When one undertakes an event like, oh, say running 100 miles...there is alot to process.
The Ultra running community is mostly an amazing bunch of people. (ya know, there is always *one* in every crowd but for the most part...) They are a smart, kind, nature loving bunch. It is no easy feat to go out and run 50 or 100 miles. If it was, everybody would be doing it. There is alot of planning, learning about your body, we all become 'weekend scientists' trying to determine the perfect balance of electrolytes, fluids, and food that will get us from mile 1 to mile 50 or 100. Not to knock shorter distances, but there is not much thought or planning needed to go out and run a 5 or 10 mile run. Even up to a marathon, you *could* go into it without a whole lot of planning and still get through it(though I wouldn't recommend it, lol) But to run farther than that...it becomes both mental and physical. Your body is not designed to run 50+ miles. Physiologically, its just not what we are designed to do. This is why when you talk to any ultra runner they will say the race is half physical half mental because at some point it truly becomes mind over matter. With that being said though, you also need to be able to decide when to cry Uncle.
The *never try anything new on race day* rule is even more important for those going ultra distances. You can end your race in the first 10 miles. It is almost a science, really. EVERYTHING has to line up in order to finish a race of this magnitude. If one thing goes awry...even something like a blister, if not dealt with, can end a race for some. Some things are par for the course. It will hurt. When it starts hurting is different for everyone, but you will not walk(or hobble) away without some discomfort. You will get tired. Unless you are part of the very small elite field, it will take you somewhere between 9-12+ hourd to run 50 miles and 20-30 hours or more to run 100. That is a looooong time to be moving. Some people have stomach issues, which usually pass, and if not sometimes you can run with it, sometimes you can't. Either way, you have to be prepared to deal with that having back-up foods/drinks, ginger, etc. Stomach issues can end a race.
Training for these races is all over the map. There are runners who will put in 100-200 miles a week. Some say you need to be around 100 a week to do Ultras. Some say you can get by on mush less, as its the long runs and recovery(rest) that is important. No 2 training plans are alike amongst ultra runners. Every Ultra runner has a different training philosophy and does what works for them. It is very personal, and not at all cookie-cutter. To train for a 10k or marathon, the training is fairly cut and dry. Tempo runs, speed work, long run, day off. Everybody does the same thing. This is so different as you are training your body to run differently. You run slower, further, you need to learn to burn fuel differently, rest more, learn to walk and hike efficiently. It sounds like alot, but if you ask any ultra runner and they will tell you it is the love of running, and running far that keeps them in the sport. It is hard, it tests you mentally and physically, it is filled with ups and downs and it is incredibly rewarding to see how much you can physically do. It isn't for everyone, and there are lots of people who think its dangerous, foolish, and wonder why anyone would want to do such a thing. All I can say is that this probably isn't for you then :) I think every ultra runner takes races very seriously, and understands that there are serious risks involved.
When I started the race Saturday morning I felt great. I had everything planned out, with back up plans as well. I knew what I needed to do, and when I needed to do it. I stuck to that plan as long as I could. I did everything right, knowing that the heat would probably be my biggest enemy with my extreme sweating. I knew staying on top of my fluids would be key. As I was running through the first miles it truly dawned on me that 100 miles is something that I would assume unless you have completed it, is just something that is hard to wrap your brain around. I still couldn't and I was out there trying to do it. 50 miles I have always *got* as I know I can do it haing done it, and I could wrap my brain around getting up in the morning, running all day and at the end of the day I would be done, having gone 50 miles. But to run for 24-30 hours...it is a lot. :)
I felt I was as prepared as I could be when I started the race. Could I have trained more? Sure, I could have trained more, differently, etc. But I also have a life and children and a husband and I cannot ignore(nor do I want to) the rest of my life. There is life outside of running and that life is just as important to me! So I will stick to my 50-60 mile weeks, thanks :) The other very cool thing, in my mind, about Ultras is that regardless of your running 'status', of how many miles you've logged, of how prepared you are(within reason, of course) when we all step up to the starting line, we are equal. The best of the best can be hit by stomach issues that end their race early. It may not happen as often (as they are not out there for as long) but it does. No one is infallable. That is oddly comforting to me :)
So...looking back...Best we can figure based on my start weight and when they weighed me in the hospital I lost between 10-12 pounds of fluid from sweating. I don't know if I could have stayed ahead of that, and once nothing would go in...It is very possible I would have not made it past the first weigh in, which had always been a concern. I was and am ok with that. I have always maintained that it isn't worth risking my health or life to run a race. This race was extreme. It was well into the 90's with significant humidity and though there was a breeze and shade in placed, the effort involved in moving up those VT hills...had the temp been in the low 80's with no humidity it would have been a vastly different race for me, as well as many others. For perspective, close to 50% of both the 100 milers and 100k racers dropped out of the race, numerous people were taken to the hospital and there was a whole lot of puking going on out there. That is pretty unusual for that race, which has a higher finish rate that that normally. The course was certianly very runnable, and though it was difficult and VERY hilly(hello, VT!) it was not something that was impossible. I had to re-evaluate my 'goals' several times out there and my motto has always been go until you aren't having fun any more then stop. I had hoped to make it to 10 Bear(47 miles) when I knew things were going down hill, as the fun was definitely gone. Should I have stopped sooner? Probably. But, I still had a sliver of hope that things would come around, that I could find something to eat, that I could get fluids in...but it was not to be. I knew by 35 miles my race was done and just had to get to 10 Bear where my crew was.
Heat and me...I need to re-evaluate things. I need to find out WHY I am sweating more than the average stuck pig on a Texas highway :) and see if it is something I can deal with. Otherwise running summer Ultras is simply out for me. I do not EVER want to go through this again. I do not have these issues during fall ultras...so maybe my race season will be shorter than most :)
Will I try a 100 miler again? I would never say never, but it is not on the horizon right now. It has only been a year since I started running Ultras and I still have alot of miles to get under my belt. I am definitely a newbie and still have a lot to learn. This was an amazing experience, and I am glad I gave it a shot. I think for the forseeable future, I am going to stick to 50 milers as I know I can safely do them. So...looking ahead, after I recover of course ;) I am shooting for the VT50 at the end of September and Stone Cat in November. They are both doable races in much cooler weather.
Now...back to my scheduled program of rest and fluids... :)