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My Vermont 100 Training Plan

by Nancy Shura

Before I entered my first 10K, I commented to my running friend, "I couldn't run 6.2 miles if I knew they were holding a gun to my kid's head at the finish line!" That was in 1989. In 1992, after I crewed and paced my sister Robin through the Angeles Crest 100, I said to Larry, "If I EVER say I want to run 100 miles, just shoot me!". How I reached mile 100 at Vermont, I'll never know, but I can say for sure that for me, the last six miles of the race were actually easier than my first 10K.

Building a Base: Long before I ever considered running 100 miles, I began to build and maintain my base of distance running. In 1995, I accomplished a goal of running 12 marathons. 1996 was another year of long training runs on the weekend and injury free racing. I ran my first 50-miler in April '96, American River, and by the end of summer, I was entertaining thoughts of training for a 100 miler. I started pouring though issues of UltraRunning Magazine and made the decision that the Vermont 100 (July '97) would be the ideal trail 100 for the first attempt. With this in mind, I entered the Avalon 50-Mile Run, which would be my qualifier for Vermont.

Building to Peak: In preparation for Vermont 100, I decided that over a 9-month period I would do three build-ups to peak for races. This would also allow me to gradually increase my weekly mileage and would allow for recovery after each race before the next build up. It looked something like this:


Homework: Dropping out of Vermont would have been by choice, not by chance, and for me it was never an option. Looking back, I see that my choice was made weeks and months before, choosing to get up at 5:00 AM on Saturdays, choosing to run tired on Sundays, choosing to meet Tani or Joe for Wednesday runs. I never actually recorded my mileage, just checked the schedule and did what was written down. There were many times I asked myself how I would ever get through 100 miles. I believe that for me to do well on a final exam involves weeks of doing my homework. I don't do well with last minute cramming. I just applied the same principle to the training. I began to refer to my Vermont training as "my homework". Regardless of how tired or slow I felt, I visualized myself on each run, putting small deposits into the 100-mile account that I would withdraw from on race day. Continual small deposits often add up to much more than just a few larger deposits made at the last minute, I reasoned. I hoped that everything would be there when I needed it.

Damage Control: Taking inventory after my 50-milers, I knew I had to do some serious damage control if I was ever going to run farther. I suffered a range of ultra problems that could stop me from completing a 100 mile distance, among them; nausea/vomiting, calluses on my heels which blistered deep, a bent baby toe that blistered, pinched nerve in my neck that radiated down my back and right arm, and cold-sensitivity in my teeth after 12 hours of mouth breathing and sugary drinks. Damage control would be one of the most important parts of training for me. Seeing how painful 100-mile races can be for some, I am convinced that my damage control paid off.

I experimented with various shoes, finally taking four different pairs to VT. I ended up using two pairs of shoes, one for the first 20 miles and the other for the last 80. I was the butt of jokes among the group about my shoe shopping frenzy, but I do believe I found the best pairs for me at the time and then made them even better by cutting them up with my knife. In fact, as my crew will attest, much of the first 40 miles of my race was spent customizing my insoles to relieve pressure and prevent blisters on my heels and little toes. Seems to have paid off, as I never had to remove my shoes after mile 40!

Another area of damage control was my stomach. I decided to wear "sea bands" on my wrists (used for motion sickness) and have found them to be highly effective. I made the decision to avoid the use of ibuprofen or other pain relievers entirely during my training, believing this would keep my stomach more settled. I used my training runs to eat and drink various things until I thought I'd found the perfect combo for me. This consisted of Guava juice with 1 scoop of Carbo-Plex (consumed approx. 20 oz. every three hours); drinking large swallows of plain water every 10 minutes (set the timer on my watch to beep); one salt packet every hour; 2 or 3 Pierogies every 1-4 hours; and chicken noodle soup at night, every chance I got. When I began to feel nauseated or gaggy, I stopped eating and took only plain water, salt, and Power Gel, until I felt better, which usually took only a short time. I followed my plan and the result was that I had minimal nausea, never vomited, pee'd about every 20-30 minutes the entire 29 hours, and actually gained about four pounds during the race. I never did "bonk" and much to my surprise, the last six miles were almost my fastest of the entire race, according to the splits sent by the race director.

Other areas of damage control were: sanding down my heel calluses; learning to tape my toes to prevent blisters; professional massages for my neck, back, legs; and a rubber tooth guard to keep the cold air off my teeth while running. The homework really paid off during the race. I took my first Advil at mile 68, and that was for my neck! From then on, I took one Advil every four hours, and I credit the low volume of Advil for preventing stomach and kidney problems.

Planning: I planned really well for this race. I researched everything, talked to people, made lists of things I needed. I packed my gear in a rolling suitcase, self-contained and easy to transport intact to each aid station (and on the airplane). I had more than I would ever need inside... drinks, flashlights, batteries, clothes, socks, blister kit, plus a cooler with food.

Mental Training: My mantras kept me going both during training and the race itself. Some of my favorites were... "run tired", "stay strong", and my personal favorite... "it's supposed to hurt... you're running 100 miles stupid!". At the start, I had apprehension but I knew inside that I am really a tough cookie, and that was in my favor. After all, I endured an 80-hour natural childbirth at the ripe young age of 20, so I was hoping I was tough enough to manage close to 30 hours of running at the ripe old age of... never mind! As I crossed the start line of the VT 100, I committed myself to one thing only... that quitting would not be an option. I committed to keep going until they pulled me for some reason, or until I finished.

What Would I Do Different: Absolutely nothing!

Nancy Shura 1997 VT 100-Mile Endurance Run Finishing Time:  29:07

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