There were a lot of things went well and I also made a lot of newbie mistakes. In the end I did not finish. The 100 mile run is not easy.
They say running a 100 miles is to overcome issues that crop up along the way. To finish you have to overcome those. Some can be anticipated ahead of time, but some only pop up as you run. I found you can’t prepare for every contigency.
What went well for me? The start time was better than expected. It was one of big concern – because I couldn’t start too early or too late since I have to make it to Stone Mountain during time when it is open (from 10-8). Also I would have to pay attention to the finish time, you don’t want to finish too late, or else can’t find a ride home. It is best to finish during day time. I chose to start at 7 pm on Friday night. It was hot. But actually that time, already became cooler. Most of the run, I had some cloud covering. It could have been hotter still. The first few miles, I had some sprinkling of rain. Luckily no thunderstorm, though it was forecasted. I am so thankful, because there is no way for me to get up on the Stone Mountain when wet (it is very slipery).
It was really really hot. Even after sun down as I ran throughout the night I was sweating crazy. My body kind of adjusted the next day but was not enough. I knew I was dehydrated because I couldn’t pee. I tried to drink as much as possible and was water logged. I was glad there were gas stations that were open. They were on the way. Some though were not open. I had tough time finding any that were open at 3 am in the morning (They say they were open but door was locked – it could be the employee was sleeping in the back).
The route was nicely planned. I went through the safest part of Atlanta during the night. The run started on Kennesaw mountain. It was way out of Atlanta, and costed me an arm and leg to go out there. People at Marietta, the town just nearest to the mountain, were very friendly and they live up to my expectation of southern charm. I come from DC area, no one in DC would give you a second look or say hi or smile, that is the culture in the DC area – and it is normal. But here in the suburb of Atlanta, people are quite charming.
So I made my way throughout the night in the Atlanta Suburb. I arrived at downtown Atlanta in the morning. Oh by the way, some neighborhood in Atlanta is 24-7, people were still standing outside at 4am in the morning. Not good people I know. Luckily they didn’t bother me. By the look, I think they were pimps and prostitutes. I don’t remember the name of the locale, but the bar/or whatever it is, Babylon was interesting. I never met any real hookers in real life, and so it was sort of an eye opener for me. Well they didn’t bother me and I passed by.
Inner Atlanta was ya, unexpected and also expected. It was around 6 ish, when I arrived. I passed by a very poor neighborhood. It was definitely scary. I lived in poor neighborhood when I grew up, but it couldn’t prepare me for this. The people didn’t bother me; it was just a different feel. They are people of color. That is a mark of Atlanta, a huge population of African American.
I came across many different parts. Saw wall paintings. You can say they are part of the culture or part of a dysfunction society. I have seen more black people in Atlanta than my whole entire life, so was kind of an experience. I came across a small BLM protest on my run, (Black Lives Matter) organized by mostly by white people, you can tell to see who marched in it, while I was sitting by the side of the road outside the gas station/convenience store with couple back people around — and it was almost a joke or insult. You have a serious economic inequality here and all the social programs of the past half century didn’t make a dent and people parading around saying BLM. It is a bigger issue – I have visited Indian reservation (Navajo), and pouring money and food assistance didn’t get people out of proverty but instead highlight something seriously wrong with our nation.
People open your eyes to see the condition of black people. I know BLM is about anti police violence on black people…but look at the bigger picture. I came across several police officers and they are white. I also saw an older black man asking direction from a police … my heart skipped a beat and I think the black gentlemen too (long story: we were locked in a park at Stone Mountain, they closed the gate early due to the 4th July celebration, and we couldn’t exit the park). However, I didn’t get to interact with many blacks except for one of my uber driver. Racial tension definitely is more pronounce in Atlanta than in DC. Here in DC we are like one happy family.
An observation, and I read about this too, when a community is poor, there is hardly any ‘good’ grocery store. As I was running, only place I can get food was at a gas station, and their choices were all junk food. I was so used to running in my own neighborhood in Northern Virginia where I have Giant Food, Whole Food, Safeway, Walmart. There are array of good stuffs here in Northern Virginia. Not so in Atlanta. There is no 7 Eleven in Atlanta either. I came across of a lot of Fried chicken places. No wonder we are so rich up north. It it is quite a different feel down in Atlanta. On the side note, I miss asian stores/restaurants — because I couldn’t have Tom Yum soup on the run. High salty soup is very beneficial for long run.
OK let discuss what didn’t go well. My pack was too heavy. There were many reasons that let me to not finishing the run. But one of the contributors is a heavy pack. I repacked it three or 4 times. In the previous post, I mentioned of taking the larger 18L pack instead of my smaller 6-8L. However before my run start, I swapped back to the smaller pack, and cut out half the stuffs. It was a wise decision, however, it was not enough. The weight though was still heavy. The reason being was I carried the full load of water, close to 3L and food, more on that later, because I didn’t expect any store to be open until day time. The weight issue really kill me. I carried the electronic gear, flashlights, phone, battery charger, wires, stuffs I normally won’t have on me on my usual runs. I also had a first kit, and a lot of food – way too much. More on this later.
Second, dress. I was debating wearing short sleeves versus long sleeves. I chose long because I wanted to avoid sun burn and I didn’t want to carry sunblock. Sunblock is heavy, even with the travel size. I could have put a dab of cream in a ziplock. Initially I had a bunch of ziplock bags, however, when I packed my suitcase, I tossed them out at the last minute and came to regret that decision. I was over heating the whole time in my long sleeve. It was made with breathable material, however, the heat sapped my strength. About mile 30 in I was done running. I walked until mile 77 ish. However, the chance that I could finish on time was out of my grasp. The race was pretty lenient, because if you run 1/3 of the way and walk 2/3 you can finish within the time limit. I was cutting close.
