How to Train For and Run Your First 100 at the Umstead 100
By: Blake Norwood, RD
If you have gotten this far, you are poised to begin the journey towards achieving membership in the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Hundred Milers. It is an elite society for which there is but one criterion for membership - finishing a 100 mile race. There are many excellent 100 mile events in the United States of which one of them is the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run. The Umstead 100 is held annually, usually the first week in April. By its nature, the Umstead 100 attracts many runners attempting to finish their first 100 mile race. One of the goals of the Umstead is to help new ultra runners to bridge the quantum leap from 50 mile runs to the mountainous and more rigorous demands of most 100 mile endurance runs. It will allow those runners who have difficulty finishing 100 miles in 24 hours or just finishing 100 miles the opportunity to do so when severe topography, heat, and getting lost are removed as major obstacles.
“Inside each of us are the seeds of victory or defeat.”
Examine your Goals: First, you should examine deep inside of yourself to decide if you have the determination and perseverance necessary to train for and then run a 100 mile race. This is not an undertaking for the faint hearted or those who are not willing to endure pain, suffering and many lonely miles of training. There is no dishonor in simply being a marathoner; less than one percent of all Americans have attained that achievement. Second, do you have the time to commit to the effort? Take the time you devoted to training for a marathon and easily double it. Think of your family, will they support you in this time and energy consuming undertaking? On the plus side, ultra running tends to be a big family undertaking. Many families combine ultra events with family vacations. Third, take on the challenge only for the personal satisfaction you will realize by success, for 99% of ultra runners that is all there is at the attainment of the goal. If you are still with me, you are ready to begin a journey that will culminate in your achieving what will be one of the most satisfying moments you will experience in life. It is an honor that no one can give you. It is an achievement that must be attained the old fashion way; you alone must earn it.
“Never be afraid to try something new – remember amateurs built the Ark and professionals built the Titanic.”
Marathons versus Ultra Running: As you begin your training, it will be assumed that you have completed at least a marathon and your current training would allow you to compete successfully in a marathon. It is further assumed that you are training for or have previously completed a 50 mile event. It is strongly suggested that you stair step your way to competition in a 100 mile event. Most ultra runners move up from being successful marathoners to 50 K and 50 M events prior to participation in a 100 mile event. Ultra running requires runners to learn and hone a different set of skills and knowledge not required in your basic marathon. Not only do you have to train your body physically to run longer distances, you also have to learn about fatigue and pain management over a much longer period of time. Eating and drinking in ultra running are substantially different from a simple marathon and are integral to your success. We lose more novice ultra-marathoners due to inability to eat and drink correctly during the race than we do for simple leg/body fatigue. In a marathon, many, if not most, runners complete the race with fluids alone and very little or no solid food. If you try that in a 100 miler, you will be on the sideline by 50 miles or likely much earlier. It is strongly urged that you hone your ultra running skills by stair stepping up. You will gain both experience and confidence by completing a 50 miler prior to undertaking your first 100 miler.
“There is never a crowd on the extra mile.”
Training: There is no one training plan that is right for all runners. The training plan discussed here is a basic plan that may be tailored for use by each individual. That said, many if not most of the training strategies provided here are utilized by a significant portion of ultra runners, especially those first time 100 mile runners. This training plan is not meant for the front of the pack runners, rather, it is meant for the mid and back of the pack runners. The plan discussed here will be for 100 mile training but can easily be adjusted for first time 50 mile training. The primary difference will be in the length and number of the long runs. The plan and tips contained here have been used by me to train and complete numerous 100 mile races. For your first 100 mile attempt, I suggest at least a six month preparatory training program.
First, we will discuss where you need to be a month prior to the race itself. Weekly milage should as a minimum be in the 60 to 70 miles per week range. This is a minimum and for some folks will be in the 70 to 90 mile range.
Let’s deal with the minimum, 60 to 70 miles. Here is what a typical weekly schedule should look like not later than a month prior to the race. If you can attain this level two months prior to the race, that is so much the better. Each training day will be discussed individually in some detail.
