When I’m Old and Dying, I plan to look back on my life and say ‘wow, that was an adventure,’ not ‘wow, I sure felt safe’ – Tom Preston
Tomorrow, Saturday, June 21st 2014, I’m attempting to run my first 105 miles / 169 kilometers run. I’ll start at my house in Long Beach at 2am and run down south for 105 miles to San Diego train station. The last train back leaves at 9pm, so 19 hours is my last cut off to run 4 marathons back to back. I’ll be running this solo without any aid stations, crew or pacer.
Why run 100+ miles?! Because I want to do the things that my mind initially tells me are unachievable. I want to make this vision of running 100+ miles in one day a reality. I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with an amazing group of Ultra Runners in Los Angeles called The Coyotes. This group has opened my eyes that it is possible to run 100 miles with the right preparation and training, both physically and mentally. I don’t know how my body and mind will react after 8 hours, 12 hours and 16+ hours of running, so I prepared the best I could.
Running and hiking up Mt Baldy, the views are of epic proportion!
How I trained
When I decided to run my first 100 miler, I wanted to find out why 20-50% of runners DNF (do not finish) in many of the tough ultras. This info would come in handy for my 10 week training plan. The main reasons are:
– injury, such as twisted ankle, pulled muscle, blisters
– sickness, such as stomach issues, nausea, vomiting, heat stroke
– refusal to go on, no more energy or don’t want to run anymore
– time cutoffs
A few blisters after running fast miles down Mt Wilson with old shoes and a terrible technique. Learned my lessons and I haven’t had any blisters since.
For my preparation and training I talked to a few Ultra Running friends for advice, thank you very much Jimmy Dean Freeman, David Villalobos, Michael Chamoun and Damien Gomez! I focused on 4 different areas: running high weekly mileage, metabolic efficiency, heat acclimation through sauna and preparing mentally.
RUNNING HIGHER WEEKLY MILAGE
Early April I made the decision that I wanted to run my first 100 miler in June. I picked June 21st because it would give me 2 months of solid higher mileage training, on top of an aerobic base I maintained from training for my Marathon in October 2013 and 50 miler in January 2014.
Time is often a limiting factor for me, since work and family life are priorities over running for me. I found a great way to combine family time and running time by taking my daughter on morning runs by the beach, typically 9 miles a day, 3 to 4 times a week. On the weekends I’d go out for long Back to Back runs to experience running on tired legs. For example one weekend on Saturday morning I’d run an aerobic Marathon in 3 hours 7 min at HR 149, then on Sunday I’d run up Mt Baldy 17 miles with 6k ft climb in 3 hours 39 min.
My monthly miles in the last 18 months:
January 2013 – 40 miles / 5 hours
February 2013 – 12 miles / 2 hours
March 2013 – 39 miles / 5 hours
April 2013 – 42 miles / 5 hours
May 2013 – 160 miles / 22 hours
June 2013 – 185 miles / 29 hours
July 2013 – 184 miles / 28 hours
August 2013 – 228 miles / 32 hours
September 2013 – 297 miles / 45 hours
October 2013 – 102 miles / 14 hours
November 2013 – 123 miles / 19 hours
December 2013 – 187 miles / 26 hours
January 2014 – 123 miles / 17 hours
February 2014 – 92 miles / 13 hours
March 2014 – 123 miles / 20 hours
April 2014 – 284 miles / 41 hours
May 2014 – 300 miles / 39 hours
June 2014 – 100 miles / 12 hours
Total 18 months – 2603 miles / 368 hours
More details about my runs can be found on my Strava.
I estimate to burn about 14400 calories on this 105 mile run. (17 to 18 hours x 800 calories an hour). Your body can only handle a limited calorie intake and your stored body fat will have to fill in the gap, eliminating the need to overcompensate with calories. Everyone uses fat and sugar as a energy source to burn calories. In top athletes, up to 80% of energy can come from fat burning during training. If you want optimal endurance performance, you need to burn a high percentage of body fat and a low percentage of sugar. Stored body fat is the best energy source on long endurance runs.
Inspired by Dr. Phil Maffetone, I wanted to get my metabolism as efficient as possible, to get most of my energy from stored body fat to avoid bonking / running out of energy during this 17-18 hour run. The 2 main ways to improve metabolic efficiency are modifying your diet and aerobic HR training.
