Friday, August 31, 2012

my first 100 part 2: pre-race

When people found out I was planning on running 100 miles the typical question of "why?" would be followed with some variation of "how long will that take/will you sleep/stop/eat?" I was hoping that I could complete the run between 25 hours (optimistic time) and 28 hours (cut off). As for sleeping, I knew that people didn't typically sleep so I would answer no, to which people were typically dumb founded. "I couldn't run that long..." or could they?

The mental part of ultra running is the part that I am really intrigued by. I firmly believe that most people are not really aware of what their bodies are actually capable of doing. I was turned onto the book Deep Survival by a blog post over at irunfar. The article and book gave great insight into what it would actually take to finish this thing, namely decide to do it and accept nothing less. This became a motivator in the remainder of my training through the spring.

As the runs got longer, and I was finally able to chase the receding snowpack out onto the trails, I embraced the mental challenge. On one particularly brutal run on the Crow Pass Trail my resolve was tested. What I expected to be a 48 mile out and back (traversing the entire trail twice) turned into a 35 mile run/power hike through ankle breaking terrain. Hobbling into the parking area 10 hours after beginning the run my body was hammered. Mentally it was difficult to wrap my head around the idea of running this long multiplied by 2.5, but once I remembered that the ResPass Trail was much more runnable, and several hours later when I was no worse for wear physically (other than being tired) I became charged up. I could totally do this thing.

In the few weeks leading up to race day I began my taper. It was eased by working out of town one of the weeks and battling a little cold, but come Friday July 27th at 3pm I was raring to go. I drove my truck and camper down to Hope, AK solo, leaving Anchorage around 10am. My final preparations had begun on Monday with lists, sorting, and packing race day gear, food, and personal items for the weekend. I also recorded my planned splits for various distances on the trail. Included in these splits, especially the later stages, were both realistic and (optimistic) times. The race could be broken down pretty easily:

Start at Cour d'alene campground  Mile 0 - 3pm
Run downhill to the Hope TH                12 - 5:30pm
Resurrection Pass (high point)                31.5 - 10:30pm
Cooper Landing TH (turnaround)           50 - 3am
Resurrection Pass                                    69.5 - 9am (8am)
Hope TH                                                  88 - 2:30pm (12:30pm)
FINISH at Hope School                          100 - 6:30pm (3:30pm)

As I drove I thought over the last six months. So much preparation had gone into this event. Sacrifices had been made by both myself and my family: time away, energy (I was tired a lot), and money (consuming much more food nowadays and buying gear). I am blessed to have an understanding and supportive wife who recognized this was important to me. In fact my wife Tiffany and my two sons were going to join me later that day, as well as my brother-in-law Shane and his family. I knew that would be a boost on the trail, knowing they were thinking of me and praying for me.

I pulled into Hope School with about 2.5 hours to spare until start time. After some gear shuffling I set my alarm for one hour later and forced myself to lay down in the camper. I laid with my eyes closed but couldn't sleep. I was supposed to have found a camping spot, but hadn't been able to. My wife texted me not to worry about it, they would figure it out when they arrived. With that off my mind I just tried settle myself until the alarm went off. After a clothes change I filled my bottles, mixed my Perpetuem, grabbed my drop bags and headed to the assembly area.

It was finally almost time and I couldn't wait...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

my first 100 part 1: preparation

I read on someone's blog that one of the biggest motivators to finish a race is the thought of having to explain why you didn't finish for the following year. I can tell you firsthand that this is true. After a DNF (did not finish) at the Resurrection Pass 50 in 2011 I was burdened with the task of retelling the story every time someone found out I had run 50 miles.

"So you ran 50 miles?"
"well...actually I didn't finish. I dropped at mile feet, mental toughness, blah, Blah, BLAH..."

It quickly got old. I was determined to make it right the following year. At some point in my thinking I reasoned that I should just go for 100 miles because I would complete 50 in the process. Against the advice of most resources I consulted, I jumped right in with both feet and self-proclaimed my intent to run the Resurrection Pass 100 on July 27th, 2012.

A goal like this becomes a reality when you begin telling people. I probably told my wife first but I don't really remember. I followed this up with telling a handful of close friends and co-workers. The response was typically "Oh. Why?" I would answer with something like, "To see if I can," which seemed like a good enough response. The question of why is probably the most difficult to answer. Did I have something to prove? Maybe.

Training officially began 24 weeks prior to the race date, it was the third week of January. Using a training plan from Bryon Powell's book Relentless Forward Progress I began to rack up the miles. Many times while slogging through a multi-hour run in the snow I contemplated why I was doing this. I have run trail races since 2004 completing distances from 4 to 25 miles with no training to speak of. This is the first time I have actually trained for a race. My off-the-couch failure at the 50 had convinced me that REAL preparation is necessary to run 100 miles. Maybe I was looking for structure, discipline, focus...

I built up the mileage week by week throughout the cold, dark Alaskan winter. Running by headlamp became second nature as my runs typically began between 5-6am. Tues-Thurs I would run 5-7 miles per day with Saturday bringing the longest run, and Sunday a mid-distance run. The long run began at around 12miles and would build each week. It was definitely a challenge as Anchorage had a record snowfall winter, accumulating over 100" in town, with more at higher elevations. I remember my first long run of 18 miles on an early Saturday morning. I awoke to 6" of new snow on the roads and trails. That day I ran down the center of the outside lane of a major road. I think only 6 vehicles passed me that morning for the 12 miles I ran on the roads. Most people stayed snuggled in bed.

As these long runs racked up I figured out eating and drinking on the run, as well as what socks, shorts, undergarments, packs, and shoes chafed. The preparation was not only for the physical aspect of the run, but the gear needs and nutritional requirements as well. When the going got rough I would keep in mind the end result. Each day spent training was one in the bank that would keep me going on race day.

I liked the structure of training and I stuck to it, exhibiting a determination that is lacking in other areas of my life. On an early June run across the ball field below O'Malley peak the phrase "what it takes" popped into my mind. The pouring rain was turning into snow, the wind was howling, and I was only 2 miles into a mountainous 10 mile effort. Did I have what it takes to complete a 100 mile run? Maybe this was the answer to the question of "why?"