I was laying on the floor doing the corpse pose in a hot yoga session yesterday when it really hit me what is about to happen. I am only a few days away from running Western States. It is easily the most well known and followed race on the ultra-running calendar each year and I will be there. Not only will I be running this big race, I will be beginning an attempt at the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, which consists of four of the oldest 100 mile races over a twelve week period.
The four months since the end of my winter racing season have seemed to fly by. I was exhausted in all aspects: physically, mentally and emotionally. The idea of running another series of races was still months away so I counted on the idea that I would be able to recover and get some good training in prior to Western States. It took a good couple of months before I started to feel somewhat normal again when I ran. The Lumberjack 50 gave me a ton of confidence by showing me that I could run 50 miles without it being a huge struggle. I thought back to this race often over the last couple of months. This was probably the turning point for me. Since then, I have not trained at the volume nor as with as much intensity as I intended. Still, I am feeling very confident that I will get to the finish one way or another.
Other than the 50 mile race in April, I have had several long runs that, while not fast, went reasonably well. In the last couple of weeks I have even run a couple 5ks and a 10k, which were rather eye opening since I ran at speeds I didn't think I had in me after this past winter. To my amazement, I PR'd a 10k last weekend by 3 minutes. To be fair, I never run 10ks but I believe it indicates that maybe I am in better shape than I think I am.
I spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning hanging out at the Mohican 100. I was able to observe runners passing through aid stations in the later parts of the race. This was very helpful at getting myself into the mindset needed to handle a 100 mile race mentally. I'm not looking forward to the extreme discomfort that is coming. I will, however, accept it and do all I can to remain positive and focused on moving forward and not wasting time in aid stations feeling sorry for myself.
The taper madness has not been too bad this time, likely due to the fact that I never really sustained high mileage for this training block. I averaged between 50 and 60 miles a week, which compared to others is not that much. The need to recover from the winter dictated this so I feel it will be enough. At this point it will have to be.
Western States is a point to point 100.2 mile race with around 18000 feet of climbing and 22000 feet of descent. This much descent can make it a fast race but can also overload the quadriceps, slowing a runner to a snail's pace. The race begins in Squaw Valley, California and finishes on the track of Placer High School in Auburn. It passes through the high country, in and out of super heated canyons, and across rivers. It has been documented and filmed more than any other ultra that I know of.
The forecast is calling for highs around 100 which will be even hotter in the still air of the canyons. Hot yoga and commuting without A/C have been my heat training. The heat factor will be the most concerning to me and will require much attention to hydration and pacing.
There has not been a single run I have done over the last few months that I have not thought about running onto that track at the finish. I'm expecting it to be a very emotional experience. Finishing a 100 miler always is for me but this is one that I have thought about over and over and over. I have to get there first. Lately, I've finally been really craving to be out there and mid-race miserable again. I will also continue to remind myself that getting on that track is just another step.
I try not to think about the possibility of failure but it does cross my mind. I suppose there is some pressure to perform since I have been discussing it publicly. I would be very disappointed if I didn't finish this or any of the four races coming up. However, without the possibility of failure there is no satisfaction in completing the goal.
So, now all the time for talk is over. The race is only days away. I'm scared and excited at the same time. The next twelve weeks will be very difficult. It will hurt. It will also be fun and rewarding. I will be meeting many new people with similar experiences who I can learn from and share in the moments. I will be running races that many other ultra-runners would love to run. I will be running in beautiful places with wonderful people. I'm very lucky no matter the outcome.
Western States has good runner tracking and you can track me here:
The Western States site has good info about the course, results, etc.