The Lake Martin 100 & 50 is the ideal first Long Ultra. Not because the course is easy, in fact, it is a tough race by 100 mile standards, but because race planning is easy. Each 25 mile loop has 4 aid station stops, two at Heaven Hill at miles 7.26 and 13.18 and two at The Cabin Aid Station (start/finish) at miles 18.12 and 25.09. Because the entire 25 mile loop is serviced by only two aid station and both accept drop bags, planning is about as easy as it gets. And, we accept larger than normal drop bags. In face, the Cabin AS will allow you to bring any type drop bag or box you want. You leave your dropbag at the cabin or just set up a personal aid station at your car. It's up to you.
This first segment is about Ultrarunning in general. I talk about how I would train and the things I would do at any ultra, 50K to 100 miles. The second segment applies specifically to the Lake Martin Course.
Ultrarunning in General
My Disclaimer: The following training information is offered as an example of what works for me and nothing more. It may or may not work for you. It consists of the training schedules I use and techniques, supplies, equipment, etc that I like and use. You may want to try some of these ideas, or all of them, or none of them. The 16 week training program for a marathon is not my schedule. It is a widely used and accepted method that has proven to be very successful for years. Remember, if you can run a marathon, you can run a 50K or a 27 Mile Fun Run.
There are four major components to successfully completing the Lake Martin 100, or the 50, or the 27 mile trail race. They are, in order of importance:
1. Training 2. Staying Hydration during the race 3. Staying Fueled during the race 4. Proper Pacing
If you haven't done enough training, nothing else really matters, you will likely not finish no mater how well you do everything else. If you are properly trained and do not stay hydrated you have almost no chance of finishing. You can slow down or stop and re-hydrate, but it will be very costly. If you don't stay fueled you will "Bonk." Again, you can recover but it takes a while and you loose a lot of time. Pacing is a little less critical if you catch your error early and adjust your pace. If you go out at a marathon pace (Way too fast) in any trail ultra you will die 15 to 25 miles in. You simply cannot go on. If you run too slow, you will finish, unless you go so slow you miss a cutoff, but your time will be way below your potential. That said, in your first ultra, 50K or 27 mile, or your first 50 mile, our your first 100 mile, finishing should be your primary goal. Work on speed later.
Running a 100 is like nothing you have ever done. You will probably find that a 50 mile race is much more difficult than a 50K or marathon. For one thing, the average runner will be on the trail anywhere from 8 to 12 hours in a 50 mile race on a moderately difficult course. That is a long time to run. Staying fueled and hydrated becomes a critical issue. You may have serious bouts of fatigue, cramps, stomach distress or just loose the will to go on. There is a rule in ultrarunning. Always remember it, "Just Keep Moving." That is the key to finishing. There is another quote that should also be remembered, "The Pain Will Pass". Remember these two sayings. They make a good mantra.
All Ultras are difficult, as is a marathon, if you run at or near your full potential. Fifty Mile races are significantly harder than 50K. A One Hundred Mile race is in a category unto itself. My training for a 50 is almost the same as for a 100 Miles. I just throw in a few longer runs. Running the 100 is another story. The 100 requires mental training. You have to go on, when you just can't go anymore. You have to learn to ignore pain, when you body cries out to stop.
I am not talking about pain from an injury or potential injury, I am talking about the pain of exhaustion. NEVER ignore pain from an injury.
Figure out what is wrong and fix it. If you can't fix it, it's time to quit. Continuing on an injured ankle or knee can result in a serious injury.
You will learn about the extreme lows you can endure. You can endure them because you will learn they will pass. During the course of a 100 mile race you may experience several "lows" but you keep moving, if you can. If you can't, sit down and rest a few minutes. Sometimes you may want to take a "Power Nap." It's hard to get back up and go but just do it. You will be amazed that after half a mile or so you will likely feel good again. My general rule for 100 mile races is to "Only sit down at Dropbag Aid Stations." This works well for me because you get a few minutes rest and are not wasting time.
