Wednesday 4 November 2015

How to run 100 miles in a day*

 Or how to run a race and not get lapped by the sun

 Things that are essential to do in the 6 months before you race

- You should be running at least 50 miles a week (lots of 200+ months)
- You need to a follow a training plan
- Pacers and a crew are essential. Use this time to get at least one pacer and ideally at least two crew members
- Don't even think about signing up for the race if you have never run more than 50 miles
- Back to back runs are essential. Ideally you should be aiming for a 50mile / 50 mile weekend and plenty of 35 / 15s if you want to finish, let alone break 24 hours.

I did none of these  in the 6 months before the Centurion TP100

Things I did in the 6 months before 

Started well with a 183 miles in December with bonus miles due to London Bridge being shut so lots of extra commuter running miles.
January - mile 123 of the month was when things went wrong. I slipped trying to turn and run up some steps next to Blackfriars station and fell. Nothing too serious but bent back fingers. I got to work, showered and carried on with my day. A couple of hours later it didn't seem right so went to Guy's hospital urgent care unit. Turns out I had broken my 4 and 5th metacarpal bones in my left hand and required surgery. 14 weeks to go until the start of the TP100.

If you can't run then walk

My normal day involves a lunchtime run so instead I headed out with my arm in a cast and speed walked up and down the Thames with my one arm in a cast and my Garmin on the other one. Two weeks later I was up to 15- 20 mile walking weeks and also the slowest person on Strava. Good miles were sub 14 or so even with tourists on the South bank to avoid. Now if could do another 99 of those I could do a sub 24 hours for 100 miles...

Back in training

After two weeks, I had the big cast taken off and a smaller one put on. I asked the physio about running and he said it would be fine as long as I didn't get the cast and scar wet. Running lunchtimes back on with hand in a cast and the cast in a plastic bag just in case it started to rain. Proper running resumes with a 21 mile week. 10 weeks to go now

Back in proper training

Next 8 weeks was steady training with the three longest runs being two 30 mile runs on the Thames to Richmond and back plus a 28 mile run on the NDW. Now time to taper

Start line -  Zero days to go

So now I am on the start line Aaveraged 30 miles a week for the previous 6 months with a long of 30 miles. Longest run of my life was the Centurion NDW50 (9:58 - see report a bit further down). Surely this had DNF written all over it as I looked at everyone else with their Ultimate direction backpacks and purpose bought drop bags (some people have a strange idea of what "shoe box" size is) at registration. Everyone was talking through plans with their crew and arranging when to meet their pacers.

About 23 hours later

I was arriving across the finish line in 79th place with a shiny "100 miles in a day" Centurion buckle. Miracles do happen.

 So what is my advice?

Clearly I'm not going to recommend breaking your hand in training but there are a few other things which helped me get into the 100 miles in a day club.

There is no shame in walking

There are over a 1,000 members of the Brotherhood of Centurions 1911 and the world record for walking 100 miles is 16:31:38 which would be a very competitive running time. I made sure I put lots of walking breaks in the first 50 miles and most of the last 50 miles was walking. The average pace for a sub 24 100 is about 14 min/mile after allowing for some quick aid station stops. It was very late in the race when my walking / running dropped below this pace despite a lot of walking

Get through aid stations quickly

A typical Centurion race will have to 12-15 aid stations with amazing food and even more amazing volunteers. If you spend 15 minutes in each having a lovely cup of tea while talking to the man dressed as a chicken, you have lost 3-4 hours which is a lot of running to make up. A quick bottle top up, grab some food, make sure you say thanks and be on your way. I always try to get moving quickly but at walking pace to allow my body to digest food. My first few ultras I used a camelbak style bladder but switched to bottles as it is much easier to refill at aid stations. People will also help fill bottles but less willing to do camelbaks. The screw top of the camelbak is easy to cross thread and a lot more complicated than a bottle.


Speak to other runners

 It helps pass the time and it is great to find out what other people are up to. It takes your mind off the pain and reduces the risk of getting lost as you have an extra pair of eyes. You might find yourself talking to someone who answered you question about which watch / bag / jacket / shoes / socks / .. you should be using.


Mix up training

I had a January goal of a sub 20 minute 5k and sub 90 half marathon. This mixed things up and meant that I had a block of speed work and fitness before starting the slower ultra style high mileage slow weeks. Unfortunately my broken hand stopped things. The broken hand may have been a blessing in disguise as taking two weeks off helped me to recover (no harm having some time off)

Pick up a flattish race with good aid stations

Sub 24 will get you on the podium for Hardrock 100 so not all 100s are equal. The Centurion Thames Path 100 is a fast race on paper but being almost totally flat can lead to you going off too quickly whereas a few hills help to break things up. The T100 is a self supported race so will clearly be trickier as you have to carry you food with you. If you are going without a crew or pacers, I can highly recommend the Centurion races as they have the biggest fields so lots of company for the nighttime and lots of choice for food.


Read blogs and books

It helps to read about running. Puts running 100 miles into context.

- Blogs about the race and similar races
Good to know what to expect. Many Centurion blogs out there plus others on Ultrarunning community. I will put a list of my favourites on here shortly.
- Training books
Helps you avoid stupid mistakes. Hal Koerner's one is good.
- Crazy people books
It helps to normalise running 100 miles if you read about someone running across America (James Adams /Marshall Ullrich), Marshall Ullrich's Badwater Quad, Scott Jurek winning WSER on a diet of mung beans and carrots etc.  Also worth watching the "fruitarian" run the WSER only eating raw fruit and veg (lesson - don't eat avocado and dates while running)


And finally...

The 76th mile is the hardest. Staying up all night watching a boxset or playing poker gets tiring so trying to stay up all night having run 50+ miles is always going to be tricky. Be prepared for lots of walking and a bit of questioning you sanity but soon enough the sun will come up, your pace will improve and a shiny buckle will be waiting for you shortly.

* I am a pretty good but not amazing runner so a lot of these things will apply if you are chasing a sub 20 finish or 29:59:59. However the sub 24 title sounds better...

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