Getting ready for a 100 mile race can be an overwhelming task. From packing gear, nutrition, organizing, travel and crew. Not even taking into account the hundreds of hours or training it takes to come in even somewhat prepared. And while I can’t run any of your training miles for you. I can help you with a little advice from. A list of things I learned from my first 100 mile race.
That might either help or give you more to worry about. It includes things I would pack, how often to eat, if you should take that leap and buy that high end head lamp. Take my advice and learn from my mistakes!
Things I Learned from My First 100 Mile Race
Time Goes Faster Than You Think It Will… Until the last 20 miles
One of my biggest worries going into my first 100 mile race was that I would get bored. 30+ hours is a lot of time to spend running and hiking. My running partner and I both packed our phones and headset, preparing for what we assumed would be an incredibly long race. But I could never have imagined how the time would pass in those mountains.
It was amazing how quickly the time passed. The first 3-4 hours were almost over before I knew it. And this continued as we pushed from one aid station to the next. Breaking it down into small bite sized sections. And not looking at the race as a whole. Even through the night, especially once we picked up our pacer, the time flew. And it wasn’t until the late morning around 11 that I finally started feeling the time.
Those last 20 miles… that’s when time started to slow down a bit and the feeling began to get long. This is where having a mantra and or that motivation to push you through really matters. In the end neither Kyle or I ended up using our headphones. Although, if I did, I would probably have saved them for that last 20 mile section.
Be Ready For Any Weather
This one seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised. My first 100 mile race was a mountain race in September (the Run Rabbit Run 100) known for having great weather. This year will be different. With runners facing rain, sleet, and hail at almost 11,000 feet. And the response would be a 40% drop rate. With most dropping at the race’s highest point when the weather was its fiercest.
I went into the race questioningly bringing my rain coat and just packing a poncho. I ended up bringing my jacket, and it probably saved my race. There is no way a disposable poncho would have lasted through the on and off, on and off. The storms moved in and out throughout the day, night, and surprised us late the next day. Even when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky all day. A thunderstorm came out of nowhere
My take away from this, always have a pocket poncho and emergency blanket in the mountains. And the rain jacket will serve as rain protection and a warming layer at night. It’s worth making room for.
Be Ready to Adapt
There are so many things that can go right or wrong in this long of a race. Be certain that things will go wrong. For me one of the first things to go wrong was with my nutrition. I had trained with Honey Stinger waffles for months. And had never had any issues. But on race day I couldn’t get half of one in without feeling sick.
This was a large part of my nutrition plan so I had to switch it up during the race. I started eating real food in the form of bacon, bananas, oranges, and ramen at night. Throw in a couple quesadillas and half a burger at Summit Lake. And my stomach issue went away. I had to adapt on the fly, and it worked. Just be ready for the most random things to go wrong.
Eating Every 30 Minutes Worked Great
In a race this long, getting behind on your calories is one of the easiest ways to bonk. But over 30+ hours, eating can be easier said than done. And it’s important to figure out what works for you when it comes to eating.
Through the years I’ve heard a lot of people talk about eating every hour. With many OCR racers eating every 45 minutes for long races. But in an effort to make sure I stayed ahead of the calorie burn and to allow myself to eat smaller, easier to digest portions. Kyle and I decided to eat every 30 minutes. Taking in 100-150 calories each 30 minute block.
We stayed on this the entire race. With each of us calling out every 30 minute mark so neither of us missed it. And you know what? We never bonked. Never cramped. And besides two bathroom stops each, neither of us had stomach issues late in the race. Both Kyle and I appreciated this “every 30 minutes” method. And will both continue to use it going forward for longer races.
Pay Attention to the Small Details of the Course Map and Elevation Profile
When you’re looking at a race’s elevation profile and map, it’s easy to get lost in the big climbs. And quad blasting descents. And in a way, these are great to use a landmark to check off along your way. But looking back, I wish I would have paid more attention to the smaller ridge vert profiles, and which way we would be going on the course.