A suggestion before jumping into Ultrarunning: Trying to run an ultra before you are ready can be very frustrating and very painful as can trying to run a marathon before you have adequately trained. Before you attempt your first ultra, run a marathon or two. (If you have never run a marathon, run a few 10K and maybe a 1/2 Marathon first.) Once you have a marathon or two under your belt, you should have no trouble with a 50K or the Lake Martin 27. It is a good idea to have run several 50Ks before running that first 50 Miles. Likewise, it is also wise to run a 50 Mile or two before attempting a 100 Mile. That said, one of our runners in the Lake Martin 50 in 2012, finished the 50 mile and had never run a race longer that a 10K. I ran my my first 100 having only run two 50K and no 50 Miles. The key is training. If you want to run a 50 or 100 mile race you had better log a lot of training miles.
Training: The critical factor in training for your first ultra is the time you spend running or, put another way, the miles you run. If you do not have time to train properly the race will likely be a frustrating experience. If you try to push your training faster than training schedules in the outline suggest you may not even be able to run the race after all that work, due to an injury. It is critical to increase your distance at a slow metered pace. Before attempting a 50 or 100 mile race it is also important to have lots of hours on trails learning how to stay hydrated and fueled without getting sick. Believe me, this takes practice. At this point I am training for my 7th 100 mile race and I still make mistakes in almost every race. I have recently found out what I thought was the perfect answer to hydration for me, in fact, was not.
If you are training for your first Ultra, the Lake Martin 27 Fun Run the standard 16 week program will work well:
50 mile or 100 Mile Races can use these training schedules to prepare:
These 3 schedules are for experienced ultra runners training for the 50 or 100. Schedule one is my 3 day per week training program. It will work but I don't recommend it. The limited number of miles you run will make the very long weekend runs very difficult. Your race performance will also be less that your potential. I have used the 3 day program because of time limitations. Use the 4 Day-Per-Week program if you can. Check out Hal Koerner's 100 mile training program at the bottom of the page.
If you would like to start training for the Lake Martin 27 mile race or the Run for Kids Challenge 50K, follow the link above to the 16 week training program and decide whether the 16 or 20 week program will work best for you. The 16 week schedule requires running 4 days each week. The 20 week program is for those that can only run 3 days each week. Next, determine where you are in your training today. If you are not able to accomplished the runs outlined for the first week of the training program then your first goal should be build up mileage so you can run the first week level of training. A very good starter program if you are new to running is the C25K program.
I will use the 16 week program as an example. Sixteen weeks out from the race you want to be able to jump right into the schedule at week one. This is the widely accepted, 16 or 20 week training program for running a Marathon. Many people just don't have time to train 4 days per week. This 3 day program is the way I have trained most of my life and I sometimes can't even manage to squeeze in 3 training runs in a week. Follow the schedule and increase the mileage according to schedule. Resist the temptation to run longer and rush the schedule. As mentioned before, the result can be overuse injuries or just over-training. If your training is beyond the first week starting point, step into the schedule where you are comfortable. For example, if you can go out today and run 10 miles, then start at week week 5. One of the key elements to finishing any ultra is "Long Training Runs." This is where you train your body to keep moving for hours. The long runs are also where you learn how to stay hydrated and figure out what food you can tolerate in your stomach while running. Here is a link to my Blog Page about Fueling for the Long Race or Training Run and another link to a recent post on Hydration in an Ultra. (The post on Hydration follows the race report on the Grindstone 100.)
Pacing cannot be quantified because there are no two people that will pace themselves the same way. There will be those that finish at exactly the same time as you in a race, but you may have never seen them the entire race until the finish. There are others that you will pass and be passed by throughout the event, yet finish at almost exactly the same time. At the Tahoe Rim Train 100, in 2011, a man wearing pink gaiters passed me just before the first aid station. He then disappear in the distance. I passed him in a while, then he passed me again. I kept passing him in aid stations (I do not hang out at aid stations) and a little later he would pass me again. This continued all day and all night. Over night I loaned him a flashlight because his was going out and he kept getting off course. Five miles from the finish I came up behind him again and we ended up racing the final 5 miles. He finally stopped about a mile before the end and I did not stop. I finishing about 15 minutes ahead of him. You will run with people for hours, then they will take off or slow never to be seen again. The real important issue is run at your own pace. Never allow others to dictate you pace. That is, just because you have followed someone for a while and they speed up, don't stay with them unless the pace is comfortable. You will learn what is a comfortable pace to you in those long training run.
