Friday, April 12, 2013

100 Miles, One Day

Last weekend I finished the Umstead 100-Mile Endurance Run. My time was 23:56. That's 100 miles in less than one day! Average pace was 14:22 per mile. I managed to place 80th out of 263 starters. Not bad for a 47 year old guy. It was my ultimate goal to finish a 100 in sub-24 and it feels great to have achieved that "gold standard" for ultras. When I crossed the finish line with only 4 minutes to spare, I collapsed at the timing table. The timing folks removed my ankle chip and handed me the "100 Miles, One Day" belt buckle. I was the last sub-24 hour finisher that day. For some reason, that made me feel even better. As I walked to the lodge, I couldn't help to feel sorry for all those runners that still had 6 more hours to run (the race ended at Noon, with a 30-hour time limit). I could barely stumble to my drop bag. No way I was running another step. I gave all I had and it was just enough.

Arriving at aid station 2.
Not sure where to start this race report. The weather was awesome--low of 40 at the 6am Saturday start, high around 65 with sun, then a low of about 38 early Sunday morning. No rain and only light breezes all day and night. Pretty close to perfect. I would have preferred a little cooler daytime temperatures, and some clouds, but there was nothing to complain about all day or night. The trail was in great shape. It rained Thursday into Friday morning, but there was no mud or puddles on the course. The hard-packed dirt/gravel surface drains extremely well. It was nice not having to worry about roots or rocks too--this course is very smooth and wide. Even at night, you could basically run without paying attention and not trip. In fact, my first night loop was done with no light for about 95% of the time. The only "obstacles" on the course were the hills. This race has lots of rolling hills! It never seemed flat. Umstead is certainly not a mountain race, but it's hillier than I thought. And a lot hillier than central Illinois.

Here is my race progress for each 12.5 mile loop (full splits available here):

1 = 2:23
2 = 4:55
3 = 7:37
4 = 10:30 (50 mile split)
5 = 13:44
6 = 16:59
7 = 20:18
8 = 23:56 (100 mile finish)

I'm pleased with my consistency, except for that last loop. I hit my 50-mile split of 10:30 exactly on target. The first four loops felt smooth and easy. The race director published pace charts for a sub-24 finish and suggested a 10:30 half-way split if you wanted to finish under 24 hours. That gave me confidence. Loop 5 was very difficult. I was feeling tired and was getting achy--especially my knees. And my feet. And back. Calves were sore too. And quads hurt. Basically, I fell apart between 50 and 62 miles. It was warmer during that time too. In addition to time on my feet catching up with me, I was dehydrated and lacking calories. Picture shows me running with a guy named Mel--he was hurting too--ITB and back issues. Mel stopped at 50 miles (in the picture, I was one loop ahead of him). Fortunately, my pacers were there for the final three loops!

Me and Mel on my 5th loop, his 4th. We were hurting.
This is where I need to give credit where it is deserved. If it weren't for Sandra and Andrew (my pacers and buffalo buddies), I would not have maintained my pace and would have finished much slower than 24 hours.  I would have walked more on each loop and simply given up on the sub-24 goal. They kept me moving and kept my spirits up. It gets lonely in the middle of the night. You've been running for 75 miles, still have a marathon to go, and it's dark, cold, and dreary. You are tired, hungry, and thirsty. Even with painkillers, your body hurts. It's easy to give up and walk...or even drop out altogether. With Sandra and Andrew as company, I managed to stay positive. They reminded me to run, to eat, to drink. They chatted when I needed the distraction and stayed silent when I was focused and moving well. Thanks guys!

Even with Andrew on that last loop, it was a struggle to maintain a reasonable pace. I thought I'd have about 15-20 minutes to spare for the sub-24 finish. Obviously, even with increased perceived effort, I slowed down and just squeaked in with that 23:56 finish time.

A few thoughts about...

Stomach flu: I still can't believe that 7 days before the race I had the stomach flu and could barely get out of bed and walk to the bathroom. Less than a week later I ran 100 miles on hilly trails half-way across the country. The human body is an amazing recovery machine.

Shoes: Cushioning is good on ultra long runs. I love minimalist shoes, including completely barefoot running, but I can't run 50 miles without some extra cushioning. Definitely helped to have the Hokas and Torins for this 100 miler. They are both extremely cushioned.

Eating and drinking: If you don't eat, you don't keep moving. If you don't drink, you die. My new sports drink from Tailwind Nutrition worked very well. It tasty good, was easy on the stomach, supplied calories and electrolytes, and was easy to mix at each aid station (brought my own powder and mixed with aid station water). I wish I pushed myself just a little harder to eat more and drink more during the race. I was definitely dehydrated after 50 miles and started to lose energy (more than just being fatigued) after 75 miles.

Medicine: Without Pepcid AC, I would not have been able to keep eating and drinking all day and night. I took 3 Pepcids over 24 hours and my stomach stayed under control. Same goes for Advil--without some painkillers, I would not have been able to run after about 62 miles. Everything ached, but my knees particularly hurt (probably the downhill sections beating them up). I'm always cautious taking any NSAIDS, but one Advil every 4-5 hours seemed reasonable. I didn't start taking any pills until the 50 mile mark.