Monday - 5 to 10 mile daily run
Tuesday – Speed work 5 miles
Wednesday – 5 to 10 mile daily run
Thursday – Speed walking 5 to 6 miles
Friday – 5 mile daily run or rest day
Saturday – 35 to 40 mile long run
Sunday – Rest day – spend it with your family
The long run: The weekly long run is the most important factor in your training plan. The last long run prior to the race should be in the 35 to 40 mile range. Your goal should be to complete the long run and while tired, you should feel that you are strong and could easily continue running, especially after a short 10 minute rest. This is a training run and not a competition. If you are worn out on a 40 mile training run, you have trained too fast. The long run, for the vast portion of the run, should be in an aerobic state. Only on a few large hills should you get to an anaerobic state. If you find that you are in an extended anaerobic state, cut back on the pace. We are practicing to run far, not fast. Occasionally during the long run add in a quarter mile or half mile “frolic” increasing your speed noticeably. This will use other muscles and break the monotony of the long slow run. Some runners prefer to combine the long run with an actual ultra event. Participating in a 50K or 50M event is fine as long as you remember you are in training and not competing. Whatever the event, you want to feel good at the completion of the race; I like to say “used but not used up.” I would not participate in any 50M race event within 30 days of the 100 mile race date. Much can be learned in an actual event from both the experience as well as other runners. You must fight the urge to compete; you are training! The exception to the non competition rule is if the event is more than 90 days prior to 100 mile race day. Long runs early in the training program may be in the 15 to 20 mile range working up to the final 35 to 40 mile range over a period of months.
Night Runs: At least two of your long runs should be at night. They should start at such time as you will complete the training run in the 3 am to 6 am time period. I suggest that you do this run on a Friday night after a full day at work. Have a nice meal with your family or friends and then after full dark begin your run. If possible, try to find a training venue that will mimic the actual race course. If not available, work on a training course that is tougher than the race course. The night run will let you get some experience for how you will feel running on race night. You can also get experience with different types of light sources and see which you like best. You can also work with different types of clothing for cooler weather as well as how you can best stay awake. For me, simple activity and the caffeine in Pepsi is enough to do the trick. Some folks seem to have a difficult time staying awake after midnight and want to take cat naps. While this works for some folks, the clock is still ticking and the stiffness you experience at the end of the nap is at best unpleasant. Do whatever it takes to keep moving and not nap.
Inclement weather training: Do not cancel your long run plans for simple inclement weather like rain. Races are very, very rarely cancelled for inclement weather and then it is usually massive snow on the course, hurricane damage or forest fires that cause such cancellations. The Umstead 100 has been run in temperatures of from 28 degrees at night to 86 degrees during the day. We have had rain, sleet, wind and lighting; the clock kept running during all these inclement weather periods. Actually our norms are 68 degrees F high, 45 degrees F low and sunny but sometimes we don’t get the norms. Learn to run in the rain. What clothes do I need and how am I going to handle it? There is no substitute for experience; just don’t get your first inclement weather experience during the race.
The long run and eating: The long run must also incorporate eating and drinking training and experimentation. Again, more runners are lost to lack of energy from not eating properly than for muscle fatigue. On any run over 10 miles in length, you should integrate eating and drinking training. You need to train your body to process food and liquid while on the run and train how to eat, if not on the run, then at least on the walk. Many first timers spend entirely too long in aid stations eating and drinking. After food selection, most of the eating can be done on the walk while you are making progress towards your goal. Just 3 minutes extra in 20 aid stations is a full hour lost in making forward progress; which is a loss of 3 miles of progress for most folks. If you are on the bubble for either a 24 or 30 hour finish, you will wish you had those miles in the bank near the end of the race rather than having to push harder to make the goal. If you must stop for longer than 1 or 2 minutes, be sure you sit down and get the weight off your feet.
Training should include eating a wide variety of food and some diversity of liquids. Try to find out what food stuffs and liquids the selected race has on its tables and use those. Once you find what works best for you, be sure you have that available to you at the race. I will attach the Umstead 100 food supply list to this article; not all races have this wide diversity of food. I believe it is difficult to run 100 miles on just gel packs and energy drinks. Most folks get so tired of just one or two items that the mere mention of them later in the race makes them sick. I suggest becoming familiar with a wide variety of food. Later in the race, foods that are easy to swallow become more important. I find that canned peaches and pears, milk and ice cream work well for me; find out what works well for you.
