Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why an Umstead 100 PR?

I have less than 20 days until the Umstead 100-Mile Endurance Run on April 6 in North Carolina. I've told friends, family, and co-workers that I was going to set a 100-mile personal record. In fact, I was bold enough to state I'd break 24 hours! Whenever someone asks "How long will that take you?" I respond with, "My plan is to finish in 23 hours, 59 minutes." Pretty bold statement. Some would say too confident...maybe even arrogant. I actually have no idea whether I'll even finish the race, but I'm going to give it my all, and if things go well, I have a chance to break 24 hours. Here's why.

I am older and wiser. Not exactly smart, but wiser than I've been for past 100 mile attempts (several of which I have DNFd). I have a lot more miles on my feet and a lot more discipline and patience. Umstead will be my 85th marathon or ultramarathon. That's a lot of running and racing experience. When I ran my first 100 miler (Rocky Raccoon in 2004), it was my 25th marathon/ultra. I've learned a lot about pacing, persistence, fueling, drinking, and running through the night since that race. I'm older, but wiser. Slower, but more determined. In long ultras, age is an asset. With age also comes the realization that you only have so many PR attempts left in you. If Umstead doesn't translate into a personal record, I'm not sure how many more hundreds I have left in me.That realization gives me extra motivation.

I've also figured out a few things related to eating and drinking. I have two new sports drinks (HEED and Tailwind) that seem to work well for me. Also, I've experimented with taking a Pepcid AC before long runs and races to help settle my stomach. It's worked well so far. My longest test was "only" a 50 mile night run, but it worked!  On Umstead race day, I plan on one Pepcid with breakfast and another around 6pm--that will hopefully get me through the day and the night in good order. I still need to make smart food choices and drink early and often (in small amounts). Similarly, I believe I'm much better at figuring out electrolyte needs during long races. If I can eat and drink throughout the 100 miles, I stand a good chance of succeeding. My stomach has turned on me in more than one ultra--often at distances less than 50 miles--so this new tactic is a major change I'm relying on for a positive outcome.

My shoes choices are better than ever. Over the last few years I've become more minimalist in my shoe choices and also developed a better stride. I think I'm more efficient and also gentler on my feet. This should go a long way toward 100 mile race success. Even though I might prefer lightweight and thin shoes, I'm not stupid. I'll need more cushioning for the 100 miles. But I also realize I need to stay fairly lightweight and maintain good form--which means a low heel to toe drop, flexibility, and a wide toebox. My plan is to race in the Hoka Stinson Evo for 50 miles, move to the Skechers GoRun Ride for 25-50 miles...and have the Altra Instinct or Altra Superior for the last miles (if needed). Four shoes, but hoping to only utilize two pairs.  Along with the better shoes, I have better socks too!  I'll start with Injinji toe socks, then switch to Drymax socks in the evening. Both tend to be blister free and comfortable.

Chaffing has been a major issue with me at longer ultras (50 miles and beyond). My most sensitive areas are upper thighs/groin, buttocks, and testicles. Yeah, it ain't pretty. I have two strategies for reduced chaffing--Road Runner Sports compression shorts and TwoToms SportsShield lubricant. The compression shorts have worked well on long runs and SportsShield is much better than BodyGlide (my previous lube). I also plan on changing clothes in the middle of the race--completely fresh compression shorts, running shorts, shirt...and fresh lube. I've noticed that sweat really wreaks havoc as it settles into your body's nooks and crannies...and rubs them raw! With the stop for new clothes, I can also "freshen-up" with some wet wipes, then re-lube and be ready for another 50 miles.

I've suffered from calf issues in the last couple of years. Most stresses and strains seem to come on when I push the pace too hard. But I'm afraid the calf problems may resurface with extra long runs too. One hundred miles qualifies as "extra long." I'm planning on minimizing calf issues by wearing compression sleeves. They've felt good on longer training runs, so I'm hoping they'll perform well in this race too. In addition to the compression sleeves, I have scheduled a 60 minute deep tissue massage for 4 days before the race. That should loosen up those darn calves!

The above changes make me confident that this 100-mile race will go better than previous ones. What else makes me confident? My training over the last few months has been steady and progressive. Nothing too spectacular, but no real set backs either. I've gotten in an all-night run, a 50 mile run, and plenty of 18+ long runs. Most runs have been fairly slow--but that's good for fat-burning! At some point, solid training should equate to good racing. I'll find out on April 6th...and April 7th.

One last confidence booster...the Umstead 100 race is known as one of the "easier" 100 mile trail races. It's a 12.5 mile trail loop without much elevation change and no technical trail sections--just a wide, fairly smooth, gently rolling trail. It's well-known for awesome aid stations and racer support. Knowledgeable and supportive volunteers make a huge difference in a race--particularly at night. Because the trail isn't technical, the night time portion of the race should not be as tricky as past events where rocks and roots have slowed my pace to a walk. If the weather changes, or my shoe/sock/clothing choices go bad, I have access to my drop bag and car once every 12.5 miles. That's comforting.

I'm older, wiser, better trained, and better equipped. On race day, I hope to be better fueled as well. If I can remain patient and persistent, I have a great opportunity to set a new personal record for this distance and cross the finish line before 6am on Sunday morning. On Sunday, April 7, I'll let you know how it went. Heck, I may even post twitter updates during the race!

NOTE: If I do go the twitter route for race updates, you can see those on this blog (right side bar). It auto grabs my last 4 tweets. Or, follow me on Twitter @chrism42k


ed said...

I can tell your anticipation level is already going thru the roof. Can you handle it for these next 2 weeks or so?

Chris said...


No, I'm going crazy! Thinking about clothing, shoes, socks, food, drinks, etc. How much do I pack? What if the weather is cold? What if it's hot? What about rain? Wind?

Basically, I'm thinking about EVERYTHING except running. Kind of crazy. Wish me luck.