Electrolytes: I took very few S-caps during the race. Maybe 10 pills over 100 miles. I simply ate salty snacks and drank my sports drink. If it was a hot day, I'd probably need more. In general, I think we worry too much about fluids and electrolytes. Drink when you feel thirsty. Eat what looks appealing, and supplement with electrolytes on occasion as an insurance policy against hyponatremia.

Aid stations: They are godsends, but also time wasters. Move in, move out. You need to maximize time moving forward. When you approach an aid station, think about what you want and need before reaching the first table. Be efficient. Let aid station workers fill your bottle while you eat. Have an organized drop bag and predict what you'll need on each loop. Even an extra 2 minutes adds up over multiple aid station stops.

Lubrication: Relube on a regular basis. If you begin to chafe, take care of the problem immediately. Early intervention will pay major dividends later in the race. Same goes for blisters.

Why I achieved a PR (beyond good weather and a reasonable race course):
The award for sub-24 finish!

Top 5 (in order of importance)
  1. Pacers for last 38 miles
  2. Pepcid AC to calm stomach
  3. Tailwind Nutrition sports drink
  4. Hoka Stinson Evos and Altra Torin shoes
  5. 50-mile night training run
Will I do another 100 miler? Probably not. I think if everything went well, I could knock off about 90 minutes. Unfortunately, that's unlikely. I could easily have a bad day and end up with a 26, 28, or 30 hour finish. Been there already. I'm satisfied with this 23:56 finish. For now, I'm targeting my 100K PR, then 50K PR, then a new marathon PR. That'll keep me busy for another year or two.

UPDATE: Here is a podcast interview of me discussing my Umstead 100 training, race experience, recovery, and future plans. 

This article is translated into Slovak language by Sharka from Everycloudtech
This blog post also translated into Latvian by Nadia Karbowska.


Melissa said...

Congratulations! Thinking of you out there inspired me through my own rough patches at Brew to Brew. I was so happy when I woke up on Sunday morning and saw your tweet with your PR news. Buffalo!

GTI said...

Congrats, Chris! Sub-24! That's AMAZING. So very happy/proud for you. :)

Chris Ⓥ said...


Thanks. Glad you drew inspiration, in some form from me, to get through Brew to brew. Good job on that 44 miler!

Chris Ⓥ said...


Thanks. It's been a LONG time coming. Sub-24 is now mine! It feels great. Well, I'm still crazy sore and tired...but it's a well-earned fatigue.

Brad Williams said...

Great write-up and even better performance Chris.

I really might have to start thinking about the Hoka option for Leadville.

Again, you ran the race like a seasoned vet and earned that sub 24!

Nazzer said...

congrats Chris.

Chris Ⓥ said...

My only problems with the Hokas are they tend to be a bit heavy and narrow in the forefoot. I may cut out the sides of the toebox on my Hokas.

ed said...

Congratulations -- I never had any doubts you'd do it!

Chris Ⓥ said...

Thanks Ed. It feels good to have achieved my goal. I think you had more faith in me than I did.

Unknown said...

Great job, Chris! It was exciting following you online. Still lookin at KM?

Chris Ⓥ said...


I'm considering KM100K, just haven't committed yet. Need to fully recover and see how I feel about racing. Also thinking about the 3-day MI trail series.

Kevin said...

Excellent work all the way round with training and staying healthy, then doing what needed to be done race day. Congratulations!

Chris Ⓥ said...

Thanks Kevin. Maybe this will be my "year of PRs"!

Matt Frazier said...

Congratulations Chris! Sub-24 is awesome. (100 miles is awesome, too.) I've been meaning to read this post in for a while, and I'm glad I did.

I've got a few questions (in preparation for my 100) that I hope you'll find time to answer:

1. I'm curious about why the RD said to run the first half in 10:30 if you wanted to break 24 (my goal as well)? Is it because night running is slower? To me it would seem like a 12-hour split is best, if it's anything like marathoning, where you want to keep it even.

2. You said you felt really bad, and in a lot of pain, during loop 5. Did you ever feel better, or was it just that your pacers kept pushing you not to walk?

3. I like what you said about enjoying the cushioning on your shoes. I've been training mostly in minimalist shoes but wondered that same thing. Did you have to train in the more cushioned shoes, or only wear them on race day?

Thanks, and congratulations again!


Chris Ⓥ said...


Answers to your three questions...

1. Yes, you will slow down in a 100 miler (not necessarily true for a marathon or shorter distance) and the night running will also be slower.

2. The pain and low mental attitude did get better after loop five. Advil helped (just one pill, don't overdose) and the pacers lifted my spirits. It started to cool off as well--that helps you run quicker. Heat is a killer.

3. I trained in the highly cushioned shoes for only the long runs (18+ miles) and kept to minimalist shoes for the regular runs. And even the cushioned shoes were fairly low heel to toe drop (Altras were 0-drop, Hokas about 5mm).

Biggest lesson was to TRULY BELIEVE you can do it _and_ remember the ultra mantra: "It never always gets worse." Bad times can be quickly followed by good times. Be patient and stay focused.

Be careful about food options--some aid stations may not be vegetarian or vegan friendly. You need to be prepared with your own supplies and/or crew.