The daily runs/workouts – Monday: You have had a day of rest from your weekend long run and are ready for the daily workouts. For Monday, I suggest a run of from 5 to 10 miles depending on time available and where you are in the training program. Early in the program, you may want to run the five miles and work up to the 10 miles as the race begins to near. These runs, while not all out at race pace for these distances, should be very brisk and tiring. You should get into a moderate anaerobic state with elevated heart rate and increased respiration for much of the run. If your best 10K is 42 minutes, you should run at a 45 to 47 minute 10K pace. If you are a 75 minute 10 miler, then train at an 80 to 83 minute 10 mile pace. Train hard but not race pace for these distances. Obviously these runs should be substantially brisker than your long run pace.
Tuesday: As most of your running will be done at far less than race pace (for any training distance), I suggest a day of all out speed work. Options to consider are miles, half miles or quarters. I prefer miles and quarters alternated every other week. For quarters, start with at least six quarters and work up to at least twelve quarters with a quarter walk in between each speed quarter. Run all out seeking to set a PR for each quarter. Try to keep the final quarter within 10 % of the best quarter. If you run a 75 seconds best, try to make the worst not more than 83 seconds. For miles, start off with two and work up to four with a half mile walk in between. Again, try to make the last one within 10 % of the first one. These are speed miles/quarters and you should be in a serious anaerobic state at the end of each quarter or mile and fully need the recovery walk to get back to near rest condition. For most folks, this is the least favorite workout but the speed day will make the others seem like a walk in the park. It will also help you increase your speed on both the daily workout as well as the long run. It is reasonable to occasionally skip a day of speed work if you are just too tired. These should be quality quarters and miles not done just to get them over with. Here I note, some folks just detest speed work and will not do it. While I believe it is good for your training, you could substitute a regular Monday workout in place of speed day or run speed every other week.
Wednesday: Same as Monday.
Thursday: Walking day; a somewhat fun day. For most of us, walking will be an integral part of the 100 mile race; why not train for it? Work up to 5 or 6 miles of continuous walking at a 12 minute/mile pace on flat track like conditions and 13 minutes/mile (12 minutes/mile if you want a real challenge) on single path trail with rolling, uneven terrain. This is not easy to attain but will make your 18 to 20 minute walking pace on race day seem easy. This is a walk; absolutely no running or trotting. If walking with a partner and you can’t keep up don’t fall prey to running to catch up. You will find that you are using different muscles for the walk. It is good that they are getting a workout; you will need them on race day.
Friday: This is an option day. For me personally, it was a rest day before the long run. My thoughts are to make the long run a quality run and not be tired going in. If you feel like you do not need the rest day, then do a shorter Monday type run or even some upper body strength work. See what works best for you as you get into the training program. If doing the long run on a day other than Saturday (ie, a Friday night run), adjust the daily workout to sequence for the critically important long run.
Saturday: The long run discussed earlier. There is no substitute for long run training. You will not likely be successful without the long run training. Some folks believe in back to back long runs as a training technique; usually in the 20 to 25 mile range on back to back days. While it may work for some, I recommend only one quality long run per week. The long run distance does not always have to increase. Some weeks you may choose to run shorter for a variety of reasons from time available to simple tiredness.
Sunday: A day of rest after the long run and to let your family know you have not abandoned them. Occasionally your body will become tired and you will feel listless or lacking energy. This is your body talking and telling you to rest some. It is certainly acceptable to cancel some of the long runs to let your body heal and reinvigorate itself. We want quality long runs not just miles. Over a period of six months training, this may easily happen four or five times; listen to your body and rest when you need it. Proper rest during training is easily as important as any other factor in your race preparation. If necessary for rest, sickness or injury, take a full week off; it will not be the end of your quest. More likely it will bring you back refreshed both mentally and physically. Some of my best races have come just after forced rest for sickness or injury.
Tapering for the race: Two to three weeks prior to race day, you should begin to taper your running program in preparation for the race. The rule is: better too much rest rather than too tired. You have trained long and hard and now it is time to back off. I suggest the last long run of 35 to 40 miles be three weeks out, certainly not later than two weeks out; let’s say three. The daily training remains the same for three weeks out. Two weeks out drop the speed training and make the long run easy and in the 15 to 20 mile range. One week out, no long run. Daily runs shorter and easier than normal on Monday and Tuesday. Walk two or three miles easy on Wednesday. Rest on Thursday or gently recon the course by vehicle and very short walks. On Friday, register, check your drop bag, enjoy the camaraderie and stay off your feet. What is the taper rule?
