Monday, March 21, 2011

How I run 100 miles

Ask 20 ultra runners that have completed a 100 mile race how they did it and you will get 20 different answers.  I will tell you everything I can about how I run 100 miles.  Then go ask the other 19 and see what makes the most sense.  As you probably know, I have not been 100 % successful in my 100 mile races.  My method has worked two out of three times, despite the problems I encountered and talked about in previous posts.  (Like running out of water going up Hope Pass at Leadville and leaving my cue sheet at the top of Mt. Cheaha in The Pinhoti 100 and loosing hours overnight without even knowing it.)

Although I didn't finish Wasatch, it was the smoothest 100 mile race I had run up until I had to drop out because of the ankle injury.  Actually, other than dealing with Atrial Fibrillation most of the first day, which really zapped my energy, (with AF your heart does not pump enough blood so it is as if you are running much faster than you actually are) it was a really good run.  I never got sick, never had a problem eating or drinking, never felt sleepy and felt strong until I climbed a killer hill not far from where I quit.  With 5,000 feet of descent in the remaining 12 miles, I knew I would soon recover and be able to finish.  I have always had a pretty strong last 10 miles.  The problem was my ankle was becoming very painful it looked like I had wrapped a donut around it under my sock.  It hurt to run on the flats and was and I could no longer run down hill  at all.  Except for a couple of fairly short uphill sections the entire 12 miles to the finish was downhill and two of the descents were the hardest on the course.  I was not thinking very clearly either.   At Rock Springs, where I dropped out, I thought there were two more aid stations and 15 miles to go to the finish.  There was one AS and 12 miles left.

I have gone through all my preparations for Wasatch in previous posts.  I knew what I needed to start the race with to be able to reach the first drop bag aid station at mile 18.76, Francis Peak.  I estimated it would take me 4.5 hours to reach the first "water only" AS at mile13.38 and 6.5 hours to the reach Francis Peak.  For some reason I thought I would drink 80oz. of water in 13.38 miles, so that is how much water was in my Nathan hydration pack.  I was carrying about 5 lbs. of water up the Chinscraper climb.  The temperature was about 38 at the start and by two hours into the race we had climbed into the clouds and sub-freezing temperatures.  I didn't drink much water.  I should have started with no more than 40 oz.  I reached Francis Peak AS in 5 hours and 27 minutes and I had been trying to control my Atrial Fibrillation for at least 4 hours by that time.  I probably would have arrived in less than 5 hours without the AF.  A guy I was comfortably  running with before the AF started was 30 minutes ahead of me at Bountiful B, (mile 24) One hour and 20 minutes ahead of me at Big Mountain, (mile 34.3) and over 2 hour ahead at Lamb's Canyon, (mile 53.)  Anyway I was carrying way too much water and did not need to add any additional water until Bountiful B at mile 24.  So much for all that planning.

Pacing:  In my first 100 mile race, the Pinhoti 100, I had decided to try a run/walk strategy of running 2 minutes and walking 2 minutes.  I figured out that was about 100 walking steps and 200 running steps, I think.  I started the race trying to follow my plan a couple of hours.  It seemed I hit the run segment going uphill and the walk segment going downhill.  I finally gave up and walked up hill and ran down.  If  you look at course profile of Pinhoti you will see why my original plan did not work.  There is no "flat" in north and northeast Alabama.  Now the system I always use is "Walk Up, Run Down and alternate on the flats."  The two exceptions are on very long descents of several miles I will usually walk some and on very long gentle climbs I will run some.

I had started the race carrying four 10 oz Nathan bottles with 2 scoops of Perpetuem mix in each.  I mixed two with water before the start.  I also had enough NUUN tablets to keep my water properly mixed with electrolytes.  As I mentioned previously, we would be running in the dark for about an hour so I carried a flashlight.  I had my trekking poles in my Nathan backpack to use when we started up the first climb about 5 miles into the race.  That first five miles was pretty flat so things were pretty relaxed for a while.  After running north for most of that first 5 miles we make a right turn and abruptly started the 4,500 ft climb to Chinscraper.  I was hiking up with several runners, one of which, 67 year old Martin Fritzhand, had finished Hardrock just two months before.  We went up together for a couple of miles until the AF slowed me substantially.  It is his times I listed above because we seemed to be about the same speed until then.  After the AF started he pulled further ahead of me at every aid station all day.

We all walked the 5 miles to the crest of Chinscraper where we began running down hill and walking up hill and running most of the flats.  By Grobbin's at mile13.38 I had just about finished off my 2 Perpetuems containing water so I added water to the other two and headed off.  I probably still had 65 oz of water in my hydration pack so I did not add any water.  I did pull out the bladder and check it just to be sure.  (If I am running with a hydration pack I always pull out the bladder to see exactly how much is left, NOW.)  I was at that Grobbin's AS not more than two minutes and I was off again.

