Preparing for any major ultra, especially 100 milers, requires a huge investment of time and energy, not to mention the cost of traveling to the race. If I am going to go to all that effort and expense, I want to make my chances of success as high as possible. The more knowledge I have about any particular race and the conditions I can expect to encounter, combined with other pertinent information the greater the chances of success.
To that end, I subscribe to Ultrarunner and Trail Runner Magazines and read them from cover to cover. Yes, I have learned a lot form both publications, and from a few web sites, but most of the information I actually use while training or racing came from other trail runners. All of us have experimented with shoes, equipment, food, electrolytes, and so on. We have learned what actually works for us and what does not. I hope this will be a forum to share our "hard learned" knowledge.
For me, the most valuable information comes from "middle-of-the-pack" runners as well as those of us who sometimes find ourselves racing the cutoffs. In 2009, I went to the June training camp for the Leadville 100 trail run held in August. Sunday night, following the days run from Twin Lakes, over Hope Pass to Winfield, and back, I attended a forum with eight or ten locals who had finished 10 or more Leadville 100 races. The founder of the event, Ken Chlouber, was introducing Duncan Callahan, the winner of the race the previous year, and comparing his finish time to one of older 10+ time finishers. He said something like this: “After Duncan finished, he could have rested a while, gone back to his room and taken a shower, had a big meal at a restaurant, slept 8 hours, had breakfast and come back to the finish line in time to see – (Pointing at the older runner, probably as old as me) – John finish.” (I actually do not know the name of the person Ken was pointing at, but “John” will do.) Of course, everyone had a big laugh, but it was true. Duncan could have actually done all that.
In the 2008 Leadville Trail 100 Run this was critical. Duncan finished before the severe weather hit which knocked out so many runners. The later finishers encountered intense lightning, hail, snow, freezing temperatures, and torrential rain during the latter stages of the race. I do not know for sure about all runners, but I do know that I run so slow in long trail races that I generate very little additional body heat to help keep warm. When I was younger, I could run a 10K or even a marathon in nothing but shorts and a long sleeve “cotton” shirt in sub-freezing temperatures and never be cold.
This example of Duncan and “John” is a good one. The guys up front racing for the win in15 or 18 hours do not experience the same problems or fatigue those of us running 26, 30 or even 48 hours, as I probably will, if I ever get in Hardrock. We are running twice a long and therefore have a much greater chance of blisters, stomach problems, joint injuries, dehydration, hypothermia and the list goes on and on. These middle-of-the-pack and back-of-the-pack runners are the runners I want to help because that is the type of runner I am.