After retiring from the Navy in 2011, I started to run and dedicated myself to sign up to events and enjoy what running is all about. As of today, I have participated in a total of 109 Half Marathons including one in all 50 states, 18 marathons and 20 Ultramarathons (of which six are 100 miles).
What is an ultramarathon?
"The last few decades have seen growing numbers of runners regularly tackling distances exceeding the traditional marathon. So-called “ultra-marathon runners” contest races from 35 miles (56km) to 100 miles (160km)—and occasionally further—in a single stage. Running a 100-mile race typically involves running the distance nonstop in one go in anything from 28 to 40 hours. There are usually time cut-offs along the way, meaning a good proportion of the distance will need to be spent running, including during the night and carrying a certain amount of kit (waterproof jackets, spare warm clothing) and also food and drink, as the aid stations may be very far apart," wrote Lisa Jackson in her article "Everything you need to know about running your first 100-mile race".
100-mile event is about prep, mindset and recovery
Let's set the record straight, I don't consider myself a fast runner. I typically average around middle of the pack and sometimes back of the pack. Elite athletes impress me and what their bodies can accomplish fascinates me. I am equally impressed with runners who show up and get it done – even if they finish one second before the cut off time. It takes a lot of hard work to continue to move for over 30 hours.
During the lockdown, I took the time to invest in myself. I got my certification as a yoga instructor. As I fundamentally believe in the importance of mindset and flexibility, I practice yoga a few times per week.
To help me review my diet and build muscle strength and endurance, I also hired a health and fitness coach during that period. Everyone is different and having someone who could provide personalized attention to myself versus opting for a cookie cutter plan was key for me. Kristen Ziesmer, registered dietician, certified specialist in sports dietetics, owner of Elite Nutrition and Performance and certified personal trainer, helped me get my nutrition dialed in and set up a three day a week full body strength training program.
In addition to working with my trainer, when I prepare for a 100-mile race, I use Byron Powell’s training program "Relentless Forward Progress". As the first how-to manual for aspiring ultrarunners, his book provides detailed guidance such as the number of times per week we must run to build our endurance (for a 100-mile event, I run 5 times per week). He truly covers every aspect of training for racing ultra distances.
Eating and hydration during a 100 miler
Over the course of the training period, I follow my daily dietary macros.
About three days prior to a 100-mile race, I let myself eat anything and everything my body wants and I make sure I'm hydrated at all times.
The night before (if it is a morning start time) I like to eat pizza because it is my feel-good food and gets me into the mood. For the Country Mile race, we had an 8 pm start and I actually ate a Chick-fil-A sandwich, fries and a coke along with a cold brew coffee from Dunkin Donuts around 3 pm.
Photo taken during my latest 100-mile event at the Country Mile.
During the race, I prefer real food as opposed to gels and chews. Starting early with food and hydration helps me tremendously. If I get behind with my nutrition, it inevitably has an impact on my stamina during the race.
I drink every mile or more frequently when my body dictates. I use a variety of electrolyte products; mainly because I have a finicky stomach and once I find something good for my body, then I tend to stick with it. I also get bored of the same stuff for 30 hours! My favorite electrolytes include: Moxilite Daily Sport Hydration, Liquid IV, Infinit Go Far, and I also drink the Moxilite Hydromag and BCAA’s as well as plenty of water. I also even drink Pepsi and if my stomach is queasy, I go for Ginger Ale.
Each race has been different with regards to foods. It all depends on the weather, the time it starts and even what I feel like. During the most recent race, I had pancakes, hummus on tortillas, guacamole, ramen noodles, oatmeal, grits, YooHoo drinks, fig newtons, clementines, pb & j’s, gingersnaps, and pizza. In other races, I ate beans and cheese burritos, berries, rice krispy bars, garlic bread, cliff bars, chocolate milk, just to name a few things. If I use gels or chews, my go-to are Huma Chia Gels, Honey Stinger Performance Chews and bites from Fuel-100 Electrolytes. It truly is about being in synch with my body and what it needs at any given moment.
Photo taken at the Yeti 100 mile endurance run.
Gratitude, the core of my mindset
Every race starts with gratitude. I am thankful for this amazing opportunity to be at the starting line and knowing that I will be able to finish the race. These positive thoughts get me going. Since 2011, my motivation has been to run for those who can’t. It started as a way to honor my brothers and sisters in arms who didn’t make it home from the war and for those who came home, but were forever changed. As I ran more and more, I added reasons and motivations that I had a personal connections with – ALS, cancer cure, suicide prevention, etc. Some races are mentally more taxing than others. That is when I have to go back into my memories and remember the reasons I toe the line. God has given me this endurance ability that I had no idea I even had. I may not be fast, but much like the turtle, I will continue to move one step at a time and for that I praise the Lord.
How to recover after an ultra-marathon
Recovery is my favorite time!
Within an hour after finishing, I have a recovery drink. Infinit Repair was my favorite for a few years. Most recently, after the Country Mile event, I was introduced to Without Limits recovery shakes. It tasted so good that I immediately decided to sign up and become one of their affiliates.
During the three days following the race, I always eat and drink without any restriction. After that, I go back to my macros plan.
To reduce soreness faster in my legs, I always wear my Caliloko recovery pants. To walk comfortably and reduce pressure on my feet and joints, I wear Oofos sandals. To relax my body, I take hot Epsom salt baths (I know that many people enjoy cold baths, I haven't tried that yet).
As for active recovery, I continue to walk and do yoga. I take a week off from strength training and at least three days off, sometimes even a full week, from running.
My running clothes consist of Enell sports bras, Injini toe socks, Topo Athletics shoes, my bottoms are an assortment of shorts, skirts, capris, leggings (BolderWear, SkirtSports, Caliloko, CWX), calf sleeves from Caliloko, Zensah and OS1st (I like to put the sleeves on, at around mile 50). I tend to chafe and Salty Britches lube has been a game changer! I highly recommend it to everyone. When I am running, my body is extremely sensitive to seams. I have had amazing pants or shirts only to be left with welts from a seam. I would have never had a clue these seams would do that.
As a firm believer in alternative medicine, I have a session every other week with my chiropractor. A good massage therapy session is also crucial. I visit mine every month. I also add a session the week before and a session after a race.
I guess when it comes down to it, I am an eclectic hodgepodge runner. Thankfully, I am stubborn enough to not give up.
♥ ♥ ♥
More about me?
I am married to a wonderful man who is also an ultrarunner and Ironman. Now 53 years old, I am a mom of four, Grammy to 4 and 1 on the way, retired after 24 years of Naval service. I grew up in a small town in Nebraska and now live in South Carolina. I love to travel. I have been to all 50 states and several countries throughout the world. Faith and family mean everything to me. I have a Masters degree, I love to learn and am always finding things to read about or ways to increase my knowledge. During the lockdown last year I became a Certified Yoga Teacher. I also represent the brand Runners Daily Vitamin. The 2021 running schedule is unusual for me, as most of my races from 2020 were moved to 2021. That is how I ended up with two 100-mile races in 2 weeks and another not long after, the Keys 100, on May 15th, 2021. After those, I am signed up to the 100-mile Yeti Endurance race in September 2021 and then the Tunnel Hill 100 in November 2021. I am also registered for the Black Hills 50K in South Dakota.