Final Preparations for My 12-Hour Race

[black mountain monster logo]Next Saturday morning at 10am sharp, I’ll head over to Black Mountain, NC, about half hour east of me, and run a 5K loop. It’ll be slow — probably an 11-minute mile pace.

And then I’ll do it again.

And again.

And again and again, for 12 straight hours, until the gun sounds at 10pm. If all goes well, I hope to cover 100K, or 62 miles, during the time. Twenty 5K laps.

The funny thing is, even though this format of racing is new to me, I’ve never felt more relaxed about an ultra. Partly, it’s because this isn’t my “A” race — although it’s technically a race, the real purpose is to serve as my longest training run for the Burning River 100-miler in eight weeks.

But it’s not just that it’s a training run — I mean, it’s still an ultra, and 12 hours is almost two hours longer than I’ve ever run before. There are a bunch of reasons why this time, I’m not at all worried about running all day.

(By the way, this post is just sort of a recap of my training and the issues I’m thinking about with this run. I’m certainly not breaking any new ground in the sport of ultrarunning with my training and nutrition strategies, but still I imagine that a few people, especially those who want to run an ultra someday, might find it interesting.)

1. There is no finish line.

I chose a 12-hour race instead of a 50-miler or 100K for one main reason: there’s no physical end to reach. No binary measure of success/failure, and as a result, very little mental stress. I hope.

My memories of previous ultras involve their share of physical discomfort (read: pain), but the mental battle is always just as taxing as the physical one. Regardless of distance, it seems, when you’re in that dark zone between 60 and 80 percent of the way through an ultra, there’s a huge temptation to quit.

You’re well into the race, so you’re tired and things hurt. But if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, you can’t see it yet, and it feels as if you never will. And so the quit / this is hopeless / I’m never running or blogging or even talking to anyone ever again alarm starts sounding.

Without a finish line or a real distance goal, there should be none of that poppycock on Saturday. The loops will be monotonous, no doubt. But if I can get past the mind-numbingness — and I think I can, with the help of a few podcasts on my iPod — then the day might be, dare I say it, a relaxing one. The way I see it, if I get tired, I’ll chill out and walk for a while, knowing that clock is ticking just as fast then as it is when I run. It’s not like a normal ultra, where slowing down or walking only prolongs the agony.

It’s not that I don’t like challenges — to the contrary, I think a craving for that mental battle underlies my and other ultrarunners’ desire to push ourselves to the breaking point. But because I know how draining it can be — and because I know how tough a test the 100 will be — I’ll enjoy the change of pace.

2. I’m prepared.

The last time I ran a 50-miler, my training felt thrown together, at best.

A month before that race, I decided I was not going to run it — it had been a ridiculously hot summer and I just never put the miles in. But after I hung up the phone when I called my buddy to tell him I wasn’t going to be running in Vermont, I felt like I had chickened out. So I ran a 20-miler and a 30-miler in a two-week stretch, rested for two weeks, and then went and did the 50.

This time, I’ve been much more dedicated. With the new baby, there have been some hitches in my training in the past month, but I’ve built a pretty solid base of hill training with several 20+ mile runs, including a 24-miler, a few back-to-back long runs, and more 7-milers than I care to think about.

Why not even more miles than that? Well, my 100-miler training program from Relentless Forward Progress actually calls for a 50-miler just five weeks before the 100. My 12-hour race (which I’m doing instead of a 50) happens to fall eight weeks before the 100, but I decided to make it work, since it’s so geographically convenient for me. By scheduling the big run early, I didn’t have time for the 50K training run that should have preceded it. Instead, I’ll do that 50K run after this race with my extra weeks before the 100.

So while it would be nice to have a 30+ mile run under my belt going into this one, I feel pretty good about my fitness level. Most of my training has been on much hillier terrain than this 12-hour race will be, and my somewhat spotty training during the past month coincided well with tapering. I’m excited to see what I can do.

3. It’s just a big old experiment!

When runners ask me about fueling for their marathon, I tell them to use their long runs as precious opportunities to experiment. You don’t want to show up on race day trying something new for the first time — and you especially don’t want to show up with no plan at all.

While I have in my head the goal of running 100K in 12 hours, it really doesn’t make much difference to my training whether I run 55 or 65 miles. My real goal is to learn as much as I can about running for this amount of time, and how I handle food and other elements of such a long race.

