Training for 100 miles: It is all about the details

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Running 100 miles takes a lot of you, physically and especially mentally. While doing your research about it, you read a lot about that after the first 55-60 miles (100K) is when the true race begins. That is mostly because your body already is past that limit, hovering between the line of mayor breakdown versus having the ability to continue to put one step in front of the other at a desired/targeted cadence. You have a plan or an idea of a plan, maybe a dream of how it should go but, not everything is going to go perfect or go as planned. I promise you, it is a long event and many things will happen. What you should consider also training for is to do as much as possible that will allow you to prevent/prepare/minimize/adjust for when things happen or quickly address those as soon as possible. In my journey to complete my 1st 100 miles event at Umstead 100, I was able to learn, talk to friends, research and take care of a few details pre-event and early in the race that, I believe, helped me in a successful under 24hr completion of the 100 miles event. The results or the experience will depend on mental preparation, fueling, recovery, non-running improvements, each detail, in my opinion, counts to make the difference between an ugly, good or great event.

Bad training runs: You are going to be frustrated once in a while with some of the training runs. In a 100 mile training season, there are many runs. The key here is to take advantage of those runs, especially those that did not go or felt great. Or even better from those that felt horrible. Take advantage of the opportunity during the to rehearse what would you do if you are feeling the same way during the event? Could you adjust? I remember going to a short base run and everything was falling apart. My running form was not great, muscles were super sore and felt I was going to start cramping. I thought for a minute that I could stop and call it quits, it was just a base run, or I could try to figure out how to come to the other side and continue. I am glad I did, I slowed down a bit, shifted my mind to the basics, to figure out that I needed to adjust the running and breathing technique. After that, I was able to finish well the last few files of the run. I made a mental note to remember that every run is an opportunity to practice, learn and put portions of the plan together.

Long training runs: Using the actual equipment for the event was key for me to determine in advance of any hot or chaffing spots. When you do a 25-33 mile runs and you ended up getting an area with minor irritation, I will bet you that in 100 miles it is going to get worse. Finding those areas before the event and figuring out how you are going to handle those is key. I tried a few lube solutions to address that issue with most of the areas. By the way, there were areas that I normally would not even consider during a marathon or shorter distance events/runs. But there was a spot that I had to use a different approach, a combination of lube and using taping for my lower back area with Kinesio Tape. The tape worked perfectly to prevent chaffing during my event and it was something I had in place the night before the event.

Recovery: I use the infamous rolling stick almost every day on my legs. I used to have the rolling stick next to my couch where I watch TV but noticed that I rarely used it. So that approach was useless if I do not use it, but then I thought that if I move the stick to the shower and make it part of my routine I was going to be more successful in using it. That worked perfectly. I was able to almost roll my muscles after every one of my runs. I believed that helped me during recovery as I was doing many back to back runs.

Miscellaneous things to consider:

The checkpoint/station: Bringing a dirty carper or doormat to have and use on the ground at your checkpoint or home station. Especially if the route is a loop it will come handy. If you have a crew helping you, let them know about it so they can have it ready for you. For my 100 mile race, it rained the day before, the ground was very wet and muddy. Having that mat it meant I did not have to worry about the wet ground went I changed my socks and running shoes.

No audio?: Extra headset, I like to run with music, audiobooks, podcasts and I knew that things could go wrong with the electronics and equipment. By having that extra headset and cheap mp3 player gave me peace of mind. Which by the way I had to use since for no reason the main audio player I was planning to use during my 1st loop did not want it to work, I grabbed the spare one when I started running my second loop. I had my other one ready at my checkpoint for the subsequent loops. I also had a couple USB chargers ready just in case I needed to charge my phone, GPS watch and other audio devices.

Additional items: Extra pouch to carry additional items if needed. I had the pouch ready to go with the few items I knew I will use. I did not use the extra pouch but I had it ready there just in case.

Handling chaffing lube: Painter/painting disposable gloves were something that I was so happy I had nearby. It was cheaper than other disposable options and also easy to grab and use. Every time I was applying chaffing lube to many areas, I did not want it to get the lube on my hands. That was going to make handling food and the rest of my equipment a little bit more sticky. Having those available allowed me to apply the cream without getting it on my hands.

Fuel Research: Even figuring out what they are going to offer in the event, there were a few items that I knew to want it to have. I had zip-lock bags with different options for me to quickly grab and go. Cookies, chips, crackers and other things that I could use. Not many of them but a variety that will help in the case of food getting bored or not great during the run.

Feeling refresh: A friend of mine recommended bringing a toothbrush and some toothpaste. For that early morning section, a quick brush will trick your brain to wake up and feel refresh, plus it will help clean the taste buds that might allow you to start tasting your fuel. At least for a while, I did help me when I brush before I started the last loop. It gave me a refresh and helped me to stay awake.

Diabetes-related:  Do not forget to have your diabetes related supplies with you and think about bringing spare of many items you might need. In my case I had my main testing meter at the main station for me to use. I had another old testing meter at the loop halfway point just in case. I had in a couple ziplock bags a couple infusion spare sets for the pump, spare batteries for the insulin pump and a spare set for my CGMS sensor. Do not forget to bring your insertion tools, and plenty of alchohol swipes to make sure the area is clean before setting it up. 

If you know of other ideas, suggestions or have tried new products or approaches to get ready and prepare for a long ultramarathon leave a comment.

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