A couple of weeks ago, I took a challenge that I once would have considered impossible. I ran 100 miles in one week. And while that may not seem insane for a lot of ultrarunners, a 100 mile week was a huge accomplishment for me. I wanted to find a way to join my 50 miler training with a mission that was important to me. And after the murder of Vanessa Guillen, I needed a way to workout everything I was feeling.
So, I decided to run 100 miles in honor of 100 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. I dedicated each mile to one woman, and was able to fund raise just over $1,000 for the National Indigenous Womens Resource Center. The 100 mile week allowed me to stay connected to the spirit of chasing big goals, and make a positive difference. The experience was amazing and brutal all at once. And today, I want to share what it was really like to run a 100 mile week.
Preparing to Run a 100 Mile Week
In true type-A fashion, I did not embark on this goal without a lot of obsessing and planning. Honestly, I was equal parts excited and terrified, and getting everything prepared was fun for me. I like lists, what can I say? I knew that figuring things out midway through the week, when I was highly likely to feel like a running zombie, was not a good choice for me. So, I did what I always do when I’m about to do something crazy. I made a schedule.
I knew that I wanted to somewhat mirror what I had been doing with my 50 mile training schedule, which meant saving my longest run for Saturday and following it up with another double digit run on Sunday. Based on my recent long run distances, I figured that a 22 mile long run would get a decent chunk of the miles out of the way, and maybe wouldn’t kill me the way a 50k distance might. Knowing that most of my Sunday runs have been about 13 miles meant that I could account for 35 miles over the weekend.
That left me 65 miles to break up over the week. I decided that having a lower mileage day on Friday would be somewhat intelligent, and basically filled in the rest of my week around those days. After realizing that I would need to run between 13 and 15 miles for most my week days, I checked my PTO balance. And since it’s 2020 and there has been zero reason to use vacation time, I had a solid amount hanging out. So I decided that I would only work half days, in the afternoon, and take Friday completely off work.
I was feeling pretty optimistic about my ability to get the miles done, knowing that I wouldn’t have to try to rush back to log in for work until after lunch. Then, I did what most women would do to prepare for a big event; I ordered new shoes. Honestly, mine were 7 seconds and one strong breeze away from death, and there was no way they had anywhere near 100 miles left in them.
I also washed all of the running clothes in my home (which took approximately 27 hours because I have a lot of running clothes), so that I wouldn’t have to worry about finding clean socks on Thursday. And then I went to Target to make sure I had all the snacks.
As a quick recap, here’s what I did to prep:
- I scheduled out my daily miles
- I took time off work
- I ordered new shoes that weren’t nearly dead
- I washed all the running clothes
- I bought all the snacks at Target
What Kept Me Alive
Now that I had all the snacks, all the clean clothes, and new shoes, it was time to run 100 miles. Honestly, the most of the miles weren’t that taxing. When you’ve been running 18-20 mile long runs almost every weekend for a few months, running 13-15 miles isn’t the worst or most difficult thing in the world. But it’s also no leisurely walk down the Home Goods aisles, staring at Fall décor, either.
There were a few things I did to help keep things from falling off the rails:
- I treated all my runs the same as I would a regular long run, which meant that I prepped my clothes and fuel the night before.
- I ran as early as possible to try to avoid the heat as much as I could. In Texas, it’s not exactly possible to avoid high temps in August, but I did my best. Getting a couple of my miles in before sunrise helped. It also gave me more time in the afternoon to focus on recovery – foam rolling, stretching, massage gun, all the food.
- Making recovery a priority. It would be so easy to not do all the recovery things, because let me tell you I was POOPED some days. And recovery takes effort. But prioritizing hydration, electrolytes, Epsom salt baths, massage, and stretching really helped keep me from breaking down.
- Taking a tumeric supplement. Inflammation was the absolute enemy, and I was doing pretty much everything I could think of to keep it at bay. Tumeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, and I was all for that.
- The majority of my runs were split between the roads and trails to help me not take 17 hours to finish, and to keep me from dodging rogue cars all morning.
- On at least 3 days, I employed the strategy of the “lap,” or lunch time nap. Having a cup of coffee and taking a 20 minute nap was able to bring me back to life faster than every character who died in True Blood.
