It is Sunday, February 25, 2018 and I am sitting at the kitchen table a bit tired, but in great spirits after yesterday’s race. I ran and completed my very first 100K in 14 hrs. and 53 minutes. It was a long day and there were quite a few dark spots between mile 26 and mile 37, but I was able to fight off any demons and to keep going. I was never at a point where I wanted to quit, it was more about stomach issues and the danger of having to throw up.
I had planned to run the race using (Generation) UCAN and then slow move into more normal foods as the race progressed. But at mile 24 I had such a bad gut bomb I could not eat anything and barely drink anything. I forced myself to drink and use electrolytes to avoid dehydration and to keep the body healthy moving along. Every time I drank some water I felt sick and so kept it to a minimum – slowly working my way through that gut bomb situation. It was a mind game in many ways and so I took it one mile at a time. If I could finish this mile I am in, I would surely be able to finish the next mile … and so on. It worked out fine and the race progressed. In the end I ran the last 40 miles simply on water and electrolytes – nothing else. I think I am fairly fat-adapted and that is probably that keep me going. On a side-note – I lost 6 pounds in body weight from the race.
The hills and elevation gain took a toll on me as I did not find enough runnable miles to hit my time goal and so I settled for it would be. My average pace came in at 13 minutes and 58 seconds (according to Strava). My goal had been to finish in 14 hours and so it took me almost one additional hour before I reached the finish line.
The race was a figure-8 loop course and we had to run 8 loops – equaling 64 miles. Elevation gain was about 10,000 ft. and I know that I will need to improve my training in that area. Not necessarily in running the up-hills, but maybe just being able to run faster downhill without trashing my quads. Of course, being able to run a bit longer up hill before shifting to power-hiking will help as well.
Main take-aways from the race were:
Shoes – I ran the race in the Hoka Speedgoat 2.0 (affiliate link) and it is a great shoe. It performed great and protected my feet in several situations. My feet did not hurt other than that I was using them for 15 hours ?
Feet – More lube (Blue Steel Sports ANTI-CHAFE CREAM with tea tree oil / affiliate link). I thought I had used enough lube to protect my toes, but when I checked this morning I had two large blisters on the left foot (right foot was fine). I did not feel the blisters during the race at all and so they did not impact me at all, but next time I will apply even more lube.
Food – I think I will ditch the UCAN and similar products for a while and experiment to run longer runs only on water and electrolytes before phasing in some real food. So, optimizing being fat-adapted and improving how I fuel will become a priority. In hindsight I am still in awe that I ran 40 miles just on water and electrolytes.
Training – I under-estimated the elevation gain and did not do enough hill work as part of my training. The last 5 weeks of the training cycle I had added more hill training, but I now know that too little too late. That will change for my next Ultra that requires a lot of hills to be managed. I also need to add more miles – doing at least 2 or 3 more back to back long runs.
Running at night – Before the race I purchased 2 new Coast headlamps (affiliate link) for running and I am glad I did. These lamps are so freaking bright, it made running on a rocky trail at night almost easy. I had one lamp around my waist – shining down on the trail and the second one in my hand (but turned off most of the time). I forgot spare batteries at my dropbag and after about 2 hours of running the darkness the headlamp at my waist had lost at least 50% in brightness. That’s when the second headlamp came in handy. Next time I need to bring the spare batteries.
Garmin 630 – The Garmin 630 (affiliate link) worked great, but battery life was not where I would have expected it. However, I had planned for this in advance and brought a small battery-pack and my charger – giving the Garmin enough charge to make it to the end. When my stomach rebelled I also pulled the heart rate monitor off and ran by feel
I had mentioned before this was a small race with just 17 starters for the 100K. There was also a 50K and 100K relay and a Trail Half Marathon, so at least for the first half of the day the course was quite busy. I was able to maintain my time goal for the first 25 miles, but the stomach situation affected me and slowed me down and by the time I came out of that hole the steep hills would take a larger toll on me than expected and so I slowed down about 1 minute per mile. The course was nice and the scenery was interesting and (I found it) entertaining. I like that type of landscape and scenery, but your mileage might vary. The race was well organized and it was easy to follow the course – one lap you run this direction and for the following lap you reversed the direction and ran the same way just in opposite direction. There were 2 aid stations and the only thing I would like to see changed is the overall food situation – simply there was not much to choose from (park administration did not allow open food items?). So, if you plan on running this race, bring your own food. The aid stations were positioned well and the volunteers were great and super cheerful.
This was my 3rd (official) ultra-marathon and every time I learn something new. A friend had texted me the night before reminding me about mind games. “It’s an awesome feeling pushing your body further than it thinks it can.” I had this quote on my mind for a long time during the race and it helped to remind myself about. During training you never run the race distance and I think it is amazing that you simply keep putting your feet in front of each other over and over again until the race is over – and not just walk, but run (even if it is slow running).
Great race and I am super stoked that I was able to run over 100 KM. Even though I am hurting a bit today, I am extremely happy that I did this. The pain will go away, but the experience and the memories will last a life time. Most people never get to experience this type of running and too often take the easy way out when the going gets tough. Pushing those boundaries for myself feels liberating and empowering. I love running.
PS: I came in as second. 17 starters, 7 finishers.