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Category: 100 Miler

Ultrarunner Checklist Manifesto

Inspired by the book, The Checklist Manifesto, this checklist comes from my personal list after completing 6-100 milers and several 50/100K races. I reviewed my race reports to create this but wanted the input of the community. List items should be simple and self-explanatory so it’s quick to review leading up to your race.

Experience is king, so learn from the mistakes that I and others have made. If you think there is something I should add please let me know.

Click here or the link on the left to see the checklist.

Rim To River 100 – West Virginia’s Only 100-Mile Race

What went right?

  • Bladder vs handhelds in race vest
    • Great for tons of ice.  This allowed me to use my front pockets for food/trash/phone for taking pics.
  • Caffeine Pills
    • Great boost of energy once you are tired. Took it twice during the race and really helped get me back on my feet.
  • Fire pit to dry feet
    • Have no spare socks but near an aid station?  Use the fire pit to dry everything out!  Why did I never think of this?!?!?!  Thank you random drunk pacer that had no runner!  Put my shoes, socks, and bare feet next to the fire for 5 minutes and they were as good as new!
  • Pre-set race pace of 12:30-13:30
    • Right at the start, I tried to hold this pace but I didn’t do it enough.  It was both good and bad because I still would rather run slightly faster with someone than alone.
  • No rocks!  What was amazing was how different the trails were from PA-type trails.  That is basically all I know and most of what I have run. 
    •  I thought it was a joke when they called PA “Rocksylvania”, but it’s true!  The course had way fewer rocks than the trails in Philly. (Wissahickon)
  • Road shoes were used vs trail shoes
    • This race was very runnable in a road shoe.  You will kick a bunch of rocks as there will be a sea of leaves, so keep that in mind.
  • Music 
    • Used headphones on my head at the start, but didn’t have music playing 100 percent of the time.  Clicked on music to take my mind off the pain when needed.
    • They lasted THE ENTIRE RACE (25 hours) because I would pause when running with others. Great wireless headphones, highly recommend them!
  • 3 camera system

What went wrong?

  • Reusable cup lost
    • One of the aid stations would NOT give me soup/soda because I didn’t have my cup.  I told them multiple times it fell out of my pack.  I get it guys, you want to go cupless, but using one cup for a guy who lost his isn’t a big deal.  The next aid station was able to make it work and got me a replacement cup.  
  • Ran out of water during an 11-mile section.
    • I didn’t top off my water bladder before I left the aid station.  This was a HUGE mistake.  I had to drink from a stream because I was dying of thirst and it was getting really hot.
  • Didn’t close the aid bag and it got rained in it.
    • Didn’t change shoes because 3rd pair got soaked and I also forgot to carry an extra pair of socks.
  • Out and back format of this race can be annoying on the single-track sections.
  • Watch course tracking via Garmin didn’t work very well on the GPX files I had loaded. This cause me to get lost once.
  • My feet were wet for too long and I paid the price. I will never go that long with wet feet without changing socks. If it’s been more than 20+ miles and they have been wet, be prepared for some foot pain.
  • Forgot my headlamp for the race start, but was able to grab it from the aid station truck.

Feedback for race directors:

  • If I had a message for the race directors it would be that all aid station bags should be kept under a canopy.  Every other 100 I have run has done this.  I know it was my fault, but they lined them up out in the open to make it easier to find but got soaked in the process. It was 100% my fault for leaving my bag open a bit which caused it to get flooded.
    • Allows people to use non-waterproof bags.
  • Have backup cups for people that might lose them on the course.  This is also my fault, but please have some leniency.
  • I thought a drop bag was mandatory for Friday night. Some people like to give them a once-over at the hotel.  I don’t know if I missed that note, but the trucks were still there in the AM.

What I would do differently?

I was consistent with my pace, but not enough.  I was with people that pushed me slightly faster than I wanted to run.  I still would have rather run with someone than alone so this was still the right decision, but I need to try a race fully set at a target pace.  The fact I forgot my spare socks in my pack was pretty dumb.

Final Thoughts:

I gave my buckle to my dad because he joked about when was I going to give him one.  It was a tiny act of kindness I could do for someone who sacrificed everything. There are so many people that come together to make this happen.  I would give them all buckles if I could, my in-laws, my parents, my wife, aid station workers, and people who marked the course.  The list is endless, but I’m just glad there are people that make these races a reality. Check out the video below to see the course through my eyes. I hope you enjoy watching it!  I really enjoyed running it! 

Runner Shout out: 

Michael Warren, Jennifer Russo, and Brian Collins shared the most miles with me and I can’t thank them enough!

