I have learned a lot from the six 100 mile events I've competed in. Six is not a huge number, but I've fine tuned my gear, training and nutrition so that I have progressively gotten faster and more competitive. There is one very important rule I always use when training for a 100, and it's probably one of the most important:
Train with the gear, clothing and nutrition that you will use in your race.
That one simple rule can save runners a lot of pain and suffering. Included in that rule is the point that if a product doesn't work well or isn't just right or you're looking to improve on a product you try something new. Test new shoes or headlamps or whatever it is. Test it in training so that come race day you can rely on your gear and nutrition with confidence. When you run 100 miles any small problem can become very big. If you notice it in training, you better fix it!
The common ailments like chaffing, excessive blisters, dehydration, upset stomach, etc can most times be avoided by testing gear, hydration, and nutrition before the race. In addition to testing your stuff, creating training runs that mimic the race conditions is invaluable. You will discover what works and what doesn't very quickly on the trail.
Many problems in a 100 happen when runners aren't adequately prepared or don't have the experience to know better. During my first 100, Cascade Crest, I got very sick. I didn't know how to eat just the right amount so as to not overfill my stomache. I didn't know because I was inexperienced. That race was a painful but incredible training in how to fuel my body. I learned to take in smaller amounts of more digestible food like gels, soup, and coke. Any one of these foods are fine, until you eat too much. I learned for myself that I do better with a little less rather than a little extra.
All this being said, any one of us can have an unexplainably bad day. You kick a rock and give yourself a black toenail or blister. You forget a hand bottle at an aid station and get dehydrated, anything is possible and even when you're prepared you can suffer unexpected problems that can escalate. It's the mystery and the unexpected-both good and bad-that make 100 mile + races so exciting. They in effect level the playing field so that it's not all about speed, but also about strategy, preparation, and mental toughness.
I'm going to share with you some of the products that after 4 years of competing in 100s I've come to rely on and can highly recommend. As a sponsored runner, I only choose to partner with companies that I truly believe in. I once made the rookie mistake of running for a company whose shoes did not fit right and I suffered many joint problems in my feet. I will never make that mistake again! Here I present to you a few of my favorite products:
Ultimate Direction continues to innovate with their super lightweight packs and no leak water bottles. Not pictured: jenny Vesta. This is my 2nd year running for UD!
Lighting during the night on
a 100mile race is pretty darn important especially on technical trails. I like a headlamp that is very bright, lightweight, and has a long battery life since I hate wasting time changing batteries. I have both the petzl nao & myo. Really excited about the reactive lighting I the new nao.