I signed up for Desert Solstice to hopefully learn something about running 100 miles successfully. I promised to share what I learned, so here goes:
Nutrition: I think I have found a fueling combo that works for me and it is almost all liquid nutrition. The big change in nutrition for me at Desert Solstice was using Perpetuem. I got a bag of Perpetuem about a year ago and I made a test sample right after I got it. I thought it was gross and it has been sitting in my cupboard ever since. But over the years, I have found I really cannot palate sticky sweet foods late in a race. This rules out basically every gel, chew, chomp and bar out there, plus more than half of the standard aid station fare. On a whim I decided to pack Perpetuem. Yes, I tried something completely new on race day. The funny thing was that unlike in my kitchen, I didn’t mind the chalkiness of the drink, and as weird as this sounds, I actually liked it. I tried to drink a bottle the next day and it was gross again, so the key here seems that it is only drinkable while running. I also drank 2 Ensures(vanilla) and about 48 ounces of root beer. My only other calories were one handful of pretzel sticks and 2 Clif-shots. An important note: I am not sponsored by Hammer and I paid full retail price for the Perpetuem, so this is an honest endorsement, not just a sponsored athlete shamelessly pushing product. Oh, and you should buy La Sportiva shoes. ;)
Toe socks: I’ve gotten a couple of pairs of promotional toe socks, and always thought they were cute but nothing more. I lose all my toenails no matter what, but I really only get blisters if my feet are wet, so most of the time I don’t pay much attention to my socks. With the forecast of rain I knew there’d be a good chance of wet feet for a lot of the time, so I went with the toesocks to prevent blisters between the toes (mostly where I get blisters). Around mile 65, I stopped to address a hotspot on my left foot (the start of my timing band snafu), and ended up changing into a regular sock because the toesock was too hard to put back on. By the end of the race, my left foot had three times the blisters of my right. Granted the left had a hotspot to begin with, but it seemed significantly different to me. So much so that I wrote to the toe sock company thinking maybe it would be a good sponsorship fit. In effect they said, “Good job on your run; here’s a coupon for you to use.” So it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting boxes and boxes of free toe socks anytime soon, but I’ll save my coupon for Western States. :)
Noakes may be onto something. I haven’t read the book Waterlogged, but I read a couple of reviews and I attended a talk from Liza Howard, enough that I think I get the gist: Drink to thirst, about 400-800ml/hr (~13-27oz/hr), and extra salt is not necessary. I drank 1 scoop of Perpetuem in 12 oz of water every half hour for the first 8 hours. I only felt bloated just a little right around that point, so I took my only two salt pills for the entire race. After that I switched to Ensure and root beer and cut down my fluid intake and never had any more problems, nor did I need any more salt. It was cool and rainy much of the day, but still, 2 salt tabs for 15 hours of running blew my mind.
No caffeine: Caffeine is a known ergonomic aid, meaning it can make you perform better. It can also lessen the sensation of fatigue. I have used caffeine in races for these reasons; however, I do very little caffeine on a daily basis and I am very sensitive to it. More specifically, my colon is very sensitive to it. I was totally spent after 100 miles, but another factor that kept me from making it the 200km was diarrhea that started right after I crossed the 100 mile finish and which lasted all night long. (My caffeine consumption at Desert Solstice: 2 double shot Clif-gels, one at 8.5 hours and one at 12 hours=400mg of caffeine total). Basically, I will save caffeine (single shots or ½ shots only!) for major downs, but I do not plan to use it routinely in races ever again. It just isn’t worth it for me. This probably isn’t such an issue for people who better tolerate caffeine.
I will always love road racing, too. Ok, don’t throw stones just yet. I love trail running, but I still really enjoy road racing, too. I know a lot of trail runners are purely trail runners, but I think I will always be a hybrid. When I race, I love to get in a groove and just GO! It’s the most efficient and I do well at it. I do pretty well at trail races that allow you to find a groove, such as Miwok and Run Rabbit Run, but I think that is one of the reasons I don’t do very well with technical trail - I just can’t get into a repetitive cadence that suits me. So I’ll race a mix of everything for the love of it, but when I really want to feel fast and smooth, I’ll be hitting the pavement.
One goal at a time. I can have extreme focus, but I realize now I can only do it for one thing at a time. I got derailed from the 200km goal, because I added in a new goal. I put a lot of focus on the new goal and then I wasn’t able to refocus on a new task after that. Talking to several people at the 24 hour race, they also had this issue. When I run a 50k, I always finish and think I couldn’t go any farther, but on other days I go out and run 50 mile races with no problem. However, at the end of a 50 miler, I’d tell you I couldn’t go any farther, no matter how slow, yet I know I can do 100km and even 100 miles. The mind and body can accomplish whatever you set out to do, but if you set your sights short, I think it is very hard to subsequently add in a new challenge. Next year at Desert Solstice, there will only be one goal: 200km. I think the same goes for training, and I’d do better training for one race at a time.
I am hoping some of this stuff comes in handy for Western States and hopefully, some of it helps you a little bit, too. Happy Trails (and roads!).