100 Mile and 100K Races: Getting it Done

Lets establish a logical approach to getting to the 100 mile run. Progression should be: 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Full Marathon, 50K, 50 mile run, 100K then the big boy 100 mile run.

I started running with my dad and mom in our neighborhood when I was little about age 8-10. At that time I remember getting the "side stitch" or 2nd wind. I went on runs in middle school and high school and then a little in college. I've always enjoyed running. I could run 5-6 miles regularly during college, and I ran my first marathon at the 2nd annual Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Marathon in 2001. I followed the training schedule outlined in 4 Months to a 4 hour Marathon by David Kuehls.

After speaking at a local running club, I was introduced to a great guy and solid runner David Bernstein, who was already running big distances. He really inspired me and after our introduction in 2013 we never looked back. I have been running consistent marathon plus distances, cross training, dieting/eating healthy, cycling and swimming for over 3 year.  

 

100 Mile Prairie Spirit Trail: Ottawa, KS   April 2, 2016

I decided that I would never be 100% healthy or fully trained to run a 100 miler. It's mostly mental rather than physical, and I was mentally ready, relatively healthy and really wanted it. Because this race started at 6am, we had a running light/headlamp to begin. It was about 90 minutes until the sun came up, and we were moving ahead and feeling good. I wanted to prevent any type of sun burn, so I put on a layer of sunscreen and wore a white long sleeve shirt. I wore a North Face Hydration Back and carried a hand held water bottle as well. Also, Every 5 miles there were water stops and every 9-10 miles there were full aid stations. 

I was running with a buddy, Jory, who was with me on the 100k a few months earlier. We both had a few ups and downs mentally. There will be a time when you just "fade" or "get weird". Every time we experienced this we paused to eat, and wow we felt so much better! Remember, eat and drink early and often because soon you will not want to eat.

We continued our progress and kicked some butt. We made it to the 50 mile turn at about 6-7pm, about 12 hours after the race started. This part was extremely tough. Because of the course lay out the previous aid station was at mile marker 42, which made for a really long haul without food. We were both exhausted and a little pissed!

The turn was major though: mentally and physically every step was a step toward home. Right after the turn I took a little extra time to re-tape all spots that might get a blister. This was priceless for later that night.

We refueled and started back. Again, after food and drink and a short rest, we were feeling good. I have to mention that at most of the major aid stations (25, 50 and 75 mile markers) I had no desire to eat and knew that would be a costly mistake. My solution: I packed a zip lock bag with food and brought it with me. This was great! Jory and I both enjoyed the food. 

Night began to fall, and it was the first time we both admitted to having fun. The stress about getting to the turn was gone, and it was fun to run at night. Once it became dark, Jory and I both had head lamps (Petzl brand), and I carried a back up bike light just in case. As we moved along in the dark, aid station to aid station, our ability to run slowed to a walk at about mile 75. Any attempt at forward progress is what we promised to each other and that is what we did. As long as we averaged about a 16 minute pace overall we knew we could finish the race in under 30 hours. With any race I recommend setting goals. For example goal A: 24 hours, goal B: 27-28 hours and goal C: just finish. 

About 4-5 am in the morning we were going hard, and Jory was really fighting. He would whisper, "hey man, I'm starting to fall asleep". I knew he was fighting hard! We decided it was time for some music, so we both put in our ear buds and kept on going. As the sun was rising, I had to make a very hard decision. I felt like a solider leaving a brother behind in a gun fight. Kind of like a scene from Lone Survivor. A nasty blister had taken Jory to his limits, but I had to keep moving forward. 

What I haven't told you is that there was a cutoff time. These are times posted that a runner has to check in or pass in order to keep racing. The longer you have been running the more crazy the cutoff times become. You might think 4 hours to go with only 9 mile left is easy but not after running 20 hours straight with no sleep. In the night, we had a 6 pack of buddies all fighting together and pushing on the group to reach each aid station before the cut off times. There was one aid station 16 miles out from the finish line. The cut off was 7am and we had a few hours to get there. I remember getting so mad about the stupid cut off times that I yelled out "%^$@# cut off time", and started hauling butt. It got the group pumped up and we made it with one hour to spare: time in the bank.

At the aid station some one had dropped off a fresh dozen of donuts, man those were good! As the sun came up, we had more aid stations to get to before we knew we could make it in time. The last aid station was 7.3 miles from the finish, and I had 4 hours to do it. Once i went through that station, I knew I could make it, and man the flood gates opened up. I was so emotional and started crying. I wasn't expecting to get emotional, but wow! It was awesome! I called the wife, and it was ugly. (You guys can't hold this against me.) I was speed walking as fast as I could, moving at about 15 miles per hour. I crossed the finish line in 28 hours 27 minutes. It was awesome, and yes, I will do it again!

Recovery:

Let me tell you quickly about some important pearls.

Warmth: You can get hypothermia while running at night. If you slow down and/or stop at an aid station you will get the cold chills. Dress warm. Have a good couple base layers: pants, jacket, hat and gloves.

Blisters: As a foot and ankle surgeon, I will post a dedicated blog about blister prevention in detail at a later time. But for now, the short version. You will get blisters in two forms. One, blisters from running and two, blisters from walking. You'll get these two different types because of two different gait patterns. I have had both and know exactly where to tape for prevention.  I use KT Tape over all previous blister spots. In my drop bag, I carry every kind of blister prevention I can think of: lube, band aids, duct tape and new socks. The KT Tape worked best for me: pre-taping and then applying to any hot spot along the way as needed.

Swelling: Yes, you will have swelling, and it could possibly be bad. I noticed that my hands were swollen at about 24 hours of running. Just being on your feet and the body's physiological process causes swelling. Expect it. ASAP I put on my recovery compression stockings and elevated as much as possible. Expect pain and discomfort for the next week. The first 48 hours will suck. My legs didn't swell bad until about 48 hours after the race. Over all, your going to heal and recover, but it takes time. It has been 8 days since my finish with a busy active weekend and only have mild right side calf pain. I will continue to recover and maybe squeeze in a swim or bike ride. I'm hoping to be running next week, but only if I'm 100% pain free.

Thanks guys! This race will be one I will never forget.

Remember: just forward progress and keep running.