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Tag: Ultra marathon

Eastern States 100 – The Hardest 100 Miler on the East Coast

What went right

I kept the clothing light because I had been reading about the effects of overdressing can hold too much heat in.  I wore a new singlet that really worked well and didn’t cause any chafing.  I changed tops later at night because the temps dropped.  I  switch my pack at mile 83 to my waist belt. The only issue with this was I forgot some key items in a transfer like butt wipes and battery chargers for devices.  I think I made the right decision, I wanted to travel light and with no vest for the last section.  I saw that I was using aid stations effectively so I didn’t need all the extra stuff.  

It’s OK to not have a pacer.  I had made different attempts to get a pacer, but in the end, it just didn’t work out.  I didn’t need a pacer, I made friends and I talked to the right people exactly like I have done in the past.  Sometimes you hear the voice of someone or have a few words with them and you know they are the type of person to spend a few miles with.  I knew I could count on myself to make friends. It happened organically and was great!  Mixing in with just the right people at the right time.

I used my water on my back vs bottles in my vest. I could get lots of ice, have icy water, and hold way more than I needed. This will be the go-to setup for all races over 50K with aid stations over 8 miles apart. Distance between aid stations is critical for which setup to use. I also used pantyhose cut in half and filled with ice stretched over the neck.  It worked really well at keeping me cool, but it wasn’t a really hot day.  Then just dump the pack after the last drop bag and run it in!

2Toms foot powder for anti-blister seems to work well.  I still had major issues with my feet swelling and soreness on the sole.  Maybe thicker shoes? It was so much downhill I’m not sure it would matter.  It was faster to pre-load socks with this stuff than trying to lube feet.  Just throw a new pair of socks on and go.  

PRELOAD YOUR WATCH COURSE WITH WAYPOINTS!  I can’t stress this enough.  Using the course feature on my watch saved myself and others around me.  We knew instantly if we were going off course and how much was left to the next aid station.  Yes, we did go off course once or twice but were quickly back on course with this feature.  Note: disable Bluetooth, Inreach, and heart rate for my watch to make it over 30+ hours.  Need to be mindful of that in a race of this length.  Watch died at 100 miles, and this race was 103 in length.

I packed aid station bags at the beginning of the week.  It took off so much pre-race anxiety before I left.  I will always make sure to pack my bags WAAAAY before.  I used super large zip lock bags as always and they were perfect.  

Poles are now my new best friend for super technical climbs and descents. At first in the race, I was getting annoyed with them. After 30-40+ miles I got used to them and actually LOVED them. They really saved my race/life on some really technical stuff. I can’t count how many times I tripped and the poles caught me as they hit the ground first. I did remove the wrist straps and I had heard horror stories of people getting hurt if they fell with their arms in the straps. Warning: Do not leave it until race day to practice with them, they will do more harm than good. I actually broke a cheap pair in testing and got a better pair before race day because I tested them.

What went wrong

I had some type of butt rash I had to use vaseline on, not sure why, but I had it in my pack because this has happened before.  Tailwind gives me so much gas, hence the name, and I had to use vaseline.  

Incredible quad pain from the downhills to the point I could barely walk in the race. Not sure what you could do to eliminate that except TONs of downhill in training. That amount of force on the downhills was HORRIBLE. Like I didn’t want to take a step, and I noticed if I laid down and put my feel up it went away. Blood was pooling and I had some massive foot swelling. Changing shoes at aid stations worked really well.  When we laid down for 12 minutes I was super refreshed.  I was actually able to run again.  

I killed my small camera by getting too much water in it.  I record my runs and then do a video montage for those that want to relive the race.  My small camera died and I couldn’t recharge it.  I now know to put it in a zip lock bag.  It wasn’t until after the race and it dried out did it come back to life. 

What I would do differently

Stop being so scared going into these things.  If anybody was willing to talk about it I would cry about how crazy the course was.  Next time STFU and stop scaring yourself.  I know enough now about how to handle these types of races.  Yes, this was the granddad of them all, but it’s still just goddamn running not brain surgery. The only thing at stake if you fail is YOUR pride. I kept telling myself my new mantra, “I don’t mind what happens”, AND I actually believe it.

InReach died because Bluetooth and ant+ were enabled, they should be turned off for that long of a tracking event. Who cares if I can send it from my watch if the device is dead??? Just set it in track mode and pull it out at aid stations to send additional messages.  My dad thought I actually dropped from the race because he didn’t see any additional points when the device died.  

