My first 100 mile race- Learning from Failure

Back in October, I crewed for both my brothers in a 100 mile race. I was so inspired by how they kept it together the whole way (injuries and all) until they finally crossed the finish line less than 30 hours after they started. Watching them succeed made me want to do it also.

So I began training.

I signed up for the same race as soon as registration opened. Now, in the world of ultramarathons, it is not uncommon to sign up for an ultramarathon to train for the “real ultra.” So, I attempted my first 100 miler in May. I ran 40 miles (50 miles unofficially, but more on that later).

In my previous post about signing up for this race, I said how crazy it is to attempt an ultramarathon without ever having attempted to run a marathon. I said that I need to train like crazy to pull this off. I also said that I needed to show up leaner and meaner to the starting line. I said a lot is what I’m trying to say.

I trained but I didn’t train as hard as I should have, I didn’t work out consistently and watch my diet, and I did not show up to the starting line leaner and meaner. I also didn’t arrive focused; determined to win- no matter what.

For starters, our first night there, my brothers and I went on a ten mile training run and didn’t take any water- just beer! When we got back to camp, we found other runners hanging around the bonfire and we kept on drinking- fireball whiskey and tequila! We eventually went to sleep (or did we pass out?)

I spent the whole morning trying to rehydrate and recover from the hangover. Not a smart way to kick off my first 100 mile run. The only plus side was that my start time wasn’t scheduled until 6pm, and I had 36 hours to finish. With that much time, I felt that I could practically walk the entire way and finish. In fact, that was pretty much my entire plan. My running game was not too strong but I was walking faster than some of the runners, especially uphill.

So here I am this overweight guy with a hangover at the starting line of his first 100 mile race. The gun goes off and I take off running just long enough to get away from the crowds where I can start walking again. I pick up a pretty good pace and keep moving. The first ten miles were a breeze.

My feet were starting to hurt by the time I began the second ten mile lap. Worst of all, my entire “undercarriage” was chafing from all angles. I had worn running tights thinking that I wouldn’t have to worry about stuff rubbing together but it didn’t work. Every movement started hurting, and every few feet I would stop to shake everything loose. Eventually, I just started to ignore the pain and keep moving.

I was really tired after that lap, my feet were hurting, I was chafed, I was thinking of quitting right there. When I got to the checkpoint (right next to my car where quitting would be so easy) I sat down at the aid station and asked for some chicken soup and an ibuprofen. Five minutes later I was recharged! I headed off to do another lap.

I did 30 miles straight in under 9 hours. My feet were hurting though and I thought I may need to change shoes to something with a little more padding. This is where things get dicey. I had two other pairs: one pair that I had never worn before, and my daily pair of shoes that I knew were no good for running hills. I decided to wear the shoes that I always wear.

Big Mistake! They kept shifting around so my feet began to blister, and my toes kept scrunching up in the front making every step up\down hills very painful. When I returned to my car after that 4th lap, I decided to kick off my shoes and take a break. I never got back in the race after that.

What did  I learn?

For starters, I learned that I need to know my equipment before race day. I had worn the running tights a few times but never for a very long run. I also should not have waited until race day to see if my backup pairs of shoes would be good for running in.

I should have expected my feet to hurt (DUH!) and dealt with it without having to change my shoes in the first place. They’re not as padded at the bottom but they have served me well on several long runs, Tough Mudders, and adventures.

Pain is a part of the race experience– Deal with it!

I also learned that focus is key. When I got back to the car, my brother started cracking open beers, and other people were having fun all around me. I started thinking about how if I left camp I would be home in time to still enjoy my weekend. I was thinking about taking a warm shower. I was thinking about eating junk food. I wasn’t thinking about the race anymore. Once you stop thinking about the race, it’s all over.

The Future

 I have two more races scheduled for this year: the Los Pinos 50k in 11 weeks and the EC100 in 17 weeks. Those two races are going to be very tough. I need to train hard. I need to stay focused. I need to finish.

Get Strong, Run Long!