This past month I was speaking to a group of student athletes at Cal High in San Ramon about the sport of Ultra running and my experience with running the 100 mile distance. Most students knew nothing of the sport nor heard of anyone running 100 miles in less than a day. One student asked if I sit down and rest or sleep throughout the race. Others wanted to know what I eat and another asked, “Where do you go if you need to use the bathroom?”
All good questions!
Now I know there are some of you reading this that know about the sport of Ultra marathon and have competed in one or maybe several 100 mile events yourself. I am sure you have your own recipe for achieving the distance. But for me, the 100 mile journey is one which starts many months before the day of the event. It begins at the start of the year and depending on when it will occur, there are typically three ultramarathon events (of shorter distance) raced as part of the buildup for the BIG event.
This year I am running Western States 100. Some call it “The Big Dance!” It’s the oldest 100 mile trail race in the nation. It begins in Squaw Valley and finishes on the Placer High school Track in Auburn. Ultramarathon runners come from all over the world to run this iconic event which officially started in 1977. This will be my second time running this race. In 2013 I ran and placed 15th Female/ 3rd Female Masters in less than 24 hours. I earned a silver buckle and was quite satisfied given it was considered the 2nd hottest year in race history. I had managed to keep myself from dehydrating through the Canyons between Robinson Flat and Michigan Bluff. When I got to Foresthill I was feeling excited to meet my crew and pacer Rob Evans. With 62 miles down and just over 38 to go I was prepared to reset and refresh for the balance of the journey.
If you talk to anyone who has run 100 miles you are likely to get different stories about race preparation and fueling strategy. For me, running shorter distance ultra-events works best. This year I kicked off my training with Sean O’Brien 50k in February, Lake Sonoma 50 mile in April and Quicksilver 50k in May. I continued to train right through with minimal recovery time. I have maintained a consistent base hovering around 65-70 miles per week. I know this may not sound like much considering most elites are known to target consecutive 100 mile weeks.
BUT…and that’s a BIG…B-U-T! This is what works for ME.
I have managed to run close to 80 trail races of mostly Ultramarathon distance for 12 straight seasons without ANY significant injuries or setbacks. It’s my personal accomplishment. I have never taken a year off to recover from a pulled this or torn that. I consider myself extremely blessed. I have figured out what my body can handle and what it cannot.
My formula for longevity in this sport is one that I live every day regardless of my race schedule. It’s a lifestyle and is what helps me remain injury free.
Seven Key Components to My Formula:
- Develop a REALISTIC training plan that will allow for maximal training benefit without performance decline. I believe in quality over quantity.
- Proper Nutrition- Mostly plant based diet.
- Proper Hydration- Lots of fluids (i.e.: Water) Before, during and after all workouts and on a daily basis.
- Consistent Sleep- I average 8 hours a night.
- Meditation/Prayer- This helps manage stress, worry and clear the head.
- Rolling/Stretching-Keeps muscles, ligaments and tendons loose and flexible preventing injury.
- Cross Training/Resistance Work- Helps keep core and body balanced/muscles strong.
Now with Western States a week away I realize that the work is done. I have put in the consistent training, taken care of the details of fueling each workout, maintained a regimen of rolling, stretching, moderate core/strength work and kept positive thoughts flowing through my head.
My official taper will begin on June 17th. During this time I will meditate and visualize the course. I will refresh myself of the last time I ran the race, where I struggled and where I felt strong. I will plan out all the details of gear and fueling with my crew. Then I will show up on race day with a clear head ready to embrace the outcome of the day.
I often think of my very first 100 mile experience in July of 2009, Tahoe Rim Trail. I had no expectations of the outcome. All I knew is that I wanted to run my best effort and finish. I won that race and from then on realized that as long as I keep doing what works for me; despite what others might think or what ultra- trends might dictate I will continue distance running for years to come.
Running 100 miles really is a journey. It takes a long time to prepare. To be mentally and physically well enough to get from start to finish is a distance very few will accomplish in their lifetime. I am really excited to line up at the start of Western States this year. I know it may be a long time before I am there again IF EVER after this time. So for that day, I will enjoy every minute and be grateful for the experience which will far out last the event itself.
It was so fun to speak to those students at Cal High. I opened their minds up to what they thought was impossible. They laughed when I told them I often do what bears do in the woods when they need to go to the bathroom.
Find a tree!