Cooling. I didn’t implement active cooling strategy. I should have pour water on me. I should have soaked my towel and cap with water, that would have helped a lot. I did this for other races but forgot to do it on this race until after I already decided to quit. If I implement this earlier during the day, I think I would have gotten farther in the race and might have finished. I was concern of ‘wasting’ the limited water I had.
Third issue, was food. 100M requires / expends a lot of energy. It was one issue I kind of knew but didn’t pay enough attention. I estimated of expending about 4000-5000 calories. By the time I stopped, I already used 8,000 plus of calories and that was only about 60% into the race. I should have prepared or know I would burn 12,000 of calories. I was vastly undestimated my needs. I understand it was impossible to reload myself that amount of calories within the race time, but my failing was not having any in my body other than fruit juice and other sugary drinks cut into my performance. I believe what killed me was by the 24th hour, I was out of energy. I could still walk but running was impossible. Understand that if I don’t put in energy, my body would start burning the muscles to fuel the expenditure and that was very bad indeed because muscles take a long time to regrow and be redeveloped.
What about the 2400 calories I packed? Since swithing to a smaller pack, I had to take 1200 calories out. The other 1200, I ate maybe 200 -400. They were granola, and it was very dry. They say, don’t try anything new on race day!! I didn’t take that advice. So I carry those heavy bars on me and did not really eat that much and took them back home. I should have jettisoned them a quarter way in when I felt I am not going to use them so to lighten my load.
The core of the matter of why I couldn’t finish is I got lost too many times. I can’t blame the turnsheet. There were definitely some errors on there, but some of the parts I caught them in my preparation. I marked them by hand on the print out, however, I didn’t use thst print out. I reprinted a new turnsheet on double side and the new turn sheet didn’t have the marking. I lost about 10-12 miles of keep making the wrong turn. My map was outdated too, and a lot of street names were changed. I wished I had memorized or more familiarized with the route. This was the first time I was running a race using turn sheet and map. I spent maybe 12 hours learning before I came up a system how to do it efficiently. Those first 12 hours were costly. Also I probably was sleep deprived. How I kept missing the turns was I kept zoning out in my run. It was horrible and frustrating. I was so used to running by zoning out because in all my races, there were either someone in front of me or the trail is blazed and those were easy to follow. But this race was like a scavenger hunt. You have to be on your toes. I was not used to it.
What new way I found? One is to keep your turnsheet and map out at all time! My phone gps died on me on some portion. That was the worse thing that can happen. Also the route on the phone kept disappearing. I had a lot of problem with it. Only by morning, I started to use exclusively a map and turnsheet and I became better at it. What I originally did was I kept my map in my pack, and every so often I would pull it out. It wasted too much time. It required stopping midrun to check the map and turnsheet. So in the end I found a way to fold the map showing only the next few sets of turns. It helped a lot. This is from hiking skill – but I was dumb and didn’t translate the skill learned in hiking to my running.
Night run was also worse in that I kept getting night blindness. The flash light was too bright. Every time I checked the turnsheet and then looked back up, I was blind. My vision took too long to recover. I did use a red filter lamp, but there were times I forgot and blinded by my own light. Those were reflected light too. I felt next time, I should wear an eye patch on one eye like a prirate!
What else I didn’t talk about? Flashlight/batteries. My headlamp was dying and I didn’t get batteries for it until at mile 62. By then I had already decided to quit, but I did buy batteries for the headlamp at a gas station 🙂 The whole week leading to this run, I was telling myself to buy batteries. Batteries was one of the concerns and I couldn’t make time to get them before my trip. It was a shot in the foot. During the race, I used a handheld bike light. It was heavy. I did have a very light handheld one, but it lacked batteries. So it was like a consolation at my last pit stop I brought new batteries, though too late.
My biggest concern going into the race was pain and sleep deprivation. Noted that I didn’t sleep on Thursday, because I was trying to reset my sleep to the morning but wasn’t successful. During the race slept deprivation was not that big a deal. I was full of adrenaline the whole time. I didn’t fall asleep until I was in the uber, heading back to my hotel. However, there were still 40 plus miles, if I tried to finish the 40 miles, I bet sleep derivation would play a big part whether I would finish or not.
As for pain, I didn’t feel too great a discomfort at mile 77. There were still 40 plus miles so I don’t know if I could have survive the pain. As some people say, the race just only get started at mile 80. The first 80 miles were just warm up. The fun stuff, and I missed that experience.
The pain I got at mile 77 was chafing. I believed my butt was bleeding from the chafe. I applied vaseline before the run but wasn’t enough. Also my underarms were chafed. I properly could have endured the pain for the next 20-40 miles, but it was definitely no fun. I wish I had kept some vaseline in a ziplock bag so I can reapply halfway in the race.
Blisters started to form at mile 75. They were not too bad. I took off my shoes. Popped the tiny blister on one of the toes. Put some body glide on my feet. Changed to new socks. I believed it would have last for the next 20-40 miles. This was the first time I do blister care in mid race and I was so proud of myself. The aid kit came in handy! They even have the safety pins for popping blisters! I was so impressed.
My “planned chaos” really killed my race. In my hubris I was hoping to pull through even with many mistakes I made. It was a series of small mistakes building up and finally I couldn’t handle it any more.
Conclusion. There were a lot of what-ifs. The race was only about 2/3 in. Who know what other problems the remainder would bring. However, I could have done a lot better in the first 2/3 by carrying lighter stuff, packing better food and eat them, study, really study my run (map and turnsheet), keeping the body cool, wearing better clothes, managing or minimize chafing issues, sleeping better on the day before the race. All these would have made a difference.