Looking at the Pinhoti 100 photos, I see that I am smiling in every single one. Every one. My dad even challenged the Internets to find a photo of me not smiling, and no one could.
Since Pinhoti, I have gotten more “But did you really smile the entire time?” questions than I can count. And the answer is a wholehearted yes. I had such a fantastic time for all 28.5 hours that even the unrelenting rain could not wipe the smile off my face.
If you want to know how you too can run 100 miles (or 26.2 miles, or 10 miles, or even 1 mile) skipping and cheering and grinning like the Cheshire Cat the entire time, then read on:
Really take time and think about what you want in your first 100. Is it familiar faces? An easy course? Proximity to home? Epic views? If you pick a race based on something that motivates you, you may be more likely to chase harder after that finish.
I knew without a doubt that I wanted Pinhoti to be my first 100. I wanted to be surrounded by friends the entire time so that I could lean on them if needed, and they could share the experience with me. I also wanted a fairly challenging course so I could prove to myself that I really deserved that buckle.
If you surround yourself with positive people who believe in you, you will have no choice but to believe in yourself. Find cheerleaders who will support your every crazy move and love them and hold them close. And if you ever start to doubt yourself, reach out to your cheerleaders. They’ll set you straight.
From Day 1, I had my people, my supporters. I leaned on them for advice and encouragement. They never once seemed to doubt me, and therefore I never doubted myself. And knowing I had an entire group of people loving and supporting me made me grin from ear to ear.
Nothing will wipe the smile off your face faster than an upset stomach or a calorie deficit-induced bonk. Train your stomach along with your legs in the months leading up to the race. It’s important to learn what fuel works for you over long distances, but it’s equally important to learn how to handle getting sick on a run. Practice puking and rallying, squatting in the woods, forcing down calories even when the sight of food makes you sick.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I really paid attention to my nutrition plan leading up to Pinhoti. It was my biggest concern because my intestines hate running, but I wasn’t about to let that ruin my race. I used Tailwind on every long run and purposely threw in strange foods here and there. Come race day, my body knew what to do and I ate and drank like a trail champion. Or a feral pig.
The phrase “practice makes perfect” exists for a reason—it’s true! Because training for 100 miles involves so much more than just running, you need to try to imagine and then put yourself into every possible race scenario. Practice hiking fast. Practice running when tired. Practice surviving in the bitter cold, in the oppressive heat, in the pouring rain. Practice overcoming that voice in your head when the last thing you want to do is walk out that door and go for a run.
I learned this trick from a lot of local 100 veterans. I ran at ridiculous hours with almost zero sleep. I ran at high noon on the hottest days of the summer. I got comfortable being uncomfortable, so come Pinhoti, nothing seemed new or unusual or scary to me. I handled everything that came my way with a shrug and a smile.
Be incredibly strategic when selecting your crew and pacers. You’ll want people who are organized, calm, and encouraging but tough if you need them to be. Your pacers should be able to handle your highs and lows all while keeping your goals in mind.
My crew was great—they were just as excited as I was to be out there, so we fed off each others’ energy. We also worked like a well-oiled machine, which eliminated stress on my end. My pacers were equally fantastic and kept my spirits up and legs moving forward. They each had their own strengths that helped me exactly when I needed them.
If you’re going to run 100 miles and genuinely enjoy it, your mental game and attitude need to be on point. You need to come to terms with the fact that it will suck a lot of the time, but then it will get better. You need to expect and embrace the pain. You need to want to finish even when you don’t want to run anymore.
One thing that I’m proud of is my mental toughness and stubbornness. I am the biggest realist/pessimist you’ll ever meet, and I expected things to go wrong at the race. So when they did (course changes, constant rain, heavy fog), they didn’t bother me mentally because I was prepared for the worst. I knew I wanted that buckle more than anything, and nothing would get in the way of me and that finish line.
This sounds so obvious and easy, but it’s true. Enjoy every wonderful, miserable, painful, and lovely mile. When you’re feeling down, take a moment to remember all the reasons you love running and how fortunate you are to be out there tackling that insane distance. If that doesn’t work, remember that you voluntarily signed up for the sufferfest—get your money’s worth and enjoy it, damn it!
So how did I smile for 100 miles? The answer is simple—I loved every single second of it. I got to spend two days in the woods chasing after my dream. What’s not to smile about?
There you go. 100-mile race strategy. Follow these simple rules and I promise that you too can smile like the Cheshire Cat for the entire race.