Well, after months of training, the taper for the Bighorn 100 is here.
My last big effort (unless you count this morning's 400s) was Sunday. I ran a little over 24 miles on one of my favorite routes--Waterton Canyon and Section 1 of the Colorado Trail. A lot of people hate Waterton Canyon--a seemingly never-ending dirt road outside of Denver--but I like it because the 6.7-mile return trip can be mentally daunting. We often train our bodies but forget about the mental aspects of preparing for a big ultra. That's why I like to test myself in places like Waterton Canyon; the return trip can put me in the mental pain cave and I like that. On Sunday, I had another strong finish, which has become the hallmark of my new training approach. Lately, I almost never finish a long run feeling depleted; I finish a long run feeling like I could do it again if I had to.
Overall, with more than handful of 80+ mile weeks in the bag and lots of quality, I feel like I'm ready for Bighorn. These last five weeks of training have been super solid. I've also gotten out there for some groups runs with guys like Mike W., Scott S., Mark T., AJ, Chuck, Matt, Jon, John and others, which have made a difference. The group element has been huge for me.
As far as the nuts and bolts of training, going hard on hard days and easy on easy days has allowed me to execute when I need to and get the rest my body requires between quality sessions in order to promote recovery. I cannot emphasize enough how important it's been to me to go easy on easy days. We often stress ourselves to the breaking point because we tell ourselves, the more we run, the better. But, in actuality, we get better on the days that we rest. That has been my mantra for the last five weeks.
The taper has always vexed me. But not this time around. I feel like I'm entering my taper feeling good overall, not depleted. Over the next two and a half weeks, the key will be to keep mixing in some quality while also reducing overall quantity of mileage and time on the feet.
If there is one vulnerability I have, it's that I may not have done enough sustained climbs. I've done some good climbing overall, but with a very wet spring it has been hard to get to the mountains for big climbs and descents. That said, I've gotten to the trails and have logged quite a few climbs of 1,500-2,000 feet. And, honestly, I'm feeling good on the climbs. Not sure what's given me this little bounce--hill repeats, intervals, tempos or all of the above--but something seems to be working for me. I would be remiss in not also saying that Tailwind, Honey Stinger Waffles and Justin's nut butters been great on long training runs. It's critical for me that I stay within my hourly calorie and carb zones, give or take.
So, while I'm feeling strong, I also know that my goal for Bighorn is a respectable finish. I actually don't really care about my time; I just want to have fun and enjoy a 100-miler. If my body is working for me (and not against me as has been the case at Leadville), then it may just be a good day.