Running 100 Milers


Experience From - Gene Thibault , Larry Gassen ,

Gene Thibault

Subject: How Do You Do That?

From: Suzi T's 100's Newsletter, edition #12 1994

I approach this years Arkansas Traveler 100 with some dread. I had put in adequate training and felt injury free, yet I hadn't run more than 38 miles in three years. How was I going to run the extra 62 miles? Suzi and I have always believed that more people drop out of 100 milers because of mistakes on the day of the race rather than any lack of training. Therefore, I had to rely on this premise to get me through. It did! I had a very good race even though I trained less for these than any others. As a matter of fact, my hardest training led to my only 100 DNF, but that is another story. What follows are some ideas, strategies, and tricks that may help in your next 100 miler. You can either accept them in full, in part, or reject them all together.

What to take along for the trip?

Although Arkansas has excellent and close aid stations, I decided to carry my two bottle Ultimate pack. It is light weight and fits snugly. I kept the weight down but didn't want to be in trouble between aid stations and not have what I needed. Some aid stations that are only 5 miles apart may mean 1 1/2 hours or more towards the end of a race. My basic pack contained:

  1. Medication kit with Advil, Rolaids, and time release caffeine.

  2. Salt. I carry rock salt. It tends to help the stomach absorb fluid. So when I get that queasy stomach, I put two or three crystals under the tongue and suck or swallow. It works fine.

  3. Blister kit containing two large patches of Second Skin, mole skin, enough tape to go around the foot (this keeps the Second Skin in place). A sterile hypodermic needle for drilling tow nails or releasing fluid form under them.

  4. Plastic garbage with arm and head holes cut out. It is to be worn for warmth and protection from the rain. You might sweat in it but it is light and can save you race and/or your butt.

  5. Sandwich sized plastic bag with hard candy. I often need a sugar boost and hard candy works for me. You can refill at aid stations.

  6. Toilet paper - need I say more? Yes, scented or colored paper does not biodegrade as rapidly, use camping quality.

  7. Small film canister of Vaseline or, even better, use Bag Balm. This is necessary if you tend to chafe and need some soothing ointment to prevent or treat the irritation.

  8. At night I hand carry a 2 C cell Mag-lite and have a spare 2 AA cell Minimag-lite in the pack. I also carry extra batteries (Energizers only) and bulbs for each. Replace batteries as the light dims, before they run completely out.

  9. Other stuff - depending on the weather I might carry a wind breaker, gloves, and a poly pro hat.

  10. I will carry two bottles. On one hand a 26oz bike bottle with strap and on the other hand a wide mouth 20oz screw top bottle for other liquids. I can easily mix Metabol powder to put soup in it TO GO!

I know this sounds like a lot to travel with but, I can pick up or drop off some of these things from crew or drop bags along the way. If you can't stand the replacement drink served at aid stations take some film canisters and refill them from drop bags. On fill canister of Exceed to one bike bottle does the job for me. If you plan for trouble it might not happen. If you don't, watch out! It is no fun looking for some TP and finding you have none or having a bulb go out.


  1. Shoes. I have been running in Asics GT II's for years. I have never had to change them during a run, even when wet. Find what works for you then go for it. My shoes for 100's usually have only 50 miles on them. Just enough to know that they are comfortable and I will have no surprises.

  2. Socks. Once again I'm a creature of habit. I usually wear Cool Max double layer socks and I don't Vaseline my feet. I feel that if dirt gets in the shoes, and it will, Vaseline adheres the grit to the feet thus creating more friction than it alleviates. I usually have several pairs of socks in drop bags. Wet shoes are OK, wet socks aren't.

  3. Just to prove I'm not a total traditionalist I now use and believe in wearing gaiters. The new running gaiters keep feet clean and annoying rocks out of the shoes.

  4. I recently tried wearing half tights. They were great. I applied Desitin (diaper rash ointment) to sensitive parts before the run and never had any chafing. The smell of cod fish oil can't be worse than the stench form the pants after 50 miles or so. 100 miles without chafing is a first form me. If the temperature was above 85, the tights may be too hot. The jury is still out.

  5. For hot runs I wear a white Cool Max shirt. At Arkansas with the temp about 65 I used a long sleeve TherMax shirt. When it got cold I switched to a turtle neck poly-pro shirt and kept the same half tights on.

