You're Crazy! But how could I do it?
How to train for a first 100 miler
I’m asked often “How do you even train for a 100 Miler?” Usually it’s by someone who has an athletic background or at least by someone who has a base level of fitness.
I love the question because when people learn of my ultra-life they mostly say “You’re crazy! Why would anyone do something like that?!”
So for those who really have interest in going for it: here are my tips for success.
I’ll start with the general process then get into specifics.
First of all, I strongly suggest one enter the process with a mindset of positivity. Enjoy pursuing the goal maximally. All the tough parts of training and racing are much more tolerable when one is happy and grateful. Keep in mind what you’re doing. Remember how awesome you are for even trying to tackle this project.
Next, there are no shortcuts! One must DO THE WORK! Miles must be logged. Time must be invested. Sacrifices must be made. Nutrition must be optimized.
Importantly, pick the right race—one that’s not too hard but also, one that will not be hard enough to provide great satisfaction when completed. Let’s be honest: you want to have some “Street Cred” when you finish.
Here we go:
The first step is to actually sign up for a race. Once you make the commitment, IT’S ON!
Next? Run! One can’t do any ultra without lots of running! One can be super fit from other types of workouts but nothing substitutes for putting miles on your legs.
I really think that your longest runs can be 30 miles or so. Now here’s the most important training tip I can give: do a long run the day after your long run. You have to train your body to be capable to run when tired and beat up. This second workout should be at least half the first one. The longer the better.
IMO, ultra-training is identical to marathon training except for that tip. All marathoners do one long run per week. But ultra-people do another long run two days in a row.
Try to work up to a minimum four to five hour run followed by another the next day of two to four hours. During the sessions, walking is definitely acceptable and actually encouraged. There’s a lot of walking that occurs in 100 milers so incorporating that in training benefits the runner greatly.
Try to simulate the race conditions as much as is possible. If the race is on trails, train on trails. If it’s going to be hot, do heat training and run when it’s hot, etc.
If possible, considering your work and family obligations, try to experience sleep deprivation. Go for a long run at bedtime so you experience training when you’d normally be sleeping. Or, get up at 3 am and train. Better yet, stay up all night and go for a run on no sleep. You’ll be doing in that in your race, so learn to suffer in training. It sucks but having tolerated it before race time, you’ll be somewhat accustomed to the “displeasure.”
Here’s another extremely valuable tip: get your body mechanically, strong as an Ox. Core and strength training provides tremendous rewards come race day. Often, first timers show up to the starting line fit as can be “cardiovascularly” but get destroyed late in the race from sore muscles, an achy back, shoulder pain, etc. Come Mile 80, you’ll be glad you prepared.
Do an occasional lung-busting high intensity, interval training (HIIT). This will raise your overall fitness so you have a reserve when you need to dig deep when you enter the “Pain Cave. And you most certainly will spend time there.
Learn and practice optimizing your Fluids, Electrolytes and Nutrition (FEN) both in training and during the race. Find what products work best for you. I love Ensure and Tailwind, both working perfectly. Some people like real food.
Basically, you want to apply a core principal of the Military: Odds-stacking. Do everything in your control to increase the chance of completing the mission.
The above certainly simpiflies the process. Following these tips should greatly help lead to a fun, rewarding and ultimately successful finish.
Now go get that buckle!