“…in this age, which believes that there is a short cut to everything, the greatest lesson to be learned is that the difficult way is, in the long run, the easiest”
I’ve never done a 100 miler…I tried once – but I went about my training wrong. I pushed too hard, racked up the miles too quickly. Sure enough, about 5 weeks prior to Leadville a few years back, I pulled out of ultrarunning since I could feel the stress fracture in my foot coming along. It might have already been there – but when I broke my collarbone a few weeks later at Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, I got 6 weeks of forced rest anyways! So – this time I went about it differently. I had two primary goals with my prep for Rocky Raccoon.
First – I was going to build up to a healthy avg. weekly running volume and hold that – it would be my base. Secondly – within that weekly volume I would build up one long run per week. What did this look like in practice? First – I gradually built my running volume from 40-45 miles per week in early October to 70ish miles per week, although my avg for most of December and early January was 65 miles per week. Then, once absorbing a decent weekly volume (55-65 miles), I started inserting a longer run into that standard base week. That means in addition to that 55 miles I ran a 4, then 5, then 6, then 7 hour run 1x that week. Of course this kicked up my weekly totals, but my ‘fall back’ week was always the trending avg weekly miles. Finally – over New Years it was time to test the big volume: I ran 24miles on the 30th next morning (New Years eve) I ran 44 miles, and finally the next morning (Happy New Year!) ran another 25 miles. That gave me approx. 93 miles in 48 hrs. If I can do that – hopefully I can do 100 rested…in 16-18 hrs…and while I knew my training was going well (felt great at NorthFace 50 miler although DNF’ed at mile 44) 100 miles felt quite daunting. 8 hrs of running is different than 16-20 hrs! In hindsight, I probably could have been more rested. Riding a Coast Ride to San Diego (550 miles in 5 days), albeit easy, still left me somewhat flat. I was hoping to feel better on my final 50k prep run the Friday, 8 days prior to the race. Add to that a calf tightening during that run, I was thinking “this could be a really long day”…
Rocky Raccoon also served another purpose. I still had a bitter taste in my mouth from DNFing in Tahoe. I was looking for something hard, monotonous and mentally challenging: 5×20 mile loops should be just the ticket. Not punishment, instead an opportunity to develop a stronger mind for racing. So there it is: 5×20 mile loops, 6am start – rolling course – nothing too steep at any point, see it in the dark, sunrise, during the day, and then see only a headlamp tunnel for the following evenings’ darkness.
The first loop was OK. Didn’t feel as easy, fresh, natural, quick as I wanted (see tired and flat above!). Was actually already sort of laborious. But kept shutting off the mind and listened to podcasts as I knew I would need the mind later on. Approx 3:08 – I made a commitment that I would not rush my 20 mile aid stations, so I always used that for my crew stop. Food, drink, logistics, updates etc.
Second loop – here we go – now I know the course, know where I am each step of the way. Podcasts go to music. Eating a bit too little, drinking plenty. Perfect weather for me: overcast, 60s, humid. Approx 3:08 again. Was actually hoping the first loop would be quicker on ‘free speed’ – but know that in ultrarunning (for me at least) there is one…speed..all …the time…
Third loop – just focus on getting to half way. At 43 I start feeling not so good – the remaining distance seems daunting given I have been running for 7 hours so far. I start thinking how I am now moving into the longest run I have done this season…and start drifting mentally. Luckily, having prepared for this, I was ready to slog through these miles. Not because they were hard physically, but because it is such a dead space in terms of 100 miles..Not getting to 50miles quick enough, and feeling the slowness of the day in the brain, since I can now project how long the second 50 miles might take! But luckily as of mile 52 I snap out of it – grab some ibuprofen – and move on to 60 miles where I now can run with friends as pacers. But that part of the 20 mile loop seems to have an effect on me – it is the longest piece without aid, as well as closed course – so nobody there…3rd eat whole wheat bagel with cream cheese, turkey and bunch of pretzels. Also have some Roctane gels, and a 5hrs energy drink shot.