Here’s what I’ll be paying special attention to during the 12-hour, in preparation for the 100:

  • Food. My plan is to eat only fresh, whole dates, along with water and sports drink. I know that after a few hours I’ll be tempted to eat starchy, salty foods, but Byron Powell has me convinced they’re only for mental comfort, that sugar is what you need. If I cave, so be it, but I want to stick with the dates as long as possible to see if that’s a viable strategy for the 100, or at least the first half of the 100 before all bets are off. It certainly would simplify the food situation.
  • Electrolytes. It’s supposed to be a high of 80 degrees F on Saturday, and running in the heat will be good practice for the big race in July. I’ve been reading a lot about ultra training and still don’t have a solid plan for electrolyte replacement; this weekend will be a good opportunity to try out a precise, electrolytes-per-hour approach.
  • Pace. I’d really like to run the 100 in 24 hours, which takes a 14:24 mile pace. But I’ve heard that because there’s so much inevitable slowing in the second half of a 100, you need to run your first half relatively fast, rather than trying to run negative splits like you do with a marathon. Essentially, my pace for a 12-hour 100K (11:36 per mile) is only slightly faster than what I’m told I should run for the first half of my 100 if I want to break 24 hours. At the end of my first 50 when I asked, exhausted, an experienced ultrarunner friend how anyone possibly runs a 100 miles, he said, “It’s a mindset thing.” Well, I’m going to try as hard as I can to rehearse that mindset on Saturday.

So that’s about all there is to it! I’ve got a nice easy taper week ahead of me — just five miles and three miles, with a rest day in between, before the big boy on Saturday.

Parting requests:

1. What’s your go-to podcast that I must absolutely listen to?

2. If you’ve run a race like this before and have any advice to share, I can definitely use it!

And one more thing: If my babbling on about ultras piques your curiosity, check out the podcast episode that we did with Bryon Powell, author of the training plan I’m using, about running your first ultra.



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  1. I just finished reading Eat and Run and that was my first introduction to an ultra based on time instead of distance. It’s such an intriguing and unique challenge, and I think you have a great attitude/strategy regarding the potential monotony. I wish you lots of luck!

  2. I did one 12 hour race on a two-person relay team, so my run didn’t have quite the feel that yours will, because I took a break after each loop, but I loved it! And can’t wait to do another one as an individual, not on a team. Everything you said about it being a different mindset because you aren’t running toward a certain finish line was true for me… and if that’s true when being on a team, then I assume it’s even more true when running solo.

    Sounds like you are trained well, so rock it… because you can!

    • Janet, I don’t think I knew about your 12-hour relay … but congratulations, and great to hear you want to do an individual one too. I guess I’ll let you know how it goes!

  3. I just volunteered at a 24 hour race this weekend. The mental part seems grueling and not really a challenge I’m interested in, but many of the people I knew running were doing so for exactly the same reason you mentioned. They all hit and surpassed their goals. Have fun!

  4. I’ll be running the 24 hour race. I wrote a little bit about it today here:

    But that post has links to last years post run-report as well as pre-run preview. While podcasts are great, finding someone to run with for a lap or two tends to make the time go much better. I’d be happy to run a loop with you and we can discuss fueling strategies et. al. That might be interesting as I’m much more of a paleo/primal style eater, though my fueling is not fully fat adapted/ketogenic like. Sort of a mix…. I won’t say too much here so we’ll have something to talk about if you are interested. 🙂 Are you camping out Friday night?

    • Ah just saw you live 30 minutes from the race, so probably not camping…

    • Sean, I’d love to run a lap or two with you if it works out. Looks from your mileage chart on your blog that we’re pretty similar, in that respect at least.

      Like you said, I’m not camping because I live so close. But I’ll see you Saturday!

  5. My favorite podcast is, honestly, NMA! BUT if you want a break from the running stuff, “Stuff Mom Never Told You” from the How Stuff Works folks is pretty great (actually, all the HSW podcast series are good). The episodes aren’t very long, but the two women who host it are HILARIOUS, and the topics are taboo and interesting enough to keep you engaged for a while. Also, my dad swears by audiobooks. That’s many, many hours of amusement, hopefully engaging enough to hold you through that ambiguous third quarter of the race.

    I always balked at the idea of an hour-based race rather than a distance-based race (you have no control over when you’re done!), but after reading your reasons for choosing this race… I’ve changed. I kinda want to do one.

    • Aww, thanks Maggie. I know, I’ll just listen to NMA podcasts the whole time. 🙂 Thanks for the podcast suggestions, and I’m glad to hear I’ve opened you up to the possibility of an hour-based race. I’ll let you know if it’s terrible.

  6. One of my go-to podcasts –> NPR: TED Radio Hour Podcast

    Good luck!

  7. So exciting! I happen to adore 12 hour races, so I’m excited to hear how yours goes!

    I love all things NPR, so I love “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” “This American Life,” “RadioLab,” and “Here’s The Thing.” I have recently turned to running to podcasts and these are my favorites.

  8. Candice says:

    Have you heard much about running too much/too far/too long? What is your opinion on the Ted Talk – Run for your life! At a comfortable pace, and not too far: James O’Keefe

    • He’s right! I’ve also read a lot about this and I can’t fault what he says here.

    • Candice, I’d say I agree that running ultras doesn’t do anything good for your health that running 3-5 miles doesn’t. It’s a ton of stress on your body. But for a lot of people, myself included, if it weren’t for distance running we wouldn’t run at all, or perhaps not do anything physical at all. There’s something extremely motivating about the challenge, and I think if running too far is bad, it’s still a lot better than not running at all.

