I wrote this on the plane coming home from New Zealand. The sting of disappointment was still flowing through my veins. Muscles are more sore after failure. Even the food does not taste as good. I don’t like it.
I will start with what I knew pre race. The race was on a synthetic track. In lane one. 400 meters each lap. I found Centurion success on the track in Australia. I was well trained. I had a great taper and was fully rested. I am well experienced with Centurion walks. I have travelled internationally four times and found success at each race. I slept more pre race than I ever have. I had developed a sinus infection almost exactly one week before the race. I was on an antibiotic. I was better but not recovered.
What I know during the race. I started out strong. My intended pace was to walk each lap in 3 minutes 20 seconds. I was a little ahead of my intended pace. I felt very good. At the first direction change at four hours the judge told me I had a left lean. At the eight hour direction change I was out of gas. I drank a Coke and got a nice boost. Only thing hurting was my left big toe. I will lose that toe nail. I have always had this problem in long races. When tired my toe bends upward. Hits the top of my shoe. Boom kills the nail. I just walk through the pain. I ate good and drank regularly during the race. By the twelve hour mark it had been raining for two hours. I was struggling to hold a sub 3 minute 50 second pace. After two hours in the rain I put on my rain jacket. Our race judge told us no break in the rain was expected all night. At eighteen hours I was still on pace to make centurion. I would have to maintain 3 minute 55 second splits to just beat the 24 hour clock. I was able to hold that pace till hour nineteen. Just into my next hour I was shocked to see 4 minutes 10 seconds on my watch after a lap. Same hard fought effort but slower result. I had nothing left physically to walk any faster. If I could not hold pace there was a zero chance I could pick up any lost time.
What happened next is something I have never done before. Never considered before. I pulled the plug. Five hours is a long time to play the fall behind pace, catch up pace game. I Walked a very slow stiff lap and told the timing tent I was done. I just could not go on. Not for five hours. After I quit so did my body. I suffered from mild hypothermia, body aches and cramps. I laid on the floor completely spent and violently shaking. With medical advice my Wife was able to get me to a point where I could at least leave for a warm bed. Knowing what I know now. The smart move would have been to pull out earlier in the race. Tough call when you have so much invested in training and a strong desire for success. I need to learn how to read the warning signs. Some races you are not going to be able to finish. Save your body for another day. There will always be another race. Something you can only learn through experience.
So what happened? Could the sinus infection have been my undoing? I have leaned at several long races over the years. Never as early as in this race. Is leaning our bodies way of telling us something is not right? I had not recovered from my sinus infection. While better it had not run its course. Post race it has been the worst ever. Making the fourteen hour flight home almost unbearable. Without a doubt the race did not help it. I had no energy after eight hours. The back of my legs felt unusually tight and I had no drive. I never got cold even when wet. I tend to race hot. The rain had little affect on my race. Even wet socks caused no blisters. I did have bad shaffing between my thighs.
In summary. I had never thought of a Centurion race as being hard. That is till I had a hard Centurion race. I had early and often Centurion success. I realize now I was very lucky. These races are hard. They are very hard. You must be trained. You must properly recover from training. You must be mentally strong. You must be healthy. You must be rested. You are going to need a little outside luck (weather, course, no blisters, good support). If there is a break down in any of these your Centurion will be in jeopardy.
I was not healthy. My sinus infection left me weak. This weakness showed up early as a lean. Leaning starts to have an affect on your bio mechanics. You are working harder. Makes holding the pace harder. Working harder burns through your energy supply. A chain reaction that leads to failure. Success was doomed.
Going forward. For several years now I have raced and tracked Centurion races all over the world. I have walked with and met many Centurions. We have a good network for staying in touch. Many I am able to follow some of their training. It is a great Sisterhood/Brotherhood. I was always amazed when any Centurion walker pulled the plug on a new qualifier with enough time left to finish. I just could not imagine a scenario where I would not be able to finish late in the race. It has been the messages and personal notes received from these racers that has brought me the most comfort. As bad as this stings. As disappointed as I am. I now know much more about the race. I know much more about the people that attempt the race. This knowledge will make me better. It will make me more compassionate.
I am not quitting my goal. I still want to earn a number at every Centurion qualifier. New Zealand 2018. Maybe. I have a busy race year planned for 2018. A January marathon in Louisiana. 50K at Cowtown in February. March and April Marathons in Oklahoma. A return to the FANS 24 hour United States Centurion qualifier in June. If that all goes to suit me I will turn my eyes toward Auckland. Going to be fun.
