Think running your first marathon is a big deal? Well, local personal trainer and TrySports clerk David Cross decided to skip right over that and do a 50-miler. On May 16, he ran the Key West Ultra 50 Miler. Yes, 50 miles — in the Florida heat of mid-May.
The 28-year-old Riverside, Calif., native and former Wild Dunes golf professional finished in seventh place out of 51 finishers (60 started) with a time of 9 hours, 27 minutes and already has plans for more ultras.
Q: You've never run a marathon before. Why did you decide to run a 50-miler?
A: After doing a lot of races with different distances, I wanted to try a race where eventually I might be able to compete on an elite level nationally. I haven't seen any Kenyan's showing up to ultras — yet.
I feel that a marathon and ultra marathon are very different. Ultras you definitely need a great mental game, which I feel I have as well as an ability to hold a certain pace for a long period of time. It's more of training your body for endurance rather than speed.
I probably won't run a marathon anytime soon and just focus strictly on ultras.
Q: When did you decide to do it, and when did you start training for it?
A: I decided to do an ultra after last tri season. I started training early in December to get me ready for the race in May.
Q: And what did you do to train for it?
A: There is no exact way to train for an ultra from what I have heard and read. I sat down with my coach, Cody Angell from Charlotte, and we talked about what would work best for me. I pretty much ran every day with one or two days off a month, reaching 85-100 miles a week. This worked out very well with me, and I felt great going in and after the race.
Q: What was the hardest part of the race?
A: The hardest part of the race was running in 93-degree weather with high humidity. I was running straight down U.S. Highway 1 and over countless bridges. Most of the race was on the side of the road on hard surfaces.
Also trying to keep a steady pace, especially after the first 26 miles, was a game in itself.
Q: What did you eat and how often?
A: I did the race on only coconut water, salt stick tablets, GU Roctane and (Clif) Shot Bloks. I made sure I'd eat a gel or Shot Bloks every 30 minutes and drink as often as possible. This strategy worked out very well. I used a product called (Hammer) Liquid Endurance pre-race, which came in very handy.
Q: What were the two or three most memorable moments?
A: There were a lot of memorable moments of this race, such as having my dad and great friends, Dave Thomas and Zack Kennedy, be on my support crew. This was a self-supported race, so I could not have done it without them.
Also, I enjoyed the beautiful scenery. The Keys are a wonderful place to run. The ocean was crystal clear. It was fun just to zone out while I ran.
Finally, I almost got into a fight on mile 49 with a drunk local on the race course. He started yelling at us and calling us names and then chased us on his bike. Luckily, he biked away.
Q: What's next?
A: My next race is the North Face Southeast Regional 50-miler in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 19. This is a huge race in the ultra community and has a big purse. I also qualified for the Boston Marathon of ultras, the Western States (100-mile) Endurance Run, and plan to run it next year.