Running 100 miles
From April 30th to May 1st, I ran 100 miles. Practically non-stop, for 27 ½ hours. It was without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done physically, from the moment I started training to the moment I crossed the line. And since recounting every detail might take another 27 ½ hours, here are the highlights.
Training for a race this long is really tricky. Running anywhere over 50 miles or 100km would be absurd, and many people think that’s too long in training. Instead, you do back to back long runs on the weekends. These runs are usually anywhere from 15 to 35 miles, meaning every weekend you have at least 4 hours of running to do, and some weekends up to 10. After a while it becomes super draining, as you really do spend all of your free time running or recovering from your run. In addition, I tried to run at different times; I ran in the dark, in the rain, in the morning, to try to get used to running at any hour. Oh, and you are hungry all the time.
Perhaps more importantly though, I found that crossfit had a really welcome place in my training regimen. I give credit to crossfit for helping me strengthen all the supporting muscles that runners often forget about, and I think it is one of the reasons I stayed largely injury free through the entire process. It was also a welcome change from running; I could get a workout in and feel like I was doing something different after all those hours of running.
I don’t know if anything can mentally prepare you to run 100 miles. I think with the right training anyone can run a marathon (really, give it a shot!), but 100 miles takes you in to sleep deprivation and significant muscle breakdown range, which is really hard to prepare for. To keep this short, I feel like this should be done in bullet point format. So here are the lessons I learned/the obstacles I faced:
1. Never change your diet before a race. Dealing with bathroom issues through 100 miles is not fun, and at one point I stopped eating solid food
2. Pack for every type of weather. It actually saved me, as I ran in everything from a t-shirt and shorts to leggings, a winter top and a rain jacket (did I mention it rained all night?). Many people dropped do to the cold
3. Practice by eating everything you can think of before the race. I ate everything from endurance gels, to pringles, to pierogies and pizza. They were good, but my stomach was not happy
4. You hit the wall multiple times, and you get multiple second winds if you hang in there long enough. And then you run 50 more miles
5. My hamstrings decided to lock up 60 miles in, right as night fell. Soon it started to rain. Eventually my thoughts collapsed to a singular point. Kneeling in the rain, in the dark, by myself, all I thought was “give up”. And then I saw the light from a headlamp coming from behind. After the person had passed me, I thought “don’t let that headlamp out of your sight”. That was pretty much my only major thought for the next 20 miles, and it’s why I finished. I feel like, for anybody in this type of race, you eventually collapse on to a single thought. You’re so tired, so sore, that a single thought consumes all your focus. So it better be a good thought. It might be the difference between a finish and a drop out.
6. The race was flat, which I thought would help, but it actually ended up hurting me. Being so flat, and undergoing the same repetitive movement is what cause most of my cramping issues. By the end, I could barely walk let alone run.
7. The night time is the killer. Most people dropped out overnight. Alone, in the middle of the woods, it’s easy for the doubt to take over. We were allowed to have pacers, people who can run sections of the course with you, and I would definitely have one if I did it again.
8. I couldn’t have done this without my wonderful girlfriend (and fellow crossfitter), Emily. From the weekends lying in bed with me for a post long run nap, to the 27 hours she spent in the car, meeting me at various checkpoints with all of my food and dry clothes, she made the entire race possible. 100 milers are a joint venture, and her complete support is something I cannot thank her for enough (I will however, try to thank her with Beyonce tickets).
Here are a few photos from the event:
All of the bags holidng food, fuel, and race clothing
What the trail looked like for basically the entire race. The flatness killed.
My lunch! 30 miles in
Me, 60 miles in at an aid station. I was not happy about the remianing 40 miles.
Me soaked, having just finished
A shot of my feet to show you just how muddy it was
The belt buckle I got for finishing! 100 milers traditionally give belt buckles to finishers.
So, Ross, what's next???