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Glasshouse 100 Miles - Success in 2005

Glasshouse 100 Miles - Success in 2005

Article by: John Lindsay


Completing a 100 mile race has been on my list of "100 things to do before I die" for many years. After two failed attempts, I thought this one was going to slip by me as the natural slowing down caused by aging overtook the ability to train and race more effectively.

My track record on 100 Mile Runs looks like this:

  • 2000 - age 52 - I pulled out after 20 hours, utterly exhausted, and some hours behind schedule for the 30 hour cut off.
  • 2002 - age 54 - I pulled out after 11 hours, severely dehydrated and exhausted, again too far behind schedule for the 30 hour cut off.
  • 2005 - age 57 - I finished the event in 29:36, pretty much on schedule, and feeling relatively strong all the way.

I have a deep satisfaction at having now achieved this goal. This feeling is even sweeter, knowing that I finished it without the normal death march associated with the previous failed attempts.

A week after the event, I feel full of energy and am suffering no soreness. I had a small blister on one toe which is now well gone. My only remaining symptom of having completed the run of my life, is a sense of deadness in the toes and balls of my feet. This is nerve damage, which I've had before after long runs - it goes after a couple of weeks.

So what to write here?

Many excellent narratives have already been written by other participants in this event. These tell the tale in an interesting and often humorous way. Rather than try and replicate what has been done so well by others, I've decided on this occasion to offer some insights into why it was that I was able to finish this event this time, when I had failed it twice before when I was younger.

I decided in January this year to have one more go at the 100 mile distance before setting it aside as something outside my reach. I realised that just doing what I had done before wouldn't work. So I went back to all the literature I could find on the subject, added to it some feedback from people who had successfully completed Glasshouse, and formulated a plan. There were five key things I did that in my view made the difference.

1. Pace

I started slow. I though I had started slow on previous attempts, but Bill Thompson advised me to start even slower. As it turned out, Bill and I swapped places for the honour of last place for about the first 100 kms during this run. This was perfect - where could I find a better person to keep on track for a sub 30 hour finish than Bill.

2. Fuel

I consumed more calories. After my last DNF, Sean Greenhill asked "Are you sure you simply didn't bonk through not enough food?" On that occasion, all I could get into my stomach was 100-150 calories an hour. This time, I consumed close to 300 calories an hour over the duration of the event. 90% of this came from a slow release carbohydrate drink (Hi Five Energy Source, a neutral flavour Maltodextrin powder). I supplemented this with a slice of cheese and a cup of sweet tea at most check points from 35 km on. The cheese added some fat to counter the acidity of the stomach, and also provided a little protein. My more relaxed pace allowed my stomach to handle the extra calories, and also absorb the necessary water to stay hydrated. I used Karl's Caps about every hour as electrolyte replacement.

3. Final weeks

I went into the event rested, running only 23 kms, 46 kms and 26 kms in the final three weeks. To prepare in Melbourne for Queensland heat, I ran in 5 layers of clothes, and soaked in a very hot bath for 20 minutes on alternate days for 5 weeks.

4. Training

I changed my approach to training. I re-read Joe Henderson's articles from 30 years ago, where he talks about running slow and long and enjoying the process, rather than training at a faster pace and enduring it. I tried to finish each training run feeling good enough to repeat it again if I had to. I ran the sections I felt like running, and walked if I felt like it. This required quite a mental shift, as initially I felt guilty about taking it so easy. But I soon came to enjoy my morning runs, whereas before, I had always looked on them as a task, something I had to do in order to participate in races.

My training statistics in the 8 months from January to August were:

Average kms per week54
Runs over 4 hours14
Ultra races (45 - 100 kms)5
Speed workNil
Mt St Leonard runs4 (to trash my quads)
Typical week3 x 90 mins, 2 x 45 mins, 1 x 3-1/2 hrs

I could have run more kms in training, but I honestly doubt it would have improved my time substantially, and may even have resulted in a worse result through overtraining or injury. In any event, this was as much time as I was prepared to invest in this part of my life, and so it was going to have to do. Fortunately, it proved adequate.

5. Rest breaks

I spent less time at check points. There were 25 check points to stop at on this event. Had I spent an additional 1-1/2 minutes at each one, I would not have made the 30 hour cut. On a couple of occasions, I took extra time to clean sand out of my socks and retape my feet for blister protection (I got only one small blister). But for the most part, I spent less than 5 minutes at the main check points, and on many occasions, only two minutes.

I took a couple of 4 minute cat naps on the trail when I was becoming drowsy. I find these an investment in the result rather than a cost, as long as they are kept short. I took my second cat nap with only 10 kms to go, and when I stood up, I found to my horror that the trail through the pine forest looked identical in both directions - I had failed to mark my direction before lying down. Unfortunately, the cloud cover blocked the sun which would have given me a direction. I chose the wrong way, and ran an additional 25 minutes at a critical time in the event. Fortunately, I had enough up my sleeve to still get in with 24 minutes to spare.

Summary

I want to acknowledge Bill Thompson's influence here, as he always believed I could do it, if I only slowed down at the beginning. This proved wise advice.

I'm not sure what my future holds with regard to further 100 milers. On any 100 mile event I choose to enter, I have a 30-40% chance of not finishing, because based on my observation (as opposed to official statistics), that looks like the DNF rate. With my slower pace bringing me up against the cut off every time, there is no room for anything to go wrong, and that puts a pressure in the system that faster runners don't have to be concerned with.

So for now, I'm happy to enjoy the satisfaction of having completed one of the most difficult events I have ever undertaken, and I'll see how I feel about further 100 milers down the track

In the meantime, I'll be running the Melbourne Marathon in 2 weeks, and the Kepler Challenge in New Zealand in early December, before once more saddling up for the early round of ultras in 2006 (Bogong, Aura Dam, Six Foot, etc).

I hope my comments here will prove helpful to those who did not finish this year, and those attempting it for the first time.


John Lindsay
Melbourne, Australia

John has also written the following articles that are published on CoolRunning Australia :

Feel free to E-mail him at jlindsa1@bigpond.net.au.


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