It was someplace round 4 a.m. I’d been operating for 24 hours and aggressively dry heaving for 5. I used to be carrying 2 puffy jackets, 2 pairs of gloves, and a everlasting grimace. Our fourth headlamp had simply gone out, and we had been utilizing a dim cellphone flashlight to light up the path. I used to be delirious and nauseous and wished out of my physique.
A special type of wanting received me thus far, although. About 9 months earlier, I met ultrarunner Clare Gallagher whereas engaged on a movie shoot. It was 2 months after she gained the ladies’s race on the 2016 Leadville Trail 100 whereas additionally placing up the second-fastest time for a lady in course historical past. Gallagher was a 24-year-old rookie who crushed her first 100 and rapidly received scooped up by The North Face. Those 19 hours and 27 seconds modified her life. I wasn’t gunning for sponsorship, however I wished to do one thing so exhausting that it modified my life, too.
By this level I had been a borderline obsessive runner for a couple of decade, having fallen sufferer to the usual development: half of marathon to fulls, roads to trails, 50Ks to 50-milers. I bear in mind when 13.1 miles appeared loopy lengthy to me, nevertheless it’s really only a gateway drug to the habit. I did loads of emotional operating—“running from” and “running toward”—however I used to be lastly operating for no cause apart from I preferred it. But I by no means thought I’d do a 100-miler; that distance was for different individuals. But as soon as the concept popped into my head, I couldn’t shake it. I began to image the end line.
I’d examine what happens to your body during an 100-miler. Extreme fatigue, crippling gastrointestinal misery, hallucinations. And for some masochistic cause, I wished that. So when the Leadville 100 lottery opened in December, virtually seven months earlier than the race, I put my title in. Six weeks later, after an all-time powder day in Silverton, Colorado, when operating was the furthest factor from my thoughts, I received the e-mail: I used to be in.
Clare turned my beta queen. I spent the higher a part of this 12 months fascinated about her. What would she do? What would she eat? What would she put on? Whenever I didn’t know the reply, I’d simply ask her. I additionally took to the net. My Google search historical past was filled with queries like: “First 100-miler?” and “How tired can legs actually get and still work?”
I additionally assembled a strong crew that included my twin sister, Outside editors Erin Berger and Matt Skenazy, and Outside contributor Lauren Steele. I spent about six months coaching, focusing primarily on the crucial weekend back-to-backs: I’d run 20 to 25 miles on Saturday and 10 to 15 miles on Sunday to observe operating drained. I additionally made essentially the most insane Google doc ever (modeled after Clare’s proprietary doc, “How to Slay Leadville”) and spent $70 on sweet. I used to be prepared.
But not one of the prep issues when you don’t execute on race day. I had so many questions for Clare (and the web) about what to anticipate and tips on how to translate strong coaching right into a profitable day. If you end up in the identical place, Googling round for 100-miler ideas, I went forward and examined a bunch of them for you.
Eat a Lot and Do It Early
Clare: “If you stop eating, you’re looking at a tough day where you miss cutoffs. Everyone’s stoked because it’s Leadville, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, 20 miles! I don’t need food!’ When really, you need to slow down, eat copiously, and pass those people in ten hours when the race really starts.”
The gun goes off at 4 a.m., so when my alarm sounded at 2 a.m., I rapidly reached for a 64-ounce tub of peanut butter. (A complete dream.) I spent the subsequent 20 minutes curled in my sleeping bag, spooning it into my mouth, ingesting electrolyte water, and making an attempt to keep away from fascinated about how bizarre that was. I pressured down a banana. I attempted and did not eat an English muffin. In retrospect, I ought to have pressured down much more meals then and in these first 20 miles. Leadville is a operating occasion, certain, nevertheless it’s additionally an consuming contest. Once you get right into a calorie deficit, every thing turns into more durable than it must be. Eat whilst you nonetheless can.
Clare: “If you feel stressed prior to mile 60, you need to chill out. Get your heart rate down, eat, drink, and run like you could run for six days straight—that slowly.”
