I’ve learned a couple things over the past 18 months of running 100 mile races, but nothing more important that the title of this post. Maybe it’s the small sample size (5 races). Or maybe it’s my inexperience (same 5 races). Or maybe it’s just that with 100 miles and upwards of 35 hours of “running”, there’s more opportunity for things to go wrong. This is my chronological list:
2015 C&O Canal 100
- Problem #1: Right knee started getting weak/wobbly at mile 5.
- Solution: None. It kept getting worse and reduced me to walking only by mile 65.
- Problem #2: Constant rain and sub 50 degree temps chilled me to the bone.
- Solution: None. I had a rain coat in my drop bag (mile 60), but didn’t put it on because I wasn’t that cold yet.
Outcome: Drop at mile 69.
2015 Oil Creek 100
- Problem #1: My right shoulder started hurting every time I switched from running to walking.
- Solution: Instead of walking with my arms swinging low, I bent my elbows and mall-walked my way down the trail. Sure I looked silly, but there were very few people out in the woods at 3am to notice so who cares?
- Problem #2: I started nodding off (literally) as I hit the 24 hour mark finishing my third loop.
- Solution: Coffee. (duh)
Outcome: Pain never got too bad and I was able to stay awake. Finished.
2016 C&O Canal 100
- Problem: I went out too fast and blew out my hip flexors within the first 40 miles.
- Solution: The waddle. I noticed somewhere after mile 60 that if I changed my gait to a waddle (i.e. feet move forward and land on either side of an imaginary line instead of on the line like they would normally), that my hip pain was greatly reduced.
Outcome: Pain never got too bad allowing me to continue making forward progress. Finished.
2016 Eastern States 100
- Problem #1: Right knee started giving me problems at about mile 40.
- Solution(s): Wrapped the knee in an ace bandage I had stashed in my second drop bag. This was replaced by a knee brace I had in my third drop bag.
- Problem #2: Hot spots started developing on both my feet around miles 60-70.
- Solution: Had a medical professional tape up my feet at Blackwell (mile 80).
Outcome: Right knee deteriorated only modestly once support was added. Hotspots reduced to only a modest discomfort. Finished.
2016 Cloudsplitter 100
- Problem #1: Nutrition plan thrown out the window when stomach stopped tolerating gels at mile 51.
- Solution: Plan B (Ensure Plus drinks) were available in my drop bags, but I was 17 miles away from my next one. I made due with chicken broth, bananas, and a couple bite sized pieces of candy.
- Problem #2: Hotspots developed after mile 85 reducing me to a walk and adversely impacted my mental state.
- Solution: I discovered that a different running gait (shorter, tapping steps) didn’t rub my feet as raw.
Outcome: Caught back up on my fueling and was able to “run” it in on the last 5 mile downhill section.
Experience can be tough to come by, but once you have it, it can be invaluable. I’ve had somewhat low temperatures in several races since my first race, but it’s never risen to a problem since as I’ve made sure to have plenty of warm clothes and hand warmers available early and often. I’m much more likely to be overdressed than underdressed in races and training now, but that’s a much more correctable issue to have. I’ve also learned to have extra/backup knee braces and fueling options available just in case. Cause stuff’s going to go wrong. Knowing this ahead of time I think has helped me a bit overcome problems as they arise. Also, having the experience of successfully overcoming problems in races provides additional confidence that I can tackle whatever comes my way. It’s possible that I’ll eventually have a race that goes exactly to plan, but I’m not willing to wager that it’ll happen.
Have you ever had a flawless race?