I think this is the toughest part of the 100-mile training cycle. I have just six more weeks of getting ready for the Leadville 100 before the well-deserved taper begins. The taper officially begins Monday, 8/2, when I start to gradually reduce mileage. Two weeks out, the mileage takes a big dip and then the week of the event the mileage is non-existent as I emphasize rest, hydration and colories. But right now I'm not really thinking about the taper--I'm thinking about what I need to do in the next six weeks.
On the heels of a very tough March and April when we were in the process of ripping up our roots in Ohio and planting new ones in Colorado, things are going well. I think those two months had to be about making the transition, not about running--and so my running output dipped a little (but not a lot). My training log clearly indicates that by early May, when I finished 5th overall at the Greenland Trail 50K, I had it going again. Here's what the weekly mileage since the week of 5/3-5/9/2010 has been: 90.2, 95.2, 102.9, 90.6, 84.3, 90.1, 105.1 and 93.4. I plan to top out at 110-115 miles by the end of July and will hopefully go well over 400 miles for the month. Between now and then, I have the Leadville Trail Marathon on 7/3 and the Barr Trail Mountain Race on 7/18. This week, having done 93.4 miles last week, I'm tapering for the Leadville Marathon and trying to get this nasty case of plantar fasciitis under control. I can't say what my expectations for the Leadville Marathon are as it's run entirely at elevations of 10,000-13,000 feet. I'm going to go pretty hard and see what happens.
I think when all is said and done, I will have run more miles and many more hours preparing for Leadville than I did in preparing for my win at the Mohican 100 in 2009. And these are far tougher miles. I think that when you're training at elevations of anywhere from 6,000-12,000 feet (with the potential for 14,000 feet), running 100 miles in a week is no easy task.
I'm seeing signs that I'm in good shape. While I don't feel super fast, I do feel quite strong. Yesterday, after a 16-mile morning run, I did a second afternoon run--a 5.25 miler on a treadmill at 6,000 feet. I ran a third of a mile at a 0% grade and then abruptly moved the grade to 7.5%. Over the course of the next 4.5+ miles, I increased the grade until finally I ran the last mile at a 10% grade. I was running anywhere from 6:58-7:30 pace--and I felt very strong though I was working hard. Again, this was at 6,000 feet--more than a mile in the sky.
I know I'm training hard because it's obvious in my hunger. I'm eating all the time! Yesterday for lunch I had a huge (homemade) salmon and spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette that hit the spot. Lately we've been having to eat a little more red meat than I'd like to (once a week now versus the previous once a month) because Noah's iron level is a tad low. But, honestly, I think training at elevation requires more iron in the blood and so maybe red meat isn't necessarily a bad thing?
With six more weeks of hard training, this is where the rubber meets the road. I've put in a lot of hard work up to this point and now it's time to amp it up even more and have my mind and body totally ready for Leadville.
Fortunately, I'll have a crew! Some members of my immediate family will likely make the trek to Leadville to crew for me. Anne will also be there but her top priority will be Noah (as he should be). I don't yet know who in my family is coming to Leadville, but I do know maybe two will be coming--either my mom, my dad or my brother. They have never seen a 100-mile race and will be in for a treat. Leadville and Western States are the two premier 100-mile races. I've heard Leadville could have upwards of 800 runners. As far as a pacer, a local runner has reached out to me and she and I are going to connect soon. I'm very excited that she's offered to help.
Run hard and run happy!