Friday, June 17, 2016

Random Thoughts a Week Out from Western States

A few days ago, I crunched the splits from my race at the North Fork 50K on June 4 and, boy, I sure liked what I saw. At mile 20, I was in 18th place out of a field of about 130. From miles 20-32, I ran the 4th fastest split of all the 50K field, moving up 10 places to finish 8th out of 128. The folks who ran a faster final 12 miles were the 1st (4 minutes faster), 2nd (1 minute faster), and 3rd (1 minute faster) place finishers.

This is just more proof that going out conservatively usually works on most courses. By the same token, it also proves that going out too fast in a race usually backfires (which is one reason why I was able to move up so much in the last 12 miles). It all gives me confidence that this strategy will work at Western States, a race that rewards patience. If you don't exercise patience, well, the "Killing Machine" will get you at some point...usually after Foresthill.

So, on race day, in the first third, I will be going out at a relaxed pace. I will do all I can to ignore the hype and instead focus on my own race. In the middle third, the goals will be to keep it relaxed and, above all else, stay cool mentally and physically, because it's going to be hot. As of now, the forecast has Foresthill at 89 degrees and Auburn at 96 degrees. The canyons will be a few degrees warmer. I will have 3-4 water bottles with me. One will be just for dousing myself with creek water and the others will be for drinking.

Approaching the race in this fashion will ideally bring me into Foresthill (mile 62) with strong legs, which are what you need in the last 38 miles when the trail is so runnable and downhill. It's in these final 38 miles, as I've read it, that the carnage is epic and those who went out too fast find themselves in the pain cave and those who've shown restraint can open it up and gain ground. My only hope is that I am not among the carnage! I know that if I run a smart race, I can run well in the final 38 miles.

I don't pretend that the race will go off without a hitch. Problems will arise. I may even puke a few times. I am sure I'm going to find myself quite hot at times. The key will be to stay calm and fix the problems as best as we can. But, above all else, it comes down to having fun. This is Western States.

In the end, I know I trained well. Could I have done a bit more climbing? Yes. But overall I had a good training cycle and put in some good mileage for a guy who works full-time and has responsibilities as a dad and husband. Plus, by race day, I will have put in 11-12 quality sauna sessions.

Speaking of sauna sessions, they are getting easier. This week I've been using the sauna at Lifetime Fitness. Their sauna tops out at 185 degrees and I've put in two half-hour sessions (this week), drinking 60 ounces of water in each. The breakthrough I have made as far as recovering from sauna session is taking an S!Cap beforehand and another S!Cap afterward. I have found that, if I do that, the next day I wake up feeling fine--no washed-out feeling, no headaches, no grogginess.

Another factor in all of this is that I'm experienced. This is my twelfth hundred and I fully intend on it being my tenth finish at the distance. I have big-buckled four times at Leadville, which is not exactly an easy hundred. Also, it's not like I don't have experience in the heat. The 2007 Burning River 100 and 2008 Mohican 100 were no walk in the park. As I recall, both saw temperatures over 90 degrees (along with high humidity).

I wish everyone who will be running Western States all the best. I look forward to meeting the Western States community next weekend and to running the most storied course in all of ultra. Only about 370 of us will have this opportunity and I intend to take full advantage of it, soak it all in, and be grateful. 

I'll try to update my blog one more time before raceday. See you in Squaw.

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