When prepping for 100 miles, nothing is more important than smart, consistent training. However, there were a few ancillary items and exercises that I felt made a world of difference on race day. Many of these might sound obvious or trite to the seasoned ultrarunner, but for a first-timer like myself, it was eye-opening to recognize just how dependent success at this distance is on things besides fitness.
rabbit: To say that rabbit served me well for the nearly 21 hours I was racing is a drastic understatement. My ez tee and quadzilla shorts, and when it got cold the rabbit speed sleeves, are undisputedly the most comfortable things you will ever wear. When you’re on your feet and moving for nearly an entire day, the importance of that cannot be overstated. Weight, absorbability, fit—these things are all important. But during 100 miles, comfort is king, and rabbit holds the throne.
the ez tee: bright, cool & comfortable
Run Slow to Run Fast: It’s the advice you’ll get a thousand times, but let me give it to you for the 1,001st: you should run at a pace that you feel you can sustain all day. Unless you’re chasing the podium or a CR—and if you are, good on ya—your pace should feel criminally easy, easier than any training run you’ve ever been on, so easy that you’re able to run and do your taxes at the same time. A good friend of mine once said: start a 100 mile race running as slow as you think you need to, and then slow it down by another 30 seconds per mile. A race of this distance cannot be won in the first 50 miles, but it can be lost then. How you feel at mile 50 will almost certainly dictate your ultimate success. Try to get there feeling as good as possible—that is best achieved by running easy.
I saw this play out as clear as day at San Diego: at the first aid station, I was in 29th place. But as the conditions decimated those who went out too quickly, I was able to slowly and consistently push my way forward, ultimately finishing in 4th. Be the tortoise to the lead pack’s hare.
Ice Bandana: I knew this would be helpful in cooling me off, but I could not have predicted just how utterly race-changing it would be. Having ice around my neck fundamentally altered my perception of the heat—I even had to ask my crew how hot it was during the day, as I couldn’t really tell. I kept passing runners who commented on the heat, but honestly all I felt was the ice around my neck and tiny, consistent drips of cold water down my back and chest.
Extra Bottle: I thought having a hydration vest with a total of one liter between two soft flasks would be enough for most of the course, and that I would only bring the handheld down into the canyons. But I ended up keeping it the entire time. While it is technically possible to over-hydrate, I feel that during a hot 100 mile race it’s pretty difficult to reach that point—provided, of course, that you have your electrolyte balanced dialed. When it doubt, drink. Having the handheld was excellent insurance.
GU: My plan was to eat a gel once every 30 minutes. I didn’t know if that would be possible—meaning I didn’t know if my stomach would turn after, say, the 20th gel—but I wanted to try for as long as I could. While it became a chore to put anything down around mile 75, I managed to stick to that plan up until the very end of the race. While I certainly had low points, I think this was the main reason I didn’t bonk and generally felt good all day. It’s not about what you want, it’s about what the body needs. And GUs are literally designed to give it that. It sounds so simple, so obvious, and yet the dreaded bonk is synonymous with ultramarathons. Supplemented by real food for flavor and variety (I actually carried a bag of homemade stuffed dates with me the entire time, a recipe I got from rabbitELLITE Jeff Stern), I think it’s impossible to go off course calorically speaking if you are consistent with gels. That may not be the most popular piece of advice, but it certainly worked for me.
Logistical Planning: Having now finished the race, I honestly think my race preparation—that is, everything outside of training—can account for a large portion of my success. Knowing the course, running on the course, memorizing the aid stations, having every minor logistical detail dialed is so important, as it allows you to not have to dedicate any mental energy to it come race day. If everything is locked in, planned, organized, or written down somewhere, and if you have a crew who you trust, all you have to do is run. The 3,000 word Google Doc I put together ahead of time was invaluable both for me as an exercise in organizing my thoughts, but also hopefully for my crew. The fewer questions I can leave them with, the better.
Sauna: It’s impossible to say for sure how big of a difference, if any, it made—I don’t have a good metric to track it. But I can say on race day, the conditions did not feel hot at all to me, despite being an objectively warm and dry day. I saw racer after racer succumb to the heat, while I continued on with no issues. Some of that was the ice bandana, but I think spending 30-45 minutes in the sauna three-to-four times a week in the month prior to a hot race was an effective heat acclimation protocol for me.