It's hard to believe but I'm now under three weeks out from the Burning River 100 (in Cleveland, Ohio), and the taper has commenced!
Overall, my training has been solid, though it had some rough patches as I battled occasional fatigue, an ongoing piriformis issue (which I am treating now with some interesting stretches, thanks to a Joe Uhan video a friend sent me), and the overall demands of life and work. Nothing unusual there as training for a 100-mile run is not easy; it will bring peaks and valleys.
When you add it all up, I logged five weeks of 70+ miles and an additional two weeks of 80+ miles. The two 80+ mile weeks were my final two weeks of training before the taper started, so I wrapped up my training on a strong note and got in some miles on the trail. Within all of the miles I ran are a few 7-day stretches of 80+ miles as well. I really believe that volume of training is critical. Call me old-fashioned but you have to put in the miles. That said, I do think I was smarter this time around with my recovery, and I also took some zero days.
All of my training was at "altitude." I quote altitude because it's really quite a relative term, but, to clarify, my training was all at 6,000 feet or higher, which I guess constitutes "altitude" and may be beneficial as I race my 100-miler at sea level.
I managed to stay relatively committed to quality with hill repeat and tempo efforts. Overall, I would say my quality could have been better but it was still there. My quality suffered during weeks that I battled fatigue.
I had solid efforts at the NORAD Trail Marathon in May and the North Fork 50K in early June. At no point in those races did my endurance ever fail me.
Also, I have been putting in solid efforts with core conditioning and upper body strengthening.
My endurance is there and I feel like through my training I got my body and mind ready to run "all day." That is what this crazy endeavor called ultrarunning is really all about: transcending self as you run "all day."
In the next two weeks, the goal is to keep up with my stretching in order to help my piriformis improve, get my legs fresh, continue with my core and upper body strengthening and hone my walking game. I am a good walker but life has been so damned busy that I haven't had the time to walk as much as I'd like.
I will also start thinking about my drop-bag strategy. Honestly, as this race isn't in the mountains, I won't have to worry about insane weather and drastic temperature changes--really all I'll need out on the Burning River course are the basics: back-up shoes, back-up socks, a long-sleeve tee in case it gets chilly at night, some basic first-aid supplies, and some simple nutritional items. Over the years, I have developed a pattern of not using my drop bags very much. At Javelina a few years ago, I raced all 100 miles in the same shoes and socks and never changed any clothing. I think it's better that way. Just run.
It has been a few years since I last finished a 100-miler, so I am truly going into Burning River with the goal of finishing. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake.
Do I think a sub-24 hour is possible? Yes, if everything goes well and my stomach holds.
Do I think a sub-22 hour is possible? Maybe, if it's a good day.
Do I think a sub-20 hour is possible? It could be, but it would have to be a special day.
Ultimately, I just want to finish and get back in the Western States lottery pipeline.
Burning River is a beautiful course and I'm relatively familiar with several sections of it, having lived in Cleveland for five years. Burning River was my first-ever 100 in 2007 but that was a different course, though there are a few sections that are the same. The course this time around brings about 102 miles and over 8,000 feet of gain.
Having lived and raced here in Colorado for 9 years, and in that time collected 5 big buckles at Leadville, it is hard for me to imagine a 100-miler where I won't have to worry about going over big mountains and up 3,500+ foot climbs. But that doesn't mean Burning River will be easy. Far from it! The course will offer few areas where it'll seem obvious that I need to walk, which can be a silent killer. It may all seem/look runnable to me, which could get me in trouble. So I need to approach Burning River with a careful eye toward pacing myself and finding good spots to slow the effort and walk to conserve energy--I'm referring to the up-hills. The key with a race like this is to run as much as possible (hence my focus on training myself to run "all day," which I have done before) and choose your walking "breaks" carefully (the hills) so you don't lose too much time but yet are allowing for some recovery. And then on the downs I will let my Colorado-strong quads be an advantage.
Another variable will be the humidity. Not much I can do there except deal with it. We have very little humidity here in Colorado and so I'll just need to cope with it. I lived the first 37 years of my life back East, in some insanely humid areas. I am familiar with humidity and will be ready.
Other than all of that.... I will go into the race with no goal splits at any point. This will be good for me. At Leadville, it has been hard for me not to race against my best splits over the years. As you age, you start to see that it's not a good idea to race against your younger self--that is something I continue to struggle with. Though I am familiar with parts of the Burning River course, I am not so familiar that I'll have goal splits. It'll for the most part be new to me, especially as I have not stepped on those trails in over 9 years. I am actually very excited about running a 100 with no goal splits.
One final note that is of great importance to me: I will see many old friends, who I can't wait to see. I still miss my old running buddies in Cleveland and the incredible running community there. Reuniting with old friends will be special. I can't wait!