    • I have heard this only a few days ago, and I was surprised. I always associated running with health and thought that the farther you run, the healthier you are.
      It is probably true. When I ran for too long (5 miles+ with lots of hills), I didn’t feel that good afterwards.

    • In my opinion, this is a a great example of a doctor seeing what he wants to see. In the first chart, BOTH extreme and moderate levels of exercise seem to plateau (the actual study shows it doesn’t but more on that later) However, you can get to that level faster with extreme exercise, and the final result is a 10% improvement in the mortality reduction. There is absolutely no negative. All the data shows is that the benefits plateau sooner (again, not actually – see next paragraph.) So after 45 minutes of extreme levels of exercise, I get no further benefit, but then the chart doesn’t show that I get worse benefits either.

      In fact, when Dr Wen (who did the study) was asked about if they saw this improvement erode after longer the 50 minutes (all that is shown in this chart interestingly enough) he said : quote ” By 120 min [per day], the hazard ratio for all-cause mortality was around 0.55 [which is better than it was for 60 min per day], with even better hazard ratios for cardiovascular diseases “(meaning it was higher then .55) … “The adverse effects of strenuous exercise for incremental efforts for more than an hour a day did not seem to outweigh the benefits. We were not able to identify an upper limit of physical activity, either moderate or vigorous, above which more harm than good will occur in terms of long-term life expectancy benefits “(meaning there is now plateau, it keeps going up slowly)


      So, this first chart is clearly manipulated to withhold data. If you continued that blue line for vigorous exercise to line up with where the moderate line ends, the blue line would have been shown NOT to plateau but to continue up (actually off of the chart) But WORSE THEN THAT. A method called “Cox regression” was used to quantify the association between running and mortality after adjusting for baseline age, sex, examination year, body mass index, current smoking, heavy alcohol drinking, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, parental CVD, and levels of other physical activities. (O’Keefe didn’t explain that, but it’s in the actual data-linked below)

      OK, take a deep breath and think about that for a second. It is complicated, but basically, what this means is that they used statistical methods to effectively “equalize” everyone’s weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and so on. But this is absurd! One of the main reason people run is to reducing weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. They’re effectively saying, “If we ignore the known health benefits of greater amounts of aerobic exercise, then greater amounts of aerobic exercise don’t have any health benefits.”

      Again, this is researchers looking for an answer and manipulating the data to get it. Well, actually, manipulating how they explain the data. You can see the data yourself here :

      In the second chart, again, he says after a certain level, you tend to plateau. If you look at the chart closely, here you will see the slightest incline at the end, but you’ll notice O’Keefe barely mentions that. My guess is because if you look into the study, the increase is within the margin of error of the study. So again, more exercise and more extreme exercise has benefits, but there is NO DATA that is given that shows it is detrimental.

      I think the most telling thing he says, which shows once again just how little doctors know, is his first example of his friend Jon (who is 68!!) who runs marathons and has a score of 1800 on his test. O’Keefe says, at that level, the arteries are as hard as bone. And yet, his heart is beating, it is moving, every step he takes his whole body is in motion and if his arteries were like bones, even if just the arteries in his heart were like that, chances are he would be dead. (remember 400 means you are in trouble) However, his friend does have a count of 1800. And his friend runs marathons. And his friend is 68 years old. And his friend runs 12 miles most days. Honestly, if a number of 400 means you are “IN TROUBLE” and this guy runs 12 miles a day at age 68. Well then maybe doctors need to re-evaluate this scale. Clearly if a guy can get to 1800 on the scale and have no problems, then maybe there is a problem with your scale! I wonder how many heart surgeries O’Keefe has recommended on people who had a score of 400 or 500 because they were “in trouble.” I really hope his friend Jon said “You keep your scale, I’ll keep running!”

      OK, next he says “we are not meant for sustained level of exercise” that is over 1 hour. Clearly an American doctor! Hello, lets go to some other countries. I’ve lived in Russia for 8 years. You walk A LOT. Up hills, down hills, carrying all your food in bags from the market. Your heart rate goes up. You get a tremendous workout, sometimes for hours every day. Or better yet, lets just look in America. Have you ever worked on a farm? I have. Try cleaning a horse stall stall by hand. Or milking 30 cows by hand when the power goes out. (Takes hours and hours!) Try lifting hay bales all day. Sorry, you don’t get to stop after an hour. Do you really think that a guy who works out 1 hour a day, moderately, is in better shape then the farmer throwing 50 pound hay bales 8 hours a day! As someone who grew up doing that, I know the answer! I also know a lot of farmers who are still throwing hay bales in their 80’s ! (Less so now that farmers rely on machinery. Again, less exercise, less health benefits)

      So, what about all the data that “veteran runners” have worn out hearts. OK, well, maybe, just maybe you are not meant to live forever. Comparing an 80 year old runners heart to a 80 year old sedentary man’s heart will obviously show the runners heart has more wear and tear. But are you saying that you expect these two men’s hearts to continue for another 80 years? Is this doctor really saying you should have a perfectly healthy heart at 80? Assuming they will both die within 5 years (10 years plus past life expectancy I might add), what is the advantage of having a pristine heart the day I die? We all die sometime. These studies are of veteran runners. But they seem to still be alive and healthy. He is not talking about cadavers. Also, as he states earlier, we don’t have people dying left and right in these endurance sports. On the contrary, as the sport continues (as he said, we have only been at this for 20-30 year) rather what we see is more and more older runners. I’m routinely passed by 50 and 60 year old runners. I was actually passed by a 70 year old runner recently. (I’m in my 40’s, and actually got 2nd in my age division the day I was passed by the 70 year old.)

