Lessons From a Hundred

We received this email from listener Ricky Haro on what he learned during his first hundred miler, the Magredi Mountain Trail 100 in northern Italy. Prior to this race, his longest run had been a marathon back in March.  

Some people jump into hundreds and others really prepare for them. Ricky falls into the latter group. It’s more than a race report, but more of a how-to and “what I learned” and it’s full of great information.

I asked him if I could share his note publicly and he obliged, even including a few pics.  Here it is in its entirety.  Disclaimer: He says some complimentary things about URP towards the end and we didn’t post this for our own vanity.  He hasn’t learned a darn thing from us, but rather our guests. 

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I learned a ton in my first hundred miler!!!!

Pace:

Almost every episode you hear about ‘pace’ and I definitely made sure I stuck to a pace even from the beginning. At the starting line, I went straight to the back and started my virtual pacer on my watch. When the gun went off, I ran a 12.5-minute pace for the first 12 miles and was dead last. So far dead last that when I hit the mountain section (roughly 14 miles in) that night the clean-up crew was ahead of me and started pulling the wands for the mountain section (very organized race and squared away crew). I came up behind them and they were surprised to still see a runner. This pace allowed me to have legs in the serious mountain sections to come. I passed so many people on the course and had a ton of running power after mile 50.  So many of your podcasts talk about pacing yourself through the entire ultra and almost every podcast there is a discussion on “go slow…and if you think you’re still going too fast…go slower”.  It’s amazing to me how many people get caught up in the “race-jitters” and still go out for the first 12-26 miles with a 9-10 minute pace.  Even maintaining my super slow pace, I eventually caught large groups and single runners in the first 12 hours.  Most had to take longer breaks at aid stations or simply went to a walk to recover.  I’m a firm believer that starting slower than slow was what I needed to push through the mountain sections.  The best advice I ever heard from one of your podcast was to USE all functions in your watch.  Train with it and get used to pacing per mile, per heartbeats, etc.

Nutrition and Hydration:

I have never worked so hard to try and get this down for the race. I had spent the last 7 months researching and experimenting with “my intake”. I even contacted Sunny Blende to gain a better understanding and she pointed me to several resources:  her website, articles she as written, and also referred me to the book Waterlogged, by Tim Noakes. After 7 months of heeding to all the advice, I knew how much water to replenish every 15 minutes as well as how much food to intake every 15 minutes. This was flawless the entire race. I pee’d clear the entire time and I was able to consume around 9K calories (10K was my goal), of which, I brought all of my food requirements to include meals at the Life-bases (aid stations). For planning, I built an excel spreadsheet that laid out my nutrition plan over the course of 45 hours with a consumption rate of every 15 minutes.  From there, I packed my food and electrolyte replacement requirements into baggies and labeled them with the sections of the race.  All my crew had to do was hand me the baggie when I passed through the aid station or they would help me pack my bag with the required food.  I had my watched timer go off every 15 minutes Sunny Blende style…worked like a charm!  I weighed 145 lbs. about an hour before the race and weighed 143 lbs. immediately following the race.

The mental game:

I knew this was going to be the biggest aspect of the race that I needed to find a way to overcome. During training runs, I would find myself undergoing huge mental battles after 26.2 miles. I ended up contacting a few psychology friends and they recommended two books to could help me out:  The pursuit of excellence by Terry Orlick and the 10-minute Toughness by Jason Selks. Those books did wonders for my game.  The 10-minute Toughness is all about creating workouts for the mind.  Each workout has a goal that coincides with training goals or performance goals.  I did this workout everyday and often found myself resorting back to the same visualizations that I used in practice during times of fatigue in the race. During peak training, I would do back-to-back 26 and 34 mile runs with a 6-hour rest between runs and I found these mental workouts to be a great way to bounce back and minimized my time in the “bonk”.

Equipment:

I had this dialed for months. I ran with the Nathan pack HPL #020 and NB-Leadville & Hoka One One. I’m a gear freak so this was pretty fun. I normally run in Brooks Pure Series but gave up on those after I went over 30 miles. I ran the NB’s for the first 65 miles and then switched to the Hoka’s for the remaining miles. My legs felt super fresh once I switched shoes.  My only ‘foot’ issue was getting three little blisters on my toe after I switched shoes.  I believe this was due to the tighter toe box on the Hoka’s and the slight swelling in my feet.  Other than that, no foot issues.

Other stuff:

Choosing your crew can make or break your race—given.  My crew was awesome and couldn’t have done it without their organization at aid stations and super positive feedback.  They were super objective in getting me out fast yet flexible and supportive to my needs.  Prior to the race, I wrote a “my thoughts on the course” in spreadsheet format.  I wanted to have my thoughts and intentions for each section written down so my crew knew what to expect.  I wrote out any special expectations (emotional, physical) for the crew at each aid station as well as a checklist of things that I knew I would most likely be mentally running through as I approached each stop.  This worked out awesome because I would forget some key things as fatigue went on and they reminded me of them because it was written down.  I also loved that document because it gave the crew my perspective of what I was going to do in the upcoming sections from a performance point of view which got them prepared to better aid me down the road.  My nutrition plan was also in each section so they could monitor my intake as they aided me in other stations.  I came in once with a pack full of food and they quickly realized I didn’t eat during that section.  They asked what was wrong and I said that the gels are getting too sweet.  They packed my pack with the required food and sent me on the trail with two additional baggies of pretzel sticks and Gardetto’s in hand.  I believe the race strategy document was key to allowing the crew to flex during times when I wasn’t able to completely communicate my needs.

Euro “mountain trail” races are similar to Fell racing. This was a crazy race with lots of that.  I did not expect that and thought the race was going to be more similar to running the AT.

Which podcast I learned the most from: Hmmm….my answer would be Sunny Blende’s, Dr. Hannaford, Don Freeman, Erik Orton, and Matt Fitzgerald. I also loved Nick Coury’s interview. I listened to Nick’s interview a few hours before the race start and Nick’s story of running and walking approach for Hard Rock.  Listening to that podcast helped me settle into what I thought at the time was too slow of a race pace.

The reality…I’ve been immersed in your podcasts for the last seven months. I’ve listened and literally took notes on every podcast you produced. By the time I started this race…I felt like I was a seasoned ultra-runner by race-time. If things went south, I had enough situational awareness to know how to handle it because I’ve heard of a similar experience. Trust me….a lot went south on that race and I was able to still put it together. Running in the Dolomites around 4-5k’ along a goat path with mountain rescue folks anchored to the wall as you run by them with the weather dropping to a good 32* and slightly freezing rain requires the thought pattern to change. Your podcasts hooked me up!

The one podcast that I think most folks would enjoy would be one oriented around strengthening the mind to go to battle with a 100-miler. This is something that does get addressed but it’s the same ole’ response from your podcasts guests. Bring on someone who specializes in strengthening the mind. I’m telling you the stuff works. I know it does because I did mental workouts everyday and I was the strongest mentally than I have ever been. There are solid systems that work. Professionals in other sports enlist and embrace these specialists and I think URP would offer a lot to the ultra tribe if you interviewed one of these folks.

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