Know the course and race rules: Once you select the race you want to run for your first 100 miler, register early. For the Umstead 100, once registration opens, register immediately; to tarry, is to invite not gaining entry into the race. You should thoroughly read all race information sent to you and see what local race rules will impact you and your crew. You do not want the race director or race captains upset with you or your crew for not following the rules. Those rules are there in the best interest of the race and of the runners as a group. Develop your travel plans early. Get to the race on Friday morning if traveling by plane; to wait until Friday night is to invite travel delays and not being on the starting line on Saturday morning. We have had runners report to the start line as much as 6 hours late due to air travel delays. We are going to start at 6:00 am whether you are there or not.
For the Umstead 100, much information on the course is contained in the race packet, course profile graph and course map. Study them! If you live within car travel distance, you may want to visit and run the course prior to race day. The Umstead Marathon, run usually three weeks prior to the Umstead 100, provides an excellent opportunity to gain knowledge about the course. If you get to Raleigh on Thursday or Friday morning, it is fairly easy to drive and walk short distances and see some of the key points (not all) on the course. I recommend such a reconnaissance as long as you are not on your feet too much.
“Statistics don’t lie but liars use statistics”
Umstead statistics: In planning for your race day, a few timing statistics may be useful to you. One of the more common stats used in 100 mile analysis is the fifty mile factor; which is the ratio of the second 50 mile time to the first 50 mile time for each runner? That ratio is expressed as a decimal factor. In the Umstead, the overall second 50 compared to the first 50 factor averages about 1.30. That is to say, if you run the first 50 miles in 10 hours, you can expect to run the second 50 miles in about 13 hours. In analyzing recent Umstead runners with finishing times between 23 and 24 hours, the fifty mile factor average is 1.27 with a range of 1.20 to 1.35. This range represents one standard deviation from the average and contains about 90 % of the runners in this finish period. For runners in the 28 to 30 hour finish period, the average fifty mile factor is 1.30 with a one standard deviation range of 1.20 to 1.40. The extremes of the Umstead fifty mile factor range from 1.12 to 1.58. For planning purposes as a first timer, you should use a factor of 1.30 and you will likely be within 15 to 30 minutes of your actual second 50 mile time compared to your first 50 mile time. Later we will suggest how you might use this factor in planning your Umstead 100 race lap by lap. As a rule of thumb, if you want to be a sub 24 hour runner, you need to be at the 50 mile mark by an elapsed time of 10:30; 10:40 at the latest. While we do have sub 30 hour finishers with a first 50 time in excess of 13 hours, they are the exception rather than the rule. If you want to have a little more confidence about an official sub 30 hour finish, be at 50 miles in 13 hours or less. Actual runner split times are available on our website: www.umstead100.org.
“Planning is as natural to the process of success as its absence is to the process of failure.”
Your Race Plan: You should develop a race plan as to how you intend to run the race. It should have both a best scenario and a fall back position. Study the race course map and course profile. You should see both as you drift off to sleep at night. For some point to point races, you may want to carry a water proof copy of the race map with you. For the Umstead, you should know where the aid stations and water points are located and what is available or not available at each. You should know where the major hills are located and have a plan of which sections of the course you plan to run and which hills you plan to walk. For the Umstead, it is recommended that you break your plan into goals and strategies for each of the eight loops. It should include desired lap times, walk/run strategies, food and drink options, medication needs and clothing and equipment changes, especially for night. On clothing, “it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” Your run could be ruined by a night rain shower if you are not prepared for it. You might think you could run from one AS to another without the proper clothing but it’s not the same 60 to 70 miles into the race. One little shower or sudden drop in temperature can send you into hypothermia and the end of the race for you. Share your plan with your crew; drill them on it.
If you are going to have pacers, recruit them early and try to have them train some with you on the long runs. Be sure your pacer knows the race rules and how to take care of themselves’ and more importantly, what your expectations are of them. It is customary for the runner to give the pacer some remembrance from the race like a race tee shirt or race hat. When you Google a race like the Umstead 100, you are likely to find numerous race reports from past runners. These reports can be a source of valuable information for you as you plan your individual race strategy.