That’s it.  That was everything I learned from this race, besides that it went very well.  I felt great, didn’t get hurt, had fun, and made a really cool video people seemed to enjoy.  Check it out below.  

My video montage of ES100

First State Trail Race – 2022

What went wrong

I made the fatal mistake of running someone else’s race. I was running too much with a 25K person vs a 50K pace in the heat. I was just having too much fun and not really thinking. I should have known better, I have had races in the heat before and knew this could happen. Basically, I didn’t save anything for the 2nd loop, where the true race began. I had put too much stress on the body early and created a debt I was unable to repay. I should have slowed down, but my ego got the best of me. I was under the false assumption it was going to stay cooler because there was good cloud coverage. On the 2nd loop, as expected, the heat/humidity shot up and I started to slow down drastically.

What went right

The first loop was good, I was running with TJ and it was nice to talk with him. The only issue was he wasn’t doing the 50K, he was doing the 25K. He was in 6th place for the 25K when he crossed the line and I was right behind him. Why in gods name did I think that was a good idea is beyond me… I wore compression sleeves and filled them with ice, I had an ice bag on my chest, and I took salt tablets. Once I started getting dizzy I knew I was in serious trouble, it was at this point that I tried to find shade and lay down. There was a nice person who ran a bag of ice back to me, I should find out who that was and thank him. He didn’t have to do that and sacrificed a huge amount of time from his race because of my stupidity. All I could do at that point was wait it out until I could get back on my feet. I tried to get up but my leg kept cramping. As I started to walk back near the stone wall I threw up all the water in my stomach. Once that happened I actually started to feel much better. I have to use the aid stations more effectively if it’s this hot. Stop, don’t rush, take your time and relax. It would have maybe saved my race and given my body time to absorb the water. I should have known I also missed the sign that I wasn’t peeing. That can be an indication your body is not processing the water.

What would I have done differently

Tips for my next hot race:

  • You should be peeing! If not drink more water!
  • No records broken that day.
  • Painfully slow start.
  • Don’t be stupid, you can’t bank time!
  • Heart rate is a window into how your body is managing the heat.

I went to this race with zero planning and it showed. The only item missing from my heat strategy was SLOWING DOWN. Thinking I could beat the heat was such a stupid idea that backfired. I am glad it did. I am two weeks away from my first 100 of the season and I would rather learn the lesson here than there. That’s the power of the weather and I never respected it. If you disrespect the heat, the rain, the cold, it will END you.

The longer the race the more you have to create a plan and stick to it. You can’t just POWER through longer races. The mistakes of the beginning catch up with you. If there is heat in the forecast, then you need to go out PAINFULLY SLOW. Meaning so slow you almost can’t stand it. Put yourself at the back of the pack and just wait.

On the plus side, I did get some good footage to remember this failure. Enjoy!

Beating the heat at the Vermont 100 Endurance Race

The TL:DR of this post to “beat the heat” for a hot 100:

  1. Make friends on the course.
  2. Ice early, often, and everywhere you can on your body.
  3. Wear white to reflect heat.
  4. It’s never as bad as you think. 
  5. Start out painfully slow.
  6. The 5-minute nap is a powerful tool. 
  7. Be blessed with a completely selfless pacer.  
  8. Watch your heart rate.  It’s an indicator of stress just like the horses on the course!

Adjust your expectations if racing in hot conditions.  I joke that life is about managing expectations, and this race was no different. The race changed from a sub-24 to completion when I saw the weather forecast. Having an ego will get you killed, and this being only my 2nd 100 miler it was more important to finish. Some much-needed advice came from a friend of my parents, Barry Lewis.  An experienced ultra-runner and long-distance tri-athlete. He knew that trying to “bank” time in the morning is a poor strategy that will lead to failure. He stressed the point of running “painfully slow” in the beginning.  It was tough to watch so many people take off in the beginning, but he was right. If I could control my pace I would be reeling them in at the end, or at least not just another casualty of the heat.

It is human nature before we start any task to think it’s worse than it truly is. We make problems greater than they really are. Fear cripples us before we even start. WHY? It’s never as bad as you think. At the start of the race, I noticed the course had a large amount of tree coverage. There were only a few exposed sections. This made me breathe a sigh of relief. The temps were high but never felt unbearable (heat index of 106 was what was reported on the course). I started to use ice at the first aid station. I knew if I had ice on me before the sun came up I would keep my core temp down. I stayed ahead of hydration but still drank mostly to thirst. I put ice in my drinks and for my chest at every aid station. Everyone has a different strategy, I just filled a ziplock bag with ice and stuck it on my chest.  It was held in place with my hydration vest. The added benefit of the zip lock bag is you can drink the icy water when it melts.