For my Centurion Race training I work hard to do all my training at a sub 12 minute 30 second per mile pace average. I find a sub 12 minute training pace average even better. I want my workouts to feel hard. The Reason. In a Centurion race I want to race at a 13 minute 30 second average pace. A 22 hour 30 minute finish. Much slower than I train. Although I have only averaged a little better than that pace once at the finish. I want the race pace to feel easy. I want the race to feel easier than a training session. It is a mental thing. If the pace feels easy then it is easy to hold. My goal is to get about an hour ahead of the clock. Around 66 miles at the 15 hour mark. With this cushion you are safe guarded against almost any problem that pops up the last third of the race. For me it is a given, I will slow down some the last third of the race. If I feel bad the last third I can slow all the way down to a 15 minute mile pace and still make Centurion. The one fact I have come to realize is, If you get behind the clock, catching up will not be an option late in the race. You have to walk 75 miles at 18 hours to have a chance. Bank some extra time early while you feel good. No so fast that the walk feels hard. Just fast enough to bank that extra hour. Train Hard, Race Easy.
Training for my First and even my second Centurion my thought was the more miles the better. I thought back2back training was the key. 28 miles on Saturday then 28 more miles on Sunday. Add up all the miles I could. Now for me 59 miles per week max plus strength training is enough, No back2backs. Training is wasted if you can not recover. Worse yet if you get injured. I could not recover from those back2back training walks. Ideal for me is a 14 week training session before my Centurion Race. Now granted that is 14 weeks with an established 50 mile per week base. Two or three Marathons and/or 50k races mixed in. Not a Cold Start. 2 weeks of 51 miles per week. 2 weeks of 55 miles per week. 6 weeks of 59 miles per week. One 71 mile week four weeks before the race with a 40 mile long walk (Humble Pie Walk). Then a slow Taper down in mileage. 55 mile week, 51 mile week, 31 mile week, Race. Train Hard. Walk Those Miles but not so many you can’t recover.
I use to always watch my diet and weight. Very strict during training. Now I am strict during my Taper. Lots of miles takes lot of calories. Don’t put your body at a disadvantage during high mileage training. Eat well. Drop that extra 5 pounds during the taper before your race.
One day four or five weeks before your Centurion Walk you need to plan a Humble Pie Walk. A humble pie walk is a 40 mile walk at your intended Centurion pace. I use one of my long walk training days. I slow down and up the distance. It is a good chance to work on your food and drink plan. Try out socks, shoes any thing you plan to use in the race.
The reason I call it a Humble Pie Walk. You will be surprised how hard it is. 40 miles in around nine hours. I train hard. I have a well planned training schedule. I start to think I have this walking down to an art form. I start to think I am fast. All this thinking leads to dreams of fame. Dreams of Grandeur. A Humble Pie Walk will bring you back to reality. A hard 40 mile walk knowing you will have to walk 60 more miles for a Centurion. It is Humbling.
Don’t despair after your Humble Pie Walk. You have to remember for your Centurion qualifier you will have rested tapered legs. You will get a BIG boost from race day adrenaline. The other racers will give you a boost. It will be to your advantage to show up at the Centurion Qualifier humbled and reserved.
It is tough to give good race day advice. What works well for me might not help you at all. Below are some things that have made my Race Day a success:
Triple Paste® prescription-strength medicated ointment. During a race I get a heat rash under my arms, around my groin and bum crack. I also get occasional chafing. Triple Paste has solved all these problems for me. The ointment is waterproof. I apply LIBERALLY under my arms, groin and bum. I don’t know any other way to say this but to just say it. It makes cleaning your bum easier if you make a sit down bathroom stop. If I have an area of chafing during the race (like my thighs rubbing) a dab of Triple Paste to the area stops it. I rate Triple Paste® prescription-strength medicated ointment As one of the greatest helps I have found to get to the end of a Centurion Race.
Nipple guards. If you have been racing any time at all then you know how important this item is. I have tried several tapes and guards. The one that works best for me is NipGuard.
Every 100 Miler I raced I would have the same post race problem. My lips would have blisters on them. Very painful two to three days after the race. I guessed it was just stress from the race. Then after the British Centurion in Redcar I was reading Centurion Richard McChesney’s Blog http://richardwalkslondon.com/ Richard mentioned after Redcar his lip sunburned. Well duh. Out in the sun all day. I protect my body with sun screen. Never my lips. Now I use this before and during the race. Banana Boat Sport Sunscreen Lip Balm – SPF 50.