It is easy to get carried away early in an ultra and start out to fast. Most runners do. This is not a problem so long as you realize you are going to fast and slow down. You will also frequently find yourself stuck behind a long line of slower runners on a single track section of trail early in a race. Don't panic and think you have to get around all of them so you don't loose too much time. Take your time. It is almost impossible to pass a group on narrow trails and can waste a lot of energy. Wait for a wider section or at least an easy place to start passing. It can take several miles of single track to pass 10 or 12 runners. Aid stations are excellent places to pass the group. Get in and out in a hurry. Actually, get in and out of every aid station in a hurry. You can loose hours in aid station in a 100 mile race.
I often start a little faster than I plan to run. I hold that faster pace a mile or two and as soon as I start feeling that I are going a little too fast, start to slow down. When someone comes up behind, I ask if they would like by. If they say yes, ease to the side of the trail and slow to allow them by. In difficult terrain, I step of the trail and stop to let them by. Often, they will say no and just sit behind you a while. When a runner comes up behind me I always assume they are faster than I am, so I ask them to let me know when they are ready to pass. This is just common courtesy and early in an ultra it will have no effect your final time. After a few hours everyone will scatter and the packs of runners just go away. Passing one or two people later in the race is never a problem.
Running Down Hill can be a problem in a pack of runners. Remember, Down Hill Miles are Cheap Miles. A qualifier, this is true on relatively gentle terrain. Going too fast downhill, especially on steep, technical terrain can destroy you quads. Use good judgment. You may find yourself behind a line of runners and someone up front is going very slow downhill. If no one tries to pass the slower runner or runners you may want to run by at your first chance. Don't waste a good down hill! Once past the slow runners, slow back down to your comfortable pace.
Running the Lake Martin 100, 50 and 27
The following information is applicable to all three races. The course is very easy to run. There are hills but all trails are runnable with absolutely no technical sections. There are a lot of roots but not too many rocks and most of the climbs are gentle. Many of the faster 27 mile runners will run the entire course and not even bother to walk up the hills. Several miles of each loop are on single track trails that follow the shoreline or traverse the hillside above Lake Martin. Also, several miles of each loop or on the "Big Way Trail," a broad, wide roadway/trail that cars are never allowed to drive on. This is a great place to gain some time. The interior trails often follow creeks or climb over beautiful wooded ridges.
The only appreciable climb is up to Heaven Hill on the Heavenly Hill Loop Trail. That climb starts out gently then turn up abruptly as you enter the single track tail. It climbs 259 in just under one mile. As you emerge from the woods at the top, take a moment to look around. The view is beautiful.
Average temperatures are 46 to 70. The record high is 92 and record low is 20. As we get within a week of the race, check with the Weather Channel or other web weather forecasts for Zip Code 35010 to know what to be expect on Race Day. I will also post weather updates on this website and to Facebook. If it has rained heavily the day before the race or race day the course will be wet. There are many stream crossing throughout the 25 mile loop and it will be difficult or impossible to keep your feet dry. If we have little or no rain the week before and race day, your should have no trouble keeping your feet dry the entire race. The average rain fall for March is about 6 inches. Be prepared.
You can count on it being cool or cold at the start and warming up as the day goes on (unless it is rainy.) I would recommend bring extra socks and shoes and placing them in you drop bags if you don't like wet feet. I also would suggest wicking sock like "Swiftwick or Drymax. Have a light and heavy jacket available and bring a hooded rain jacket just in case, even if there is no rain forecast. More than likely, you will be able to run in shorts all day. A pair of light gloves and a hat or beanie type cap would be a good idea. Have all of this stuff available and check the weather forecast Friday night for safety. Remember it is better to carry something you do not need than to need something you do not have. Hypothermia can be a serious problem if you are wet, even at temperatures as warm as the mid 50s.