      Next, using Cabio Blanco as an example of extreme runners (and this doctor is suggesting that anyone who is running a marathon a year is an extreme runner) is like saying Michael Jordan is in the same league as your above average team player down at the YMCA. Seriously, Cabio (Who was an amazing man) would run 8-10 hours a day, every day, for months at a time. He would often run with little or no water, he pushed himself to extremes that the rest of us just look at in awe. But, he was NOT in the same league as 99.9 % of all marathon runners. And to use him as any kind of an example of the dangers of running is shameful and disingenuous to say the least.

      In the chart showing the chance of death by distance. It is very blury, and I wish I could see it clearly, plus I would love to dig into the details, and know the +/- rate of the study, but I think it is interesting that the difference between column 3 (the second green column) which would be the “sweet spot” for running apparently (O’Keefe says 5-10 is ideal) is only .02 off column number 6 which is where the danger zone is. Also, as you look at this chart, you will notice that the changes within the green columns seem to vary widely. From 0.78 – 0.88 – 0.73 – 0.75 Based on just that, it would seem to indicate that running 5-10 miles is much more dangerous then running 1-4 miles. In fact, almost a 10% increase in danger (.78 up to .88) Of course, if you can get over that hump, and run 10-15 miles, then somehow your heart magically must heal it’s self, because now you are 5% MORE healthy then you were when you only ran 1-5 miles and 15% more healthy then when you ran 10-15 miles. So, based on the data, clearly there is a detrimental effect from running 5-10 miles, but running a bit more or less is OK.

      Of course that doesn’t fit the hypothesis, so that part is ignored. So, lets go to the second red line. That number is .90. As a reminder, the second green line is .88. So, based on this data, running 20-25 miles is BAD! Sure, you have a 10% improvement in life expectancy, but that is BAD. However, running 5-10 miles a week is GREAT. Why? Because at 5-10 miles a week you get a 12% improvement in life expectancy. But wait, really?. There is ONLY a 2 % difference in those, with lower numbers before and after. I wonder what the rate was at 30 or 40 miles a week? Obviously if it went up, it would be on the chart. I’m sure they have the data, since 25 miles a week is not very much for people training for a marathon. Which leads me to suspect that it actually went down again. Just like the first chart, it seems data may be left off that does not support the doctors ideas. Also, again, I wonder what the margin of error is. If it’s more then 1%, I’d say you have a pretty even race here. Also, I don’t know if data was manipulated like in the first example by equalizing the data.

      OK. His mouse experiment. I hate these. One, it’s just mean to the mouse, but leaving that aside. To force a mouse to run all day long for 40 days and then test his heart is ridiculous. I run a lot of 50K races I can guarantee you I would be in much worse shape, and maybe would have a heart attack if you were chasing me with a cattle prod zapping me every time I slow down (that is of course how they do these test. How do you think they MAKE a mouse run on a wheel all day!) Of course they never consider that MAYBE electrocuting the mouse to force him to run when he would rather stop MIGHT affect the test. Maybe the fear you are putting into this animal MIGHT be producing hormone levels and testosterone levels and adrenaline levels that MIGHT have an effect on the wear and tear on that mouse’s heart. Nope, we are going to ignore that and assume that it was the running that caused the increase heart and the damage the heart muscles!

      In my opinion, you never believe what doctors say with their studies until you have read the study your self and have analyzed the data. Then do a quick google search to look over the OTHER SIDE of the argument. Here is a great article contradicting this one (I took a few bits of it for this little summery. )

      Oh, and the story of Phidippides running the first marathon and then dying. Nice try. Historical documents indicate that Phidippides ran 150 miles in the two days previous before running the 25 miles (40K) to deliver his message that the Greeks had defeated the Persians. But the part of him dying is only found in a poem from the time by Lucian, and is the only classical source which includes that little detail. . All the rest indicate he just presented his message (and then presumably returned to his post) It’s called the LEGEND of Phidippides for a reason! Once again, manipulating the truth to come to your own conclusions instead of just analyzing the data.

      • Damn that Phidippides Myth! I wish he was still alive so that he could set the record straight for us! I would not be surprised to learn if it turned out that the ancient Greek word for “died” at the time was pretty much the same as the word for “collapsed” or phrase “fell where he stood” or “tumbled over” or “became seemingly uncapacitated for the day and taken away from the town square sun and into the shade where he was taken care of by two hundred slave women who had no other adult man to tend to as they were all out making war…” or whatever other word or phrase or slang existed locally right there in Athens during those days.

