With the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run now 10 weeks away, my training has been so-so. I have been consistently getting in 70+ mile weeks over the past few months. As we know, consistency is one of the keys to fitness.
Unfortunately, demands on my time--on the home front and at work--have made it very hard to get in much beyond 70-74 miles a week. We all have to make choices with our time. I had planned on getting my mileage up to 80+ miles a week in April and that may still happen by month's end (this week could actually hold some promise). But as of now there have been no 80-mile weeks--just a bunch of 70s. I guess it could be worse--70 miles a week isn't bad.
Also, the weather has created challenges, which is to be expected in Colorado in the spring when it's 70 degrees one day and then dumping snow the next. There have been bright spots. Two weeks ago, I managed to get to Mount Falcon for a quality 3-hour run. The trails were in great shape and it was a fun morning on the mountain. But then more snow blew in this past weekend, covering the trails with a few feet of the white stuff. The snow over the weekend was, in fact, so severe that the 50K I had planned to race on Saturday--the Rattler in Colorado Springs--got canceled.
This time of year, when you're a trail runner living in Colorado, you take what you can get. You run trails when they're clear and you run roads when spring snow storms come in and blanket the area. It is what it is. But it's kind of frustrating at times because I know what I need to do to be ready for Western States (lots of trail running with aggressive downhills) and the weather is making all of this quite difficult. That said, I feel pretty confident that May and early June will offer some opportunities to really take advantage of the trails and maybe even get in a Pikes Peak ascent/descent (which will be a great quad trasher).
Anyway, with the Rattler canceled, I decided to enter the North Fork 50K on June 4. That's exactly three weeks before Western States. In 2014, I managed a solid North Fork, finishing fourth overall in the buildup to Leadville. This year, in lieu of racing it, I'll be using North Fork as one last long run. I'll be running it at "100-mile pace" and will keep my heart rate at or below MAF (~133-143). There will, of course, be times when my HR creeps up a little higher than that, especially on the climbs, but the overall goals will be to run North Fork at MAF, focus on good nutrition practices and then go immediately into my taper. It's a notoriously hot race, which is a good thing because, as we know, Western States gets quite balmy in the canyons.
As far as Western States strategy, it's really pretty straightforward. In the first third, the key will be to run conservatively. Above all, do not go out too fast and race up the mountain with reckless abandon. Instead, go out easy and don't look at the watch. I'm not sure what the snow conditions will be but if there's a lot of snow--again--I'll focus on conserving energy and staying upright.
When the heat kicks in, especially in the canyons, the key will be to stay hydrated and use every opportunity to cool myself. I'm planning to have a third bottle on hand that I'll use to douse myself with stream water. Above all else, I think staying as cool as possible (physically and mentally) at Western States is of utmost importance. I feel that I learned a lot about cooling myself at Javelina in 2015. That aside, with the steep ups and downs in the canyons, I'll just do my thing and put one foot in front of the other and try to enjoy the experience. Western States is a dream come true!
In the last third of the race, where there's a lot of downhill, I really want to have the quads to take advantage of the descents. In order to have the quads ready for this stretch, I need to train as much as I can in the mountains, and that's why I'm feeling some urgency for the trails to stay open and not keep getting covered with snow! I want to stretch it out and run the last third of Western States. I know I have the ability to cover the last third of a 100 in a pretty quick fashion and so it's vital that the quads still be in good shape when I leave Foresthill (mile 62).
The goals at Western States:
1) Finish - always the #1 goal for any 100-miler
2) Sub 24 hours - really want that silver buckle!
3) Every man for himself!
After Western States, the name of the game will be recovering in time for Leadville 56 days later. This will involve some limited running, some cross-training and some hiking up in the mountains--but nothing strenuous.