So, if you're still with me, here's the deal. I've got a ridiculous race schedule lined up for this year. Its audacious, bold, and probably really, really stupid. I'm going to try it anyway because the chance of failure makes finishing so much better.
Winter RacesLast year I tried the Tuscobia 150 (which now is really 160 miles) and quit at the half way point. I vowed to return to get and redemption but also because, despite giving up, I had a great time and really enjoyed it. To get into this race you just sign up and you're in. More on this one later since it is coming up in a matter of days.
The next race is one of the best known and prestigious on the winter calendar (no slight to Tuscobia which is fantastic). You have to send in a paper application which requires you to justify why you should be allowed into the race. This race is the Arrowhead 135 and I got in. Similar to Tusciobia, it is shorter in distance but usually colder, more remote and more elevation change. It takes place 3 weeks after Tuscobia so finishing both would be a huge accomplishment.
I went back and forth on whether I should sign up for the next race or not. There seems to be a tendency in the ulrarunning world to "bundle" races into a series and reward the completion of all the races in that series. The winter race version of that is known as the Order of the Hrimthurs. Apparently it has something to do with frost giants. The Actif Epica is a point to point race that finishes in Winnipeg, Manitoba. If, after completing Tuscobia and Arrowhead, I finished this 100 mile race, I would be entered into this order. I talked to a guy at a race this fall about being signed up for Tuscobia and getting into Arrowhead. He immediately said, "Well, you have to sign up for Actif Epica now." So I did.
The beginning of the calendar looks like this:
Tuscobia 160 Rice Lake, WI January 6
Arrowhead 135 International Falls, MN January 30
Actif Epica Winnipeg, Manitoba February 18
Summer RacesI have had the worst luck with race lotteries. I was around 0 for 10 in them. Some races have become so popular that they hold drawings to see who get in. The 2 big lotteries in the ultrarunning are held for the Hardrock 100 and the Western States 100, which is the original 100 miles race in the US. This year was the third time I have entered the Western States lottery. Finally, my name was announced. I am in this year. The race takes place in late June, so I will have plenty of time to recover train after my early races.
Once again, a race series comes into play with my scheduling. A series known as the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, which consists of the 4 oldest 100 miles races in the US. Getting into Western States is the key attempting to complete the Grand Slam. I got into Western States, so I had a decision. Do I go for the Slam? Last summer I ran 5 hundreds for the Midwestern Slam and had a tough time with so many races in such a short time, so I was worried that I could do this. But then, when I would have another chance at this? I'm surely not getting any younger. So, I'm going for it. Here is the remaining schedule:
Western States Squaw Valley, CA June 24
Vermont 100 West Windsor, VT July 15
Leadville 100 Leadville, CO August 19
Wasatch Front 100 Salt Lake City, UT September 8
It has only been a few weeks since my schedule has been set so there has not been that much time to think about it. When I do consider it, I am not sure I have any business trying to do this. The first race is coming up in 3 days as I write this. I feel unprepared. I always do.
Last year I made it to Park Falls in 26 hours and 30 minutes. This included an hour stop at the one checkpoint in between to get some hot food and change socks. The final 4 or 5 hours into Park Falls were tough due to my overwhelming desire to sleep. I had no caffeine to help and was fighting hard to stay awake and keep moving. This contributed to my decision to say 80 miles was enough that day. The other was the condition of my feet, which looking back was not too bad. There were some blisters but I've since dealt with much worse. The main thing that happens to me is that I do the math, as an engineer is required to do. I am constantly calculating. If I move at X rate I will be to Y in this amount of time. These amounts of time were just unbearable at the turn around and I flat out quit. I couldn't face the 12 or so hours it would take to get back to the next checkpoint. I'm not sure if I would have finished if I kept going. There were 23 starters and only 4 finishers so I wasn't alone.
This is my chance to get some redemption at one of the 3 races I have not finished. I'm looking forward to it but feeling a bit unprepared. I made myself take several weeks off in October since I was just making any progress recovering from last summer's races. The holidays came shortly after that and I did get some decent miles in here and there but nothing like I feel I needed. Then again, I always feel like this before a race and they generally turn out fine. I just need to be able to keep moving, however long it takes. The topic of needing patience in ultras is probably a future blog topic but it is something I have been trying to work on and will definitely need this weekend. Last year I was reasonably terrified going into a race with so many unknowns. This year, I know much more and, because of that, I am not feeling any less scared. So be it. Once I get out there, I'll tell myself to have fun and do the best I can. That is the point after all.
The initial plan for this blog is to at least preview and then recap each race. I'll try to get some training updates and maybe even some of those rambling runner philosophical rants here and there. You've got your Tuscobia preview. I'll recap it when I have the strength, hopefully with some pictures, video, etc. Thanks for stopping by.