        As for the study you missed another easy kick to the groin of it – what about exercising TWO times a day for 50-60 minutes? There are plenty of examples of both elites and moderate exercising amateurs who like to double when times allows without no obvious downside (rather the opposite when handled with care as far as I know).

        And also if 60 minutes was such a magical limit for beneficial exercise, then logically follows that 23 hours of recovery goes hand in hand with that! Would those 22 hours for recovery after a 2 hour exercise somehow be much too little and suddenly dangerous compared to 23 hours after 1? All other things alike (food, sleep, age, sex, etc) I can’t see that…

  9. Oh and advice for a 12 hour race!
    – Make sure you are incorporating your walk breaks from the beginning.
    – Not sure if your race will have hourly updates on placement of the racers, but don’t dwell on that early on. I’ve always started far behind, but consistency in my pace has allowed me to move up quickly later in the race.
    – Make sure you are eating and drinking consistently!
    – Don’t think about the race as a whole too much. You can’t eat a pie in one bite, so break it up into small chunks so you mentally don’t freak out.

    Hope these help!

    • Thanks for all of this, Rebecca! Really, really helpful. I’m curious about walk breaks (aside from hills, when I understand the rationale). Do you think it’s a better strategy, if I want to average, say, 11:30 pace, to run faster than that so that I can afford walk breaks, than to run it the whole time but at an even pace?

      • I happened to incorporate walk breaks in my LR training for my ultras. My 12 hour race was on a flat 1/2 mile loop, so no hills could dictate my walking. My first year, I did a 10/2 run/walk plan and the 2 years after, I did 27/3. I found that I could push myself to run a wee bit faster knowing I had a walk break coming up. It also broke up the hours since I was thinking about my next walk break, not the hours upon hours left running.

        With this, I was able to run 59.8 miles my first year, 68 my second, and 61 my third. There are a million other factors that affected my final distances (heat, rain, dehydration), but I always use the tortoise and the hare mentality, knowing if I keep a steady pace throughout most of it, I can speed up and catch people later. It’s worked well for me!

        Wishing you the best of luck! Definitely jealous that you’re racing this! 😀

  10. If you like books, I recommend the podcast “Literary Disco” – it’s like hearing a bunch of your friends say really interesting and funny things. Always entertaining.

  11. All the best of luck!!!! 🙂
    Rachel, from Aus.

  12. I second all of Rebecca’s advice above, and have a few additional pointers (I PR-ed last weekend at a 48-hour, so I have fresh lessons to share!).
    – Use this run to test any taping or preventive maint. techniques you will be using for Burning River. I found a new type of tape for my feet that I adore and does not bleed adhesive through (so my socks don’t stick to my feet) – it makes a huge difference from my old foot tape!
    – Make sure you get in more solid foods later in the race if you can stomach them and they seem appealing. If you are still moving fairly quickly, just go with it and don’t try to stuff food in, though 🙂
    – Pay attention to your feet and address any sore spots early on, and don’t be afraid to “modify” clothes and shoes to ensure comfort. I was in despair because my toes swelled due to warmer temps, and my well-worn toebox put too much pressure on my big toenails 40 miles in. After some wrestling with a pocket knife and medical scissors, my Hokas had the offending toebox overlay cut out and i was happily free to wiggle my toes for another 35 hours 🙂 That saved me and eventually got me second place 🙂

    • Alanna, do you have a picture of your modified hoka’s? I just picked up a pair for the latter stages of an ultra — so say after 12 hours in this 24, or after 50 or 60 miles in 100. I normally wear shoes with very wide toe boxes such as the Altra Superior, and I feel the Hoka might be a bit narrow up there. I sort of hate the thought of cutting into $170 pair of shoes, but maybe it will be necessary!

      • Sean, why during the later stages of the ultra would you switch to Hokas? Just curious.

        • In certain tough trail races, my feet feel pretty beat up by the end. I’m a minimalist at heart, but for longer harder trails I definitely wear more shoe. My current shoe of choice for such runs is the Altra Superior, prior to that the Mix Master 2. Both are zero or low drop minimal shoes but with rock plates. But the last 5 miles of Uhwarrie 40 and last 10 of NF 50 NY, my feet were pretty tired and beat up from all the rocks. Switching to something with more cushion might make them happier for the last XX miles. 🙂 BMM24 is really a great race to experiment since you pass your tent every 3 miles, whereas in a point to point ultra or an out and back ultra, you might not see a drop bag or crew for many more miles than that. So this will be an experiment for Leadville, though BMM is a very easy trail compared to the others. Last year I wore a Kinvara (road shoe) for about 70 miles of the 99 I ran.

          • Gotcha. I’ve had similar thoughts, but I was thinking that as the miles wore on I might actually want to switch from a cushioned shoe to a more minimal one. Not sure why. But yeah, shoes will be a good thing to experiment with here.

    • Wow, 48-hour … and people think 12 is crazy. I can’t imagine. And thanks for the advice. If you have a chance to answer, why solid foods later in the race?

