I have to admit that when I signed up for my 1st 100 miles event I paused in disbelief of what I just did. Insanity at its best. But after the shock of the recent commitment, I went to hone on a plan to tackle that task on hand. These were the main steps I took to increase the chances of a great 1st 100 miler.
1st – Research, research, research and then research some more. Even prior to signing up for the event, I was already looking at blogs, magazines, and listening to podcasts. Taking notes, thinking, looking for golden nuggets, digesting information and learning as much as possible. You must put things in perspective, training is going to take time and researching, learning and adjusting from the learning should be part of that training. To prevent overflow of information I use the three-bucket approach, one bucket for things/topics you believe are going to help, another one for items that you have doubt but might be possible and last bucket of items or topics that are either nonsense or things that you will never try or consider. The with the 1st two buckets divide the content into sub-topics to consider, some recommend the following topics, Fueling, Mental, Traning, Recovery (Or as many sub-topics relevant to your approach).
Use that research and make your comprehensive initial training plan and your race action plan. Layout your long runs and build up according to something realistic for you. Plan your long run weekend or back to back runs or even your back to back to back runs. It will depend on what you think is going to work for you. Give it a try and adjust. When I was talking to runners, reading blogs and video channels some recommended that at least I will have an over 50-mile long run others recommended to have hours on your feet and others recommending multiple runs of nothing over 30-35 miles. In my case, my longest single training run was a 34 miles run, but that run in the middle of a back to back to back weekend training run plan. (10-34-30)
Each individual must select what will work best and adjust as you learn and try new things. Consider when and what are you going to put in practice, that new element in the 1st bucket and a few of the middle bucket. Plan for it, learn and adjust.
2nd – Talk, discuss and ask. As you start your training runs you will start to meet people, see runners perhaps tackling same long runs, same distances, same hills. Week after week you will see a lot of familiar faces. Many of them might have already run an ultra. All of them are a source of good information. (Keep in mind the three buckets) Ask them about their training. What went well, what went wrong, things that they learned during training and during the race. All topics are for grabs, nutrition, long-run distance, speed work, strength work, work-out, clothing, shoes, packing, recovery, mental game, and many many other areas. We, runners, love to talk about everything running related, take advantage of it. You are already there, even if you do not learn anything new to try, at least you will have some company during the long runs.
One of the tricks I put in practice was to brush my teeth after running most of the night, especially early in the morning. That will reset your mental game and trick your body to be ready for the next part of the event. Another one golden nugget was to change my running shirt when possible and without taking too much time. That feeling of a fresh running shirt translated of a good feel and in part translated to a shoot of additional energy to tackle the next segment of the event.
3rd – Practice, practice, practice. You have been doing a lot of reading, listening, and learning and although that should never stop, it is time to put those things in practice. For most of your run, especially the long runs, pick one or two items to practice. You want to try a limited amount of new things because you do not know how you are going to react to the changes. For example, if you are going out for the first time for a night run and try to run with a headlamp, you might consider running on a stable, known route instead of a single-track trail or a route that you have never been before. Another example is while trying new food, pick one or two items in combination with items that you know they are ok for you to use. In case it does not work out, you can fall back to the usual without affecting too much your training run.
Once you start practicing, figure out and take note of what items you would like to add to your toolset, running plan and/or what you will eliminate or change. Take close attention especially when things do not go as planned during the training runs and try to tackle like you were running the event. Example, you have a new food to try but once you ate it halfway your run it did not settle well. Instead of just stopping or quitting the training run. Try to figure out what you could do to alleviate the situation and allow you to move forward and complete the training run. Take advantage of any of those, troubleshoot and learn from those as much as possible. Your headlamp brightness went down, or won’t work? Does it have a red or blue LED you can use instead? You might have to slow down a lot or even just walk, but figure out what you might have to do if it happens during the event.
Turn those possible disaster training runs into success learning opportunity runs. Those learning are going to be very handy during your event because it can give you a huge shoot of confidence that you will be able to handle lots of the possible situation, especially in a long day like in a 100 miles event.