I want to go into more details about how I have fixed my metabolic function which I’m sure played a factor in the success of this race but I plan on doing that in a separate write up and as such will only touch on what I did to prepare in the days before the race and on race day for food (both before and during the race).
I also want to touch on some of the preparation I did for this race despite very likely underestimating how difficult it actually was going to be that put me in a position to be successful in completing the race.
Pre-Race Planning (best laid plans…):
Prior to signing up for this race I made a lot of improvements on my body composition and had developed a better understanding of how my body could be prepared for a big event. I’m not exactly sure how I decided that this would be a good idea for a spring race or why I felt that was a good idea (albeit I do typically transition to trail running/running races in the winter months and did need something to occupy myself but this race turned out to be much more difficult than I expected it to be initially.
My training plan was going strong and then we bought and sold our house in late November and while I was able to get some solid strength training, packing transporting and moving boxes and doing initial modifications/repairs in our old and new house I wasn’t able to keep up on my planned workouts.
Mind you I had built up a solid strength base, with consistent lower body, posterior chain and upper body workouts and consistent running. So while my PMC didn’t reflect the work during the move I was still working very hard and this may not accurately reflect my actual fitness and readiness for this race.
I also signed up for a 50 mile training race 4 weeks prior to this race with decent elevation (nothing like EH100) and a 12 hour cut off. That said on the weekend of that race I had to change my plans as they started the race late and instead I only had 10 hours. This race did give me a lot of confidence in my training however since while I wasn’t doing much trail running (due to lots of ice and snow in the winters) it seems that including strength training (squat, deadlift and other muscles) along with weight vest (60 lbs) incline walks made climbing much easier and I felt good going up hills despite living in a very flat area.
Including the strength training was crucial for completing this very challenging course that included a lot of climbing and had a decent amount of technical sections throughout the race.
Pre Race Food (setup for success):
In the weeks before the race I didn’t modify my diet much from normal with the exception of giving up coffee. I do this because caffeine is a very useful tool that can be used during endurance races (especially really long ones) and is more effective if you cut it a few week prior on race day. As such I eliminated my usual morning coffee for a couple of weeks leading up to this event. Otherwise I at my typical diet at the same quantities despite a reduced training load.
On the Friday before the race we drove down to GA and stopped on our way at Cheddars for lunch where I had a half rack of ribs with grilled shrimp and carrots as a side dish. For dinner I was able to locate a local BBQ place and had brisket, some smoked chicken (from my wife’s meal) and a sweet potato with some brown sugar.
Saturday morning I woke up early and cooked 4 eggs with a bit of aged cheddar and made myself a Goat milk kefir protein shake to top off my fuel reserves before heading to the starting line.
I think it is important to understand how your body handles different foods leading up to a race and eating the way I have in the past year or so has definitely done wonders for my race day nutrition result.
I know a lot of people that have set plans for what they will eat and when during races and are very regimented about how they approach nutrition. I am regimented in my approach but I also allow myself to (1) have flexibility in my plan and (2) listen to what my body is telling me so I can adjust the plan if necessary.
For many years after very challenging events I have had major issues with the 4th discipline of endurance training (fuel/eating) but in recent years I have made a lot of strides on this front and have improved to the point that after this race I was able to sit down and enjoy food at the finish line (which would have been unheard of in years past.)
For fuel I carry a few different things that have worked well for me in training and typically plan on taking in calories about every 20-30 minutes but allow for deviation as needed after the first 4-5 miles (during which I don’t typically eat). I also allow myself to partake in anything that looks/sounds interesting at aid stations but specifically gravitate to fruit (oranges or watermelon during the day) and cheese quesadilla/broth in the overnight hours if they are available… I tend to avoid the processed food like cookies or potato chips.
Fuel that I carry:
- Maple Syrup
- Untapped Maple Syrup energy “gels” has been a favorite of mine for years, I don’t like traditional gels and prefer natural products this fits the bill and is easy to carry. These are great, my personal favorite, during the day, is the raspberry, and I also like the salted cocoa, I use the coffee infused in the overnight hours as a kick when I really need it.
