I went into my first 100 miler thinking I knew what I was doing, how things were (sorta) gonna go, what things I was going to struggle with. It was one badass 100 miler, and it taught me more than I bargained for. Every once in a while we all need to be reminded we are not invincible, and this was a perfect reminder.
In the hopes that someone else might learn from what I did wrong, and the few things I did right, here’s some of what i came away with.
- Maybe consider going out at a pace slower than course record pace. I mean, i know, you’re awesome. But unless you’re some kind of super-human, it might not be a good idea fresh into your 100 mile career. Even if you feel awesome. Chances are you WILL feel awesome, until you don’t anymore, and then you’ll feel terrible.
- Choose the right crew. This one I got right. You need the perfect mix of people who love you enough that they’ll touch your feet and the nasty clothes you take off in the middle of the race, but who also can handle seeing you suffer. A lot. They also need to be able to mesh well because they’re going to be seeing a lot of each other over the next day or two. A big part of their job is keeping each other in good spirits, and taking care of each other so they can all take care of you. My crew made me jealous that I missed all the fun they had chasing me around in the woods.
- Make sure said crew has clear expectations ahead of time. Part of that is setting the expectation that you may not know what you want, and what you think you want now will change throughout the race. Another thing I did was set the understanding that this was MY race. The crew and pacers were there for support, and I was so happy to share this experience with them. But, if things went south I was going to take ownership of it, and not blame it on them handing me the wrong water bottle or getting me lost or not saying the right things at the right time. I think as I gain more experience I’ll be able to even better inform my crew of my needs for future races, because I’ll know what those are. Until then I’m glad they’re willing to muddle through this with me.
- Whatever your go to food is for long runs, no matter how much you love it, will eventually lose its appeal. You will get to the point where you don’t want to eat anything, and especially not those friggin bars you’ve been eating for the last 27 hours. Have a variety. Mix it up with aid station food (but not so much that you throw off your digestive system). And if it looks good, eat it.
- Pack real food. It sounds a little stupid to say in hindsight, but I didn’t give enough thought to the the fact that I’d be running through lunch and dinner. I mean, I knew it, but it didn’t really sink in until I was doing it. My body wanted real food, and as a vegan there aren’t always a plethora of options at the aid stations. Wishing they had rice instead of potatoes at 3am does not make it so. And if your crew doesn’t have it, you’re screwed. Much better to over than under prepare.
- Get over yourself. No, things are not going as you planned. Yes, you are further back in the pack than you wanted to be. Yes, you feel like shit and you still have forever until you get to the finish line. But, seriously, get over yourself. You have the enormous privilege of being able to enjoy the beauty of nature, to move through it on your own two legs, to have numerous volunteers and friends to help you accomplish this task. You have way more things to be thankful for than you have reasons to complain.
- Appreciate the outcome. Things might not have gone as planned, your time wasn’t what you wanted, but you finished, and that puts you in a crazy small group of people. Or, maybe you didn’t finish, but you attempted an 100 miler, and that group of people isn’t all that much bigger. No matter what the outcome, reflect, learn, and grow from your experience. There is always something positive that can come out of even the most negative experience.
- Recover, regroup and prepare for your next adventure. This is your first 100 miler. Maybe you’ll be itching to get back on the trails, maybe you’ll be exhausted and need some time off, maybe you’ll be injured and itching to get back on the trails but have no choice but to take some time off. No matter what make sure to listen to your body and be smart about recovering for your next adventure. I’m usually a total nut about nutrition, but I gave myself some slack, which included a lunch of an entire Daiya pizza and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s dairy-free the day after the race. I also made sure I got plenty of calories and nutritious food as well. I scheduled a massage, and spent a lot of time either with my feet up or foam rolling and stretching. I had some foot and tendon issues going on, so I very slowly eased my way back into running. All of this was with the knowledge that this is what I needed in order to eventually ramp back up for my next trail adventure, be it in the near future or long view.
I hope this helps anyone else who is considering a 100 miler. My last piece of advice is if you are considering whether or not you should do a hundred miler, just go for it. Sign up, plan your training, and trust your strength. You totally have this. And if you have questions feel free to hit me up via social media.
Thanks for this list! I am eagerly preparing for my first 50 miler in February, with my sites on a 100 miler sometime in 2019. Definitely will keep these things in mind!
Great, hopefully there’s a few nuggets of wisdom in there you can use. Good luck with your races!
Very inspirational and congratulations. I have only done a marathon and looking to do a 50K trail race next. Where is a good source for training plans for a 50K?
Hi Joan, I used this plan as a base and then modified it to for my needs: https://www.runnersworld.com/ultrarunning/the-ultimate-ultramarathon-training-plan
The book Relentless Forward Progress also has some ultra training plans.
There’s also always the option of getting a coach. They usually offer services from a one time personalized training plan to online coaching to in person sessions.
Thanks for the tips. I’ve done one 50 miler (doing the same race again in 3 weeks – Ouachita Trail 50M) and have a rescheduled 100K (the LovIT 100K was cancelled due to storms) just 3 weeks after that. If I feel I’ve tackled that well enough I plan on attempting the 100 miler at LovIT next February. The biggest thing I’m trying to wrap my head around now is mentally preparing myself. I run with enough folks that have done 100 milers (hell 2 of them have done the Hell Hole Hundred 140.6 before and are signed up for the 211 this year) to go to but the more sources I can get the better.
This is such an awesome article. Thanks for putting it out there. I’ve just started training for my first 100 miler and appreciate your sharing some of your thoughts–very helpful!
Glad you liked it!