Fourth loop! Over half way… and no longer running solo. I am ready to talk someone’s ear off! While saying 4th more miles! I tell the crew, let’s figure 8 more hours and get this done before midnight! JINXED! 3 miles into the 4th are screaming, with the occasional cold numbing shooting pain down my left leg with it…The type that if you recruit wrong, you buckle, and catch yourself from falling. Walking – fast walking, quickly try to engage..nada…couple jogging shuffle steps, cold pain…walking…darn darn darn..40 miles of WALKING?? Are you kidding me…this will be booooring. It will be done – but boring and..heck, load up the iPod and I’ll watch a movie while walking…3 to 4 to 5 miles walking – stretch occasionally..nada. But, I do apply Ironman knowledge here: am I doing EVERYTHING now, so that if I can run again later on, I am ready…hydrated? Check….Food? Check…Clothing, gear, rest of body? Check..just waiting (better said, walking) – I reengage at mile 70..the shuffle can be held longer. I know a flat section, with no roots or anything is coming…(a dam trail) and sure enough can shuffle it…shuffle it up to aid station at mile 72..4 ibuprofen, and within 90 sec I am running, feel good and drop my pacer…Pick up new Pacer at mile 75 aid station, off I go to 80 mile crew stop…4:30 (approx.)…ugh but 2 things: curiously enough the pain was in the same section as my previous loops dead zone…and secondly…if out of a 100, I walk, hike 7 miles, I’ll take it.
Final loop! Don’t want to stop long, since anything tightening up might mean walking again…Some calories, some more ibuprofen and some clothes in case its cold. The 4th loop was already half in the dark, so all I am doing now is staring at a 4 ft x 4ft light window in front of me on the trails. That’s my world. The roots, trail, branches and dirt of that window of light is all I see. It’s the last loop – all good. Each step is the loop in 3:27..lose about 20 minutes in that difficult ‘place’…I sit – last time I’ll be doing this loop, but its so vague because in the dark it doesn’t matter. I might as well be in Marin, some forest in Europe, or on the Appalachian trail (which is what staring into that light reminded me of – different story…). Aid at 83, cool….aid at 85, more ibuprofen….6 miles death zone? bring it…aid at mile 92, ibuprofen (!)…aid at 95…ibuprofen…feeling good – steady – actually have a great conversation with my pacer, AIMP athlete # 2 btw…, and the loop sorta flies by.
5th loop is easier then 3rd. Mile 98…ugh, ready for this to be over, my legs are getting tired…100 miles – done! Approx 3:50. Total time 18:24. Yes, I got passed by 1st honestly, that felt good because a) I didn’t even know there was an AG race/ranking… 2) my sole purpose for this race was to finish feeling good. Which, ironically, this 99th was the ONLY mile I felt awful… It was fun. Yes, fun. Trail running is different – and while the next 100 miler (?!) might not be as fun, since now I have a number in my mind and how I would train, and what I would do differently yada yada yada…this one was good ole 1st with friends. You get to eat and drink and be merry at any aid station…You only do one thing…for a lot of hours..! And although the sport has changed over the years since it has become more technical and some agro folks are rolling over from triathlon, it still has a very different vibe.
Did I get out of it what I was looking for? Not sure yet. Stronger mind? Won’t know until IM Texas. Better runner? Doubt that since running 10s doesn’t relate to running 7s in my stride. Was it challenging? Yes. Was I more anxious than it turned out I needed to be? Yes – but that was the fun part of this 100 miler. The unknown, the curiosity, the challenge. Did I ever hit that deep, lost, ‘
had to search my soul’ place? No…not even close. Maybe next time….yes. I’ll do another. Those Belt Buckles are cool…
2x Clif Bar – 1x PowerBar – 9/10 Gels (mix of Roctane and Salty Caramel) – 1 PBJ on
white – 1x bagel Turkey CC – 1x whole wheat PBJ – 250 cal pretzels – 2x 5hr energy –
25-30 pb filled pretzels – bits of banana/M&M/
Approx 4000cal (220/hr)
4x Osmo – 2x Preload – 16x water (20oz) – 12 oz Gatorade – sip of coke.
Approx 24 oz of fluid per hr.
Issues: 7 mile walk was hip flexor and quad attachment. No calf issue until mile 95.
Switch 3 pairs of shoes: mile 40 and mile 80. Shoes switch good – no blisters, same
socks for 100 miles.