  13. I’ve found the Rich Roll Podcast to be really interesting. Not sure how I stumbled upon it–I’m neither a middle-aged man, ultra athlete, nor proclaimed vegetarian but the guests and topics are very informative and intriguing. I’ll definitely be checking out the No Meat Athlete podcast, though. My goal is to run my first Ultra in 2014 and at the same time I’m reducing my meat consumption, so the detailed posts have been helpful!

  14. annalise says:

    have you heard Michael Arnstein’s talk on ultra running? It’s between 90-120 minutes long, it’s a youtube video. I know there is a way to make an audio file of a youtube video….

    • Hmm … I’ve wondered recently about making audio out of youtube videos. I think I did start watching his talk on Youtube, but I just can’t watch something at a computer that long. Audio would be perfect. I’ll try to find it!

  15. I did the 12 hour option last year and had a freaking blast! I, too, thought the same 5k course would get monotonous but it never did. It was so beautiful the whole loop and had a bit of every terrain thrown in. So if it’s the same course as last year, you’re going to really enjoy yourself. I didnt run with headphones at all. I also thought it was really neat to run with all the different runners, from the lead runners to the slowest runners. So make sure you take advantage of getting to know ALL the runners.

    Best of luck!

    • Ah, that’s so good to hear, Danielle. Thanks. I read on the race website something similar to what you say, about having as many possible ecosystems as you can cram into a 5K loop! Great point about getting to see all the runners, including those way faster or slower. I didn’t think of that.

  16. mikke pollice says:

    awesome discussion, real frank with no B.S. Thanks for the knowledge

  17. Good luck at the 12-hour race! Practice everything you can at this race that you’ll try at the 100 miler. Be relaxed, enjoy it, and test things out. Walk, jog, eat, drink…repeat!

  18. Zach Stuckey says:

    Good luck Matt. I’ve been subsciber to your blog for over 3 years now, and though I still am a “carnivore”, I continue to move to more of a plant based diet. And when it has been a number of days on all plants, there is no doubt I feel better and happier. So, I’m taking your advice on small, achievable goals and it’s working.
    I’m also an aspiring ultrarunner who is yet to bite the bullet and sign up for my first race. I’ve run a couple of marathons and lots of shorter distance races, so I know I’m ready, but I seem to keep waiting for the “perfect” situation to sign up for that first 50 miler. One day soon….. is a great one for 1 hour-ish interviews with ultra runners.
    Talk Ultra is a new podcast I have just stumbled upon that is terrific. 3-4 hours in length, hosted by accomplished ultra athlete Ian Corless and co-hosted by Speedgoat Karl Meltzer – this one if more of a “around the world of ultra running” news show. Race recaps, interviews, nutrition, training, upcoming events, etc. are all covered in short segments.
    A big Thank You to you for introducing me to the Rich Roll podcast also. It’s fantastic.
    Hope it all goes well. Look forwward to the recap .

    • Hey Zach, thanks for much for sticking around all this time. 3 years, out of only 4! So glad to hear you’ve been successful with the small changes approach.

      Don’t wait for the situation to be perfect — it never will be! Making the jump to 50 miler (from either marathon or 50K) feels like a huge jump and even with all the training, it still feels on race day morning like you’re not ready. Then you just go out and do it. I say sign up for one and make it happen. 🙂

      I’ve heard of Ultrarunnerpodcast and been in touch with those guys a bit, but the new one sounds great too. Thanks!

  19. I’ll second the motions for “This American Life” and “RadioLab” podcasts. Another favorite of mine is “Pop Culture Happy Hour”, also from NPR. Finally, check into “The Nerdist”, which is host Chris Hardwick speaking to a wide variety of guests (including Bob Saget, Neil Patrick Harris and Macklemore).

    Best of luck!

  20. I LOVE listening to the Freakonomics podcast! It’s so interesting that it definitely takes your mind off running, especially if you’re running for 12 hours straight! Good luck!

  21. When running I like lessoning to David Garrett. He does rock symphonies with no words. When I listen to podcasts on a run my favorite is “Dirt Dawg’s Running Daitribe” my favorite podcast of his is when reads the book “The Zen of Running” almost like a audiobook”.

  22. Awesome, have a great race! I’m “ultra-curious”, so I can’t wait to hear more about your training and outcomes. The dates as fuel intrigue me, but I’ve been afraid to try them for regular long runs due to the fiber content (or my perception of it). Has anyone had problems, or do they seem to be pretty gut-friendly?

    • Joy, I haven’t had any issues with gut-unfriendliness. Again though, that’s why I like to experiment with things. Why not give them a try on an 8 or 10 mile run and see how it goes?

  23. Might I recommend the vegan “Red Radio” podcast? It’s on iTunes or at www. and always has interesting vegan topics and animal rights stuff!

    • Kate, I actually met Erin (Red) earlier this year at the NYC Vegfest. I did a little interview thing with her, but I don’t know if it was for her podcast or for the event. I’ll try the podcast, thanks!

  24. Wow, a 12 hour race? I’ve done my share of 5ks, and half marathons, but never did anything near a 100k! Best of luck to you, Matt! Looking forward to hearing how things went!

  25. If you want a good listening experience then listen to daft punks new album random access memories you could also try lonerism by tame impala.

  26. Got a 12 hour race planned later in the year, for much the same reasoning but having overdone “my favourite food” in the passed and after 30 miles not being able to even LOOK at it (and reverting to fuelling with chocolate coconut milk), I’d suggest taking a back-up food type just encase the dates start to ‘date’ during the run. Nutritionally they’ll be fine but your mind might want something else. Just a thought! Rich Roll’s book/podcast is great for a long run. Very good luck and thank you for this site, I’ve been recommending it to anyone who’ll listen.

    • Interesting. I hadn’t thought of that — I mean, I knew getting sick of eating dates might be an issue, and for that reason I’ll certainly have a backup food. But I didn’t think about never being able to look at dates again! Which would be very bad indeed, considering the point of this is to test them for the 100.

      Thanks so much for spreading the word about No Meat Athlete; it’s so helpful!

  27. Jon Weisblatt says:

    Good Luck Matt! I’ve been mildly interested in an ultra but don’t know if I have the mental cojones to pull it off. I agree with Sean that finding people to talk to and enjoying the sounds and sights is my preference over earbuds. If I do need to listen to anything it’s usually some kirtan chanting (Krishna das or Alicia Mathewson) which is in my head as I listen to it before the race (you know how sometimes the last song you hear before a race sticks in your head? I try to use that to my advantage). I think the big thing, whether it’s a 5k or ultra is to find your inspiration when the going gets rough during the race. I just helped a friend finish her first marathon in VT and I used that tactic with her the last 10k. Remember the pain we put ourselves through is voluntary. Some people don’t have a chooice. Enjoy the experience. Love the post and I can’t wait to hear you post run report.

    • Jon, you’re right in noting that an ultra is really about mental toughness. Or if not toughness, then mentally managing the race and holding off the urge to quit. So much more than it is physical, I think. But I think with the right mindset, an ultra (especially a 50K) doesn’t need to be more stressful than a marathon. They’re often on trails in the woods, which is a much more peaceful and meditative environment than the streets and crowds in a big city. Not that I don’t like the hooplah, but it certainly goes along with the higher speed and stress of a marathon.

  28. Carolin says:

    Good luck on that!
    I’d recommend the Drabblecast if you want to listen to short fiction. They’ve got tons of episodes already, so you can download a bunch for your run.

  29. I ran the 24 HR ATR a few weeks ago and there are definite differences between a traditional distance race and a timed race. I made the mistake of mentally taking it like a distance race. I dropped 15 hours and 37.5 miles in. My biggest suggestion is to not look at the big picture. Keep it simple, and focus solely on each lap you are doing. Don’t get caught in the aid station trap either. Best of luck. I thoroughly enjoyed my first time race and already looking at a 12 hour in late summer.

    • Thanks James — I like the advice of focusing only on the lap you’re running. That’s been repeated once or twice here, so that tells me there’s definitely something to it. And I’m not usually good at that sort of thing!

  30. Have a great race!

    Podcasts: Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell me; Run Run Live; The Extra Mile; Runner Academy.

  31. Laura B. says:

    Podcast suggestion: WTF with Marc Maron. Veteran comedian interviews other comedians. Fantastic in-depth interviews. He’s also interviewed musicians such as Jack White and recently John Fogerty.

  32. Mentally mastering the monotony of a mundane 5k loop; frees the soul to fly over new open-ended trails.
    Spread and stretch the fingers while running and the toes will feel as though they are spreading too. This makes for happy feet as the miles roll by. Deliberately smile until the grin becomes permanent. The spirit will rise while running.
    Believe you have a good and solid plan which will lead you to success in the 100 mile event. And you will succeed.

  33. Corey L. says:

    Good luck Matt! You’re always inspiring.

    My favorite podcasts to listen to while running are Radiolab, How to do everything, Freakonomics, TED talks (audio), and Skeptically Speaking.

    Let us know how it goes.

  34. Very inspiring, you are obviously a tough person physically and mentally. I’m not at this level yet but making some good progress. My main issue was to get motivated to starting a training program which I am now doing daily.

  35. All the best mate – I’m cheerin’ for you here in Melbourne 🙂

  36. Hi,

    I ran the Comrades Marathon (89.2K) last year in 12 hours. I am a non-scientific runner. You may read my experience in my blog from here –


  37. Matt,
    I can recommend a bunch of good podcasts.
    Music wise: Tiesto and Armin van Buuren are good.
    Talking wise: There are a lot of good old episodes of Marathon Talk in iTunes that are very good.

    Bring your dates!

