I AM A 100 MILER FINISHER {Gwen's race looking back}


{Gwen's race looking back}

2017 raid du golf 177k Gwen at finish smile

The Ultra Train Marin - Raid Du Golfe - 177k (111.6 miles) June 29th, 2017

This race has a special place in my heart.

The Ultra Marin Raid du Golfe is a big event happening close to my home town. The race actually goes directly through Auray where I grew up. So I grew up seeing thousands of runners going all night which seemed like a crazy thing to me. Growing up, I hated running, I thought it was boring and preferred play soccer or tennis. But I saw that event as a challenge, not really as a running race. Each year, over 6000 runners participate in the different races of the Raid Du Golfe during the last weekend of June, (36k, 56k, 87k and 177k).

After attempting to finish the 177k last year and having to stop at 110k because of really bad knee pain, I went for it again this year, better prepared physically and mentally.

This is the course map, at the bottom left you can see the opening of the golf, where the boat crossing takes place. The race starts and ends in Vannes, and runs through my home town of Auray (upper left corner).

This is the course map, at the bottom left you can see the opening of the golf, where the boat crossing takes place. The race starts and ends in Vannes, and runs through my home town of Auray (upper left corner).

My approach was different this year. I came to the race with one focus, finishing. The time didn’t have much importance to me, I just wanted to finish and spend time in the dudgeon! I was looking forward to be in pain, to be in that place where you have to negotiate with your mind. I wanted to spend time in that uncomfortable zone, to try to find some comfort, to find solutions. Of course, it was really easy to think about all of this before the race and I knew it would all be different during it. I was prepared to be in a situation that you cannot really prepared for. 

Gwen smiling at mile 25

Gwen smiling at mile 25

If you have no idea what I am talking about here or if you think it is crazy, listening to a podcast with David Goggins would sum it all up. I recommend listening to David Goggins speak about his story and his approach to voluntary suffering if you want to attempt something hard.


Gwen running into the night, at about mile 40

Gwen running into the night, at about mile 40

My training leading up to the race went really well. I finished two 50k’s in the 2 months leading to the Ultra Marin and felt really good. I was able to run a few weeks over 100 miles a week. Then started to taper about 4 weeks before the race. The taper didn’t go exactly as planned since 2 weeks out from the race, I started to feel posterior tibial tendon pain, which I experienced a long time back because of my flat feet. That was a bit concerning so I immediately stop running for 5 days to make sure the inflammation stopped and went to buy different shoes. I actually started to feel this pain as I changed from Hoka to Altra. So the taper didn’t go exactly as I was expecting, but I knew that my training before tapering was what really mattered so I was confident that my body was ready for the distance. I wanted to finish no matter what, and if I would have had pain in my ankle, I would have walked. In my mind, there was no doubt I would finish. I didn’t want to accept any excuse, valid or not, to drop out. This was a way to tell my mind and body, don’t pretend to be injured, because I am not going to stop. I know the mind can create stories, so I didn’t want to give it a chance for that.

Gwen filling his water at an aid station around mile 50

Gwen filling his water at an aid station around mile 50

I was feeling really good on race day. No weird pain, good energy, weather was overcast, ideal day for a long run! Race started at 6pm on Friday, we got some rain but nor much.

My goals were in this order:

  1. To finish
  2. under 24 hours
  3. under 20 hours
2017 raid du golf 177k Gwen running on road

In order to run my race with what I had on that day, I decided to not were a GPS watch. I had it in my running vest for the record, but purposely never looked at it during the race.

The course is beautiful, all along the ocean. The official distance is 179.7km (111,6 miles). Half way through the race, we have to take a small boat to bring us across and go for the second half (the time in the boat is not included in the finish time).

1027 runners registered for the “100 miler”, it is just insane to see that many runners at the start of such a long distance! This year the oldest runner was 86!!! That was inspiring!

I started easy with what felt like a 8:45 min/mi pace, and of course slowed down as miles went by. The beginning was good but not perfect. My legs were just feeling a bit heavy, probably from the start being at 6pm, since I hate running in the afternoon!

Gwen eating apple sauce quickly at an aid station.

Gwen eating apple sauce quickly at an aid station.

For hydration and food, the plan was to eat mainly fruit, dried fruit, and energy balls (REAL FUEL BITES) that Katie made, and drink some banana date water. Since we are only allowed to have support at 3 aid stations, I would have to rely mostly on the food and drink at the aid stations.

The first low point came pretty early, around mile 25 (40km), when the pain started to settle in.

2017 raid du golf 177k Gwen running in trees

My muscles were already hurting pretty bad, and my mental took a beating just thinking that I had about 85 miles (140km) to go. I wanted to be in pain and spend time in the dark place, and man - I was going to get what I wanted! But of course, that’s what I asked for before, to be deep in it!

Seeing Katie at every aid stations was a huge help, and also receiving so many messages of support from friends and family! Josh Lajaunie even made instagram stories to support me, which was incredible!

A couple of hours later, I got used to the pain, accepted my new state and my slower pace. I wasn’t moving fast, but satisfied to just move forward.