One item I always recommend is a pair of Gaiters. I have three or four pair of "Dirty Girl Gaiters" and I love them. This may be the only specific product I would say is a must. I NEVER have to stop and empty trash out of my shoes. NEVER!!!! Can I make it any clearer. I ran the entire Grindstone 100 in 35 hours and never took my shoes off and never changed socks. (I wore Swiftwick.) Get a pair of gaiters. Dirty Girl's are simple and really cool. I also wear compression sleeves on my calves. I wear compression socks in an Ironman event but not on the trail. Full length compression socks are very difficult to get off, especially when you are tired and the socks are wet late in a race. SwiftWick socks are compression socks and come in several sizes, and cuff lengths. I like 4" cuffs because they will lap over my compression sleeves.
All runners must carry water during the Lake Martin 100, 50 and 27. MUST. You will not be allowed to start without water. It is 7 miles between some aid stations (Including the first) and there is no water elsewhere on the course. If it is hot, most runners will need more than one handheld 20 oz bottle. The slower you will be running the more water you will need. If you like keeping you hands free, then I would suggest a Hydration Pack. This is one of those things you figure out in those long training runs. The Cabin AS to Heaven is going to be the longest 7 miles you ever ran. Be prepared.
I prefer hand held bottles. That is what I always run with unless I plan to use Trekking Poles. Trekking poles are for climbing. If you are running a race with 23,000 ft of elevation gain, use poles. I used poles at Grindstone, Tahoe and Wasatch 100s and wore a hydration pack. I would not use poles at Lake Martin. This is my preference, however. Some ultrarunners use poles in all races.
I often wear a 2 Liter Nathan pack without the bladder just for storage of things like a jacket, hat and gloves, especially if the weather is questionable. If it is cold at the start but will be warming up later in the day, then get cold again as night approaches, I want a hat and gloves with me all the time. I will start the race wearing them,and put them in the pack as the temperature begins to rise. Of course, it is easier to leave a second set of warm clothes in a dropbag where you expect to need them. The pack is also a convenient place to store electrolyte tablets, snacks, an extra flash light, cell phone, etc. If I will be running into the night I always, "ALWAYS" start the race with a back-up flashlight in a pack and carry it with me the entire race. I backup flashlight or headlamp is one thing you do not want be without when running at night. One other ALWAYS. Before every 100 I throw away all the batteries in my headlamps and flashlights and purchase new ones at a RiteAid or Walgreens. (Drugstores have very quick turnover of batteries. You don't want batteries that have been sitting on a shelf for 3 years.) Put the new batteries in your lights and extra batteries in you backpack. Put the rest in your dropbags.
Fueling (eating): Again, figure out what you like in the long training runs. They (whoever "they" is) tells you to never eat anything new in a race. Well that may be fine for a marathon but is just not practical in most ultras. I follow a simple rule. Eat what looks good or what I want. I have eaten such diverse things as apple pie, pecan pie, grilled cheese sandwiches, (lots of grille cheese at Grindstone) Boost, a barbecue sandwich, many types of broth and soup and many things that I didn't even know what they were, but they all looked good and tasted good. You should carry an additional source of carbs during the run. Don't depend on the aid stations to supply your total need for calories. You cannot eat enough at aid stations to keep up with the carbs you burning and you may not like what you find at the aid station. I always have my own carb drink mix and snacks that I like with me and in my drop bags. for several years I used CarboPro mixed at all times during all Ultras. CarboPro is only carbs. You must also take an electrolyte supplement. Recently I have started using a "Tailwind" and really like it. It's use is simple. Add a pack to 20 oz of water. (Or, put two scoops out of a large container of Tailwing in a baggie) and dump the baggie in a bottle. That's it. Tailwind contains carbs and electrolytes. That said, there are many options out there. Try them all and see what you like best.
Early in the day at the Lake Martin 100, the aid station food will be pretty simple.
Peanut butter and jelly Sandwiches Bananas Oranges Heed (Hammer Nutrition carb drink) Hammer Gel Chips Cookies Various snacks and candy Coke Water
Starting about 11:00 AM we will add: (If it is cold all day these foods will all be heated.
Hot noodle soup Turkey and Swiss roll-ups Cheese roll-ups Bean Burritos
Overnight we will keep serving the same foods but will heat the roll-ups.
Hot Noodle Soup Hot Turkey and Swiss Roll-ups Hot Cheese Roll-ups Hot Bean Burritos
Rules for eating and drinking on the run.