Here we are in August and the NUT 100K is less than three weeks away and the Mountain Lakes 100 is five weeks after that. The time is approaching where the countless hours of running, recovering, and stretching will hopefully pay off and I will complete my first 100K and first 100 mile trail runs. Boo yah?
Ultrarunning Magazine's "Preparing for Your First 100-Mile Race" article is a nice overview of all the thoughts I have been pondering for the past few months and that have been steadily gaining weight as the races approach. The "physical, mental, and logistical challenges" of a 100 miler are really hard to fathom until you are knee deep in the training. It seems impossible to fully comprehend them until you have actually finished a race too. How does my body react to 24 hours of continuous movement? Will one item forgotten at an aid station cause me to drop? Will I mentally reach a state of zen or is the latter half of the race going to involve grimacing and tears? So. Many. Unknowns.
Physically, I think I am doing OK. Last week involved a climb of Mt. Adams, a three hour run, a core workout, and then running the entirety of Wildwood Trail in Forest Park on Friday. This week was supposed to be two short runs with a challenging 40 mile run around Mt. Hood via the Timberline Trail. Sadly, with a serious heat wave hitting Oregon, I am instead doing four 15-mile runs during the early morning hours before going camping for the weekend. There may be one more really long run after the weekend, but then I start my taper prior to the 100K.
The NUT 100K will be treated as both a dress rehearsal for the 100 miler and a training run, albeit a really challenging one. After the NUT, I have five weeks until the Mountain Lakes 100, which should give me time for an adequate recovery and a couple more high mileage weeks before I taper for the final race. If all goes according to plan, of course.
Mentally, I am uncertain of my fortitude but cannot imagine what else I can do to prepare. Everything I have done in the past four years has helped increase my mental toughness. The thru-hike, mountaineering, long distance biking, and last year's two self-supported ultras. Combined with this summer's training, my mind is hopefully prepared for handling the physical exhaustion and pain of a 100 miler. Still. 100 miles is no joke. I expect that last 50 miles to have a couple low points.
Logistically. Ah, yes. This one. As the temperatures increased with my mileage during July, issues popped up that reminded me how minor mistakes can cause harsh consequences. My first run with a new ankle brace caused my first blister of the training. During my Wildwood Trail run, I neglected to bring a spare pair of socks, and my sweat drenched socks caused a painful skin crack to form in a toe joint. Being a rather large fellow who prefers cold weather, the summer heat causes me to sweat profusely, which has made hydration supremely difficult as I am losing more than my body can absorb. After a 2% loss, your performance noticeably suffers and I have definitely gone over that limit on warm days even when I am being careful. And then, inexplicably, I once neglected to apply Body Glide and ended up with a bit of unpleasant chafing in, um, sensitive spots.
All of those potential problems (and others) need to be considered when planning aid station strategy as well as what is on my person. Figuring out where spare clothes, spare shoes, food, energy gels, hydration mixes, first aid supplies, body glide, etc. should be picked up is now at the top of my priority list. Long runs where I loop back to the car and use it as an aid station have become testing grounds for potential strategies. With Tina providing crew support for both races, I have started mental gear lists for her supplies and how the exchange of items can run as smoothly as humanely possible. Lest we forget I will be tired and fairly unfit for higher mental functions during these handoffs, so the more figured out beforehand the better.
That is where my preparations stand. It's been an interesting experience preparing to run these long distances. The time commitment is immense and I am not sure how I could have pulled this off if I was employed. Also, the expense is much higher than my typical running routine. I wear out a pair of shoes every month and energy gels/bars are always bought on sale as I can easily consume 4-8 on a single run, which adds up quick. The low level exhaustion that besets you most days feels a bit stifling too. Caffeine has greatly assisted me for when I try to code the afternoon following a long, morning run.
Still, I think it will be worth it. There are similarities to a thru-hike with the amount of time you spend on trails, the meticulous foot care, and the ravenous need for food. Having done a long trail where I was pushing myself to do miles every single day for months, now I am seeing how far I can push myself in one go. Like the article says, the enormity of the challenge drives us to sign up, but the deeper understanding of ourselves and what we can accomplish is what makes it worthwhile.