"You are only as good as your last race." Those are the words of Jim Garcia, one of the all-time toughest ultra runners. Known for his tenacity, Garcia (pictured) enjoyed quite a streak in the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, winning some big races such as the Old Dominion and Mohican 100s, the Huntington Ultra Frigid Fifty (a.k.a. the HUFF 50K), the old GNC 100K and others. He represented the U.S. at the 100K world championship and posted one of the fastest times (6:55:27) ever for an American at the 1999 Chancellor Challenge 100K. Now retired from competitive ultrarunning, Garcia, 50, continues to live in the Boston area and, from what I found, works at MIT.
On a side note, it's a real shame that finding good information on the sport of ultrarunning and the great ultrarunners like Garcia is so hard. As far I can tell, the sport hasn't done the best job of telling its truly unique story, cataloging its history and celebrating its greats. Learning about guys like Eric Clifton, Stu Mittleman, Yiannis Kouros and others shouldn't be so hard; and yet information on these guys isn't easy to come by. You have to dig deep and, often, the information you find is quite grubby, though occasionally you discover some high-quality literature, such as The Death Valley 300 and To the Edge.
Anyway, back to Garcia. He was right--you are only as good as your last race. You can't rest on your laurels and you can't move forward if you're focused on your past performances. I say these words to myself as I look to 2009 as a year of taking my performance to the next level. No question about it; 2008 was a good year and a year to build on. I set PRs in the 5K (17:45), half marathon (1:22), marathon (2:58), 50K trail (4:36), and 100 miler (19:22), also winning my first race outright (Winter Buckeye Trail 50K) and placing 4th at the Mohican Trail 100 Mile Run. My last race of the year was the Columbus Marathon, where I finished in 2:59 on a bad hamstring.
But 2008 is over--long over--and it's time to get focused on 2009 because, as Garcia said, I am only as good as my last race. Which means, given that disappointing 2:59 at Columbus (my last race), I have a long way to go in preparing myself for the upcoming racing season if I'm to be any good. I look at myself right now and I see a runner with lackluster leg turnover (thanks to no speedwork in 3 months), a weak core (that I'm now strengthening) and a long way to go if I'm going to achieve my goals in 2009.
This month I'm cutting my weekly mileage back to no less than 50 and no more than 60 as I rest and recover for the big ramp-up that begins on Monday, February 2, when I begin speedwork and tempo runs and the volume starts going up. Between now and then, I need to get my treadmill fixed--which is going to be expensive--because you can't run quality intervals on a snowy, icy track. By March, I want to be clicking off 80-90-mile weeks and by April 100-plus-mile weeks, which I'll continue through May and into early June as I prepare for the Mohican 100.
My schedule for 2009 continues to evolve and now looks as follows:
March 8--Youngstown 1/2 Marathon (long tempo run)
March 21--Lt. JC Stone 50K (key event/looking for sub-4:00 time)
April 19--Forget the PR Mohican 50K (training run on the Mohican course)
June 20--Mohican 100 (key event)
July--Buckeye 50K (questionable)
August--Burning River 100 or the Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness 50-miler (questionable)
October--Columbus Marathon (key event/looking for sub-2:55)
My training for Mohican will be a lot like my training for the Burning River 100 in 2007--some very long runs of 5+ hours, including the aforementioned Forget the PR Mohican 50K. These 5+ hour long runs will require being out of the house on Saturday morning by 5:30 and keeping the legs moving until about 11 a.m. With Noah's arrival last May 9, getting in super long runs for Mohican wasn't possible, so I just did a bunch of runs of usually no more than 20 miles and I think this cost me. For Mohican this year, the super long runs will mean less of a day-to-day grind in getting to 100 miles for the week. If I do 30 on Saturday and 15 on Sunday, that means I will have needed to cover a manageable 55-60 miles the previous Monday-Friday to ensure 100 for the week and ideally 110+.
No matter how one slices it, if you want to do well in a 100-mile race, you have to put in the miles--and lots of them. If the marathon is a boxing match--big crowds, glamour and all the trimmings--then the 100-miler is a back-alley street fight. Forget the gloves; bring the brass knuckles and count on some bloodshed. All bets are off and you ain't walking away in good shape. That's why I train so hard for 100s...and why I love them so much.
This week I got to 71 miles despite not really trying to surpass 70. I just had the time. It happened like this:
Wednesday/New Year's Eve--13.23 miles with the Southeast Running Club at our 12/31 holiday run from Bedford Reservation. With the temperature less than 20 degrees, fierce winds and snow, this was not the most enjoyable run. I could barely dial the numbers on my mobile phone afterward because my fingers were so cold (photo below of a half-frozen Wyatt with an equally frozen Dave P.). Plus, I almost wiped out on the parkway en route to Rich H.'s for brunch.
Saturday--12.65 miles with the Peninsula crew in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was great getting back to CVNP.
Sunday--16.5 miles with SERC in Solon. The pace was pretty aggressive for the first 6 miles of our club run into the water stop.
Total miles for week: 70.88
Total miles for month: 47.65
Total miles for year: 47.65
I ended 2008 with 3,923 miles--an all-time high. It's too bad I missed two solid weeks of running after Mohican; I'd have easily surpassed 4,000 miles for the year.
The goal this week is to get in 55-60 miles--mostly at easy pace--and continue my core strengthening.
Onward and upward!