This was no drawback for me. I’m made for distance, not pace. I ran at a tempo that allowed me to periodically shove sweet in my mouth with out shedding my breath. What I didn’t know was that I ought to’ve run barely sooner throughout the first 4 miles to keep away from the impenetrable conga line that fashioned on the singletrack round Turquoise Lake. If you could have time targets, it’s good to tweak your tempo to keep away from bottlenecks on the course. But finally, it’s an ultramarathon, not a marathon. You must run for a full day—preserve your tempo manageable.
Don’t Let Your Crew Screw It Up
Clare: “Make sure Matt and Erin don’t f*** things up for you.”
Clare harped on this 1, however I felt like I had a better probability of screwing it up than my crew did. That stated, there’s loads of room for error, and it’s crucial that you just give your crew the instruments they should get issues proper. I didn’t need my crew to must learn my thoughts if I used to be unable to articulate what I wanted, so my Google doc included every thing from anticipated arrival occasions and express instructions about what to do at every support station: refill my water with Skratch, make me eat a peanut butter-oat-chocolate chip-salt nut ball, take my headlamp, give me a jacket for Hope Pass crossing.
Plan out your race like it’s your wedding. If one thing goes fallacious at your marriage ceremony, you’re nonetheless getting married, most likely. But at a 100-miler, it may very well be imply a DNF.
The Race Doesn’t Start Until Mile 60
Clare: “This is an imperative mindset. You chill to Winfield, then get over Hope Pass (again) and then get to Twin Lakes (again), and then you get ready to feel really weird and awesome.”
This 1 pressured me out prerace. The longest I’d ever run was 50 miles. Everything previous that was uncharted territory. And 60 miles is a lengthy technique to go to get to the “start,” with 40 miles nonetheless to go. But man, is that this 1 true. Eat, chill, and attempt to preserve it collectively till mile 60. That’s when issues are going to get actual and exhausting. At mile 60, the mountains had been getting hit with killer alpenglow, the sundown was wonderful, and Matt (my first pacer) and I had been having a grand outdated time splashing throughout rivers. Things received bizarre shortly thereafter. Be prepared for this.
You’re Going to Shit Your Pants
Clare: “Well, not your pants, but plan to need to use the Porta-Potties at every aid station.”
Around mile 55, I turned to Matt and stated, “So this might be TMI, but I haven’t pooped once.” This was notable as a result of I’d been consuming and transferring for 14 hours. Soon after, we had been cruising down singletrack on the bottom of Hope Pass, and he tried to select up the tempo. That pace, umm, sped issues up. I loudly advised Matt that I used to be going to shit my pants if we saved up such a tempo. We noticed a head flip uphill on the remark (seems we had been on tight switchbacks). It was Anton Krupicka (in fact it was Anton Krupicka), pacing one other runner. Let the document present that I didn’t shit my pants, however we did run sooner to flee from our embarrassment.
My relationship with my GI tract over the last 26 miles was…contentious. I used to be extraordinarily nauseous and dry heaving each few seconds. It was torturous, nevertheless it should’ve been equally horrible for my 2nd pacer, Lauren, to hearken to for eight hours. Despite ingesting mainly nothing, I needed to pull off the path each 15 minutes. I couldn’t actually swallow any meals and was operating (properly, shuffling) on fumes at this level. This may’ve been preventable had I eaten extra earlier, nevertheless it’s additionally a actuality that you just may not be capable of keep away from and may mentally put together for. In addition to strong meals choices, it’s value having your crew carry totally different liquids (smoothies, applesauce, and so forth.) in case you may’t chew actual meals.
Address Problems Right Away
Clare: “If you have hot spots on feet, deal with them immediately. You should carry Vaseline. Treat your symptoms as they come, and speak up if something’s bothering you.”
