How do you train for 100 miles?

My brain is the orange circle

The question is frequent, my answer is not what is expected. Back-to-back workouts. These are defined as two long distance efforts on consecutive days, the latter one done with muscle fatigue. This type of training simulates (to a small extent) the tiredness of an ultra event be it 50 miles or longer. People expect a crazier answer such as running 80 miles or 90 miles. The fact is that anymore than 50 miles is viewed by most as too much. A 100 miles on foot is conquered 5 inches between your ears rather than physically (I’ll get back to you on that post-Leadville to confirm or deny this).
When it comes to 100 mile training, there is no easy way, no secret short cuts. You cannot go into this half-hearted or without a true passion and love for running. You will simply not make it. Some runner’s brains work like the graph (left). I believe my brain is always repeating the orange circle “go workout”.

The plan. Note the weekend back-to-back focus.

To be stronger, I need to run, a lot. My plan is devised by Bryon Powell (a top Leadville finisher) from his book ‘Relentless Forward Progress‘.  My maximum weekly mileage is 85. I’ve read other athlete’s blogs that state 100, 150, even 200! Like the 99% of ultra runners, I do have a job to pay the bills and just don’t want to go up to the 100 weekly mileage (not yet at least).  I fully believe in ‘training smarter is better than training harder’.

This is why back-to-back workouts are key for me. Just like training for a marathon, the one workout you should never miss is the long run, I cannot afford to miss my back-to-backs for 100 mile training.

I use my weekends to crank out these two workouts. While most people, look forward to a friday night out, I’m busy researching new trails to explore and getting my clothes and gels ready. My weekend mileage is anywhere between 30-50 miles.

A bear at Bear Mountain.

On June 23, I decided to do my biggest back-to-back yet. I boarded the 7:50am train out of Grand Central heading to Manitou train station just north of Bear Mountain. I had researched a point to point route along the famous Appalachian Trail totaling 26 miles ending at Tuxedo train station. It would be a true mountain trail test with technical ascents and descents.

I had a great time, even flying solo. I saw bears (OK they were in the zoo, but still), wild deer and other animals all day long plus of course magnificent views along the famous single track trail. From the top of Bear, you can see the Manhattan skyline about 60 miles south.

Safety never takes a holiday; map, blood tester, Road ID bracelet.

Let me be the first to say, trail running alone is not recommended. Not only did I get lost to add-on 3 miles but I also ran out of water before I hit the main road back to civilization. My sugar supplies were never an issue (my backpack can feed a Halloween party) but dehydration in the middle of nowhere would have been no joke. As promised, a huge thank you to hikers Alan and Chu for topping up my water bottle. Alan was lugging a 5 liter bottle in his backpack and happy to share with an independent explorer like me.

Due to the terrain and stopping to take more photos than I planned, my 29 miles took 7-1/2 hours. It also felt like a 40 mile road run due to the extra output required to go up and down mountain trails all day. My glucose control started perfect at 169 and ended perfect at 145. I was fighting a few early on-set hypo’s throughout the run though, most likely due to the heat.

A view from the AT

I finished at 4:30pm at train station #2. It was hot and i was spent. I refueled with whatever my body could handle. That happened to be not much; a pop ice to cool down, some chips and a cereal bar along with lots more water on board. Onto the bus i got (the train got cancelled!), took a quick nap and I was back in my manic city. I was now on a tight schedule for round 2; pacing duties for my good friend Keila on her NYC 100 mile race put on by running legend Phil McCarthy. I was to pace the last 18 miles from Brighton Beach, Brooklyn into Times Square.

Home for a shower, change of lycra and a recharge of my Garmin and back out. I grabbed two slices of pizza and headed south via the subway. Dinner time had never been so public!  I met my friends at the beach and waited for Keila to arrive with pacer Beck. I had heard she was doing awesome all day via text updates. It was better than anyone had expected, first place by the time Mike, Alisa and myself all jumped in to pace her at mile 83 at 10pm. My sugar was 219 at this point. I had been chomping on some local fruit waiting for her at Brighton Beach and had under calculated the carbs slightly. I took my handheld 20oz bottle of Gatorade, poured half away and added water due to my blood sugar. Let’s roll.

At mile 90, we stopped for a change of shoes and a general refuel. 2nd place Michael Samuels came through and kept on going. At mile 97, I had to stop in desperate need of some sugar. I had miscalculated how much glucose I would need for the last ten miles; I was running mile 45 of my day so it was getting tricky to keep the levels in the right zone (150-200). At 2am in NYC this was not going to be a problem though. I grabbed a Coke from the nearest street vendor and within a few minutes felt better.  I laughed at myself for getting dropped by Keila who had been running for 97 miles.

I picked up the pace as I didn’t want to miss the big finish. I saw second place ahead but this time it wasn’t her. My eyes lit up just as they had done a few weeks earlier in my own race when I saw the top 3 in sight. I ran as fast as I could to catch up with the once again first place speedster. The last mile up Broadway into Times Square was a fantastic experience. Keila sprinted into the bright lights of Times Square and won the race which had a lot of impressive local ultra runners in it.

Team 160Keila! Everyone had run and crewed all over 4 of the 5 boroughs for 21 hours. We will give Keila the most credit though ; )

Far less important, I had logged another back-to-back (it could be argued it was a double as well due to no sleep in between) but 46 training miles over 16 hours into the early hours of Sunday counts. Roll on next weekend if you are anything like this one. Congratulations to the champ 160Keila.

 

 

Call for Comments

%d bloggers like this: