Training for your first 100 miler?
First off, congratulations on deciding to take on such a tough challenge!
You’ll have your ups and downs, love it and hate it, but in the end, there will be nothing more satisfying than crossing that finish line.
During a 100-miler, there are many uncontrollable obstacles to overcome.
The idea is to try and control the bits and pieces that you can to cut down on the possibility of something going wrong.
Here are 10 tips from serial ultramarathon runner and coach Katelyn Tocci to help you get across that first 100-mile finish line!
1. Start Out at a Comfortable Pace
You’re in this one for the long haul so take your time, enjoy, and try not to run out of steam before you even get going.
Fall into a nice, comfortable pace, something you feel that you can hold for, well, 100 miles!
You may get lucky enough to bump into someone who is running at a similar pace as you are, end up having a great conversation, and even make a lifelong friend.
The trail running community is welcoming and kind, filled with people just as crazy as you are to decide to run these long distances.
Swap some stories and enjoy the ride; it will make the time fly by.
But be careful!
You want to make sure that you don’t get caught up in someone else’s pace.
Stick to what feels comfortable for you and don’t feel as though you are pushing to keep up. You need to pace yourself and save your energy for later on….when you are really going to need it!
2. Break the Race Up Into Bits
Breaking up the 100 miles into shorter sections will help move you along.
Short, attainable goals will keep your mind focused.
It’s much more feasible to think that you have 2 more miles to go until the next aid station, instead of 65 miles more until the finish line.
That’s just overwhelming!
Celebrate these mini-goals as you reach each aid station, and mentally cross them off your list.
3. Be Efficient at Aid Stations
Aid stations are usually a ball.
You have a ton of smiling volunteers happy to help you out with whatever you need: getting you snacks, refilling your water bottles, and trying to pump you up for the next leg of the race.
But be careful and don’t hang out for too long.
It’s so inviting to take a seat, drink a nice cup of hot cocoa, and think to yourself, “maybe I’ll just stay here. It’s so warm and cozy inside this tent, and so cold and dark outside, maybe I’ll just close my eyes for a minute…”
Don’t fall into that trap!
You’ve got to snap out of it and get back on that trail.
So when you see an aid station up ahead, you need to remember, get in, get fueled, and get out!
4. Take Walk Breaks
Staying at a comfortable pace most likely means taking frequent walk breaks, and knowing when to take these breaks is an important part of a 100-miler.
Whenever you feel your heart rate on the rise and short of breath, slow down and take a walk.
You want to keep your heart rate down and your muscles in tip-top shape for as long as you possibly can. Switching back and forth between walking and running will utilize different muscles in your legs so you can balance the load a bit.
Be sure that you are familiar with the type of terrain and amount of vertical gain your race has, so you know what to expect.
Training specifically for your race will help you greatly on the day of.
If your race has a lot of vertical gain, practicing hiking hills should be a large part of your long runs and mid-week workouts. It will come in handy on race day!
Related: Why I’m Running 100 Miles
5. Address Issues Immediately
That pesky rock that somehow got into your sneaker is really getting on your nerves, isn’t it?
You think that it will probably work its way out soon enough, won’t it?
No, it won’t.
Be sure that you take the time to fix any problem, big or small, as soon as you possibly can.
You don’t want that tiny little pebble to cause a hot spot or blister that will force you to slow down considerably, run in pain, or even need to DNF.
Take a minute to empty out your sneaker and jump back in the game. You’ll be really happy you did!
And in case you’re not yet aware, a 100-miler will make you chafe in places you’ve never chafed before.
Bring along some anti-chafe cream in your pack.
When you feel the slightest burn, slap some of that cream on the spot before it’s too late and you can’t bear to take another step.
There are plenty of issues that will come up during the race, but whatever they are, be sure to take care of them right away!
6. Bring More, Not Less
As you pack your race vest you may question yourself, do I really need that extra energy bar?
Or, it probably won’t rain, so I won’t need to bring my jacket or gloves, right?
Bring everything you think you may need.
It’s worth carrying a few extra grams of weight than not being able to move your fingers because you decided to leave your gloves in the car, or even worse, getting stuck in the middle of the night with a dead headlamp and not having replacement batteries.
Take advantage of the aid station that provides access to a drop bag.
These are usually available around the mid-way point of the race.
Use this drop bag to refill and refuel your race vest. You should also leave a full change of clothes and an extra pair of trail sneakers just in case. You never know what you might need.
So remember, bring what you need with you. At the end of the day, you’ll be thankful you were well-prepared.
7. Don’t Try Anything New
During your months and months, if not years of training for this event, you have tried it all. Every energy gel, hydration system, running shoe, GPS device, shirt, shorts, socks – the list goes on and on.
On your endless number of long runs where you have simulated parts of your upcoming race, you have tried out every strategy under the sun and hopefully have found something that works for you.