Pine Creek Challenge 100 – Friends make all the difference

I have figured out the formula for finishing a 100-mile race. Pine Creek is the 3rd time I have completed the 100 mile distance. The key to all 3 finishes was one underlying theme. Surround yourself with incredible people! I know that’s not easy, and it can be total luck. Don’t get me wrong, there is lots of training you need to do, but that is just a matter of putting in the miles. If you can make friends with complete strangers on the course, find an incredible pacer, or put together a great support crew, you greatly increase the odds of finishing. I have been lucky enough those things happen each time. You are going to be battling your thoughts in the race. Having somebody there to talk with eases the pain. They are there to help push the pace or slow things down if you’re going too fast.

Why is it that in an ultra can you make friends with complete strangers? Is it the fact that you are facing a common goal and you both want to succeed? You create an instant bond because of the shared suffering. So the biggest thing I did RIGHT was to make new friends. It has helped me EVERY SINGLE time in a race, except for Vermont 100 where I was gifted the ultimate pacer by chance.

The other thing I really liked about this race was having a pace chart handy. From this point out, if it is a 100-mile race, it is critical to have every single detail of your race in an easy-to-look at Excel-like grid that is laminated. I am going to create one of these cards for every race at this distance.

Race charts like this make you feel like you are actually making progress in a 100-mile race. Somehow, Michelle, had the entire thing memorized!

The other benefit of running with a friend is you hear about new podcasts and books that are worth checking out. You learn about books and podcasts that might interest you and would never be exposed to. You hear about the most impactful material that is in that person’s life.

Michelle, Amy, and myself at mile 50.

I wouldn’t say I helped Michelle as much as she helped me. We completed it together. In my first hundred, 2 people stayed with me to get me to the finish. I remembered how much of a difference that made to have people to chat with. It helps with your mental state and I couldn’t imagine doing it alone. It was nice to go through the night with someone on their journey.

I am 100% sure Michelle was more than able to have completed it alone, but she was also kind enough to share the experience. Having someone to run the race with also keeps you honest about the pace. We would take turns alternating between a run-walk when combo in the later miles to keep under our pace target. It’s one thing to run 100 miles on your own, but an experience shared is so much more enjoyable.

Some of the things that I would say went wrong in the race were little slip-ups.
I skipped a shoe/sock change at mile 30-40 miles. There was gravel and dust that was getting in the top part of my socks that started to cause a rash. I should have cleaned and swapped socks sooner to prevent that. I also didn’t have enough caffeine intake later in the race and I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I finally got a cup of coffee at mile 90 and it made a huge difference. Maybe I can bring my own instant coffee?

I should have had a drop bag at BOTH aid stations, not just the Blackwell. There is something about having access to YOUR stuff that gives ease of mind. Something in the bag you can look forward to that is not at the aid stations. I struggle with knowing what to put in each bag so I opted to put it all in one, which really didn’t work out.

I ran out of water between the longer aid stations, be mindful of a hot hundred and ONLY using handhelds, they actually might not be able to hold enough water if it’s greater than 8 miles between aid stations. I am just grateful the weather wasn’t too intense that day.

What would I have done differently? Not too much, my feet took a beating and I am glad I went with the shoes that I did. I switched out 2 pairs of Altra Torin 5s which felt great and caused zero hot spots. 100s can be extremely lonely, and if you get lucky enough to find a person running a similar pace it is worth staying together. You motivate each other to push when the pain can be unbearable. If I had to do anything different I would have lowered my expectations of a finish time when on a new course.

How would you know what to expect? My “A” goal I realized was going to be almost impossible to hit. My “B” goal was under 24 which I achieved. My “C” goal is to make friends and have fun, but my “C” goal was actually the most important goal. I am GRATEFUL for the experience and will be smiling for the next few weeks with the wonderful memories replaying in my mind. I still feel new to the 100-mile distance and feel like I have a lot to learn. Finally, don’t put your number on your shirt, I was an idiot and switched shirts and forgot to move my number. It should always be on your pants! How could I forget that!

Michelle Goldberg and myself right after the finish.

Final thoughts: I should have never told people it’s going to be easy because it was all flat. I completely underestimated the distance and the terrain. The course was beautiful as you can see from the photos. Would I do the race again? I am not sure… I think I enjoy a more rocky and technical terrain over the endless flat roads. It was great, don’t get me wrong, but I enjoy an actual hill every now and then.

More videos and photos can be found here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/eA6UWL9FSdMsfC1F6