I rarely get toe blisters. If I do is is always around the nail on my big toe. Late in a race my feet get tired and my big toe bends up. The nail end hits the top of my shoe. Most races I don’t have a big toe nail so no problem. I find taping my big toe causes blisters on my other toes. I usually just tough out toe blisters. If I just can not take the pain I will slip on a Silopad digital cap.
I tape my feet. Late in a race I start to get a hot spot on the inside bottom of both heels. I use Engo Patches inside my shoes in these areas. The patches help but after 80 miles I could still feel the blisters starting to form. Now I also tape my feet. I used a whole year of marathon racing to perfect my foot taping. You want to get the tape job correct. If you don’t the tape will cause more and different blister problems.
I use Leukotape P sports tape. First I clean my feet with alcohol wipes. The Leukotape P sports tape stays stuck to clean feet. I have never had the tape come loose when I properly clean my feet. Rather than try and tell about my tape pattern I will show it. (Note: I do this by myself. It is easier with help. Practice fixing your feet by yourself. You might just have to do that before or during a race). I place three strips of tape across the back bottom half of my foot (side to side) from forward toward the heel. Photo 1, 2 and 3. You must start with the most forward piece of tape. If you don’t start at the front all the pieces will come loose during the race. Be sure that the next piece of tape overlaps the previous piece on the edges. Photo 4. Any place where the tape will not lay flat without bunching up pinch the tape together to make a tag. Photo 5. Use your scissors to cut these tags smooth off. Photo 6. Next I go around the back of my foot from side around the heel to side. Photo 7. Last I tape the bottom from underneath up the heel. Photo 8. I have not had a heel blister since I started taping my feet this way.
These Items get me to the End of a Centurion Race.
Take a race as demanding as a Centurion. Add in long travel. Change of time zones. Sleep deprivation. New foods. POW you have transformed a tough race into an even tougher race. Below are a few tips that have helped me with International Centurion Races.
Plan every detail in advance: The day of your trip is not the time to find out you booked the wrong night at the hotel. Plan everything in advance. Go over your plan again and again. Check your passport. Visa. Required vaccinations. Make sure you packed everything you need for the race. Warm gear. Wet Gear. An extra change of everything. Do not risk missing the Race you trained so hard for because you overlooked something. Plan well = race well = SUCCESS.
Plan extra time: Leave early for the airport. Arrive early for the train. Get to the race early. Plan extra time for everything. Avoid all stress on your trip. Avoid all stress on race day. Get worked up when they pin that Centurion Badge on your shirt. The rest of the time, Calm Cool Collected.
Fly Business Class: This might not be possible. Business class is expensive. All the little extras make it worth the price. A more comfortable seat. Possibly even a bed. Priority boarding. Use of the express lane at airport screening. Priority baggage handling. Use of the airport lounge during layovers. Save up your money. These little extras are worth the price.
Pack a Carry on Bag: Pack your race shoes, socks and clothes in your carry on bag. Pack every item you MUST have in this bag. Most of the time your luggage will arrive when you do. Don’t risk arriving at the race without your race gear. Carry it with you.
Drink lots of water: One of the perks of flying business class is they have a bottle of water waiting at your seat. Drink it. They will bring another. Drink all you can during your travel. I get so worked up during travel I forget to drink. Staying hydrated during travel will help you during your Centurion race.
Don’t change your diet: I love to eat. Travel brings new foods. New times of the day to eat. Take advantage of every new food and every meal you can “After the race”. Before the race do NOT change your diet. Nothing makes a Centurion race more uncomfortable than digestive distress. It is not worth it. Enjoy your race then eat you own weight in food after and on the way back home.
Take Airborne: Airborne® products contain a combination of key immune supporting vitamins and minerals plus a proprietary blend of natural herbs. Most likely you will not be alone on your flights. You will be sharing the air with several hundred people for as long as 14 hours. Some of them will be sick. Boost your odds of staying well with a boost of vitamins and minerals. Take as often as recommended on the package.
Sleep Sleep Sleep: Sleep as much as you can when ever you can. Have your seat on the plane turned into a bed. Sleep. When you get to your room. sleep. A 24 hour race is still a 24 hour race overseas. Stock up on your sleep.
International races are expensive. Failure is not an option: This is a mindset. International travel is very expensive. Flights, hotels, transportation, tours, food. Almost double if you travel with your spouse or a supporter. Failure can NOT be an option. You are going to do your Centurion race. You are going to be successful. Nothing is going to stop you. You will not quit.
Enjoy your International Centurion Race. Just because you have decided to make the race harder. Does not mean you can’t still enjoy the experience. Race hard. Become an International Centurion.
My weekly Diet
Breakfast -1/2 cup of oatmeal with a slice of whole wheat toast
Lunch – Sliced Turkey Sandwich/ swiss cheese /regular mustard / on whole wheat bread.
Dinner – Large spinach salad /carrots /radishes /sunflower seeds / Balsamic vinaigrette / ham or grilled chicken.
or Beef Roast / sweet potatoes
or Grilled pork chop / brown rice / peas or quiche / grapes I finish each Dinner with two squares of Dark Chocolate.
Note: I only drink water. On Friday night I take my wife out for a date. I eat what ever I want including dessert.
Sunday Lunch my wife cooks something she likes. I enjoy it with her. 2 squares of dark chocolate for dessert. Sunday evening I have a can of tuna on celery sticks.
It takes a lot of fuel to walk a lot of miles. Might as well use premium Fuel (whole foods).
The Centurion Race and training takes a big toll on your feet. My feet changed once I found the right shoes. I have Morton’s toe. My feet gave me lots of problems at high mileage. After much research I made the switch to better shoes. I now wear Altra Torin’s. These shoes have Zero Drop and a Very wide toe box. The zero drop took some getting use to. My toes loved the wide toe box. In fact my feet changed. My toes spread out. With the extra room my feet made adjustments so my second toe and big toe are the same length. It has worked. All my foot problems went away. Happy feet make happy Centurions.
The one problem I have occasionally is blisters. I have found several things that have worked for me.
One: I no longer use any kind of lubricant on my feet. In long races lubricant attracts dirt. Dirt makes friction.
Two: Thin Merino wool socks.
Three: Engo blister prevention patches. These are anti friction patches that stick inside your shoes. They stop friction between your socks and shoes. They come in many different shapes. They do not work on soaked shoes and will not stick to wet shoes. You will need to place them before the race or before your feet get wet. I stick Engo patches in the known trouble spots on every pair of shoes while new.
Four: Silopad digital caps for big toes and digital tubes for my other toes. It is much easier and faster to use these tubes on the toes than tape. They feel great on.
Five: I sand off all my calluses. The last thing you want in a race is a blister under a callus. There is no way to fix such a blister. Keep your calluses sanded off and those toe nails trimmed and filed.
In my Blister Box I take to each race.
Lots of Engo Blister prevention patches in several sizes.
Scissors. To cut tape and trim caps and tubes to size.
Leukotape P sports tape. This is great tape that stays stuck. Tape over the blister dressing to hold in place. Makes a barrier between your foot and the shoe.
Primapore dressing. Use to cover dehooded blisters. It sticks in place making it easier to tape in place. It keeps your blister from sticking to the tape. It holds the Orajel.
Orajel. Numbs blisters and medicates. Thick and water resistant.
Silopad digital caps and digital tubes. Several of each. Much easier to use than trying to tape toes. Use the scissors to cut to size.
Sterile Disposable Scalpels. I pack several of these. Open the package, sterile. Perfect for draining a blister before patching. Draining releases the pressure. Eases the pain.
Alcohol wipes. Use to clean feet. Helps the tape stick better.
Practice using all these Items on yourself. You want to be good at fixing your feet and blisters. Practice Practice Practice. The time you save patching and racing on feet that don’t hurt will help make your Centurion possible.
Without a doubt A Centurion requires lots of training Miles. A lot of time on your feet. I attribute part my success to strength training. I use Planks, push-ups, chin-ups and goblet squats. I do each of these exercises twice a week. Core work drives the engine. Strong arms drive your legs.
PLANKS Currently I do 21 minutes of planks. First set: 3 minute front plank, 1 minute 45 second right side plank, 1 minute 45 second left side plank. Second set is a repeat of set one. Third set an 8 minute front plank. This last set is perfect training for your mind. Don’t cut this last set short. Train your mind. The job is not finished till you are done.
PUSH-UPS Currently I do 5 sets of 78 push-ups. I train on a eight tenths of a mile road loop. I do a set of push-ups at the start/ finish line at the end of each of the first five loops.
CHIN-UPS Currently I do 4 sets of 9 chin-ups. You can feel chin-ups in almost every muscle you have. I enjoy Boxing. I work the Heavy Bag for a round between Chin-up sets.
GOBLET SQUATS Currently I do 3 sets of 30 Squats with a 20 pound kettle ball. My knees are the weak link to my walking. Squats help build up the strength in your knees.
Note: I did not start out with these numbers. I built up to this point over a three year period. When a workout gets easy for a month, I don’t have a race coming up in more than 4 weeks, I move up the number of reps.
