By Sara Davidson
Army Capt. Matt Doellman finished the Western States 100 this weekend in 28 hours, 13 minutes and 41 seconds.
The emergency room nurse at San Antonio Military Medical Center won’t get much of a break, though: Western States is just the first of four 100-mile races he must finish to complete ultrarunning’s Grand Slam.
“The ‘Slam’ consists of officially finishing the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run all in the same year,” the Grand Slam website says.
There is a Slam race every month between now and September, with 25 runners vying for Grand Slam finishes. Doellman, at 28, is the youngest.
He’s racing this year — with Capt. Robert Revels and Capt. David Byrd – to raise money for the Fisher House program. The Fisher House Foundation provides “comfort homes” near military and VA medical centers so family members can be close to loved ones, the foundation website says.
So far the group, the Ultraholics, has raised $475 of their $3,000 goal. To donate, visit the group’s Active.com fundraising page.
Matt wrote to us to share how he gets ready to run 100 miles:
When I train for an ultramarathon, I cater the training for the course I will encounter. For example, my upcoming race is the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, which involves many long climbs and steep descents. Overall, the race is a net downhill race, and most racers say their quadriceps are shot by the end. To train for this, I pounded the hills and focused on long descents downhill. I spent some time in Napa Valley, Calif., weeks before the race running up and down the hills in the majestic valley getting ready for the race. I wanted to breathe the California air while feeling the fatigue of the hills over and over again.
On more flat races, I focus on getting in the high mileage and — again — mimicking race conditions, whether it be heat training or simply putting in the miles on the road or trail. It all depends on what the course entails.
As far as mileage, I use a pyramid model starting off light and building up to a peak week — usually 70 to 100 miles — and then tapering back down until race day.
Ultimately, the gains are made on the long run, so it is important to get several runs in between 25 and 35 miles. If you can plan a long race somewhere around your peak week — like a 50K or a 50-miler — then that works best, but it depends on what your schedule and resources are like.
As I build my base and work toward my peak week, I incorporate weightlifting with core-focused exercises, cycling and the stair climber to maintain overall strength — which is important, especially in a mountain race. I keep a run log and write down everything I do and how long it takes me. This helps keep me motivated, and when it gets close to crunch time, I make sure I’m doing something productive every day just to keep the rhythm. Once you take a day off, you break your rhythm and it’s hard to get back on track, so I just keep the focus and do something every day toward my physical goal.
On days where I just don’t feel like running, I work in some cross training to keep my mind in check and not overtrain. The key to finishing a 100 mile race is as much mental as it is physical, so it is crucial to be in the right mental state for a race and not be burnt out.
I eat a very balanced diet following the food guide pyramid, with approximately 65 to 75 percent being from carbohydrates. I eat a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast and lunch. I find it is hard to run long distances with a gut full of protein, so I hold off until after my runs — where protein is more beneficial for recovery.
I do use supplemental protein shakes later at night before I go to sleep when I am getting close to a race, and often eat low-fat cottage cheese as a snack at night. I am very lucky to have a wonderful wife who understands my fitness goals and helps me achieve them through our daily meals, especially around race time. I scrutinize nutrition labels and avoid all trans fats, and have cut down my saturated fats and refined sugars tremendously over the years.
I am a firm believer that the fuel we put in our bodies is a direct reflection of the performance we will achieve, so I am very conscientious about my diet.
I drink a great deal of water throughout the day, which is likely the most simple — but important — factor in a runner’s diet. I do, however, have a tradition of treating myself to a grilled stuffed burrito from Taco Bell after all my 100-mile races. Those things are delicious, and I figure if I can run 100 miles in a day, then I can cheat on my diet a little and treat myself!
We’ll check in with Matt as he works his way through the Grand Slam. Check back for updates.