- Runamok Maple Syrup – I stumbled across their ginger infused syrup at Whole foods and since ginger can help with nausea I decided to incorporate this into my carried syrup. I do this using something like this Hydropak Soft Flask (150 ml)
- Medjool Dates
- I get pitted dates and will sometimes have my crew stuff them with goat cheese to add a little bit of specialness. Terrasoul Pitted Dates are a solid option.
- I toss a few in a Ziplock snack bag.
- I don’t have a specific brand of honey but prefer raw organic, and look for packets, the challenge with honey is that is thicker than maple syrup.
- Candied bacon
- I make this myself, usually with some brown sugar, maple sugar, and a bit of cayenne (since it can help reset the pallet)
- I use a smoker to cook my bacon but you can also use an oven.
- This is a good fatty, combination of sweet, salty and spicy.
- Ginger candies and/or Altoids – Gin Gin chews
- These can help settle an upset stomach and can be sucked while moving without much effort providing calories and settling the stomach.
In addition to fuel I carry electrolytes and prefer that my electrolytes don’t include any calories. My go to choices for these are:
- Nuun Tabs
- Myoxicence Electrolyte Stix – This is relatively new in the space but it has a really light flavor and I really like it.
I used keep two different flavors of electrolytes in bottles in my running vest along with a bladder full of water to drink with food intake.
Start to Aid Station 1 (8 miles):
So, looking at the course the first few miles looks really flat and it is… however this is deceiving as while the first mile is on roads, from mile 2-3.5 is on railroad tracks (can you say trip hazard?), the remaining part is mostly climbing but is almost entirely on roads. I had not planned on having my crew meet me at the first aid station. This section was thankfully pretty uneventful and I made good time despite the railroad tracks and elevation gain.
Aid Station 1 – 2 (13.6 miles- 21.6 miles total):
Immediately after leaving the first aid station there was a water crossing, the workers at the aid recommended removing our shoes since they said there wouldn’t be another crossing for a while.
I don’t recall anything super interesting about this section other than there is a lot of climbing, it is partially on roads (gravel) and it started sleeting which sounds not so great except that it is better than cold rain.
The original plan was to have my crew meet me at the second aid station however because of problems with the GPS trackers they missed me by a few minutes. This ended up working out ok as I had packed some electrolytes and always have extra fuel and was able to work with the aid station to get what I needed to keep moving.
Aid Station 2 – 3 (8.4 miles – 30 miles total):
This section had some downs in the first part a slight climb in the middle then decent and finally a climb to get into the aid station. This was the first time I encountered my crew who had made it out to the aid and I was able to replenish some of my fuel and get a few pictures taken. I was cool but felt good and was still moving well.
I did ask my crew how far it was in total and was informed that it was about 29 miles but I thought it was a bit closer to 31 and it turned out that we were both wrong and it was 30 miles into the race).
Aid Station 3-4 (9.5 miles – 39.5 miles total):
This leg shouldn’t have been bad however there were so many fresh trees down and that made it so slow to get through. Also there were a lot of water crossings and while the 100k racers left aid station 4 in a different way the 100 mile racers climbed up to the top of a section then went down a road to aid and had to return in the same direction for a portion to go to Aid Station 5.
I had hoped to have enough time banked that I didn’t need a headlamp leaving to go to Aid Station 5 but alas I was not moving fast enough for that and picked one up on my way out. I also had my first cheese quesadilla at Aid Station 4.
Aid Station 4-5 (15 miles – 54.5 miles total)
Leaving Aid 4 we back tracked along the course, climbed out of the aid and then descended back down again but were back tracking where other racers were on their way towards the aid station. We double back to the course before turning off again for about 2.5-3 miles.
It was nice to see people although it can be unfortunate when people ask how far to the aid station and are disappointed when you tell them they have more than a mile, or confusion because you’re going the opposite direction they are and are confused because they don’t backtrack.
Apparently, unbeknownst to me until later on the 100 miler racers left aid station 4 via a different route as the 100k racers. Once I turned off towards the next aid station (3-4 miles into this section) it was starting to get later in the evening and unfortunately that means my body would be getting tired soon. This is an understood feeling but it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to be prepared for the upcoming long night.
Fortunately this section did not have nearly the number of trees down as the previous section. However it was the point where things start to get hard since the sun is going down and all you want to do is go home and go to sleep.