Eating & Drinking
I’ve cut out most processed sugars, processed foods, coffee and alcohol (with a few In N Out Burger exceptions). I usually eat 5 meals a day, breakfast, early lunch, 2 veggie shakes and dinner. I eat a pretty balanced combination of unprocessed carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fiber, vitamins and minerals. This way my body doesn’t crave sugars for energy fuel. This diet in combination with proper Aerobic HR training significantly improved my metabolic efficiency.
My grocery shopping for the week.
Blending veggies with water or Almond milk makes it easy to eat a lot of veggies and it tastes good as well!
Aerobic Heart Rate Monitor
I’ve been training with a HR monitor for 12 months now, and most of my runs are at or below my maximum aerobic HR of 149. Over time, at this heart rate my body learned to use most energy from body fat, instead of from sugars. In the weekends I often run 3 to 5 hours (25- 35 miles) and still feel very energized when I finish. Even after completing a 50 mile ‘training run’ at HR 149 in 6 hours 42 minutes in May, I felt totally fine and knew I could run much further. My max aerobic pace has continued to improve as well, on my last 5 mile MAF test it was 6:44, 6:46, 6:48, 6:53 and 6:57 at 149 bpm.
HEAT ACCLIMATION THROUGH SAUNA
Since this long run is in the summer (June 21st), the temperatures could be anywhere from 60°F to 100+°F (15C° to 37+ C°). Since in May we already experienced 100+°F in Long Beach, so I wanted to acclimate my body to the potential heat.
I found a detailed article about benefits of the sauna for endurance sports: Heat acclimation through sauna use can promote physiological adaptations that result in increased endurance, easier acquisition of muscle mass, and a general increased capacity for stress tolerance. Acclimating your body to heat by using a sauna (“hyperthermic conditioning”) has been shown to enhance endurance by:
– Increasing nutrient delivery to muscles thereby reducing the depletion of glycogen stores.
– Reducing heart rate and reducing core temperature during workload.
In May, I joined the gym to use their dry sauna 3 times a week, first for 15 minutes, eventually after a few weeks for 40 minutes on the hottest setting. I monitored my Heart Rate on a long sauna session:
0 minutes – 48 bpm
5 minutes – 72 bpm
10 minutes – 81 bpm
15 minutes – 90 bpm
20 minutes – 102 bpm
25 minutes – 109 bpm
30 minutes – 114 bpm
35 minutes – 116 bpm
40 minutes – 120 bpm
I was amazed to see my HR at 120 bpm while sitting still. When your body is heat stressed it significantly impacts your HR. After 4 weeks of solid sauna training, I went to the desert to run some soft sand hills in 103 °F / 39 C°. It was crazy to run for an hour in this heat and it felt like it was only 80 °F / 26 C°, this heat acclimation through sauna really helps!
On these very long runs, the mind plays a very important part to continue running or throw in the towel. I’ve never run 105 miles, its very far and a lot of things could go wrong. However I do feel confident going into this run that I’ll finish. I know there will be tough spots that feel uncomfortable and painful so I’ll have to find a way to work through it.
There is going to be a strong 10mph / 16k SW head wind for most of my run and it will be about 80 °F / 26 C° between noon and 5pm, I was initially stressing about the wind, but there is not much I can do about it. “When something doesn’t go how you want it to go, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain!” – Maya Angelou
Running 5 miles is easy, so I’ve told myself to just run 21 short runs of 5 miles, that way the distance sounds way less scary 🙂 When things get very tough and dark, I sometimes start laughing or singing and it makes everything so much better! At the end of the day, having fun doing what you’re doing is one of the most important parts.
My only drop bag is at Mile 68, a Surf Shop in Oceanside. I only want to eat and drink what I’ve trained with, so I’ll be carrying a lot of Gu gels and a variety of energy bars with me. Around mile 40, 60 and 80 I’ll call ahead to a Mexican restaurant to prepare a bean / veggie / guacamole burrito to go. The running route will be a combination of beach paths and side walks, so there should be enough water fill ups around.
I’m excited about this adventure and have no clue how its going to go, that’s the scary part but it will be an epic journey. ** EDIT: See a detailed recap of my first 100 mile run attempt here.
Consult a doctor before doing anything described in this post or on this blog. The material on this blog is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein.