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Monday, January 6, 2014

Surviving a 100-miler 101: The quest for that first bakol!

BDM Season na!

So you decided to sign-up for a 100-miler race? That's great! Welcome to a crazier world of extreme ultrapeople! But there is a problem: this is your first race and you are totally clueless on what to do. A 100-mile/160 km race is not a big joke or your regular sunday fun run. It's HARD and very CHALLENGING. If you're not familiar with distances just look at the mere cut-off; it usually takes a whole day or more to finish meaning you are going to be in the route longer than your usual sleep hours.

But how do you survive such a race? Is there a magic formula? Can I call a friend? Fear not as I have compiled some helpful tips on surviving these gruesome beasts. As a disclaimer, this is based on my actual experiences, observations and research during my races. If you find some of the items here which you totally disagree to, do let me know and probably I'll update this entry.


- Mix your trainings with endurance, speed and acclimatization 
- I have included a link to the training plan that sir Jovie gave me when I was preparing for my 2nd BDM 160 attempt. It summarizes the schedule, intensity and condition I used to build my fitness come race day
- Acclimatization - simulate the race day condition during training. If it's hot, then run under the noon sun for at least 1 hour per X days. If it requires you to run on high grounds where the air is thin and it's very cold then visit a place to train at least once a month to get used to such conditions.
- Train to walk. Power walking will save you during the race when you are tired or at a recovery state
- Train with your arsenals. As much as possible use all of the things (clothes, shoes, nutrition) during your training. It will at least give you an idea if the stuff you brought is indeed effective for race day.
- Prepare mentally. Mix loops in your training route. Hamster runs are effective to train yourself against boredom. At least 30 km of loops will do the trick
- Taper the week before the race. Reduce running intensity and eat up before race day. Your body needs to be well-rested and energized by race day.
- Run Alone. Run during the night. Most importantly, run without sleeping and drunk. You will reach a point during the race where you are so wasted that all those inner demons will be telling you to quit. 
- It will be extremely helpful if you can at least recon the race route way before race day. Get those elevation profiles to know when to speed up/slow down. Memorize the critical junctions to avoid getting lost.
- DO NOT RUN WITH AN INJURY! (well, I warned you already but if you can suck up the pain and that big chance of not finishing the race then just do it :D)


- Be prepared for the expenses. The reg fee is already expensive but the logistic for the actual race will cost you more. Seriously even if you're going to do self-support, you still need the cash to survive the race
- Put everything in a list. All of it. It will make yours and your support crews life easier (and reduce the risk of forgetting something too)
- Choose your support crew wisely. They are critical in completing the race. As much as possible, get those who had experience in supporting ultras and those with useful skills during the race. For example, someone who knows how to apply first aid or massage can help during the later part of the race.
- Create a checklist with things you need at each stop-over. This can help your crew prepare and save time looking for the stuff that you need. 
- Bring cash during the race. You'll never know when you will be needing those extra funds.
- Some have multiple support vehicles. I'm not recommending this but it will be helpful since your crew will be tired during the whole race. Having a separate crew during the other half of the race will matter but again it will cost you more.
- Segregate everything that you will need in labeled containers. It can help the crew search for your things. I put my meds, gadgets and clothes in separate bags with labels so in-case I need something the crew knows where to find them.
- Bring extra batteries! (you don't want to wallow in the darkness because your headlamp is dead :)))
- Get those emergency contact numbers. In-case you encountered trouble during the race, you know who to call
- Meet your crew before the race. Print your instructions in paper so they won't forget them. Also treat them with pansit :)) (this is optional)
- Bring some wet wipes. You need to go to the bathroom sometime during that 30-hour race to dump.
- Thank your support crew after the race. Come on, they are with you all throughout the race and the least you can do for them is to be grateful :)