  38. Rachael says:

    I ran my first 100 as a fluke in a 24-hour run on a 2.5 mile loop that I signed up for with no expectations of distance. I think that the set-time races are great for training as well as for builing confidence in a no-pressure environment. I ran the same race this year and packed in all of my own food so that I could also experiment with a long run of zero processed food. Here is my advice (some of which will be redundant):

    – Walk before you need to walk, eat before you need to eat, and change your socks often. (This is advice that I always give to new distance runners, but applies here as well.) Especially with such a short loop, it is easy to say “I’ll change my socks next time around, it’s just three more miles.” Don’t get tricked into that, and you will be happy at the end of the race. It is easy to get caught up in the speed of everyone else going around, especially if you are moving quickly.
    – Dates worked well for me, but I also really appreciated oranges, which I had pre-peeled, and grapes. Something sweet, but not so dry and sticky. I also drank lots of iced and slightly sweetened yerba mate. And I did eat a few boiled potato pieces.
    – The course will probably not be as boring as you think. You will be passing by/running with new people all the time. Especially if you are on the course after dark, which is a new experience. (And also an important part of training for the 100.)
    – Run your own race; don’t get caught up with everyone else! I said that already. It is important.
    – Sunscreen- you are going to be out there all day!

    I may think of more later, but that is what I have for ya!

    • These are all great pieces of advice Rachel! I ran the 24 here last year and will again this weekend, and I think I only changed socks once. But it was dry and my feet normally do really well. But everything else is great. With the temp expected to be 82F Saturday, keep that in mind! Matt, will you have a No Meat Athlete shirt on or something? How can I find you?

      • Sean, I know what you look like from your blog photos, so I’ll say hi if (when) I see you. I might wear a NMA shirt for some of the time but will likely change once or twice if it’s as hot as it’s supposed to be.

  39. Angie M says:

    Matt, You’re going to do great! Can’t wait to read about it. Will you have your Luna Sandals ready for the final laps? 🙂 Let us know if you do pull them out and good luck!

    • Thanks Angie! No, I don’t think I’ll wear the Lunas tomorrow; unfortunately I can’t get my feet not to slide in them still, without putting too much pressure on my Achilles. Any fix to that yet?

  40. My fiance listens to a podcast called radiolabs that has all sorts of interesting stuff. That’s worth checking out. Also, just wanted to say I’m running my first race ever in 2 weeks, so thanks for all the inspiration and advice!

  41. Definitely sounds like your a lot more prepared than last time. Your last race reminds me of my marathon where the training was virtually non existent haha. I love the quote if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And believe me, I failed haha.

  42. Peter Andersson says:

    I entered a 6H race on a 1200 meter loop pretty much just to pick it off my bucket list – but came out of it thinking it was the best/funniest race I’ve been in. Noone has mentioned the double participant/spectator aspect so I will. At first it was bit dishartening to be lapped by the leaders before I made it out on my third loop, but during the last two hours as I slowed down considerably and they didn’t seem too (not much anyway) not only was it progressingly amazing to see them flew by time and again, much more than you would have been able to as a regular spectator on a city marathon, it also became a helpful mindgame for myself during walking breaks to think “better get going again soon or I won’t even have made a full lap since last time”…

  43. Sounds like a great event. Good luck to you!

  44. Best of luck. I recently burned through BORN TO RUN by Christopher McDougall and all I have to say is: folks who do ultras are hardcore. May the Tarahumara be with you.

  45. Some fun podcasts:
    Adam Carolla (dude is hilarious and usually has good guests)
    This American Life
    Two Gomers Run For Their Lives
    WTF(Marc Maron)
    Joe Rogan Podcast

  46. Good luck to you on this adventure! I discovered this blog about 6 months ago when I decided to stop eating meat (which was shortly after I decided that I wanted to run a half marathon). Being a vegetarian is going great, running is harder but I’m working on it and words or wisdom/advice I find here help! I signed up for a 8-mile race in the fall. Hopefully I will be well on my way to a half by that time. To answer your podcast question … RadioLab! I absolutely love this podcast. It’s a combination of fun, quirky information, human intersted stories, science, history, and everything in between. Check it out here: Enjoy 🙂

  47. Sounds like a great plan! I like the savage love podcast, its never boring!

  48. A lot of my favorite podcasts have already been mentioned. One that is a bit less well-known is “The Dinner Party Download” from APM. It’s good fun and great if you need a shorter podcast. If you’re into nerdy stuff, you could listen to all of “The Thrilling Adventure Hour” which is entertaining. Best of luck with your run!

  49. I am waiting patiently to find out all the lessons you learned from Saturday. I think I would love running this kind of a race but still not ready to take that jump.

    • Oh, I’ve got lots of ’em, Nicki! They’re coming on Friday or Saturday, in podcast form. But for people who don’t do podcasts, I’ll put a bullet list in the post of what went right and wrong. The format of the race itself, though, was great (for me, anyway). If you’re not ready for 12 hours, I think 6 hours is common too. This race had a 6-hour option and relay options for the longer times.

  50. Dear Matt! Can you please – maybe – consider the idea of adding a date to the posts on your blog? I read ‘Next Saturday morning…’ and thought, ‘Wow, when did this happen?! I had no idea he was training for this, and I’ve been following his blog for a while!’ – and then realized that this post is from last year. Please don’t think that I’m stalking you and building some weird timeline of your life 🙂

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