100 Mile Training

Before you read any of this please understand a few things:

1.  I'm not a doctor and you should always get a health professional to clear you for training before running one step.

2.  I'm not trying to win races.  Most of the time, I'm not even pushing myself into "race" mode where I go as hard/far as I can.  I enjoy the experience of running a ultra and finishing it is my primary goal.

3.  As of writing this, I've only finished 51 ultra marathons (four of them 100 milers).  I'm not really qualified to write something like this, but so many people ask me about training I just thought it would be easier to post a copy.  At the time of writing this there were a few other training plans available on the net.  It may be wise for you to consider several of them and work with what you think is best for you.

4.  I believe in low mileage training.  If you're looking for 60+ mile week training plans then this is not for you.  I don't have anything against those plans, but I'm sharing what is working best for me.  I've tried both and this is the one I prefer.  I'm married with two children, have a full time career, and other things I enjoy doing in life.  Running fits around my life, my life does not fit around running.

5. I've stolen nearly all of these ideas from other runners with more experience than me.  I'm still learning too.
How do I know when I'm ready to take on a 100 mile race?

When you dream of aid stations filled with magical pots of gummi bears you're ready.  No seriously...

In my opinion, you should have been running ultras for at least a year.  The more 50Ks and 50 milers you've completed, the better.  I've seen runners complete 100 milers as their first race.  That's amazing to me and I can't recommend it, but it can be done.
I highly suggest that you run a looped 24 hour event several months before your 100 miler.  This will give you a chance to test all of your gear, nutrition, mental capacity, and see what you need to fix.  Running 70 - 85 miles during this event will give you a good idea of how you may feel during the 100 miler.  Don't "race" it all out, use it as a learning laboratory.  Things will go right and they will go wrong.  You may even struggle so badly that you have to take several hours off to recover.  THIS is the time to learn how to run 70+ miles, not your 100 on race day!

If you don't have a burning passion to run a specific 100 mile race, then don't sign up for it.  This passion and fire in your belly will help you finish when the going gets tough during the race.  Signing up for a race that doesn't really mean anything to you opens the door for poor training habits and a DNF (did not finish) on race day.  I have two DNFs at hundred milers, trust me on this point.

100 Mile Training Plan

This plan takes into account that you already have a big enough endurance base built up to complete a moderately difficult 50K under nine hours.
I'm going to explain workouts day by day instead of giving you a long list of numbers and weeks in a chart.  You're smart enough to build your own plan from whats provided.

Monday - Speed or Hill Workout.  Do whichever you like, but alternate them at least every two weeks. There are a ton of these workouts at your disposal online.  Try them all - it will be fun!  Your mileage will be between 4-6 miles.  Always warm up & down for 5-10 minutes before and after every workout.

Tuesday - Easy Run. 4-6 miles.  Keep an easy pace, even if you feel like going hard.  If you're very tired from Monday mix in some speed walking.
Wednesday - "Double" Easy Run. 4-6 miles for both runs. Keep an easy pace, even if you feel like going hard.  Maybe do one run early and the other around lunch. 
Thursday - Tempo run 4-6 miles.  Once again, search online for Tempo Runs and you will have plenty of training ideas to use.  

FridayRest Day, Cross Train, or run 3-4 easy miles if you are on a low mileage week.  You may even consider power walking this day because you will need this skill during your 100 miler.  Don't be ashamed to power walk!  

Saturday - Long Run 13-50 miles.  At least once per month or every other month try to use a ultra race as a training run for your 100 miler if possible.  Or include running friends during your long run.  Be sure to try and do these runs on a similar course that you will run your 100 on.   Your goal during these long runs is to find a comfortable pace that you can keep doing, even after your run is finished.  Experiment with your gear & nutrition on these runs too and find what works best.

Sunday - Rest or about once every six weeks do a 10-12 miler on this day as a back to back run in conjunction with Saturday.  If you do run, then take Monday off or run just a few slow miles.  

Your goal will be to average 55 miles per week leading up to your hundred mile race over a 6-12 month period.  Occasional putting in a 70 mile week and sometimes as little as 30 miles.   You will be ready to tackle your 100 on race day if you stick to this plan. 

You should never go over 75 miles in a training week unless you have a 24 Hour Race that week. 
As you train use the popular method of building mileage by adding 5-10% onto your weekly mileage and then cutting back 25% every three to four weeks.  In other words, you should have a relatively low mileage week around 30-35 miles at least once per month.

If you get sick, then rest.  If you get injured, then rest and/or go to the Doctor.  Rest is just as important as training.  So is your diet - try to eat as much nutritious food as possible.

The race!

As I said earlier, only sign up for a 100 miler if you REALLY have a passion to run and finish it.  There are so many to choose from now with varying terrain and locations.  Pick the one that excites you most.  Don't be afraid to make a financial investment into the race.  This will also help you push forward during your toughest moments.

The course will determine a lot of your logistics, but here are some tips for your first 100:

  • Have a pacer(s) for as much of the race as it allows.  A running friend will keep you on the course and give you a huge mental lift during dark times in the run.  The pacer will make sure that you are getting proper nutrition and gear at each aid station too.  It can be very difficult to be running alone and see another runner joking & having fun with his pacer.  Get one and use it to your advantage!
  • Have a crew.  Your crew will probably include some of your pacer(s).  The crew drives to aid stations along the course with all of your gear so you have exactly what you want when you need it.  If you can't have a crew, then use drop bags as they are allowed at the race, but these will not be nearly as effective as your crew.
  • Realize that the race will NOT go exactly as you've planned it out.  Anything can happened during 100 miles and it will.  The runners who find themselves crossing the finish line are the one who adjust well while on the course.  If your gear fails, you get blisters, you lose a headlamp, etc, don't let it get you down!  There is a way to fix just about everything and get you back into the run.  A solid crew and pacer will really help in this situation.
  • Live in the moment.  As you pass over the 40-50 mile mark it is easy to get intimidated and frustrated knowing that you have so many more miles & hours to go.  Enjoy the "Now" and the beauty & friends you have around you.  You should constantly be thinking what do I need to do to take care of myself?  Eat, drink, change socks, take a salt tab, etc...If everything is fine with you, then don't be afraid to reach out to another runner who may be struggling.  This can give you both a big lift.

I'm certainly no expert on ultra running, but hope that these tips may help you in your journey to finish a 100 mile race.  If you have a specific question that is not covered here email me and I will try to help you with it.  If I don't have an answer then I can probably find someone who does.  jasonsullivan27@gmail.com

Best wishes on your 100 Mile Race!

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