Races tend to hide a lot of elevation throughout the course. And there were a few times I had my heart broken with big climbs I wasn’t expecting. But they were there in the elevation profile. And they were definitely there in real life. Had I paid attention I would have been a little more ready for some of the smaller, brutal climbs late in the race.
Then there is the route. At the Run Rabbit Run 100 they give you the easiest part of the trail for the first 50 miles. If I had looked at the race map over an area map, I would have seen this. Hint one. The first 50 miles had a lot of fire roads. Hint 2. The second climb is up an advanced mountain bike route. All the signs were there. We just didn’t look for them
Poles Would have Been Great for the Final Descent
I don’t train with poles. And because of this I’m very apprehensive about using them. When I used them in the past, they destroyed my back and shoulders. A variable I don’t want to count on in a long race. But looking at a race as long as 100 miles. Having some poles in my last drop bag might be a good idea.
This would be even more emphasized if the course has any major downhills at the end. My first 100 had a 6 mile -4,000 ft drop at the end. It was a painful death march on tired legs. And having some poles to take some of the pressure off of my joints would have been amazing!
More Light is Better
When we started the night, it was me leading Kyle, wearing my Black Diamond Storm 400 lumen. A head lamp that has served me well for many years. And admittedly may not shine as bright as it did when it was new. But didn’t bother me one bit through the first section in the dark leading up to the aid station where we would pick up our pacer.
Our pacer John, wearing a 1,000 lumen, multi setting, bright as the sun, headlamp. It was so bight, you could see the skeletons of lizards as they ran across the trail at night. It was so bright, that if he ran behind you, the shadow it cast off your back would make you nauseous unless he turned it down. The thing lit up the trail. And once we dialed it in, it allowed us to see everything in front of us incredibly well.
It was only once our pacer John, and the spotlight on top of his head were gone that I realized how bad my headlamp was. I had debated for months leading up to the race on whether to buy a new one or not. And in hindsight I wish I had. So if you’re on the fence. Pull the trigger and get a quality head or waist lamp.
We Changed Socks Once, I’d Probably Change Them Twice Next Time
Having never done this distance or amount of time on my feet. I wasn’t sure how or when I should be changing my socks. Taking into account the pouring rain and sleet keeping the trail and my feet soggy. I knew there would be at least one change during the race.
Kyle and I both changed our socks around mile 53. It was a great feeling as the weather held off for a few hours. And our feet got a few minutes of dry relief before hitting wetter parts of the trail. I also had a pair of socks waiting at an aid station around mile 74. In hindsight, changing my socks here may have been a good idea. I only ended up with one minor blister. And I think a change here back to toe socks might have prevented that.
Keep a Small Thing of Body Lube on You
One of the biggest reasons to change your socks is to re-lube your feet. My socks held up really well. But the more lube I could get on my body the better. In fact the more lube I could get on my body the better. Some of the aid stations had a spoon and large jar of Vaseline. I saw many racers getting scooped out and balls of friction relief.
I had the same issue, but thankfully brought a scoop of squirrel nut butter body lube with me. This allowed me to easily apply lube to needed body parts on the trail. Saving me miles of chafing while trying to make it into the next aid station. So along with your wet wipes, make sure you have a thing of body lube with you on the trail.
Use Dry Bags for Your Drop Bags
This is one that I’ve learned after a few races in bad weather. After seeing that bags can be left outside in the rain for hours. I’ve learned that keeping your stuff dry is incredibly important. I always have my stuff in zip lock bags inside my drop bags. Making it easy to see and grab what I need. But I recommend going a step beyond just plastic bags in a pack. Make sure your kit is really weatherproof and easy to find.
dry bag is a waterproof bag and was designed for whitewater rafting. They come in all sizes and bright colors. I recommended get the brightest color you can. So you can find them at the race and at pickup easily. And they are all weather proof. These are no brainers. Just get some duct tape and tag you name and bib number. Here is the dry bag we used.
I feel like I could probably keep adding to this post indefinitely. And I may continue to grow it over time. Or maybe it will call for a two partner. That said, I hope the lessons learned at my first 100 mile race go a long way to helping you prepare for yours.
As always, if you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!