  6. I also wear white, well ventilated billed hat during the day and a poly-pro ski type hat at night if it's cold.

  7. Lastly, I like to wear a bandanna around the neck. It keeps the sun off and can be used for wiping sweat or covering your nose in case of sever dust or front runner fumes.

Food and Drink

For most of us, the most difficult task during a 100 miler is getting sufficient fuel to fire the quads and not blast the stomach. I require electrolytes often. I prefer Exceed but can tolerate most anything, if necessary. Test the drink before leaving the aid station. Some aid station crews mix it entirely too strong. I often leave with half strength and it seems to work for me. Check your urine, often. Mine is usually clear for the first 50 miles and then it tends to cloud up some. If you can't pee, DRINK! The temperature has much to do with the amounts of fluid you should consume but, even cold days will dehydrate you as will elevation. I find that I drink more when carrying the bottle in my hand and not in the pack.

Food is a more interesting subject. You have to have it. No food, no go. At Arkansas I had planned to have Metabol at every drop. After 30 miles I realized that I couldn't force it down. I had opted for soup and carried it in my wide mouth bottle. I could then have plenty of it and ti was not too hot. Did you ever burn your mouth with hot soup? I could also wait until walking up hill to eat. I even had pumpkin pie and turkey sandwiches. Suzi had small microwave chili con carne. In a sense any food that you can get down and keep down is better than high energy food that you can't.


It seems that I usually have splits written down some place and then once into the race, I can't adjust to the pace I have set. I prefer to run as I feel (the Zen Runner). Of the seven 100 milers I've done (one DNF), three of the best have followed the same scenario. I tend to go out comfortably but running without caution. If it feels good I just go with it. This usually lasts for the first third of the race. Somewhere around mile 35 the legs start to say "You've had your fun, now watch out!" At that point I tend to take very good care of myself. I walk most of the up hills and coast on the downs. This is where the walking I do during training comes into play. Unless you are one of the big guns and I mean very big, practice your walking. The flats are runable but, I haven't found many flat sections on the courses I've done. This reasoning lasts through the middle of the race. At the 70 mile mark or so it is gut check time. This is the point of the run to dig down and finish the damn thing. I find by 70 miles I have invested too much too say quit and besides I can begin to hear the Fat Lady warming up. A good pacer sure helps during those last 30 miles (thanks Rick!). It can get lonely, dark, and cold.

Another aspect of strategy is the proper use of aid stations. The old motto "BEWARE THE CHAIR" becomes doubly important at a race like Vermont with over 30 stops. I enter an aid station knowing what I need. I get it, say thanks, and go. I can eat while leaving or pack food to go. On the other hand if you need to get something done, this is the place to do it. The operative word is need. I stopped for a blister at 70 miles of Arkansas and was out of the chair within 5 minutes. Oh yes, when you leave an aid post always leave them smiling. This is supposed to be fun isn't it?

Night running should be no different than running in the light. I actually enjoy it. There seem to be a time warp what comes with cool darkness. A good light and good company can make the experience Magic.

To summarize my long winded thoughts, go into a 100 miler expecting the unexpected. Know that somewhere out there you will come face to face with something gruesome and have the presence of mind to deal with it. Blisters? You've got Second Skin. Cramping? More fluids and salt. Stomach crashes? Try salt, Rolaids, or change food. Cold and raining? You have a plastic bag and good drop bags. No problem. These events are taking enough even when you are ready. Don't bluff you way through. Be a good scout and be prepared.

Larry Gassen

Subject: Manly Man's Corner

From Suzi T's Trails 100's Newsletter VIII, January 1993

For those among us who hate to read manuals, VCR assembly guides etc. I will summarize the main points now:

  1. Pack your own foods for your drop bags! Your mothers does not work the aid stations!

  2. Dress for the weather, and tale everything you don't think you will ever need. If you don't have it you will need it.

  3. Use basic etiquette for bodily functions! Use the hand that is least likely to socialize and will not go trolling through the M&Ms, etc. Rinse that paw with water from the bottle!

