Sunday, October 12, 2014

10/12/14: 100 Mile Ultra Tips

The Grindstone 100 went very smoothly.  There were no major problems, and I managed to hit my “A” goal of finishing under 24 hours (“B” goal was finishing before dark, and “C” was of course just finishing).

So much can happen over 100 miles that lots of it gets chalked up to luck, but I managed to avoid some of the stupid mistakes I have made in past races.  Before the race David Horton, ultrarunning legend, always tells the field “don’t do anything stupid.”  I took this to heart and tried to run smart and error-free.  Every race is a different, and I believe that every person is an experiment of one, but here are some takeaways that may help others in future races.  At the least this should be a good reminder for me in the future to continue to not do stupid things!


Since I got into the race 1.5 weeks before the start date, I had no time for my usual panic & overtraining.  I had plenty of time to be terrified, but no time to doing anything about it!

My last long run was 30 miles in Asheville 3 weeks out.  I had a really long 11+ hour day 5 weeks out in the Sardona Ultra.  I did not second guess my training, and I didn’t try to cram in last minute long runs.  This was more of a “hope and pray” scenario.

As a result I got to the start line healthy and very rested.  I had trained hard all summer but relaxed 
for the 3 weeks beforehand.  I certainly do not advocate jumping into 100s at the last minute and will not count on this as a successful strategy in the future, but this should serve as a reminder to have confidence in your fitness and focus on getting rested before the big day.


In the 100s I DNFed I think I just went out too fast.  The only pace I had in mind was the pace required to finish in 25.5 hours and daylight.  I knew this was extremely doable and within my fitness, so I focused my mindset on going out at the “all-day pace.” 

I summited the first 4K foot climb feeling like I had not done anything.  I was running the pace I felt like I could sustain forever.  100 miles is a long way, and this is the only pace you should be running.


Nutrition is wildly different for everyone, but I’ve come away from Grindstone thinking my mistake in some past races has been too little solid food and not eating often enough. 

I had my first solid food 2 hours into the race (after having two gels).  I ate every 30 minutes for the rest of the race with tons of solid food.  On the trail it was almost entirely water and solid food, and the aid stations were soda, soup, and solid food.  Because I kept a constant stream of calories going I had good energy levels, never felt too full, and didn’t have stomach problems.  I was eating in relatively small quantities(1/4 PB&J while walking out of aid, 6 grapes 25 minutes later, nature valley bar 30 minutes after that, etc.), but it was more than enough.

I also no longer believe in sticking to a regular schedule with S-caps.  With cooler temperatures and lots of salty foods, I simply didn’t need more electrolytes for a long time.  Had I tried taking one per hour, I think I easily could have overdone it and caused stomach issues I’ve had in the past.  I didn’t have a single S-cap until 62 miles in.  Granted I think I waited too long, but after taking 3 over a 30 minute period, I snapped out of it very quickly.

Night-Time Running

I was terrified of having to run throughout the entire night.  I had visions of falling asleep on the trail, having to sleep in aid stations, and being attacked by wild animals at night.  It just wasn’t that bad.  I had two 5-10 minute stretches that were a bit tough, but it really wasn’t a problem.

The human body can do amazing things, and running throughout the night is one of them.  I mean we have all pulled all-nighters in college, right?  My wife was up for an entire night while giving birth to a baby, and I can ensure you that was way tougher than walking / slowly running for a while. 
Many people will do long nighttime training runs to get used to it.  My personal belief (having not done so) is to not worry about it and just go in rested (though see below about Gear).

Aid Stations

I have tried too hard to be super fast through aid stations in prior 100s that ended in DNFs.  There is definitely a good point around efficiency, and it is all too easy to spend 30 minutes at an aid station.  Multiply that by 12-30 aid stations in a race, and you can see the problems stacking up quickly.

At Grindstone, you frequently had 2+ hours between aid stations.  That is a long time, and without a crew or pacer, I had no room for error and needed to make sure I was taking care of myself.  I took whatever time I needed at aid stations until I had run through my checklist multiple times and felt ready to get back on the trail for more tough miles.  I was constantly doing something and not just sitting around, but I didn’t time myself and wasn’t in a rush. 

During tougher parts of the race, I would start out after the aid station feeling good, steadily deteriorate, and come into the next aid station feeling wiped out.  Taking the time to bring myself back to life was critical to being able to continue and a successful finish.

So be fast and be efficient, but don’t be rushed and make sure you take care of business.  I had multiple of my longer aid stations stops that were around 10 minutes, and I am confident they saved me time and saved my race.


I am not exactly quick to experiment with new gear or adopt the latest trends.  The Sardona Ultra literally forced me to buy a bunch of new gear (the required gear list was a mile long).  I also realized that my trail shoes weren’t cutting it in technical terrain and picked up a pair of Salomon Speedcross shoes.  These are awesome and will be my new shoe of choice.

Running in the pre-dawn dark on a super foggy night with Dylan in the mountains around Asheville exposed how woefully inadequate my lighting system was.  There was no way my current headlamp was going to cut it.  Dylan’s bike flashlight was far better, so I did some research on good running flashlights.  This certainly saved my race and was one reason why I finished.

I planned my gear well and also made sure my drop bags were well stocked and well prepared.  Here is what I used during the race:
  • Pack: Salomon S-Lab 12
  • Shoes: Salomon Speedcross
  • Socks: Drymax maximum protection
  • Shorts: Salomon S-Lab Exo Twinskin (had some chafing issues and had to use tons of body glide / Vaseline … need to figure out something better for next time)
  • Top layer: VHTRC short sleeve shirt, Nike long sleeve dry fit shirt, Chicago Marathon T-Shirt (I like wearing my VHTRC blues but think a performance race shirt wouldn’t hurt)
  • Rain shell: Patagonia Torrentshell (did not use)
  • Headlamps: Petzl Myo XP (worked ok in combination with the flashlight; ran out of batteries after ~ 10 hours; might put the Petzl Nao on my wishlist).  I also had the Petzl Tikka Plus as backup and used it after the Myo XP ran out of batteries rather than take the time to put in new batteries.
  • Flashlight: Fenix PD35 2014 edition (this was the bomb; setting # 2 out of 5 lit up the trail and it has 38 hours of power at this setting!)
  • Camelbak 2 liter bladder (added this to my Salomon pack, did not refill it)
  • Brooks running hat (worn backwards of course)
  • Gloves & hat (used the gloves up on the ridge at night)

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Again, after reading your race report, I feel like I've been there with you! Well done, Will!