Be sure all clothing and especially shoes have been tried out on long runs prior to the race. It is very good to bring a third pair of shoes that is at least a half size if not a full size larger than your regular running shoe. Feet tend to swell during a 100 miler. Be sure those shoes have some miles on them. Plan what you are going to do for blisters, upset stomach, pain and inclement weather. Know where drop bags are allowed and at the Umstead 100 be sure to have a fully stocked drop bag at AS#2 as well as at Hqs AS.
As a first timer, if you feel that simply finishing the 100 miles is your goal, I would suggest you set a time goal of 28 hours. This will allow you some latitude if the wheels fall off later in the race. It will also give you confidence if during the first laps that you are on the 28 hour pace. While the Umstead has only one cutoff time at 87.5 miles, the stress of feeling you are constantly on the bubble does take a mental toll during the race. If during your training you see that you can set a more optimistic goal, then do so but keep a secondary goal of finishing in your race plan. “The best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry and leave us naught but grief and pain for promised joy.” Have a backup plan!
Running the race with a partner: Some runners decide to enter a race together and desire to run the entire race together. It can be done but is not very realistic. There are too many factors that go into a successful 100 mile finish than to burden one’s self with a relatively difficult goal of running all the way together. A much better goal is to run together as long as both feel it is beneficial. The moment one feels the other is running too fast or slow for them, then, they should acknowledge this fact and the partner should strongly encourage the other to go on and run alone. Even for closely matched runners, the day never unfolds the same for any two runners. High and low points are hit at different times, equipment or minor medical issues are encountered. One runner needs longer in the aid station; the other runner resents this. My advice, this is an individual undertaking, approach it as such. The Umstead course will give the two runners numerous chances to see and keep up with each other. If at 50, 60, or 70 miles you are very close together, maybe then you can decide to finish together. I can tell you from experience that one runner is always faster and either he must give up part of his race or the slower runner must run a faster pace that will in the end create an obstacle to achieving the original goal.
Lap plan for a 28 hour finish at Umstead 100: First calculate the 50 mile splits for a 1.30 fifty mile factor. This becomes 28 divided by 2.30 and equals 12 hours and 10 minutes for the first 50 miles and therefore about 16 hours for the second 50 miles. The Umstead has 12.5 mile laps. The average lap for the first 50 miles becomes about 3 hours and two minutes per lap. Based on this average, I would try for the following lap times: lap 1- 2:45, lap 2- 2:55, lap 3- 3:05 and lap 4- 3:20 for a total of 12 hours and 5 minutes. The second 50 miles average lap time is 4 hours. I would break this into the following lap times: lap 5- 3:40, lap 6- 3:50, lap 7- 4:10 and lap 8- 4:20 for a total of 16 hours. The grand total for this schedule is 28 hours and 5 minutes. This schedule leaves 1 hour and 55 minutes of float time that could be used where needed. Again, if you get to the 50 mile point in 13 hours or less, you have a better than average chance of getting an official sub 30 hour finish.
Lap plan for a 23:30 finish at Umstead 100: For a sub 24 hour finish, I would plan for a 23:30 finish time. Like before, calculate the 50 mile splits. 23:30 divided by 2.30 equals a first 50 mile time of 10:15 and a second 50 mile time of 13:15. The lap average for the first 50 miles is 2:33 per lap. I would break this into the following lap times: lap 1- 2:20, lap 2- 2:30, lap 3- 2:35 and lap 4- 2:45 for a total of 10 hours and 10 minutes. The average lap time for the second 50 would be 3 hours and 19 minutes. The second half laps look like: lap 5- 3:00, lap 6- 3:15, lap 7- 3:25 and lap 8- 3:40 for a second half total of 13:20 and a total time of 23:30. This leaves a narrow but very usable margin of 30 minutes for the unexpected.
Umstead 100 - The Course: This section will deal in detail with the current 12.5 mile Umstead 100 course with the airport spur. Running tips here are generally oriented towards the mid to the back of the pack runner. The topography is the same for all and front runners can decide for themselves as to how to best tackle the course. This description should be used in conjunction with the course map and the course profile.
