-First, A Little Background-
I picked Cruel Jewel 100 to train for Bigfoot 200 in 2018. Cruel Jewel is a notoriously difficult Hardrock qualifying ultra. With 33,000 ft of gain and equal loss in a reported 106 miles, I felt that Cruel Jewel was a great place to condition for Bigfoot’s 42,000 ft of gain in 206 miles. This was not my first hundred plus miler or the hardest race I’d ever completed but still represented the most vertical in the mileage I’d tried. Plus the Georgia heat and humidity would be tough.
Hold my beer. GAME. ON.
–What Worked For Me–
#1 Great conditioning, Great conditioning, GREAT CONDITIONING
I’m a certified coach at Morph Conditioning specializing in strength, conditioning, endurance and sports nutrition. I believe mind and body must be conditioning properly over time to healthfully complete tasks like Cruel Jewel 100 (yes, I think it is possible for this to be healthy!). Besides a winter BUILD where my mileage was greatly reduced and my lifting volume was high and heavy, I practiced a systematic conditioning program which also included a series of build up races. Winning the Mountain Marathon early in the season was a great start (in snow to boot!). I added in a hot and vertical 50 miler (4 th place) and a technical 100k at Diez Vista prior to taking on the Cruel Jewel challenge (top 10 female placement). The build was slow and calculated with zero injury and plenty of rest/nutrition. I also used a heat training protocol involving indoor training and sauna weeks before the race. All this paid off BIG TIME.
#2 Great gear
- Altra Olympus trail shoes. These are my go to shoes for really long events. I wore the Olympus for the entire race. With great trail grip and plenty of cushion, my feet survived this crazy 112 mile Hardrock qualifier without bruising or swelling.
- XOSKIN socks, tops and calf sleeves were essential in my gear kit. This gear is the real deal and delivers. From the XOSKIN website at:
“XOSKIN™ athletic apparel is designed with our state-of-the art RAPIDriCOPPER™ technology. We use PTFE and Copper fibers in all of our 3D seamless knitted designs to provide athletes with an external supportive covering which reduces odor, promotes skin wellness, protects against chafing and blistering, wicks moisture at extreme speed, dries fast and maximizes the comfort of any activity.
The unique RAPIDriCOPPER™ technology used in our apparel functions as an “external” supporting structure for your skin. A frog’s skin can transfer moisture through its body. Their skin is more breathable than human skin because it is more elastic and they have the unique ability to maintain the right balance of moisture on the skin at all times. XOSKIN™ apparel provide athletes with an additional multifunctional “layer of skin” similar to a frogs. XOSKIN™ is #YOURSECONDSKIN™”
With XOSKIN, my feet, legs and torso stayed chafe free and temperature regulated in both the hot and wet/cold aspects of the race. I changed my socks twice, my top twice and my calf sleeves once (just in case I got into poison ivy which is quite abundant in Georgia). The first night of Cruel Jewel we experienced a severe and long down pour. I was able to run in an XOSKIN tank top for most of that night without fear of freezing.
- UltrAspire Velocity hydration pack. This pack fit like a glove and had reduced surface contact with my torso helping my body stay cooler and more efficient. I had more then enough room for two 550 ml soft UltraFlask bottles, nutrition in the back stash pockets, headlamps, small med kit, warm layers and rain jacket, bug spray, sunscreen, toilet paper, and Red Bull. The UltraFlask 550 bottles are easy to fill and and close.
- Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Trekking poles. I’ve used these poles for several years throughout thousands of crazy tough miles. I carried my Z poles the entire 112 mile adventure. Carbon Z’s are feather light, collapse for storage, extremely durable, plus– they came in handy for poking ground off trail when I needed to go to the bathroom. There are lots and lots of Nope Ropes (otherwise known as snakes) in Georgia. Thank god for my poles!!!
- Petzl REACTIK headlamp was my go-to. Multi-beam, 300 lumens and rechargeable, this light is worth the money. I used 1.5 batteries over 1.75 nights of running. I used this light at Moab 240 as well.
- Plastic gloves. I used these to deal with any shoe or sock changes. Poison ivy is very common along the trail and the chances of my gear touching some was very high. I am 99% certain I ran through a bit of the nasty twice. In order to protect myself, I used gloves at aid stations and also scrubbed down with Tecnu at the half way through Aid Station where there was running water (I’m super allergic to poison ivy so this was necessary for me to do). I ended up having no reaction so I consider the extra precaution worth it!
#3 Great nutrition
- OSMO Nutrition for Women from 1 hour plus. In the past, I’ve had a lot of problem using electrolyte solutions. This all changed when I started using OSMO. I consumed around 75% of a tub of OSMO during the entire 112 mile race with significant improvement in performance and zero GI distress, swelling, and no need for further supplementation (other then FOOD). At one point during the early hours of Cruel Jewel, I ran out of my OSMO and had to turn to race electrolyte solution on the course. This particular solution is not ideal for female athletes and I immediately got slosh gut from the excess sugar in the product. I was relieved to be only a few miles away from my crew and more OSMO!
- Honey Stinger Waffles and gels. Always. Honey Stinger waffles were my food for the final hours of this race and allowed me to move up multiple placements by not needing to stop at the last two aid stations.