This game of trial and error has surely taken its toll and you have tried to get everything just right, so why change something you have worked so hard to perfect?
If you hear a voice in your head asking yourself, should I buy a new pair of trail sneakers for the race? Should I wear my brand-new pink running tank?
Should I just drink and eat whatever there is along the way and not carry my nutrition with me?
Stop those thoughts right in their tracks.
You have put way too much effort into this to have something like blisters or an upset stomach stop you from finishing the race.
Control as much as you can, wear things you are used to wearing, eat things you are used to eating, and drink things you are used to drinking.
Of course, there are always some exceptions that bring us to our next tip…
8. Keep on Fueling
No matter what, keep on eating and drinking.
You need to be consistent throughout the entirety of the race: nutrition, hydration, nutrition, hydration. This is what is going to get your fatigued, sleep-deprived self to the finish line.
Along the way you are probably going to be fed up with all the gels and electrolytes you are consuming, but keep on snacking.
This is where we can break our “don’t try anything new” rule. It’s not that you are eating something for the first time, but if you see a grilled cheese sandwich at an aid station, and you need that grilled cheese sandwich, go on and take it.
During the second half of the race your body begins to rebel, so just give it what it’s craving if that will make you eat.
Just don’t stop consuming your fuel to prevent yourself from hitting the wall… completely.
9. Be Prepared for Ups and Downs
You’ve probably heard it a million times, but it’s true, running 100 miles is just as much mental as it is physical!
100 miles is a long way.
There are a lot of people who don’t even want to drive one hundred miles, let alone run them.
You need to prepare yourself for the wild ride of ups and downs.
You’ll have some moments where you are just loving it, flying through the single-track paths, enjoying the views, and taking it all in.
Then, you’ll have some darker moments when you will think, what in the world was I thinking signing up for this thing? It’s impossible!
This is pretty standard not only for your first 100-miler but every single one after that.
So push through those moments, think about that finish line and all the bragging rights you’ll have earned in just a few more hours.
10. Smile, It Really Does Help
When you hit those lows, smile. Really smile. If you have to fake it, fake it. You’ll still reap the benefits of what smiling can do for you.
Smiling is a proven mood-booster and stress-reliever. When you smile, your body releases dopamine and serotonin into your system. Those hormones will lift your spirit and help move you along.
Try to think positive thoughts, like what delicious meal you are going to eat when all of this calorie-consuming fun is over. Or how you are going to feel when you cross that finish line.
Stay enthusiastic and keep up the good work, you’re almost there!
OUR FREE 100 MILE ULTRAMARATHON TRAINING PLANS
This 100 Mile Ultramarathon training plan is designed for runners who are simply looking to comfortably complete their event.
With 6 months to prepare, we focus on very gradually increasing the weekly mileage at a manageable rate, so you don’t end up burning out.
Ideally you should be able to run 3-5 miles without stopping before you begin this plan, but you can choose to adopt a run/walk strategy too!
Who is it for?: First-time ultramarathon runners, runners who want to complete an ultra with limited time to train each week, runners who just want to focus on comfortably reaching the finish line.
How Long?: Six months, or 24 weeks. If your only objective is to complete your ultramarathon comfortably, and you have six months (or more) to prepare, this is the plan for you!
The plan includes some optional speed work, but this is only if you’re comfortable and can squeeze it in – the objective is to get the required mileage in. It includes 3 mid-week runs, to be performed at a comfortable pace, and one long-slow run each weekend to build your max mileage. The plan includes one cross-training day per week and two rest days.
This 100 Mile Ultramarathon training plan is designed for runners who are looking to challenge themselves – perhaps to set a new PR, or simply to run their best race.
Designed to be run over 6 months, the plan features one speed day per week, and more mileage than the ‘Just Finish’ plan – so you’ll have a stronger base and better running economy.
Who is it for?: Established runners who want to challenge themselves, and perhaps set a new PR.
If you’ve already run a distance event such as a marathon and want to improve your performance, check out these training plans.
Our Improver training plans balance training and miles with rest days and (optional) speed work; only include the speed work if you want to improve your base running speed.
If you’ve got some distance running experience, and want to push yourself a little, this is the training plan for you.
How Long?: Six months, or 24 weeks.
This 100 Mile Ultramarathon training plan is for experienced runners looking to push themselves!
It features six days of training per week, including two days of speed work, long runs, and recovery runs (which get gradually longer in length).
Who is it for?: Experienced runners who want to set a new PR and perform well competitively.
If you’re planning to race and gain a good position, this is the plan for you.
Our Compete plans feature the most intense training regimes – there’s a lot of miles in there, different challenging workouts (speed-work), and typically only one rest day per week.
You should only attempt the Compete plan if you are starting from a solid running base, and have the time commitment and drive to really challenge yourself.
How Long?: Six months, or 24 weeks.