The Start: The start utilizes a, one time only, .4 mile section of the main park access road into Camp Lapihio. We use this section of road as it is smoother and slightly wider than the first .4 mile on the actual loop course. As this starting section is 500 feet longer than the actual loop course, I suggest not running this section at any other time. If you do happen to run it, there is no penalty as it is longer than the official section of the course.
Mile 0 to .6: This is the roughest footing section on the course. There is a small downhill start with timbered steps leading to an uphill section of park access road. The course surface here is crusher run material and lots of small rocks. I recommend walking most of this section, especially in the mid to later laps, to the level section beginning at mile .4. Use this time to eat and drink and rest for the runable parts of the course to come. Trash cans are provided out to the .35 mile point. At the .6 mile point you intersect with the main bike and bridle trail. At the gate, take a right onto the airport spur.
Mile .6 to 2.1: This is the Airport Spur, run only on the outbound leg of each loop. Here the footing becomes excellent on the packed powered granite screenings; there are very few ultra courses that have a better surface than this. To the mile 1 point, the course is flat and then has a gentle downhill to the turnaround point. Then back up the gentle, runable hill to the flat section and the exit from the Airport Spur at its intersection with the Headquarters Spur. This entire section is runable during all laps. There is an excellent view of the RDU airport on this section. A water fountain is passed at both the .6 and 2.1 mile points.
Mile 2.1 to 3.4: As you leave the Airport Spur, you continue straight on the Reedy Creek Trail. This section is typical of the Umstead course as you encounter rolling terrain over the entire section. This section of course is all runable except for a short hill at mile 3.1 which I suggest you walk starting not later than lap 2. To this point on the course, you have been running for about 2.6 miles without a break, take one here. At the 3.4 mile point, you intersect the main loop section of the course. Be careful not to turn left where other runners are coming uphill as they complete the loop section. Also at mile 3.4 is water point number 1, which will also have a small food box.
Mile 3.4 to 5.3: This section starts off with a short uphill, on Reedy Creek Trail, which you should walk from WP#1 to the top starting with loop 1. Why? The next .8 mile is downhill and should be run until past the bridge over Crabtree Creek. For every downhill there is an equal and opposite uphill and here it is, the longest single uphill section on the course. This hill is steeper near the bottom and gentles out nearer the top. I recommend, in the early laps, trying to run from the bridge to the lake (about .1 mile) and then start your walk; later in the race, you may need to start walking at the bridge. For you mid packers, as you come out of the gentle “S” curves and see the long straight-a-way you may want to run to the top of the hill. Do this only in the early laps. Why? The next section is runable to AS#2. You back of the packers will likely want to walk the entire hill to its intersection with South Turkey Creek Trail and start your run there.
Mile 5.3 to 6.85 (AS#2): As you turn left onto South Turkey Creek Trail, there is still a short, gentle uphill to WP#2. From the water point it is gentle downhill all the way to AS#2. While there are a couple of short gentle swales on this section, you should endeavor to run all of this section for as long as you can. The section ends at AS#2 located on old Crabtree Creek Bridge.
Mile 6.85 to 9.5: The dreaded Sawtooth 79 Section. After a short flat section from AS#2, you turn left back into the woods on North Turkey Creek Trail and the start of Sawtooth 79. This section is so named for how its profile resembles the teeth on a saw blade and it occurs from mile 7 to mile 9.5. There is almost no flat here. Every downhill is followed by an uphill. Several are short, .1 mile or so. The two major hills, at miles 7.8 and 9.1, are real stinkers and are walked by all but the very bravest starting on lap 1. For you mid and back of the packers, my best advice is, starting early in the race, to walk all the uphill and run all the downhill; this will mean a lot of stopping and starting on this section. Water point #3 is located at mile 8.6.
Mile 9.5 to 10.6: We leave the Sawtooth as we turn left onto Graylyn Trail at the top of Power Line Hill. We are now on a wonderful downhill section, about .80 miles, to the stone bridge at Sycamore Creek. Run it all! At the bridge, we begin the climb that will take you to WP#1 and the entry point back towards headquarters. Walk this hill to WP#1, which you passed earlier in the lap. Turn right on Reedy Creek Trail back towards Headquarters.