Small issues rapidly turn out to be huge issues whenever you’re operating for a whole day. I had mentioned blister and sock-changing strategies with my crew. The technique was easy: Do it like a NASCAR pit crew. At the mile 50 support station, I threw myself on a blanket whereas they ripped off my footwear, swapped my socks, rubbed sunscreen on me, poured coconut water into my mouth, and replenished my meals provide. It was unimaginable. Toward the tip of the race I received a dagger-like blister that stopped me in my tracks. Lauren ripped an earring out of her ear, sanitized it, popped and bandaged the blister, and put my sock again on. NASCAR.
Around Mile 70, Expect to Feel Bad
Clare: “You’re gonna feel terrible. You’re gonna wanna die. Trick yourself into knowing that it’s OK, and convince yourself to keep going.”
I’d been ready for this support station to look for what felt like hours. (It might have really been hours.) When we received there, I sat subsequent to a heater within the pop-up tent. I drank cups of Coke and salty broth and tried to eat a potato, nevertheless it was like I had an invisible drive area round my mouth that allowed no strong meals to go. I waited for the energy to make me really feel higher, however they didn’t. Everyone within the tent within the depths of despair, no person was smiling, and other people had been dropping out throughout me. I used to be woozy, behind on energy, and shivering. I didn’t know the way I might preserve going feeling this fashion. Matt wasn’t having it. He made me stand up, and I trudged behind him again into the chilly, looking at his neon orange socks for seven extra miles. “Run babysitter” is maybe a extra apt description of a pacer’s job.
The Best Way to Stop the Death March Is to Shuffle
The internet: “The best way to stop the death march is to breathe deeply, remove any negative thoughts, and start to shuffle your feet. A slow shuffle will loosen the muscles and eventually allow you to run freely again.”
I gave express directions to my crew about tips on how to cope with this: Under no circumstances do I get to stop. If I enter the Heart of Darkness, don’t give me pity. If I’m strolling, attempt to get me to shuffle. After Western States this 12 months, Cat Bradley, who gained the ladies’s race, told Trail Runner, “Every time I stopped, I felt like I was going to faint, so I stopped stopping.” I saved fascinated about that. I sat down briefly as soon as, someplace round mile 82, which made Lauren very indignant with me, so I received up fairly rapidly, as a result of it turned out that not transferring didn’t really feel any higher than transferring.
You’re Gonna Get Emotional
Clare: “You might cry. I cried. That’s OK.”
You spend all this time alone in the dead of night, and you then attain this oasis of individuals and love and meals at support stations, and also you’re feeling like shit, and the juxtaposition is an excessive amount of. Tears simply fell out of my eyeballs on the mile 75.5 support station, and I couldn’t cease them. I’d had a foul time within the woods, and I nonetheless had a marathon to go. I attempted to not be overwhelmed by the space. Matt was saying, “You gotta get going! You gotta go!” I felt higher, as a result of it was apparent primarily based on his bloodshot eyes that he’d been crying too. (He’ll inform you he received DEET in his eyes.)
The Pain Will Come and Go
The internet: “If you’re suffering, it will pass.”
I sometimes expertise good and dangerous waves throughout ultras. Oftentimes, whenever you assume you’ve had sufficient, you begin to really feel higher, and that’s comforting to recollect. I rode a collection of waves at Leadville till the aforementioned very low level at mile 70. It by no means received higher. In truth, it received a lot worse. Aid stations served as little beacons of hope alongside the way in which, however someplace round mile 80 we reached an absurd unofficial station with blaring music, a maze of psychedelic neon lights hanging from bushes, and a marijuana stench so robust I virtually yakked. This kind of feeling dangerous was international to me, and I didn’t know if it was OK to really feel this fashion or if one thing was fallacious. It’s normally OK, if not “normal,” for a race this lengthy. You can feel the worst you’ve ever felt and still technically be alright. Try to eat and drink to mitigate severe medical points—and pay actual consideration to issues like warmth stroke—and take solace in the truth that even when you really feel horrible, you may most likely nonetheless transfer your toes ahead. After 29 hours and 21 minutes of doing simply that, I lastly crossed the end line. Moments later, I used to be feeling higher already.