With my taper now 5 days away, I feel really good about my Western States training. All along my goal has been to get my mind and body to the place where I could line up at Squaw Valley Ski Resort on Saturday, June 25 at 5am and feel good about my fitness. And that's where I now find myself. In the last 16 weeks, I've had 8 weeks of 70 or more miles, 2 weeks of 80 or more miles, and 2 weeks of 90 or more miles. Then you throw in the X factor, which is the fact that I have a deep base, having run 3,200 or more miles nine years in a row (and counting). So the base is there and has to count for something! This week, with the North Fork 50K on Saturday, I'll be looking for one more 80+ mile week and then it's taper time.
I've not just been running. I'm also heat-training in the sauna, which has been critical because we have had the signature cool spring here in Colorado. I could write a whole blog on sauna training and what I've learned (and maybe I will). A session is anywhere from 28-33 minutes and I plan to work up to 40 minutes about two weeks out. I did a 33-minute session last week (same day as a 10-mile tempo run) and it kicked my butt for days! I'll usually drink 50 ounces of cold water while in the hot box and take an S Cap. It's all about teaching your body to process fluids as efficiently as possible while in hot conditions, like the American River canyons. Badwater legend Arthur Webb has some great material on heat training.
Plus, I've been doing some core work and today I restarted (low/moderate-intensity) upper-body weight training. I felt that all the weight training I did last summer and into the fall really helped me at Javelina since you need about every muscle in your body to cover 100 miles in the fastest possible time. Alas, limited time has meant I couldn't weight train much over the spring. But today I restarted, and I think it'll really help me in these last four weeks as I tighten the bolts and get the ship ready for battle on June 25.
Having read a lot on Western States, it's readily apparent to me that succeeding at that race comes down to two things: heat management and strong quads (unless you want to add a third element: a positive attitude!). My big goal is to run the last 38 miles after Foresthill at a good clip. If you can leave Foresthill with the quads in good shape, you are set up for a successful race because a lot of the final 38 miles is downhill (with some notable exceptions). If your quads are shot at Foresthill, you can still finish but it may be a grind. I fully intend to run that last 38 miles at a good clip and cross the finish line with a time I can be proud of. Which brings me to goals. My goals for Western States (tiered, as always):
- Finish. Finishing is always the #1 goal in any 100-miler.
- Under 24 hours. Do I want the silver buckle? Oh yeah.
- Every man/woman for himself/herself.
Breaking the race into thirds, it really comes down to:
- First third - go out easy and run at a conservative clip. Don't be a hero.
- Second third - stay as cool as possible (mentally and physically) in the canyons.
- Last third - run!
The key will be running my own race and not getting caught up in the hype.
My family will be crewing me--my wife, our son, and my mom and dad. Pacing me will be two awesome guys: Mike Wilkinson, who also lives in Parker, will pace me from Foresthill to Green Gate. From Green Gate to the finish, Kenny McCleary will be running with me. Kenny paced me to my win at Mohican in 2009, but he also paced me to 6th overall at Burning River in 2007 and 4th overall at Mohican in 2008. That was a long time ago! With Mike and Kenny with me, I will be in good hands. And of course I hope my son can pace me to the finish in that last mile. I'm so grateful.
Quite honestly, Western States is a dream come true. I think about it every day and sometimes I just can't even believe it's really happening. I have done my best to train hard for this race, realizing that I don't have many more "big goes" at the 100. This opportunity means the world to me and I've done all I could to prepare myself for it because I believe deep down that Western States deserves nothing short of your best. And that is what I intend to give Western States.
I would be remiss in not mentioning the Leadville 100. It's out there waiting for me--I want that fifth big buckle. But I have to compartmentalize things right now and that means Western States is my fixation. The minute I finish Western, it's time to celebrate the achievement with some beers and In-N-Out Burgers and then start the recovery process for Leadville, which is eight weeks later.
In closing, I want to express my profound gratitude for the opportunity to run Western States. This is truly a dream come true and just writing that sentence gives me goose bumps. Bring it on!