  4. Poison Oak! In poison-ivy (oak, sumac) country, have squeeze bottles of Technu-Scrub waiting for you in drop bags, and especially at the finish line. This reduces your chances of burning where the sun don't shine, and giving it to others

Details! Eating is too important to be left to overworked and understaffed aid station folks. Wasatch was well stocked, but Angles Crest for the first 50 (until I dropped) was real marginal. If you can cruise and maintain good balance on butter cookies and M&Ms, excellent. But the need for slow-burning savory items like Peanut Butter and Jelly and Turkey sandwiches needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Maintain a higher salt intake to keep fluids moving through the kidneys, instead of just free-falling throught the GI tract. At Angles I learned what it was like to have "loose movements" and yet 6 miles later find out I was dehydrated when I passes urine the color of plum-brandy. Not fun. It is all preventable.

Oh what to wear. Calendar time does not make the season. Summer starts at 65 and goes up until you fall over. Winter begins at 65 and heads downward until you grind to a frozen stop.

I like hats, winter or summer. I am especially fond of my A-16 Hawg Hat. These all-cotton wonders are very comfy over a wide temperature range, as the flap keeps warmth in on cooler days, and suna out in blazing sun. When the weather turns cold and when nights falls in the mountains I have especially good luck with the Patagonia Synchilla-pile balaclava. It can be thermally customized and is (seamlessly) comfortable. It made a long night at Wasatch much nicer.

For hot weather I prefer white cotton T-shirts one size larger than what I normally wear. If they have silk-screened images on them I make sure that the image area is small on the back (large logos etc. act asheat sink), and small-to-none on the front. Sleeveless Ts enhance ventillation, and the larger format reduces Dreaded Nipple Chafe (along with globs of Vaseline). I tuck in the shirt to reduce pack-rub. A men's long sleeve white shirt worn over this is also useful for sunny or breezy days to reduce exposure and dehydration.

In cooler weather I will start with long sleeve-cotton for the mid 40s-50s dry weather, and move into light-to-medium weight Capilene pull-over long sleeve shirts.

Sorts are generally Hind or RoadRunner supplex, with the tags removed. In the winter I will wear tights underneath the shorts, which is good to about 30, depending on wind and rain. Socks are Thorlos, extra padding. I noticed 1/16" neoprene socks in the new Early Winters catalog.

For wet weather the options range from garbage bags, "breathable" Gore-Tex* (see footnote) and really waterproof gear. My choice is definitely "waterproof". I like Seconds Outlet Patagonia product. Their gear have things garbage bags don't; zippers, beefy seams, deep sippered pockets, and roomy hoods. The main consideration here is waterproof. Pick and choose between pull-over and zip-up jackets, with several weights and colors. Zippered pockets are important for keeping a pair of polypro golves and a balaclava for changeable mountin weather. The most compact way to carry these two is to zip the jacket, pull the sleeves inside the shell. Fold the trousers in thirds lenghwise, thight roll it in from the hood, then lash it to the pac.

Nights in the mountains are cold. When it rains its worse. Have heavy tights, "fuzzy" (polar fleece type) pants, vest and jacket at the ready by your first-anticipated aid station drop-bag, and the two other night-time drops. I prefer Polar-fleece for its vapor wicking properties. At Wasatch I napped trail side at 1 AM out under the open sky in mid 40's in this gear, awakening to the sounds of another runner gasping and swearing to stay awake. When morning comes you can ditch it all at waiting drop bags, and change into clean shirt.

Other details: I like D Cell Maglights with wrist looped tied off to the (optional) d-ringed butt caps. I'll have AA and D batteries for the Mini and the BigFella in all drop bags after 45 miles. I prefer D Cell Mags for the brighter light, longer battery life, durability and weather proof design.

* GoreTex and You. I will unilaterally say here and now that for running, GoreTex is a fraud. Either something is waterproof, or it isn't. GoreTex is not waterproof, it is water resistant, directly declining the longer you wear it. GoreTex is based on the theory that water vapor is smaller than actual water drops. Body heat is humid, and this is accelerated in exertion. GoreTex fabric is a molecular screen, shedding water while theoretically allowing vapor to escape. Thus the wearer stays relatively dry. Short of having a 12" chimney with a fan coming off the top of your rain gear there is no real way to let all the heat vapor escape through the pores. These touted benefits are minimal at best. GoreTex fabric is fragile. It is degradable due to body oils, perspiration and abrasion. The laminates break down and one fine wet day you discover that your $200 suit is worthless.