A few miles before leaving the woods and getting onto some gravel roads to get to Aid Station 5 I was caught by a couple of other 100 mile runners. Unknown at this time I would see both of these people again in the future on my race. One of the racers that caught me was training for Tahoe 200 (in a few months) and the other racer, I would find out later, was doing his first 100 miler and was not exactly hitting it out of the park to say the least (the first time 100 miler did finish, not sure about the other guy).
After struggling for a while I finally made it to Aid Station 5 and that meant I could finally pick up a pacer, which in this case was my very experienced (pacer and 100 mile finisher) wife.
Aid Station 5 – 6 (11 miles – 65.5 miles total)
Almost immediately after leaving aid station 5 we once again ran into the younger individual that was doing his first 100 miler and he decided to stick with us since he was here by himself and didn’t have any pacers to keep him company, it was getting later in the evening and we left aid station 5 at around 10:30 PM.
Having a pacer who is relatively fresh is good because they can keep you occupied and can definitely keep you out of trouble. I didn’t want to tap into my caffeine stores until later in the night and would suffer for a few more hours of exhaustion before doing so… although the conversation did arise with the new guy about my strategy of not drinking coffee and using caffeine as a tool. And he wondered why I hadn’t tapped into it yet. I knew however I wanted my caffeine to be available to me during the witching hours and planned on saving my coffee infused maple syrup until closer to 2 AM.
This section included a long climb (4-5 miles) and then a decent back into the next aid station and while it was hard because it was late at night it went pretty uneventfully.
Aid Station 6 – 7 (9.5 miles – 75 miles total)
In my exhausted state I was a bit confused about this section and thought it was a much shorter section than it was, fortunately I always carry extra fuel, water and electrolytes and was fine for this section.
Also unfortunate was that there was section of the course that should probably have been marked a little better and we missed this turn and went past about a quarter mile before looking at a digital map (especially for a point to point race where you aren’t on the same course at all times I highly recommend downloading Gaia GPS and uploading the gpx track, it works in airplane mode and I had access to it the entire race as without the need to charge my phone for confirming that I was on course.)
This was definitely a bit of a panic moment as it was nearly 3 AM, I was already very tired, and this only added to the miles I had to do… I still had my wife with me for this section and I’m really glad as I know she has been through this sort of thing and if she bounce back from something like this than hopefully I can as well.
This section involved a lot of climbing and even once that was done there was a lot of ups and downs many of which were pretty rocky.
After a while we were once again caught by the young man who was doing his first 100 miler and he was still very much struggling as while he was very disciplined about taking in calories he was doing gels the entire race and it was becoming more and more difficult to say the least.
We played some games during this section, albeit the games we play aren’t generally overly complex it is nice to keep the mind off of the task at hand. One of our favorite games is to pick a topic and start at the top of the alphabet and name something. E.g. countries, Angola, Bulgaria, etc…
This section was a slog at least until the sun came up… which was a couple of miles from Aid Station 7. I actually got a kick when that happens… this sunrise is an amazing thing… overnight is an absolute slog fest… but once the sun comes up the game changes and life gets better.
This was especially good because the young man who was with us would gag tremendously every time he took a gel. I’m fortunate in that I have done this sort of thing before (although not nearly as long) and I understand that I do better when I have a variety of calorie options and flavor options.
On my person I usually carried, several flavors of maple syrup (this is easier to eat than honey because it is less viscous) also have dried fruit (in the form of dates) and I have bacon. I will typically target taking in calories every 20 to 30 minutes and will increase or decrease depending on how I’m feeling. Fortunately, I have gotten pretty in tune with how I’m feeling and was able to recognize when I needed more calories or when I was overdoing it at this race.
I have often struggled with the 4th discipline in endurance triathlon racing and I’m honestly really pleased with how well I have been able to overcome this challenge in my racing. I used to be unable to eat food at the end of races because of my stomach but in the last couple of years of racing I have gotten to the finish line and not only still been able to eat but wanted to eat. It’s a wonderful thing for someone that has never done well at the 4th discipline of endurance racing.
We made it to Aid Station 7 and at this point I was picking up my other pacer, whom I have run with before and although we don’t hang out often is a great person to talk to as we are both engineers.
