Zeke’s Tips for a Great VT100
If you’re normal, you’re beginning to get a little nervous, you’re wondering what you should be doing from now until VT100 race day, and you’re afraid that you haven’t done enough training.
What I’m about to impart is basically aimed at first-timers, though seasoned veterans may catch a new point or two, and a refresher can’t do any harm.
Make your drop bags ahead of time and don’t cram them full of everything you own. A small backpack or gear bag about 9” by 9” by 16” is sufficient. The bottom line is to keep it simple, with the basic items you might need during the race, so that you can find them quickly.
- extra shirt
- extra shoes, maybe a pair at about 30 miles, and another at 40 to 50, just in case
- Gels, electrolyte supplements,
- change of shirt
- light jacket or long-sleeved top for the cooler nighttime running
- some band-aids,
- Tums or other antacid
- changes of socks
- Head lamp and small handheld LED flashlight, with extra batteries and at least one other headlamp at a later night station. PUT NEW BATTERIES IN ALL OF THEM.
Study the aid station mileage chart and figure out approximately when you’ll be visiting them. For example, if I’m anticipating completing the 100 in 28 hours, that’s 28 x 60 min./hr. divided by 100 miles = 16.8 min. per mile. For the Pretty House aid station at mile 21.1, multiply 16.8 min. x 21.1 mi. = 354 min. divided by 60 min./hr. = 5.91 hrs. or 5:54. Since the race starts at 4:00 a.m., you’ll get to Pretty House at about 9:54 a.m. You can do the same for any aid station, and I suggest especially for those you’ll be reaching in the evening, in order to figure where to place your night gear so that you have it at least a half hour before the sun sets at 8:25pm. When I have a crew, I make a table of expected arrival time at aid stations where they’ll be meeting me, based on a range of finish times. I might choose 26 hrs., 28 hrs. & 30 hrs. I’d do the first one for Pretty House, since that’s the first place that my crew can meet me. If I arrive at 9:45, we can all see that I’m just a bit ahead of a 28 hour finish pace, so they should plan on meeting me at Stage Road, the next Handler Station, about 20 minutes earlier than what the sheet says for 28 hour pace. As the day goes on, you and they can develop a good feel for what kind of pace you’re maintaining.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer to wear a light breathable cap to keep the sun out of my eyes, and also to soak with cold water, and even ice cubes if it’s hot. If not a cap, then sunglasses, but you’ll just have to soak your bare head. For me, glasses just fog up, so I don’t wear them.
Plan on drinking regularly, by carrying water or a favorite energy drink in a backpack style carrier or in a water bottle in a belt unit. If you don’t carry any liquid you’re not going to be able to keep hydrating the entire time, and in a couple of instances you’ll be going without liquid for 5 miles, which is way too long to be without it, even if the weather happens to be cool. I’m trusting that you carried liquid during your training runs, so that you’re used to drinking on the fly. On the flipside, don’t over hydrate, because if you drink just plain water, and too much of it, you’ll flush most of the sodium out of your system.
RUNNING VS. WALKING
Run until that gets to be too hard, then walk until that gets to be too easy. As silly as this sounds, there’s wisdom to this method. Previously I talked about the hills. Many of them go up, and just as many go down. Plan on walking anything more than a gentle uphill, and plan on running anything that goes down. Early on modest uphills may seem like a piece of cake, but a dozen hours into the race, they’ll seem to be steeper and more difficult. Walk the uphills, but do it with meaning. It’s not just a slow Sunday stroll, but you’re attending to business. Just before you get to the top of the hill, switch into an easy jog, and then start running just after you get over the top. 5K, 10K, Half & Marathon runners consider that walking in a race amounts to failure. In a 100 it’s smart business, and the best way to prevent failure.
In the process of walking, jogging and running 100 miles you are going to be on an energy roller coaster. That’s to say that at some points you can expect to feel really tired and down. When these lows happen, and I predict that they will, don’t get discouraged, but slow down, relax and you’ll work your way through them. Sometimes all it requires is some more hydration or ingesting an energy gel, blok or drink, and a brief break from running. Keep in mind that walking is quite OK, and a person moving at a brisk walking pace the entire way can probably finish a 100 in less than 30 hours. On the flip side of the coin, there can, and most likely will, be times when you feel quite good and experience highs. These are great, but don’t get greedy. Savor these ‘gifts’, and don’t shift into a fast high gear. Keep moving along at a slightly faster pace and enjoy the feeling of well being.
