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One Month

One month from today, I’ll either have a new belt buckle in my possession or I’ll be lying in a hospital bed severely injured and/or dead. Because short of breaking a leg or getting mauled by an angry black bear, I WILL get my sweaty ass to that finish line.

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Which is a little exciting and a lot terrifying. Despite thinking I’ll never feel physically ready for this, I feel strangely ready. The race is happening in a month, whether I like it or not.

Like I mentioned a couple of days ago, my “peak training” has not gone as planned. July (and June. And May.) were BIG months for me. And all of that work caught up with me right after the Eugene Marathon. (Slash running a hard pavement marathon was a lot harder on my body than everything else I’ve been doing on gentler terrain. I listened to an interesting podcast with one of ultrarunning’s greats a few days ago, and he said that while he could recover from a dirt 50 miler no problemo, road marathons would DESTROY him. After my little 26.2 miles of asphalt, my legs definitely think this man knows what he’s talking about.)

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m learning-on-the-go with 100 miler training. I don’t have a coach telling me what to do. Or a training plan to follow. I make most of my major training decisions by floating an idea past my more experienced friends and then waiting to see if they troll me or grab a map to help me plan out a route. There’s a good chance I peaked too early, or that I shouldn’t have run a road marathon when I did, but as I’ve said before, making mistakes (and learning from them) is a pretty critical part of improving at this sport. So I’m not beating myself up about any of it. I’ve had one of the most enjoyable years of running of my life and I don’t really regret a single run I’ve done, even if it means it will take me a few extra minutes (or hours) to reach the finish line in a month. My only goal at Pine to Palm has nothing to do with the time on the clock, and everything to do with just making it to the finish. Which helps alleviate a lot of the stress that I might be dealing with if I cared more about just how long it will take me to get from Williams to Ashland.

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One of the most appealing reasons for me to sign up for a 100 was to be able to experience the journey it would take to train for one. And I’d say it’s been a pretty damn good one, imperfections and all.

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What all of this means is that instead of peaking with 100 mile weeks and monster long runs, I’ve reduced my weekly mileage by a lot and my long runs barely qualify as “long”. I’m listening to my body and really embracing the “it’s better to show up undertrained and uninjured” philosophy. If I’m feeling kind of beat up, I back it down and skip a run or three instead of risking injury. And even if I’m not feeling beat up, I’m trying to avoid doing anything that might be remotely stupid or harmful. There’s a good chance I’m being too conservative right now, but I’d rather be safe than not at that start line. I had a really helpful conversation with a friend about his build up to a very successful run at Western States, where his greatest takeaway was that “it’s not about being a training hero.” You’ve gotta save something for race day.

During our Tuesday evening run, one of my more experienced friends asked me when I am going to “shut it down” before Pine to Palm. I kind of laughed and explained that my peak training has not involved a whole lot of miles that need shutting down. After elaborating a bit more, he advised me to look at what I’ve got left to work with and to pick a couple of key things that I can focus on before the race. “Don’t be the hungry girl at the buffet. You can’t cram it all in before the race” is how he so eloquently put it.

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So I have a few things that I’ll focus on over the last month of training. Instead of worrying about weekly volume, or doubles, or whatever other craziness I once thought I NEEDED TO RUN to survive my OMG 100 MILER, I’ll try to do three things: get in two more key long runs that incorporate some of the specific challenges of Pine to Palm, hike a high percentage of my training “runs” for a low impact but highly beneficial workout, and prioritize yoga and recovery. And get myself mentally ready to hit some pretty serious lows on September 13th (/14th). Because I’ve been informed there will be more than a few to work with. And also taper. Obviously.

Have you gained something from an imperfect training cycle? Made some mistakes and learned from them? Played it safe and weren’t sorry about it? Fill me in!

8 Responses to One Month

  1. the only training i’ve ever done is imperfect. i travel to some pretty far flung places for work and there is very rarely a treadmill or a place to safely run outside. i’m always skipping runs or modifying my race schedule. reality is imperfect, all we can do is make the best of it and not kill ourselves over it. can’t wait to hear about your race.

  2. Wow, good luck! (:

    Beautiful pictures by the way!

  3. I admire your ambition and dedication training for this without a plan or coach! I am training with a coach for my first full currently and couldn’t imagine doing it without her! Enjoy your last month of training! Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  4. Love this post and the analogy about the buffet. :)

    I’ve learned a few things during my first 50k training cycle. The two most important are don’t pick your first 50k to be in August in the GA heat and the second is time on your feet and in the heat is just as important than the miles. Once I realized those things, training has been less stressful (but still solid). Here’s to hoping that I make it to the finish line while there is still beer.

  5. I do not follow a training plan – I just think it’s ridiculous to live and die by a training plan when listening to your body is so much more effective. I realize that these plans were made by some of the best runners but still….everyone is so different! I like that you’re going to be focused on hiking a high percentage during your runs. Realistically, you have to be just as good of a hiker as runner to make it through ultra trail runs. We take our kids hiking one – two times a week and it’s help tremendously with my progress as a runner and they aren’t even difficult hikes!

  6. Good luck and speedy legs in these last few weeks! It’s been fun to follow along your journey to this big race. I think mental preparation is just as important, so it’s so good that you’re doing that too.

    Completely off topic, but I just finished Ironman Lake Placid a few weeks ago! I have to tell you – I read, and reread, your IMLP race recap so much while I was training! It was one of the greatest days and moments of my life. If you’re interested in reading my recap, it’s right here. It is crazy long, but screw it: Ironman deserves a long recap! http://www.swoonstylehome.com/2014/08/race-recap-2014-ironman-lake-placid.html

  7. One of the most experienced runners in my group had this to say to one the girls doing an ultra next month: it’s not about the miles, it’s the mental you need to overcome.

  8. […] you recall, realizing I can’t do much more before the race was a pretty shaping conversation during one of m…. My much more experienced ultra running friend convinced me to focus my training on a few key […]

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