I sent a drop bag to the halfway point with a ham sandwich inside. To say I had no experience with using drop bags would be an understatement. On the morning of the race, I carried two 40-liter backpacks to the start line and was prepared to drop them off and live out of them for the next few days. But my strategy was crushed. The man in the back of the truck asked, “Which aid station are these going to?” I blankly stared back at him. Apparently, these bags would not be following me down the course. In a panic, I named two aid stations that seemed to be about 80 miles apart and assumed that was good enough.

I retreated to my car and altered my entire race strategy ten minutes before the start. I put a spare pair of socks in my running pack and another layer. I was prepared to do this race completely without my drop bags now. I had no idea if I would even need what they contained when I got to each aid station. With a background as a thru-hiker, I figured I could just change between the two pairs of socks intermittently over the course of 250 miles and be good to go. After all, there were aid stations…


Learn how drop bags work, the places they go, and plan accordingly leading up to the race… not at the last minute

Races are official events

Fresh off the drop bag debacle, I heard the announcement, “First wave in ten minutes.” I thought I was prepared. My bib number was safety-pinned to my pack and I was prepared to set off. I walked over to the start line a couple of minutes before the gun went off and suddenly realized everyone else had spot trackers on their packs. “DAMNIT!” I sprinted over to the registration tent and pleaded with them to hurry and strap a tracker on me. As the ten second countdown was starting I jogged over to the start line and worked my way into the crowd. Now I was ready just with a bit more anxiety than I had anticipated.


Don’t wait until the last minute to assure you have everything you need. Eliminate as many stressors and sources of anxiety before race morning.

Pacers are legal and popular

I don’t know how ultrarunners have so many friends that are willing and able to take time off to pace them through their insane races, but I didn’t even ask anyone until a couple of days before the race. I was so completely focused on the solo experience that I was about to have that I didn’t even consider the logistics of having pacers to help me down the route. On the morning of day two, I realized how refreshed the other runners were with their friends. I immediately altered my strategy and texted my only friend in Phoenix, an Arizona Trail thru-hiker, and trail runner himself. His house had just burned down, so it meant either this would be a great getaway for him to get to pace me through a night of hallucinations, or he would be busy with the logistics of finding a new place to live. Luckily, Bryce came out and was able to guide me to the end.


Pick out your pacers, and pacing strategy early. Don’t try to build it on the fly

The finish of my first 250 mile race
The finish of my first 250 mile race

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