We had been on single track trails up until that point.  Now were were running on a well maintained service road along the crest of the ridge-line.  I ran as much as I could and was able to run most of the downhill sections.  I should have been able to run virtually all of this section.  I reached the Francis Peak Aid station at 10:27am.  I traded out all four 10 oz Nathan bottles for new ones and added water to two.  I still did not need to add water to my hydration pack.  I grabbed the baggie of new supplies from the drop bag and left the stuff I started with in the drop bag, including my flashlight.  Some of the things I had started with had not been touched like the NUUN tablets.  (Since I had not added any water I had not used any.)  I also carry a few extra Honey Stingers and salt tablets.  I discarded all the old supplies and loaded up with the new.  I stashed things I would need or was likely to need in pockets in my shorts and the front storage compartments on my hydration pack and belt.   I stuck the NUUN tablets in the right side pocket, Enervit tablets (cramp pills) in my left pocket.  I put two Honey Stinger gels in a back pocket on my shorts and two in the front pocket of my hydration pack.  I stuck the rest of the stuff in the large back compartment of my pack.  I had planned on dropping off my jacket, toboggan and gloves but it was still cold so I kept them on.  I also picked up my sunglasses and a cap.  I ate a slice or two of orange at the aid station and grabbed a half sandwich, a couple of cookies and a banana to take with me.  I put the banana in the large back pocket on my shorts and headed out eating the sandwich and cookies while walking and running.  I was at the Francis Peak AS seven minutes.

During the first climb we could look back down the mountain and see lights of Salt Lake and a couple of towns to the north.  The Salt Lake was visible too, but we soon climbed into the clouds and the temperature dropped.  By noon, the clouds were lifting a little and occasionally we caught a glimpse of SLC or some town on the east or northeast side of the mountains. Soon we were running in scattered sunlight and it warmed up some but I never took off my jacket.  I did take off the toboggan and gloves and put on my cap.

After one of the aid stations, possibly "Sessions" we came out on an open fairly flat section and I remember the sun was actually warm for the first time.  Everything after Francis Peak Aid Station runs together now.  I cannot remember any specifics about the "Skyline" section including Bountiful B, Sessions and Shallow Rocks.  I think it was Sessions that had some really good, hot soup but the rest is a big jumble.  I do remember approaching Shallow Rocks AS because it was just past some really interesting, huge boulders rising above the trail and you could see the aid station sitting on a ridge for a long way.  After that I remember we ran right along the crest of the mountains for about 4 miles.  You could see the much taller mountains far ahead and I was sure they were the peaks around Park City and Alta still may miles away.  Then we started down a long descent to Big Mountain Aid Station.  I was excited because I knew Marye Jo was there waiting for me.  The descent was slow and very steep.  I could see the AS about half a mile away and almost one thousand feet below.  I called Marye Jo and told her I could see the aid station but it would be a while before I got there.  It seemed to take forever.

I arrived at Big Mountain at after 12 hours and 25 minutes of running at 5:25pm and MJ had everything laid out on a towel for me.  (This really helps.)  By now, I had accumulated extra "stuff" so I sorted out what I did not need and just regrouped.  I sat down, ate some soup, and picked up my baggie of new supplies.  I took a few extra minutes to eat and tell Marye Jo about my experiences over the past 12 hours.  I spent 12 minutes at the AS and left with a little soup in a cup and a banana.  The AF kicked in a little so I took my time up the climb above Big Mountain.  Then I was off along the ridges again with spectacular views as the sun was going down and the sky was almost totally clear.

The next AS was Alexander Ridge, eight miles away.  Much of the run was fairly easy and I began to see the Lake at Lamb's Canyon several thousand feet below.  There were a few tricky descents as we started down to the AS but generally this section was really nice.  The sun set before I reached Alexander Ridge as I turned on my headlamp and "stomach lamp" and continued down.  The final mile or so to the AS was through what seemed like miles of knee high grass.  It was completely dark by the time I arrived.  I added water to my hydration pack and to on of the 10 oz bottles,  grabbed a cookie and another banana and headed out along another grassy trail.  I could see the Lamb's Canyon AS below and it looked like it was no more than a mile away.  I knew it was about five and a half miles but it seemed so close I thought I would be there in just a few minutes. I was feeling good and ran most of the next several miles up a gentle climb along a power-line easement..  Trouble was we were running east, away from Lamb's.  Finally, the trail turned right and headed off into the woods.  When we finally turned right again we were heading west, straight back to Lamb's Canyon Aid Station.  We ran for a while, parallel to I 80 and soon I saw the AS not far away.  I called Marye Jo and told her I thought I would be there in 5 or 6 minutes.  I ran a little further then the trail turned right again and again we were heading away from Lamb's.  Soon the trail made a 180 and continued down hill a ways before turning left and heading east, the opposite direction of the Aid Station.  We must have run a mile going east before the trail finally made another 180 and started back west.  This time there were no more turns and we were running right along I80.  We finally dropped below the level of the highway and I knew we were close.

At 10:17 pm I finally reached Lamb's Canyon.  It had probably been 30 minutes after I called Marye Jo and told here I should be there in 5 minutes.  Again she had everything ready for me.  It was beginning to get cold and from here we would be heading up into the mountains to almost 10,000 feel along the ridges above the Canyons Ski Resort and Park City.  It did get cold.

Lamb's Canyon next.

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