I did something the other day that I have wanted to do for a very long time and it is still kind of a fog to me so I am writing this post now to help me unpack it. 🙂 I will have some other posts in the future that will look at things like training, nutrition, fueling, equipment, etc from the perspective of a first time 100 mile finisher.
Running My First 100 Mile Race
Link: Mamba 100 Results
I started running just over 17 years ago with the goal of running one marathon. I started running and had that marathon just 12 weeks away so it was pretty quick training. I thought I would run one and be done – bucket list style. That first marathon was in Tiberias, Israel 17 years ago.
I hurt so bad after the race (I ran it in 4:34) that I could barely move for a couple of days. I said I would never ever do that again. Fast forward 24 hours and I had my next marathon already booked, just 6 weeks after that. 🙂 Since that time, I have done almost 70 marathons or ultra marathons (and almost as many solo marathons – runs of 26.2 miles that I ran on my way, not in an organized race).
For those that don’t know, a marathon is an actual distance (there is no such thing as a 5K marathon, for example). It is 26.2 miles (or 42.195km). Any race distance beyond that distance is called an ultra marathon. The most normal ones are 50k (31 miles), 50 miles, 100k (62 miles), and 100 miles. Other than that, there are timed races like 6 hour, 12 hour, and 24 hour races where you run as many miles as you can in that time. There are also extreme events like 200 miles, 48 hour, and even 72 hours. Then of course, the last-man-standing backyard ultra where you just go until all your competitors stop. 🙂
I went through a somewhat natural progression – a couple of marathons, my first 50k, a 50 miler a couple of years later. But, I always wanted to do a 100 mile run. There are so many elements to it that just push the body so much more than a race you run in daylight. With a 24 hour, most of us are running all day and all night and not sleeping for at least a day. That sounded nuts – and I was down for it! 🙂
The Mamba 100 Mile Ultramarathon
I wanted to do a 100 mile race this year and due to scheduling, I picked an inaugural event – the Mamba 100 mile in Memphis, TN. It was a trail race (as most 100 milers are) and it would be 7 laps of 14.3 miles per loop. It started on a Friday morning with a generous 34 hour deadline.
I will have another post that is a strict review of this inaugural event as the race director did a phenomenal job! But, for now, let me dive into the race. I will also have a post on my training leading up to it so won’t cover that in here either.
Everything just went great for this race. The farthest I had run in a race before was 60 miles in a 12 hour event so everything past that would be new territory for me (also, that 12 hour race had been on an asphalt course and was like 13 years ago). I did have a head cold I had been dealing with for almost 3 weeks and that had a slight effect on my breathing and hydration but otherwise, I was healthy when I toed the line.
The race started at 7am on Friday with temps around 39 degrees and the sun beginning to peak just a bit over the horizon. It was still just dark enough that we started out, 88 of us, with headlamps on the single track trail.
Running the Numbers
My goal had been to try and stay around 12 minute miles for the first couple of laps but I was a bit surprised to find that my heart rate was running higher than it normally did at that pace. That told me I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold it as long as I thought.
Here were my official lap splits from the race (each lap was 14.3 miles with a large aid station at the start/finish area and another one at 3.8 miles which we would hit again at 10.8 miles). Note that the clock starts running at the start of the race and does not stop for the runner until they have crossed the final lap’s finish mat. So, all stops at aid stations are included in the time totals as the clock never stops.
- Lap 1: 2:44:28 (11:30 per mile)
- Lap 2: 2:51:53 (12:01 per mile)
- Lap 3: 3:30:45 (14:44 per mile)
- Lap 4: 3:44:10 (15:41 per mile)
- Lap 5: 3:58:45 (16:42 per mile)
- Lap 6: 4:30:00 (18:53 per mile)
- Lap 7: 4:42:33 (19:46 per mile)
Official time was 26 hours and 2 minutes for a pace of 15:27 per mile. I came in 20th place out of 55 finishers (there were 33 runners that were not able to finish).
Here are some numbers for those that like this kind of stuff – like me!
- Average pace – 15:18 per mile
- Best pace – 6:08 (but not for a whole mile)
- Moving time – 24 hours and 2 minutes
- Run time – 14 hours and 7 minutes
- Walk time – 10 hours and 27 minutes
- Idle time (sitting at aid stations) – 1 hours and 27 minutes
- Average heart rate – 135bpm
- Total ascent – 2,618 feet
- Total calories burned – 13,791 calories
- Fastest mile – 10:41 (mile 17)
I actually ran a little over 102 miles because I took a wrong turn (totally my fault – the course was well marked) and went 1 mile the wrong way. Oops! Talk about messing with your head! Also, towards the end of lap 4, the sun began to set again so we had to go out with headlamps again. When the sun finally went down, it was very dark! Like you could not see a single thing without a light!
Night Running on the Trail
The trail was an easy one as races go but when you combine a single track trail with rocks, roots, leaves, branches, holes during darkness and when you are exhausted, it is better to slow down a little. 🙂 Better to finish slower than not finish because you trip and fall and really hurt yourself because you ran too fast! Even the winner had a final lap of a 16:04 pace for the distance.
I was alone for much of the race as the runners spread out but still had a nice time running with some of the other runners and chatting during the race. I was able to pick up a pacer on Lap 6 so that was very helpful to have company during the middle of the night. For me, whenever I do an all nighter for anything, 4am is always my toughest time to get through. Having someone with me then really helped push me through that.
The toughest part was definitely processing what I was seeing on the trail while running tired and fatigued. The brain just wasn’t processing everything as fast so it was difficult to maintain focus. It was definitely a different thing to deal with!
The temps got up to mid-60s during the day and down to low 40s at night. That was a challenging thing for me as I would spend a couple of minutes near the fire at aid stations while volunteers re-filled my water bottles. One of those times, I headed out and within a couple of minutes, began shaking uncontrollably from the cold. Teeth chattering, everything shaking. I thought I may have to head back to the aid station to get warm but instead started slowly jogging and eventually it felt better. This happened every time after that – it was worth it to warm up for a bit. 🙂
The sun began to come up around 7:20am. I had secretly wanted to finish in under 24 hours but the nighttime running changed that plan. My real goal was simply to finish so that became my goal.
The Homestretch and Help
I left the final aid station at mile 96.5 and it was pretty emotional. The volunteers were AMAZING the whole race. Everyone was so caring and thoughtful of each runner, doing above and beyond to make sure the runners reached their goals.
I had been doing a walk/run routine for several hours but as I got closer, I started running more. The last .5 mile was around a 9:20 per mile pace. 🙂 Yeah, I was ready to get to the finish!
I have to say – I had an incredible pacer/crewmember. He is older than I am (he is 68) but he was the one who first got me into marathons and we had done several marathons together (he had always been faster than me). He was full of enthusiasm and helped me so much that I doubt I could have finished without him. All that to say – having a team is very important and helpful to finishing!
Also, the race director, James, and his entire staff of volunteers put on an event that looked like it had been running for years instead of being an inaugural race. They were fantastic. The stuff we all got with our entry was fantastic – a great puffer jacket, high quality buckle/medal, even a personal thank you card from the race director. The aid stations were stocked with fantastic food – wait until you hear about what I ate while running for 26 hours. 🙂
It is still a bit blurry in my memory as I wait for the fog to lift. I had never run that long or far before and it was really interesting to see what it was like to push the body like that. There were many people much faster than me – and older than me – so this was definitely not some groundbreaking time or result but finishing a 100 miler had been a long-time goal and I am so thrilled to have finally been able to do it!