2017 raid du golf 177k Gwen Le Bono

I made it to the boat just before 3am, after almost 9 hours and 55 miles. I got cold very quickly, especially because the boat goes pretty fast and it’s an open boat (no cabin). After the 10 minute crossing, the first steps on shore were so painful as my legs and muscles began to tighten up from sitting and holding on tightly to the boat. I knew I would have to force myself to run slowly immediately to get my muscles activated again and to get warm. Surprisingly, after about 5 minutes of running, I was back into my cruising mode. I realized I was 3 hours ahead of last years attempt and I was feeling much better than last year. This gave me a bit of confidence. At that point, I was listening to a few podcast over and over again. Just before the race, I bought a cheap mp3 player and uploaded 2 podcasts on it, one with David Goggins and one with Josh LaJaunie, from The Rich Roll Podcast. This kept me distracted from the painful moments. I was trying to avoid having a “poopy pants” mentality, but looking back at it now, I was a little “poopy pants” at times! I guess I’m learning and will try to do a better job next time!

2017 raid du golf 177k Gwen feeling horrible at aid station

I hit another rough patch after the aid station around mile 61 (100 km).

This was a very long way between the two aid stations, and I spent close to 2h30 - 3 hours out there. It felt like forever though. At that point, aid stations feel like safe islands. My only focus was to make it to the next aid station, I never really thought about the actual finish since it was still too far to handle mentally.

Finally getting to the aid station at mile 76 (120 km), I was a total poopy pants, venting to this older lady at the aid station. She was very nice but she didn't feel much compassion for the situation and suffering I was in! But that was actually good for me. Katie was helping me eat and drink. I changed shoes at that point because my feet couldn’t handle the narrowness of the Hoka Speedgoat anymore. I got into the Altra Torin 2.5 and it felt a bit better, however the cushion didn’t feel as good for some reason. Katie was reading the messages of support I received on social media and the small notes in a can called “I can” that Michelle, one of our friends from Sandpoint gave me before leaving for France. It helped me a lot to have so much support and I was so grateful for that.

The pain never really went away since it started around mile 30, it actually just got worse.

2017 raid du golf 177k Gwen with sister

But the major difference in my actual state was my mind. When I was positive, I was feeling pretty good, when I was being a poopy pants, moving forward was the hardest thing in the world and I was questioning why I was even doing it. There was such a huge difference between the highs and the lows, and this difference was mainly due to my mental state. I would get really low when the next aid station seemed to be further than what I thought. Maybe next time I should even set intermediate goals between aid stations. Or maybe try to be really in the moment and find things I’m grateful for. If we actually pay attention, there are always things we can be grateful for around us, it’s just about our ability to see them even when the pain is very distracting.

It was very hard and I had to walk quite a lot until I got to the last aid station, at mile 96. I had 15 miles to go, and I couldn’t imaging walking 15 miles and spend another 4 hours on the course. I just wanted to be done. My family was with me at the aid station. I knew I would finish, I just didn’t want to spend 4 more hours. I decided I would run the entire 15 miles, and I kept repeating to myself, the next time you walk, it’s because you are done, because it’s over, because you did it.

2017 raid du golf 177k Gwen running away

I ended up passing a few runners on the last portion. Everyone was suffering. Katie was allowed to run the last 2km with me, she actually joined a bit before that. We ran together the last bit. It felt like forever, I’m not sure I actually enjoyed that section until I had the finish line in sight. Once we got to the port where the finish line was, with about 1 mile to go, I thought of Zach Miller and Jim Wamsley and started to seriously pick up the pace, running what felt like a 7 minute pace. I shut down all the pain sensors, all the alarms from my body, I wasn’t receptive to any of them anymore, I could see the finish line. There was one more 177k runner in front of me. I wanted to pass him, but he wasn’t going to let me do it easily, so we sprinted the last 100 m to cross the finish line exactly at the same time. I had forgotten that the boat crossing time is subtracted from the finish time so I actually finished a minute before that runner. But it was a very intense finish hearing supporters cheering (especially my sister!!!! haha).

Such a relief to cross that finish line! I did it. I finished my first 100 miler, that was actually 111.6 miles - and those last 11.6 miles hurt!

2017 raid du golf 177k Gwen running with another runner

As I crossed the finish line, I was already looking forward to the next big race. But I’m fully embracing the present for now. Time to recover. Next 100 miler will be in September with Katie. We were going to both run it and run our own race, but after that experience, I couldn’t imagine Katie running her first 100 without support the entire way, like she supported me. So I decided I will be running the my next 100 miler with Katie to support her in her first 100 miler attempt. We have some time to recover and train hard again, it is the Mountain Lakes 100 Miler in Oregon on September 23rd.

Thank you so much to everyone that followed this adventure and supported me, it meant a lot and made all of this possible!

We will be hosting a YouTube LIVE (sometime next week) where you all can join in and ask me questions about the race, my training, the pain and darkness, nutrition or whatever you want. It should be fun so stay tuned for that! 

real fuel bites nutrition

Also, if you want to know more about my race nutrition, and to get the recipe of Katie’s amazing Real-Fuel Bites that that saved my race, checkout this Blog Post about them!

The clock reads 22:37 because this includes the time crossing in the boat, the official running time for the race subtracts the time in the boat, ending in 22:16

The clock reads 22:37 because this includes the time crossing in the boat, the official running time for the race subtracts the time in the boat, ending in 22:16

If you want to EAT LIKE US, you will want to grab our Cookbook + Nutrition Guide, it has it all, our nutrition philosophy, how to cook oil-free, why, recipes and inspiration!