Avery Collins is one of the world’s best 100-mile ultra runners. The 25-year-old from Colorado, USA, kicked off his 2018 season by winning the notoriously tough HURT 100-Mile Endurance Run in Hawaii (see photo above by Howie Stern).
This followed a 2017 in which he also won the Grindstone 100 and placed 6th in the USA’s biggest ultra race, the Western States 100. He may still be young in terms of ultra running but Avery has already shown he knows exactly how to prepare, plan and execute a 100-mile race. Here are his top tips for running 100 miles:
1. Find the flow
Finding the flow is the most important, and yet most difficult, thing in getting you across the finish line of a 100-mile race. But what does ‘finding the flow’ mean? It means you learning how to fully immerse yourself in the activity while still enjoying it. This takes time and practice to get right.
To fully immerse yourself you need not to think about the many miles ahead or how far it is to the next aid station. Instead think only about what is happening in the present, be that your next stride or the scenery around you at that moment in time. When I’m having a really hard time during a 100-mile race I try to find peace with myself. I look around at all the natural beauty and try to forget about everything else. As such, I fully immerse myself in the present moment. It sounds easy but it takes lots of practice to do it well.
One of the most relatable quotes I’ve heard, and one that I’ve applied to every 100-miler, is by basketball superstar Kobe Bryant. When asked how he scored 81 points (the second highest in NBA history) in one game, he explained how he never thought back to his last shot, assist, steal or turnover, or indeed ahead to his next shot, assist, steal or turnover. Instead he thought only about his next step, his next breath and perfecting every finer move in his game.
To be fully immersed like this obviously requires a lot of focus. And while losing focus during the course of a 100-mile race is inevitable, don’t stress if this happens, just try to regain that ‘present moment’ quickly. The more ultras you do the less scatterbrain moments you will have.
2. It’s going to hurt. Accept it.
Running 100 miles is going to hurt. It is absolutely going to hurt! The sooner you accept that, the better. There is no magic pill or special diet that will eliminate the pain a 100-mile race brings with it, so my advice is to embrace the suffering. Indeed, the overcoming of this pain is one of the things that makes completing a 100-mile race so rewarding.
I have always said that throughout a 100-mile race you will go to hell and back (a few times). However, that being said, you must think to yourself ‘nothing lasts forever’ and ‘pain is temporary’.
3. Eat, eat and eat again – at least 300 calories per hour
If you want to survive a 100-mile race you must eat. Simple. Whether you’re fast, slow or somewhere in between, refusing to eat will end your race quickly.
We have all heard of epic blow-up stories associated with races like Western States 100, Leadville 100 and Hardrock 100… and most of the times these blow-ups have come directly from the runner failing to look after their nutrition. If it’s that simple, than why does it happen? Well… in a race like Western States 100 your stomach is probably going to hurt whether there is calories in it or not, so don’t let this fool you. Where some runners go wrong, I think, is when their stomach goes south, so does their state of mind. As a result they stop pushing nutrition down the gullet.
A good rule of thumb is 300 calories per hour. If you’re not getting 300 calories of into your system every hour then you’re going to be operating at a massive calorie deficit. Can you make it 100 miles on say just 100 calories an hour? Yes you can but be warned, it’s not going to feel good and your crew team, along with your pacers, are going to be playing the waiting game throughout the entirety of the race.
So what happens when your stomach simply can’t take any more calories and ‘nothing’ is staying down? Try to work through it following these steps: Perhaps sugars are not working anymore so move to starchy/carb loaded foods. Those aren’t working? Give high fatty foods a try. Still not working? Liquid calories are worth a shot. Still experiencing stomach pains? Get down some ginger chews, ginger ale or some kind of stomach-easing product. That should do it.
4. Don’t let your urine resemble your favourite pale ale!
‘Drink enough but don’t drink too much’ and ‘You should be drinking 18-24 ounces of water an hour’. I’ve heard both of these statements a hundred times and neither is wrong.
Everyone is different, so it takes time – and lots of practice – to figure out when your own body is over hydrated or under hydrated. Dehydration symptoms most associated with running 100 miles include dizziness, dry mouth and decreased urine output. It’s important that you’re urinating as much as you would in a normal day but also consuming more water than you would in a normal day. If your urine is ever the same color of your favorite pale ale then you’re likely in trouble, but if it’s the same color as your favorite budget beer then you’re in the clear. Even if you’re in the clear, you should continue to consume the same amount of water, if not 15-25% more.