Finishing a 100-mile race alone is a remarkable feat that very few people on earth accomplish. Racing 100-mile adds another variable (to the already long list) for things to go awry. One of the things I’m proudest about over the years is my ability to race 100-mile events at a high level, finishing consistently, and not incurring any major injuries. Of course I have been injured, and have had to drop out of some races over the past decade, but for the most part I feel that I’ve learned from mistakes and prevailed. So much of performing well is showing up to the start line healthy, fit (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually), prepared and rested. After recently completing my 10th 100-mile race I decided I’d like to share details on some of the ways I’ve been able to successfully complete these arduous ultra marathons, year after year.
1. Stress and rest
This is a basic principle in training. I feel that too many opt for the ‘more is better’ mentality. Progressing systematically and gradually is what’s important. I’m also a believer in higher volume training for blocks of time but that dropping back to recover, both physically and mentally, is also paramount.
2. Not ‘over-racing’
I’m a fan of the race environment but it’s easy to get obsessive and sign up for too many races. Do this and you risk turning in sub-par performances at many of them -leaving you feeling flat for the focus races. I tend to choose a few focus races per year and then add in some shorter races as part of my training. What that usually means is I don’t taper too much for the training races and my expectations are not too high. This sometimes turns out to be a blessing in disguise and I’ve had many great races because of this. I also like to break up my year with a nice mixture of adventure runs and races, such as circumnavigating volcanoes here in the PNW or attempting some Fastest Know Times (FKT’s).
3. Get your game face on
You can do all the physical training until your blue in the face, but if you don’t have the mental game dialled and emotional stability than you probably won’t perform as well. I tend to do a lot of mental training. This includes visualization, sensory deprivation ‘floating’ and meditation. I also tend to have a very positive (and grateful) mindset during the actual race; telling myself some pre-set mantras over and over again.
4. Planning and scheduling an off-season
Planning an off-season sometimes just as important as scheduling a race. I’ve found that if I don’t plan a rest month, I’m forced into it via injury or low returns on my training. Typically I take one full month (or very close to it) with zero running. The first two weeks I do absolutely nothing! I don’t even commute on my bicycle and, as ridiculous as it may sound, I don’t walk around that much either. The second two weeks of that month I start incorporating some non-impact exercise and strength training, which my body responds really well too. During this month off I’m scheming future adventures and races, while reigniting the fires. This source of inspiration is very important to me.
5. Sleep and nutrition
This may seem obvious but anyone performing at a high level will know that these two areas make a world of difference. You recover the most when you sleep, so if you’re getting sub-par rest you’re more apt to get injured during training. Most ultra runners eat like crap during the actual event (myself included), so during training is a perfect opportunity to prioritize nutrition. There are many ways to optimize your diet. I’ve found that eating ‘real food’ (whole foods, not processed) with lots of fruits and vegetables helps me rebuild and recover quickly.