If you’re like me, you’ve dreamt of running a 100-mile race at some point in your life. As that dream starts to become a reality, it’s easy to dive into the dirty details. Which race will take my 100-mile virginity? Who will crew and pace me? How will I get myself and my crew to the race? Sound familiar? A never-ending list of logistics doesn’t need to get in the way of running a hundo, and we can’t all race in our own backyard (nor do we always want to). Here are some tips on getting to (and through) your first 100 miles successfully.
Find what inspires you. Could it be an out-and-back vert fest through the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming’s Wild West? Maybe it’s a Beast Coast point-to-point cruise with just 3,000 feet of elevation gain over smooth limestone and cinders in the Yeti 100. No matter what your preference, choose a race course (or two) that you’re intrigued by, and let those fuel your fire for training this year. For most of us, the planning and visualization are all part of the fun, which is a why a 100-mile desert party at Javalina Jundred over Halloween weekend might just sound like the perfect “vacation” getaway.
Keep it simple. Running coach and veteran Sean Meissner of Sharman Ultra Endurance Coaching, says the biggest thing you can do is maintain an easy-going, pre-race attitude. “Make your race as logistically simple as possible for yourself. For example, you definitely want to pack your drop bags, but don’t over-fill them to the point where you have too many decisions to make.” Sean has been running ultras for over 14 years, and with over 230 marathon and ultra finishes, he’s seen it all. “Most aid station volunteers are very willing to help, and often times, crews from other runners will help, too. If not, ask. Most will try to help as best as they can, and having that brief human contact with compassionate strangers at 3 a.m. is pretty amazing.”
Be flexible. I’ve yet to travel to an ultra via air, but the thought of packing everything I need into a carry-on induces anxiety almost instantaneously. I’m the one with five sports bras in my suitcase “just in case” four of them decide to falter on race morning. Sean says, “If you’re flying, try to keep everything with you when you board and if you do check your bags, keep at least the bare minimum in your carry-on.” Definitely do your research before-hand to make sure the aid stations will be well-stocked with what you’ll need, and plan on bringing enough food, fuel and gear to compensate for what’s not provided.
If running 100 miles is in the cards for you this year, talk to your friends or family about potential crew and pacing opportunities. Supporting a runner during a 100-miler can be an amazing experience for them, as well as a favor which can be reciprocated by you in the future. While it’s hard to ask people to travel and spend a weekend waiting around to take care of you, you might be surprised who jumps at the chance. And even if the stars don’t align and you indeed have to travel solo, you’re heading to an ultra where almost everyone is there to make sure as many of those buckles get snagged up as possible.
There will be lots of things that are out of your control during a 100-miler, but plenty you can control – including your outlook. Sean says, “Go into the 100 with a plan, but be flexible with that plan because it’s not going to go exactly how it plays in your head.” Words to live and run by – whether it’s your first 100-miler or your 15th.