Aid Station 7 – 8 (13.2 miles – 88.2 miles total)
This is an interesting section, during our encounter with young man whom I left behind just before getting to aid station 7 we were informed that there was a very large climb at mile 85. Now I had a while to go before getting to mile 85 and upon leaving I overheard from my wife that we needed to get moving if I was going to finish in the 34 hour range.
As such we took off and our goal was to get 20 min miles and be back to the aid station by 12:30 or so… we made good time. There were some stretches where we had to do more walking but were able to maintain a decent pace and I even caught one of the other racers that passed me the previous night who was also complaining about missing the same turn as me… although it sounded like he took worse than I did as I had already moved on from it and was making headway towards the finish.
I did have a moment where I realized that I was definitely not getting sufficient calories and so I started upping my caloric intake for a while which turned out in my favor as the climb at mile 85 was no joke. It was a 1 mile section and had 1000 ft of climbing… which seemed like it was straight up.
I imagine this broke a lot of people, in fact as I understand it the winner of the race this year passed the leader at the time on this hill and when this happened the now 2nd place runner was pretty defeated and stayed that way for a while.
I also passed another racer (with a pacer) on this climb and even left my pacer behind on the hill although I knew he would catch back up to me before getting to aid. It was a really good feeling being able to really do this climb this late into the race.
I was really starting to get some soreness in areas that I didn’t before (especially my shins which is what really hurt later in this race and is the only part of me that is still angry.)
On the bright side once I got to the top of this I knew there was a lot of downhill, although there is always still climbs.
Aid Station 8 – 9 (3.4 miles – 91.6 miles total)
This section was partly a back track of the section that we messed up the previous night and was the shortest section between aid stations in the entire race. It was getting much harder to move but I had time banked and was able to keep moving steadily despite the increasing discomfort.
We made good time and although I had suggested that when I got to aid station 9 I would have a cola I ended up only grabbing a couple of oranges and refilling my bottles, also thankfully I stayed on path we didn’t make any wrong turns (not that I was expecting to at this point).
Aid Station 9 – Finish (8.4 miles – 100 miles total)
This last section I left with my wife again as my final pacer, we had decided earlier that this was how we would break it up as I knew I wanted to do that last miles with her by my side.
I was hurting but we did the math and determined that in order to get in by 34 hours I needed to do about a 25 min/mile and that was definitely doable.
While we were under the impression, at one time, that there weren’t any more water crossings at some point it turns out there were still at least a few on the last section although if I’m honest it did feel really nice on my sore legs.
I may have heard this somewhere before but having done a couple of 100 mile races now I can firmly say that a 100 mile race really doesn’t start until at least 65-75 miles in the race and that was absolutely the case in this one for me.
I was getting moderately emotional during these last few miles and was certain that I would cry at the finish line (although oddly enough that didn’t happen.) I was also starting to get really light headed and loopy which was probably less about caloric deficit and more about the pain in my lower legs (my upper legs were in pretty good shape still… which is amazing.)
After more ups and downs that I would have liked we finally were on our last decent which seemed like forever and as I got close to the finish line the announcer was calling my name and that got me on a little 100 mile shuffle.
I crossed the finish line, and completed my 2nd 100 mile finish (which was definitely another level from my previous race and then sat down to get some cola, and a bit of food in me before making the drive back to the hotel for the night.
What’s the lesson here. There are a few things that come to mind that I knew, intellectually going into this race but that were further cemented in the training leading up to the race and the execution of the race itself.
First of all, while it would be nice to say that life will always allow you to hit every workout that’s been planned but it’s important to understand that even if life gets in the way it is possible to pick up and keep moving towards a goal.
Second, it’s important to understand that in a race, like in life, sometimes wrong turns will be made, but that’s not the end and its important to move past it (albeit it is ok to panic a little bit in the moment, just make sure to use that energy appropriately.)
Finally, doing big things like this is a journey, and it’s definitely best done with others. It’s important to listen to your surroundings, and enjoy the moment, even if you aren’t actually enjoying the moment at that moment.
Thanks to my wife, who always says yes when I have stupid ideas, although of course I reciprocate with her stupid ideas and support her in her challenges as much as possible.
Also, thanks to Scotte Elliott for giving up his weekend to come down and spend some miles running and a number of miles driving as well along with assisting my wife in crewing for me over the weekend.
Finally I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my friend Vicci for the miles she does with me… especially since most of my miles alone.