Top-end speed has always been an asset of mine as a long-distance runner. I can think back to several races where I was in a sprint finish against another surging runner and managed to cross first (my banner photo captures one of those moments). And yet, over the past few years, I have definitely felt it slipping due to aging. And not just top-end speed. I am losing speed all the way around. Use it or lose it. So I am working hard right now to get some speed back.
I still have a long way to go before I consider myself ready for a Boston qualifier effort on the road but things are coming together and I am eyeing the Colfax Marathon on May 21. I would be thrilled to cross the finish line in under 3 hours and 5 minutes.
People say to me often, "a marathon must be easy for you!" My response has always been that if all I had to do was run 26.2 miles at a slow pace, then, yes, it wouldn't be that hard for me or nearly any ultrarunner. But to "race" that distance in pursuit of a goal time...super hard. When you are racing 26.2 miles on the road, every second counts. It hurts and the pressure is on. I kind of like that!
When I was on a nice run in 2008-2009, breaking 3 hours in three consecutive marathons, the effort I put into those races was significant but, being in my mid-30s at the time, I recovered pretty quickly and moved on to the next thing. When I look at 2009, for example, I am shocked by what I was able to do within my own abilities. Now that I'm 43 years-old, I am well-aware that, after a potential BQ attempt at Colfax this spring, I will need some recovery. That's what First Endurance Ultragen is for! But the recovery window will need to be limited because Leadville is on the horizon.......
From Colfax (haven't yet pulled the trigger on it, but it's likely), it's going to be the Leadville Trail Marathon on June 17, the Chase the Moon 12-Hour on July 7-8, and then the big one...the Leadville Trail 100-Mile. I will use the Leadville Trail Marathon as a long training run up high. It will not be a race effort. Same with Chase the Moon, where the goal will be 50 "easy" miles in 12 hours, which I feel is quite doable. I had considered making the Silver Rush 50-Mile Run up in Leadville my 50-mile training effort going into the 100-miler but I feel that Silver Rush might put me in a recovery hole given that it's 50 miles above 10,000 feet in the mountains. Chase the Moon, which is hilly but not mountainous, seems a bit "smarter." When I look back on my running "career," all of my best 100s were preceded by 50-mile runs. So I feel strongly that I need a 50-mile effort and Chase the Moon fit the bill perfectly. Doesn't hurt that it'll be logistically easy to pull off, given that it's just up the highway from me.
Throughout the summer I will be making a point to get up high and train above 10,000 feet and ideally knock off some 14'ers. The name of the game is steep and high. On the list as of now are:
- Grays and Torrey's Peaks - did these in 2013 and want to go back, but this time I will start from the lower parking lot right off I-70.
- Hope Pass double crossing - required!
- Longs Peak - will be logistically challenging to pull off but it's on the list. Backup would be Pikes Peak.
- 20-30 mile effort on the Colorado Trail starting at Kenosha Pass.
- A few new sections of the Colorado Trail, such as the section from Copper Mountain up to Camp Hale.
I feel that if I can get in several efforts above 10,000 feet, where the terrain is steep and nasty, I will be ready for a good crack at sub-24 at Leadville. I have two efforts of 22 hours and change at Leadville and would love to make a run at that kind of time but for 2017 I am gunning for sub-24. I know my stomach will go south, so it's really a question of how I minimize the impact. And I think that more training on steep terrain up high, all within weeks of 80-90 miles, will hopefully better condition my stomach for what will come on race day.