- I connected with other people in the running community. I shared my plans for the week through a couple of facebook groups, and talked to friends that were runners. I was fortunate enough to have a woman in one of those groups reach out and ask if I wanted some virtual company during the week, and we both ran 100 miles “together.” Having other runners to encourage, support, and motivate me throughout the week was a huge morale booster.
- I listened to my body with fueling and resting. On days that I was hungrier, I ate more. On days that I was tired, I took a nap. I trusted that my body would tell me what I was needing, and I was pleasantly affirmed.
- While I didn’t abandon the gym entirely, I shifted my strength workouts to light weights and shorter sessions
- I asked my husband for support. This was really key for me, and it’s something I always want to encourage other runners to do. When you’re taking on big goals, ask for help. Allow your people to support you. My husband was amazing, and hung out with our kid in the mornings, always had coffee ready for me, fed me innumerable times, and did not make a single complaint when I climbed into bed at 7pm.
What Was Hard
Even though I was able to get through my 100 mile week without needing my last rights, the week was far from perfect. The planning and preparation went a long way to help me keep things together, but there were definitely some hard parts. For most of the week, the miles felt tolerable. Tiring, but tolerable.
After about 3 days of double digit runs, my feet swelled up in the evening. Not entirely unexpected, but less than comfortable. The next morning, the feet were normal, but by about 6pm the swelling returned. This happened pretty much every evening until I took my first day off after the goal was accomplished. A pair of swollen feet was a small price to pay for dragging them across 100 miles, but it did make walking around in the evening a little less pleasant.
Related Post: Surviving Summer: Running in Heat & Humidity
And then there was the constant heat. Despite my efforts to head out in the early mornings, I still got a whole lot of sun. Sunscreen was a daily thing, but after spending 2+ hours outside in the August heat I basically turned into a walking inferno. I felt a lot like Robin Williams setting himself on fire in Mrs. Doubtfire. Feeling hot at night is my absolute least favorite thing, and I wasn’t super happy about unrelenting fever.
The last major nuisance was the chaffing. Dear Lord, the chaffing. I love Squirrels Nut Butter, and I used it quite liberally. But between the sweat and the numbers of hours spent running, but day 3 I had a few little hot spots. By day 5 those spots were raw. And by mile 7 of my long run, I was trying to figure out if there was a way to change my form that would eliminate any of my skin touching my clothes. Or other skin. Shockingly, I wasn’t ever able to find the magical form.
It took several days for the more irritated patches to heal. Honestly, my legs and muscles and legs were ready to get back to it a lot faster than my skin.
What I Would Do Differently
So there were a few lessons learned over the course of 100 miles. I learned just how far I could push myself, and how resilient the human body really is. I learned that even if the first mile or two feel awful, things can start to work themselves out a few miles in. If I had to do it all over again, and I am by no means saying that I ever would, here a few things I would do differently.
- Strength workouts – I kept the weights somewhat light, but I did have a few workouts early on that were on the higher end of the rep scheme. I immediately felt my legs muscle start to cramp once I went up over about 7 of anything straight through. I would still program strength workouts, and I would keep the weights light, but I would probably lower the reps and include a little more variety in movements to prevent muscle fatigue.
- Scheduling – For the love of all things chocolate, I would never do this in August in Texas ever again. I had a small time frame because my 50 mile race is happening in October, and honestly I just had a fire that I needed to work out a little.
- Long Run – I had planned to run my longest run on my second to last day, since I’ve been doing back to back long runs for a few weeks now. What I hadn’t planned for was the amount of chaffing that would take place during my long run, and the fact that I would have to go back out for another run with all of that lovely chaffing. If I were doing this a second time, I’d keep my longest run for the last day of the week.
- Shoes – I ordered a new pair of shoes right before the week began, and this was a very smart decision. I wish, though, that I had ordered a second pair a half size up. I’ve never really run enough for my feet to swell significantly more than they do any typical long run. This week was different. I have been planning to grab a pair of shoes a half size up from my usual size to change into during my 50 miler, just in case. I wish I had ordered those shoes for this 100 mile week, because after about Thursday my shoes felt realllllll snug.
So there you have it. Running a 100 mile week involved a lot of planning, a lot of chaffing, all of the snacks, and a whole lot of support. It was hard, and it was absolutely worth every raw spot and blister. Would I do it again? Right now, the answer is an absolutely hell freaking no. However, ask me in a couple of months when I need something crazy to do, and the answer might be a maybe. Running is a hell of a drug, my friends.