TREAT YOUR CREW/PACER RIGHT
If you have a support person or crew, please keep in mind that he/she/they are giving up the better part of a day just to assist you in this somewhat unusual effort. As such, remember to treat them very well, because they are providing very valuable assistance. Unfortunately I’ve observed 100 mile runners yelling at, or otherwise mistreating those who are supporting them. When I’ve been in the midst of a low, I can get to be irritable, but I’ve NEVER taken it out on my crew. I’m basically mad at the world, or something that’s not going well, but I value my crew far too much to abuse them. Keep in mind too, that it’s accepted practice to reward any members of your ‘supporting cast’ with a gift, either just before or sometime after the run. If they’re coming from a longer distance, you should consider paying for their gas or their airfare.
It can, and may, get hot during the day Saturday. I’d say on average that it gets at least up into the 70’s or low 80’s, and sometimes into the 90’s. In 1999, the year BEFORE I first ran Vermont, it was 97 on Saturday and 98 on Sunday. Those ended up being the two hottest days of that year. Just rotten luck for the runners. You should start checking the forecast for Windsor Vermont the week prior (see our blog side bar too!), keeping in mind that anything more than 4 days before shouldn’t be considered gospel. You will, however, be able to see trends, and should pay special attention if it looks like it’s going to be hot. If so, you need to modify your intended pace and estimated finishing time. It’s one thing to bull your way through a 5K on a hot day, but that just won’t work for a 100. One way I’ve found to keep cool is to wear a neckerchief, and keep soaking it with cold water at each aid station. If you have a crew, make certain that they’re carrying a cooler with ice. I put a wet washcloth in a Ziploc bag, and have them keep it in the cooler right down in the ice cubes. When you’re hot and sweaty, washing you head and neck with that cloth provides glorious relief.
RUNNING WITH THE HORSES
Before my first time of doing so, I was afraid that they were going to spoil my race. In the contrary, they provided some distraction and made the event that much more special.Will they run over you? The answer is no. On the contrary, they want to slow down to your pace, though their riders may not like it.Horses love people and really ‘respect’ humans who run. (In most instances their owners don’t run) On running with horses, there’s one simple word to keep in mind: Communicate. When a horse can’t see you (i.e. you coming up from behind or at night), it doesn’t know you’re a person until you say something. Then, the steed immediately calms down. This is doubly important after dark, when the horse senses your presence well before the rider does. Regardless of the time of day, start chatting with the rider as soon as you’re within voice range. You’ll find that the riders are most friendly, and basically in awe of you because you’re doing 100 miles ON FOOT! If they want to pass you on the road, they’ll say so. If you want to pass them, usually on a trail section where they’re moving slowly and carefully, converse with the rider and ask if you can pass. They’ll tell you when you can do so
LIGHTING THE TRAIL
I suggest that you plan on carrying a small, disposable flashlight for the first hour, which will be in the dark, and includes some trail miles. It’s a small price to pay to ensure that you don’t trip early and mess up the whole race. Trying to ‘parasite’ off of others’ lights is inviting trouble. If you wear a headlamp, and plan on keeping it, keep in mind that the first place you can stash it isn’t until Pretty House at 21.1 miles.
THE WEEK BEFORE
You’re not going to get any better or stronger, so concentrate on just staying loose and resting up. You can do some easy miles, but don’t plan on anything aggressive. Just as with the Marathon, you’ll find your energy stores improving in the days prior, and you must be careful not to go cleaning the attic or piling cords of wood. Do some regular stretching, and enjoy resting because you, and your body, have earned it.
THE DAY BEFORE
Friday is check-in day, so you’ll most likely be spending some time at the Silver Hill Start & Finish area.
- bib pickup
- runner expo
- great pre-race meal right there under the big-top tent,
- time to enjoy meeting other first-timers and veterans.
Of course, you may want to stick with your own meal, and not want to socialize, which is totally up to you. Personally, I feel that the camaraderie is one of the most important special features of a 100, and an opportunity to meet wonderful people who generally don’t take themselves too seriously.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
Lay out your running attire and peripherals now, so that you’re not trying to make decisions in the morning. Pin your bib on now, because that’s one of the most nerve-racking tasks if you wait until the morning just before you run. I suggest on your shorts, rather than your shirt, because you’re less likely to be changing shorts, and may be wearing a second layer on top when and if it gets cool. You may not sleep well, or much at all or for many hours (The 4:00 a.m. start means getting up rather early, the 100k start at 9am can seem early to some), but do your best to relax and remember that it’s the rest you got on Wednesday and Thursday nights that’s much more important. Even if you hardly sleep (that happened to me one time), just relax and know that your body is getting rest from the fact that you’re reclining.
THE MORNING BEFORE
Do get up early enough so that you’re not rushed in your preparations. There’s the basic shower and other bathroom stuff, of course. Treat your feet as you’re accustomed. Use Body Glide, or such on the rubbing locations, and take at least one electrolyte caplet if you use them. Make certain that you have your water topped off, and are carrying your gels or Bloks, etc..
I envy you if this is your first 100, because it’s a very special ‘first’, and mine was one of my most memorable experiences.
Have a Great Run!