This is not my first attempt at training for a 100-mile race. In the past two decades I’ve tackled this distance (or longer) more than 25 times. I’ve coached people to complete this distance and even wrote a book with a complete 48-week training plan to get people there.
As I go through the experience for myself, once again, I continue to learn from and about the process. Ultra distance races keep me interested because there is no set formula. The variation on this attempt is that I am executing all of my miles during the dark, wet, grey winter that is also know as the Pacific Northwest. I started October 1 and race date is March 9. While I typically desire long days in the mountains during the beautiful summer months when I would normally put in more training time, forcing myself out the door, tempting myself with various treats to do it, and mustering motivation from the depths of all I know have been the challenges faced as I wrap up my training and reflect on my current mood.
There are numerous varying factors that play into the equation that the runner has to stay on their toes, learn lessons in how to be flexible and also somehow still stick to the plan. We have to push through when there are red flags telling us to stop, and know when to take a break as to not over-do-it. Training for 100 miles is about training the mental grit and toughness as much as it is about muscle endurance and strength.
The obvious requirements to train for 100 miles are that it takes a lot of focus and time. Putting so much energy into one endeavor is taxing and trying. For most of us, the rest of life cannot stop or be put on hold to train for an event. Instead we have to figure out how to do the training in stride with life, which requires doling out energy creatively and knowing where to withhold.
In my reflection I noted some of the not-so-obvious ups and downs of training through the winter and started making voice notes while pounding out the miles. I thought sharing both lists would help others thinking about training for 100 miles (whether for the first or 30th time), weigh each side, and at the very least bring awareness to some oddball unknowns that might come up.
* I found myself stinky, cold, with blue lips and lacking cognitive function at a dinner party after a particularly cold & wet track workout.
* I missed out on an impromptu trail run with a good friend because of an assigned workout and feeling I needed to stick to the plan.
* I stayed in on a Friday night to get up for the next day’s miles and missed out on checking out a new band and venue with friends I rarely see.
* I have to find dog sitters to check in on my pup when my miles are too long and the hours too many for her to be home alone.
* My grocery bill is through the roof!
* I have had to leave the house uncleaned for weeks, waiting for that recovery week when I can catch up on life.
* My email inbox goes unanswered for days.
* I am spending more time outside during months that I typically might not.
* I am perfecting gear combinations for all temperature ranges and rain conditions.
* I have opportunities to figure out the best lighting systems running before 7am or after 4:30pm.
* Running through the holidays I did not worry about extra holiday weight and in fact enjoyed all of the treats.
* More time outside time (and recovery couch time) to bond with my Aussie pup – PD.
* I have gained awareness and have observed the climate and my surroundings as the seasons change.
* I’ve rallied friends out to share sections of our drippy forest.
* I engaged my family to help transport me on the particularly long run days, making the run more interesting (point to point) and providing hugely welcome smiles at the finish of a long day out.
* I can easily justify a sunny get away.
* My visualization skills are hugely strengthened: imagining how I want my body to feel at mile 60, 70 and 80. Those particularly rough days are great practice to rise above.
The 100-mile race is March 9 in China (Gaoligong 165km by UTMB). The grit I found this winter will be a huge piece in finishing this endeavor. I will recall particularly rough workouts as well as goofy laughs as my tired “Bambi” legs wobbled to keep up with the girls. I am ready to toe the line, to take everything I’ve learned and pushed through, and put it to the test. I will recall all of the experiences from training through the PNW winter, count on the support I feel and the lessons learned to help me appreciate the race journey and motivate me all the way to the finish.