- 2 cans of Redbull, strategically taken at 2-3 am EST on night one and two. I limited my caffeine to the least amount possible for the rest of the race. And yes, I carried my cans of Redbull on to the course in ziplocks. I’m strong and I can do that. Caffeine pills don’t work for me.
- Grill Cheese. So much grill cheese. I tend to eat around 100-200 Calories per hour on course and I eat what I feel like. That item was grill cheese for this race due to hamburgers not being available (I eat hamburgers at 50 miles and whilst running with great success!). My typical aid station routine for 100-200+ mile races is to fill a small baggie with 300-400 Calories of food and walk out quickly. For this race, the main item in my take out bag was grilled cheese.
- Consuming regular amounts of protein, especially liquid forms was essential. I was fortunate to have my husband crewing for me and he brought a cooler with Chobani yogurt drink and Go-Gurt. I downed several of these during key stops. Yogurt was key for my completion at Moab 240 last year so I will use it when I can keep my nutrition stash cold. I experienced zero DOMS at two days post event and I attribute both my conditioning and my in race/post race nutrition (yogurt included) to this!
- Beer at around mile 70 (I like Elysian). It had been extremely hot and I was getting a bit sick to my stomach. ½ a beer while changing my socks instantly erased my nausea and I was able to finish up the race without a problem.
- Bolthouse Green Juice. I drank a very, very large bottle of this stuff throughout the 40 plus hour on course. I’ve used Bolthouse on course at Moab 240 as well and swear by it.
- 40% DEET. OMG the bugs are humming bird size in Georgia. But the scariest thing are the tiny ticks. I used large amounts of DEET during this race to keep safe. I’m sure I was quite a site running up the trail telling the bugs to “F off!” at 3 am all whilst spraying DEET. Haha!
- Consuming 100-200 Calories per hour and 500-1000 ml of electrolyte solution/water per segment. Aid stations were around 4-8 miles apart during Cruel Jewel. Depending on the technical grade and time of day/time on course, this was anywhere from 75 minutes to 4 hours. I preloaded hydration at each aid station and finished off bottles prior to going into each aid station during the day. At night, I was sure to continue drinking. Much of my nutrition was in liquid form at crew access points which also helped with rapid absorption of calories (less digestion needed) and hydration.
- Taking spare nutrition just in case. I skipped the last two aid stations on the Cruel Jewel course (1 manned and 1 water station). I was able to do this and move up several placements because I had spare nutrition and plenty of water. Aid Stations are both a blessing and curse. Later in a race, it is easy to stay a bit longer at an aid station which obviously slows down your finish time but also adds to fatigue. I have a finite capacity for sleep deprivation. In my experience, I am good to go for about 48 hours but after 38 hrs, each passing hour becomes harder. Getting the course finished as quickly as possible was imperative for me which meant eliminating any extra stops towards the end.
-What Didn’t Work-
- Rice balls. I’ve been experimenting with a rice/egg/bacon mix typically used by many endurance athletes. In this race, the heat was too high and the mixture was went foul really fast. The rice also has a habit of getting stuck in my throat causing a choking hazard on this mountainous course. No Bueno.
- Forgetting to glue in my insoles. I bought a last minute pair of Olympus and made the novice mistake of forgetting to goop in my insoles. Within 3 miles of starting, my insoles were bunched under my toes. I was forced to slow my pace and limp into mile 20. My husband quickly super glued in the insoles. Lesson Learned. This caused me some damage to my toes AND a lot of time that I was never able to make up.
- Not starting with electrolyte fluid pre filled. I typically do not need to use electrolyte solution for several hours if at all in ultra events. For this race, I had OSMO powder on me but started with 2×550 ml bottles of plain water. Within 30 minutes, I had to stop and add in OSMO. I’m glad I did but I was already dehydrated. With the high heat, humidity and climbing, despite drinking a lot of fluid, I did not urinate over the first 5 hours! Next time I will both PRE LOAD electrolytes and drink OSMO from the very first minutes of the race.
-The Results of My Cruel Jewel Adventure-
I finished 8 th female with no injury and in good spirits. I ran pacer free and
did not sleep (but no zombie walking for this lady!). I was fortunate to have my husband crewing which was extremely helpful with pre-filled bottles waiting at some aid stations and my own nutrition. Although I wasn’t as fast as my initial goal, several things played into that. I made a couple of stupid mistakes. The race ended up being 6 miles longer then reported. And we did have an extreme storm roll through that I felt required additional sock changes and time to air out my feet after HOURS of running in mud and standing water. I had no swelling post race save for after the plane ride and was running within 2 days with no pain or muscle soreness in my lower or upper body. I had a some damage on my left foot from kicking rocks but who needs those toenails anyway?!
Video of the “glamorous” finish:
Sinister 7 100 solo, Bigfoot 200, Teanaway Country 100, Spartan Ultra, World’s Toughest Mudder and possibly SISU are all on tap for 2018. Stay tuned for more write ups on training, races and general ultra crazy at The Phoenix Running or follow my adventures on IG at the_phoenix_running.