My Regular weekly schedule looks like this:
Saturday: 4.8 miles, 5 sets of 78 push-ups, 21 minutes of Planks
Sunday: 24 miles, 3 sets of 30 Squats
Monday: 4.8 miles, 4 sets of 9 chin-ups
Tuesday: 4.8 miles, 5 sets of 78 push-ups, 21 minutes of Planks
Wednesday: 12 Miles, 3 sets of 30 squats
Thursday: 4.8 miles, 4 sets of 9 chin-ups
Friday: Day Off
When I am recovering post race or starting a taper two weeks before a race. 20 miles on Sunday.
The weekend before a race only 8 miles on Sunday. I also drop the strength training starting on Tuesday. Drop the daily miles to 4.8 miles on Wednesday and 4 Miles on Thursday. You want to arrive at your race rested.
When I have a long gap between races. 28 miles on my Sunday walk.
I do a 4 tenths of a mile warm up with leg and body loose drills before each walk. A 4 tenths mile cool down and stretches after each walk.
Becoming a Centurion is no accident. You have to work for it.
Find the right shoes: A Centurion would not have been possible in my old name brand shoes. My feet were covered in calluses. I got blisters every race. My feet were my weak link. I made a transition to Zero drop shoes with a wide toe box. My calluses went away. All my foot problems went away. Find the right shoes to become a Centurion.
Consistent training: Train six days per week. Every week. Never skip training. If a conflict comes up. Use your scheduled day off to train and skip the conflicting day. Get up extra early and train before the conflict. Stay up later and train after. Plan training into your vacation. Be Consistent with your training.
Strength Training: A 24 hour walk uses more than just your legs. Prepare your body with strength training. I use Planks, Push-ups, Chin-ups and gobblet squats. You must embrace the Planks Exercise for your core. Planks will make everything you do easier. It makes Walking easier. It makes push-ups easier. It makes chin-ups easier. It makes squats easier. Learn to love the planks exercise.
Never skip or cut a workout short: This is about a Mindset you will need for a Centurion. You will want to train your mind. The job is not done till it is done. No quick out. No easy path. If you are having a tough 28 mile long walk day. Finish it. The last 2 minutes of an eight Minute front plank is tough. You will not stop. Finish it. The reward comes when the job is finished. It is a mind set. Never skip or cut a workout short. It is the tough workouts that build centurions. Become mentally Tough.
Speed: You will need to walk sub 5 hour Marathons during training. I know a Centurion is not a speed contest. A walked sub 5 hour Marathon is tough. It requires a consistent hard pressed drive with your legs. You will need this consistent hard pressed drive to do a Centurion. It wont be as fast. It will be just as tough and much longer. Work on speed. Do all your training walks at a sub 12:30 minute per mile pace. Sub 12:00 minute per mile pace is even better. Train your legs to drive. When sub 5 hour marathons become easy. You are well on your way to a Centurion. Work on Speed.
Control your pace: Just like in a Marathon you must control your pace. Don’t go out too fast. Your Centurion will become a death march. A VERY long death march. Set a pace and stick to it for the first 15 hours. After that let your mind and legs decide if holding your pace or speeding up is an option. Be sure and set a pace fast enough to allow for a slow down late in the race. If you get behind the clock catching up will not be an option late in the race. It is much better to bank some time early on. Learn to Control your pace to become a Centurion.
Eat and Drink: You can not walk 100 miles without food and drink. I like to drink a cup of water at the top and bottom of each hour. I eat a handful of food at the quarter and three quarter hour marks. I like to start out eating a handful of candy each time. Peanut M&M’s, cookies. Every six hours I want some real food. PB&J sandwich, pizza, burger. Later in the race I eat what ever looks good. Do not eat to much and do not stop eating. I eat and drink while I walk. I do not take food breaks. Experiment with foods before your race. Find what agrees with your stomach. A coke late in the race can help get you to the finish.
Never Quit: No matter what happens. Never ever even consider the thought of quitting. You are going to feel lots of different pains in 24 hours. If it does not change your gait walk through it. I promise something else will hurt later. You will forget what hurt before. Your Mind will fight to shut everything down. Thoughts of sleep will take over. You must overcome these feelings. You will have to over rule your own mind. The heavens might open up. There might be water to wade through. A rock might fall into your shoe. Do not Quit.
Becoming a Centurion is not a super human feat. It does however require a Large heart and a load of guts. Train hard. Become the person that can Walk 100 miles in 24 Hours. A CENTURION!