Mile 10.6 to 11.9: WP#1 starts this section and is on a fairly gentle and relatively short uphill section. After stopping for water, run the uphill section for as long as you can; there likely will come a point in the race where you will need to walk this section. At mile 11.1, you encounter Cemetery Hill; it is a walker from the start. From the top of Cemetery Hill to the water fountain, gate and entry point back to headquarters, the course is rolling and runable.
Mile 11.9 to 12.5: At the water fountain and park gate, turn right off the main bike and bridle trail onto the park access road to Camp Lapihio. Be careful not to go out on the Airport Spur at this point. The Airport Spur is run only on the outbound leg from headquarters and you are in the “short rows” for this lap. After the gate, the course is flat for a short while and then goes downhill on the rocky park access road. At mile 12.3 (also .2) you will pass a latrine reserved for runners only; this is the closest latrine to the race course. Just as you see headquarters and the start/finish line, the race director has put in a final diabolical hill for you to climb to the finish. On lap 8, walk if you must but most first timers muster the energy and will to run up the hill to the finish line.
“Come back victorious or come back upon your shield.”
Race weekend: All the hard work of training is now behind you and you are poised to begin the adventure of a lifetime. Enjoy it! Apprehension is natural; but, if you have trained hard and developed a good race plan, there is nothing more you can do. Your attitude must be as the above admonition from a Spartan mother to her son. You are a lean, mean running machine and nothing will drag you off that course short of “bone showing”. Your mental outlook on the race now becomes just as important as all those months of training. The first 50 miles will be run with your legs; the second 50 will be run with your head. Nothing will stop you now; not blisters, not weariness, not throwing up, not cramps, not sleepiness, not missed pacers, not lack of sleep on Friday night, not failing flashlights, not heat, not cold, not rain and especially not self doubt. You are a machine and you can run all day and all night and part of the next day if needed.
Registration, briefing and dinner: Be sure to register on Friday and get that prized Umstead 100 race bib number. Only 250 will be able to wear that bib; you are one of those who will pursue the dream in just a few short hours. Attend the race briefing to get any last minutes changes and instructions. The supper is a great time to meet other runners and discuss plans for the next day. Get to bed as early as possible after a last minute check of all gear and your drop bags. Set two clocks; there is not much worse than worrying if the alarm will go off. The Umstead cabins are a good way to get an extra hour’s sleep in the morning, if you don’t mind bringing and sleeping in a sleeping bag.
“Go forth and enjoy the day for it will not come again.”
Race morning: Rise in plenty of time to get some breakfast food in you. Do not worry, if you did not get a good nights sleep; you will not be the first 100 mile finisher who only got a couple of hours sleep. The anxiety and apprehension the night before are just part of the story. Go over your race plan one more time. Take a pepsid-ac for your stomach; it will pay dividends later in the day. Get the drop bag to the correct place. Eat more if you can. At Umstead there is usually only about 30 minutes of darkness before you have morning twilight; many folks go without a light in the morning. Reinforce your determination that nothing will pull you off the course prior to 100 mile. Again, your mental attitude is just as important as all those months training. “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
“There is no fate but what we make”
Lap 1: As you toe the starting line, reinforce your lap 1 time goal and stick to it. Too many runners have gotten on the “easy” Umstead course and trashed their legs and energy level by going out far too fast. You must resist the urge to run faster than you planned; you will be glad later in the race. If seeing the full course for the first time, start identifying those hills that will become walkers, if not on this lap, then by the next lap. Reinforce your race strategy as you make this first circuit. You will feel great and finish the lap thinking this is a good start.
“Persistence prevails when all else fails”
Laps 2&3: Put your walk/run strategy into full operation on these laps. While you could easily run most of these hills, holding back now will pay running dividends later in the race. You do not want to be reduced to walk only at 50 miles. Be sure you are eating and drinking at each manned aid station; you will not make it if you don’t eat. Take some food with you to eat on the hills. Walk out of the aid stations while eating. “Eat before you are hungry, drink before you are thirsty and walk before you are tired.” These are the three golden rules of ultra running; put them into affect. Check on your lap times and make sure you are neither too fast nor too slow compared to your race plan. It is not time to adjust the plan at this point. Did I mention eating and drinking? If it is going to be a hot noon and afternoon, cut back on the pace and save your energy for the cooler night hours.
