Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Birthday Miles, Rare Beer and Metal!

The idea came to me back in February when I was putting together my training plan to prepare me for Western States. I wanted to be building up mileage to peak about 6 to 8 weeks prior to the race. The idea was to get a hundred mile week in the first week of May and to run my age in miles on my birthday, which was the last day of that week. 45 miles was the goal . Following that I would maintain and try to work on heat, strength and a bit of speed training.
I've been over it enough times but the miles after the winter races have felt slower and harder than in the past. It has improved as I expected it would. The Lumberjack 50 showed me that I will be just fine this summer, however, I always want to be faster and better. The discipline of putting in the work and time required is not one of my strengths. I've noticed some complacency has set in. I've finished 100s multiple times and start to just expect to finish every time. This is is positive, yes, but I'm also afraid this can lead me to taking things too easy and getting a rude awakening at one of these races. Then again, the list of things worse than a DNF at a race is about as long as possible. I can't take it too seriously. Its just running.
My peak week thus far had been 60 miles so jumping to a 100 allegedly carries the risk of injury or getting "over trained". I came up a little short on my miles leading into my birthday run on Sunday. I don't care because, after all, what real difference is there between 95 and 100 for the week? It is not going to change anything on June 24.
The morning was very cool but the sky was clear and it turned out to be a beautiful day. A member of the Dirtbag Runners met me and we ran the first 8 or 9 miles together, which made those miles go by very quickly and easily. After that it was just me and the constant stream of mountain bikes. I tried to keep the pace slow and comfortable but often find myself going faster than I should. I was often to lost in thoughts and reflection as you tend to be on long runs.
Running repeated loops is harder for me than going from one point to another. Between miles 9 and 18 I kept thinking about the fact that I had to do the loop three more times. I'm not going to lie and say it was no problem. It was overwhelming and I started thinking that I didn't want to do it. It was too much. What the hell had I been thinking? In other words this was perfect practice for a 100 miler. Eventually the end comes and it was a huge relief. I was happy with the way it turned out. Even though I walked some of the last loop, my pace overall was just fine. I could tell myself I was ok.
The next week I took it very easy. I ended up only running 3 days for a total of 22 miles. I knew getting a weekend run in would be tough due to my plan of attending Dark Lord Day.
What is Dark Lord Day? Turns out it was what I though of as an ultra for craft beer. One day a year, Three Floyds Brewery releases their Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. They hold an event at the brewery that has lots of beer, food and metal bands playing all day. Tickets sell out in a matter of minutes. I finally decided to go this year and enjoyed it immensely. You are allowed to bring beer in and most people do. There is an atmosphere of sharing rare and desired beers with strangers around you, which starts in the line to get in and continues all day. These aren't any light beers either. Most we tried topped 10% abv with many going higher. Just like an ultra, it was all about a slow pace.
Breakfast base

Not running
My first taste of Dark Lord

Nearly $400 worth of beer
So back to ramping up miles again. Less than 6 weeks to go. I'm starting to feel like I really want to race again. Things are looking good!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Service Requirement

I spent the weekend working aid stations down at the Indiana Trail 100. I ran the race last year and this was a good time to get my required service hours in for Western States and Vermont. Even without having to do the hours to run those races, I would have done it. Every year, when planning my races and setting my goals, volunteering at races is on the list. Sure, it is altruistic and generous to "give back to the running community", blah, blah. It's fun and I enjoy it so it is also a selfish activity.

I saw many familiar faces, the number of which keeps growing as I continue to participate in these events. I also find it strange when people recognize me from previous events but I suppose I really shouldn't. I'm a 6' 5", 200+ lb. man so I can't really hide in the crowd even if I want to at times. I still have that feeling that I'm just a pretender in this ultra running world but I am getting better about it. Impostor syndrome I've heard it called. It is a constant nagging that I can't shake.

The race conditions looked good for what were at least the first couple of loops of the race. It was around midnight that the rain came that the Indiana race has become known for. The temperatures dropped and the runners began to pack our station for shelter from the elements. Shiny silver emergency blankets appeared throughout the tent suddenly and moved to surround the propane heaters. I ladled out dozens of cups of hot broth and soup. There was some crying and shivering that seemed it would never stop. It was then that best part would happen. Someone would stand up, their tired eyes showing resolve yet with some doubt and fear mixed in, and move towards the tent door, pause for moment and then enter the dark, cold outdoors to the loud cheers of those still inside. Each one was a beautiful example of the perseverance needed to finish a 100 mile run.

While working the race, I took the weekend off from running but figured spending more than 24 hours on my feet can only help <gasp> next month. The training is going decently. I am not hitting the mileage I would like to but in general I feel better most days and even on the days I don't feel good, I am still able to get through more than I could handle a short while ago. If Western States were this coming weekend, I am fairly confident I could finish it but I do have some work to do in order to avoid potential causes of a failure to finish.

Less than 8 weeks to go until Western States. While trying to increase miles and lose a few extra pounds, I am going to try to get in some strength training for the legs. Western States is an overall downhill course and it is often stated that it can leave the quads torn up towards the end. I would like to work on strengthening them but I don't know how to do this while maximizing running miles at the same time. I'll figure something out.

Before too long, I will also start attempting to acclimate myself to the heat I will face. I can't rely on spring and early summer in Michigan to provide weather that will help me in this. The plan currently is to suffer through an increasingly frequent schedule of hot yoga classes. More on how all this is going later.

Some exciting things (at least for me) in the next few weeks but I will hold off on mentioning those for a bit. Stay tuned.

Last post  April 13  - 211 lbs
Today May 3  -  205.8 lbs  Got some work to do
Goal - 195ish

Week of April 15  40 miles
Week of April 22  60 miles
Week of April 29  35 miles

If you're looking for a great race, perfect for a first time 50 mile, 100k or 100mile, check out the Indiana Trail 100. Relatively flat course that isn't technical. Excellent organization and atmosphere.