- This is case to case basis but I'll share what I used in my previous races. I'm a solid food fan and I need solid food to survive each ultra (boiled bananas, chocolates, chips, rice, ulam, etc.)
- Carbohydrate is extremely important. You can get it from camote, rice and chocolates so bring plenty of them
- Replenish sodium and electrolytes every 10 kms. Do not overhydrate!
- My strategy before is EAT every 10 km and have a light snack in between. EAT meaning have a banana, sandwich or camote plus sports drink. Light snack is a choice between chips and chocolates (or anything I can consume which will not be too heavy on my tummy)
- Eat something heavy when you reach the 50 km and 100 km mark. It will coincide with lunch and dinner time during the race. Food should be something salty and easy to digest (i.e. adobo, rice, fish) . Remember you need to walk this off as your body will be focused on digesting the food for a few kms. I won't recommend lechon because it can shoot up your blood pressure sky high! (I'm just kidding :D)
- Softdrink is good but make sure you regulate your intake. The sugar from soda drinks can spike up your energy level but they have acids which can cause reflux if you had too many. I would recommend taking them at the later part of the race.
- Fruits are good! But watch out for the fiber as it speeds up the "digestion" process :))
- Gels are great but I only take them during emergency cases. I always have 1-2 in my pockets
- Eat some soda crackers (Skyflakes) to reduce the acid in your tummy (I haven't found any medical entries for this yet but it worked for me during WC 200)
- If you can avail some recovery drinks, take them during specific intervals during the race. I take the FLUID brand (avail in Secondwind/ARC for P145 per serving) at km 50 and 100. It helps in the muscle repairs and improvement of electrolyte intake but usually you take it after the race. It can help you recover those tired muscle during the critical time of the race
- Oral Hydration Salts, never race without them :) (mix one at least every 30 kms or depending on the weather)
- Painkillers should be taken with caution. Don't take them like peanuts or something :)). I only use them again for emergency cases but as much as possible I won't take them during the race. Also check if you have any allergic reactions with them. 
- Bring a lot of petroleum jelly and lube those hot spots (inner thighs, armpit, etc.) on a regular basis during the race. A nasty case of chaffing can ruin your raceday plan.
- Tandaan: Ang liempo pampalakas! :))
- In-case of acid reflux, empty your stomach and drink some hot water/soup. Let it calm down then drink some anti-acid. You will recover after a while but until then eat only small amount of foods and drink water. 

- DON'T BE LATE! Every minute will count
- You can finish the race using any of the 3 strategies: (1) Run all you can while the weather is cool then slow down during the later part of the race (2) Slow start then build your momentum towards the finish (3) Even pacing all throughout the race
- Be mindful of the intermediate cut-offs. Some of them might be too aggressive so plan your strategy very well. As much as possible, give at least 1 hour allowance on each so you will have enough time to rest or recover
- Get a strong pacer. Someone who will never let you quit and wakes you up during those powernaps in the evening.
- Be extremely careful during the night. You will be passing through barangays which have some bad elements such as muggers or dogs along the way. Remember, your life is more important during the race.
- Be mindful of the traffic along the busy hi-way especially at night. You might be too wasted and ignore the incoming traffic while crossing the streets. Make sure your pacer assist you in getting your supplies from the support
- Bring a light jacket in-case it rains. Chills can be a hassle during the cold night
- Be blister ready. Cover those hotspots under your foot and bring the blister popping paraphernalia 
- Stop asking how far till we reach the finish line. JUST RUN!
- Whine all you want. Curse all you want. But never ever give up! (tantrums are normal during ultras)
- If you're going to sleep, make sure you have someone to wake you up and it should be relatively short. I know we are only humans but you still have a race to cover. Better if you have coffee to keep you awake on the night run.
- If it's too hot, make sure you douse yourself with water. Cold towel (towel dipped in ice water) can help bring your temperature down.
- Find a pace partner during the first half of the race. This can remove the boredom and help push yourself during the race.
- Prepare to be BORED. Most of the time you will be running alone! :))
- Check the color of your wiwi. If it's too dark, drink some hydration salt. You might be prone to cramps already because this means you are in the verge of dehydration.
- Speaking of cramps, bring some salt with you. Slow down and mix those salts with soda or sports drink then drink it up. You can still recover :)
- Don't let those inner demons get you. They will haunt you during the race but a DNF will haunt you longer.
- Make sure you still have enough strength when you reach the 100-km mark. Don't overexert your effort at the beginning of the race as it will cost you the remaining distance. Remember, the race starts the moment you leave the 100-km marker.
- Hydrate and Eat. Don't wait until you are totally drained before refueling.
- Know the rules and regulations by heart.
- NEVER EVER CHEAT!!! (malaki ka na pre, alam mo na siguro yang pinasok mo)
- Remember this is your race. Whatever you do will certainly affect its outcome. Don't blame anyone but yourself for any shortcomings. You have a support crew to help you but only you can finish the race. 
- Invite your crew in your post-race celebration :)) Also thank GOD that you finished a very challenging race!
- Create a blog entry about your adventure. Use it to inspire others and as a note on what to do on your next buckle quest.
- And I quote "It's not a legit 100-miler if it doesn't have a buckle waiting for you at the finish line"

I think that should be more than enough. Again, this is based on my experiences and it might or might not work for you. At the end of the day, what matters most is you finished that darn race at whatever LEGAL cost :))

Good luck on your quest for that first buckle!

Nothing is sweeter than finishing your first bakol adventure :D

P.S. Buckle hunting is a very addicting hobby. You have been warned!

"Karga lang ng karga, kakarga din yan" - dbb
"Wag kang mag-#1 sign kung pang-#55 finisher ka na" - dbb

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