“Pain is my friend” “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”
Laps 4-6: You are now in the heart of the race. Destiny is now fully in your hands. The rush of the early laps is now behind you and the real work is beginning. Pain and tiredness are now starting to rear their ugly heads. This is the point where taking it easier in laps 1 to 3 begins to pay dividends. You can still run all the flats and down hills and in lap 4 can likely still run some of the very gentle uphill sections. The expenditure of 30 extra minutes over the first 3 laps will save you hours in the middle and latter parts of the race. Pain management, while a personal thing, becomes more important. I, personally, am a believer in pain medication. Within reason, take what is needed to subdue the worst of the pain. It makes running easier if you are not in constant discomfort. You should not try any pain medication that you have not tried in training. Early in this segment is time for your second pepsid-ac. Eating and drinking regularly continues to be a must. Never pass a staffed aid station without eating and drinking. During this period, there will continue to be sandwiches, hamburger, and hot dogs. As night falls, there will be pizza and various soups. Eat or you will not be successful. Stop if you must but get solid food into the engine. If you are a sipper, be sure your bottle is full as you leave the AS. As you pass 50 miles, you can now get a feel for a reasonable finish time. Most folks who go on to break 24 hours pass 50 in 10:30 or less. If you want a 30 hour finish, you need to be here not later than 13 hours. The end of lap 4 is the time to look at the race plan and make adjustments as necessary or desired. If you are having a great day, you may think about holding your lap times more constant and shoot for a better finish time. Listen to your body. If it has been a struggle to keep up with the race plan, then maybe it is time to go to plan “B” and use that float time we built into the original plan. Prepare for night as you go out on lap 5. As night approaches, the temperature will drop and you need to be prepared. Do not get caught by a sudden temp drop as your stressed body can not handle it very well; take an extra layer of clothing, preferably polypropylene or a wind suit. Be sure to take your light. If the AS personnel are not keeping you current with the weather, ask them. At the Umstead, the AS Captains’ monitor the weather bureau forecast. If it has been hot during the afternoon, you should have cut back on your pace a little and got plenty of liquid in you and on you. I like to use the creeks to wet my head a few times. Take care of blisters when they first start feeling warm.
“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, nor a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”
Laps 7&8: Remember I told you the second 50 miles is run with the head; here is where you realize it is true. Your iron will is now what propels you forward. You are tired, sleepy and everything hurts; you must fight through all this. You have made it 75 miles; there are only two laps to go. If you are on your planned schedule, you now have plenty of float time to attend to some blisters or stop to eat a little more. Pain medication and a third pepsid-ac may be just what the doctor ordered. Be sure when you stop to get off of your feet. Don’t tarry too long as your muscles will begin to freeze up from the lactic acid build up. Be sure you have extra clothing as you are very prone to hypothermia at this point. Repeat to yourself, “If it is going to be, it’s up to me.” Begin comparing your miles left to your training run distances and courses. Remember how easy it was to do those distances during training. Your crew and friends are now counting on you to finish. Do it for them as well as yourself. Last lap, if the “bone is not showing,” I will make it. Enjoy this victory lap; it leads to your goal, only a few hours separate you from that goal. Remember to run that last hill to the finish line. You are there and it is over. For most, the pain and fatigue will be overcome by a flood of emotion. Be sure to thank all those who have helped get you here. While you alone accomplished the feat, many folks have helped you along the way. Acknowledge their part in your success.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."
Summary and challenge: As you read this article, remember that everyone is different and what worked for me may not work for you. Tailor both your training plan and race plan to fit your needs, abilities and goals; but, have both. Truly examine your motivation for taking on this challenge; only set out on this journey for the personal satisfaction you will derive upon achievement. It is too arduous a journey to undertake for any other reason. Talk with and get the advice of other ultra runners. They are a wonderful source of experience and information and almost all are willing to share those experiences with you. We at the Umstead have designed the Umstead 100 for participation by first time hundred milers as a major objective. We hope many of you will come and run your first hundred with us. For those of you who take up the challenge, I envy you. You are about to undertake a rigorous challenge that will likely become a life goal; the accomplishment of which you will never forget. I look forward to seeing many of you at the Umstead 100 finish line some Sunday morning in early April.
Blake Norwood, RD