The support crew! Mark and my dad at the pre-race meeting.

During the race, I chatted with my fellow runners, made friends, and heard stories of what brought others to the 100-mile distance. The ultra-running community is very friendly and people love to share their stories.  I’m no different and made many friends along the way. They help break up the miles and take the focus off the pain. If you are left alone with your pain for 30 hours, odds are, your pain will win.  It is easier to suffer through a race of this caliber if you know your friends are suffering too. Even if you just made those friends a few hours ago.

I was able to see my Dad at a few of the aid stations. The support of my father reminded me of the book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise and the section about parental involvement. We only can reach a level of performance if we have the support of our parents.  Dependant on how much they care determines how much time, effort, encouragement, and overall success we will enjoy. I have to make sure I extend the same to my 3 children.  Making sure that I take an interest in their hobbies and support their efforts.

The trail had more tree coverage than I expected… and lots of horses.

For a 100 mile race, most would say the real race begins at mile 70.  Camp 10 bear was the last place you see your support crew and was where I was going to meet Mark Richardson.  Mark signed up for an ultra himself when he chose to pace 30 miles. Is that even common? Most people I talked to in the race had 2 or more pacers for the last 30 miles. I didn’t realize that maybe I shouldn’t have put such a large requirement on somebody like that. My last hundred was run with 2 other runners for the majority of the 2nd half.  I’m unsure if I could even run the later miles of a 100 completely alone, the night can be the most challenging mentally and physically. As much as running seems like a solo sport, ultra-running never feels like one. You talk to everybody out on the trail and you have support from complete strangers at aid stations.

“The sound of music” section of the race.

The fact that this race would match you up with a pacer is a great service. Kudos to the race director for making that happen. That made all the difference in my success and in helping me “beat the heat”.  Mark signed up to see the course and see if he wanted to run VT100 himself. He didn’t know me but made the trip up to support a complete stranger! I met Mark at such a critical spot in the race and was already 18 hours in. He didn’t even know if I would drop. Mark was ready at 10 PM to run, and really do whatever was needed to get me to the finish.

One unexpected effect of the heat was blurred vision in my left eye. I guess the muscle was fatigued and couldn’t focus. Mark watched the clock as I took a brief nap around the 80-90 mile mark. I was so tired at this point in the race I was closing my eyes as I was running. The short nap was an effective tool to get me both mentally and physically back in the game. I should have done it sooner, I should stop putting off little problems in a race because they can easily become larger issues. I was fortunate this was easily corrected with a nap.

The type of people you will meet on the trail at 2 AM.

Something else I would have done differently was to wear my headlamp around my waist. I had never seen so many flies on the trail, but that might just be normal for Vermont. I should have moved my light around my waist so they wouldn’t be flying into my face. Mark was also kind enough to lend me a bug mask to wear!

Since VT100 is one of the last 100-mile horse races in the county I learned some interesting facts about the horses. A fellow runner who made performance rubber shoes for horses mentioned they use heart rate to gauge stress level on the horses! There are hold stations on the course where they monitor the HR recovery after they have the horse do a gallop or trot. This will show if the horse is close to overexertion. For hot races, a heart rate monitor can provide a critical insight into when to slow down or walk before it is too late.

Almost home… Only a few miles from the finish.

Finally, Mark and I were in striking distance of the finish and we had just left the final aid station. We scarfed down some delicious waffles from Polly’s and set out to complete the course. I was using every aid station as a checklist to be completed. I just kept saying “get to the next aid station”, and really before I knew it they were all done. All I had to do now was make it to the finish line. Something came over me in those last few miles and I wanted to see how many people could I pass. I swear we passed at least 20 people, with each one giving us a little push to pass the next. It was one of the high points for me in the race because I felt good to still be able to run this late in the race.  

I seriously wouldn’t have done it without him! Thanks Mark!

The question comes up all the time. Why run 100 miles? I like the problem-solving of it. I enjoy training. Come race day, I enjoy meeting new people going through the same experience. It teaches you that life rarely goes as planned. My current favorite quote is “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.” As soon as you start thinking negatively the race will go south, but that is true of everything in life. Try to stay positive regardless of the situation, and regardless of what happens to you.

A few little clips from the race.
It now sits next to my other trophies in my office to inspire me daily!

High-quality pics and video of the Vermont 100 that I took can be found here.