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11 things that are different about this round of 100 miler training

Back when I was a beer professional, I would frequently hear our founding brewer  doling out advice for homebrewers and aspiring zymurgists. His main tip was always the same: When you’re developing a recipe for a new brew, only change one element at a time. That way, when you go from total sludge to the next Heady Topper, you’re not standing in front of your pint glass musing about whether it was that extra handful of Cascade hops or the yeast switcheroo or the bonus day in the fermentation tank. If you change one thing and it improves (or worsens), you know exactly what to credit (or blame), and then you can keep strategically adjusting from there. It makes sense, right? Right!

Unfortunately, in order to execute such a logical strategy, you need to exercise some foresight and intentional planning. Which is maybe not what happened in my current 100 miler “training cycle”. Instead, I changed way more than one thing in the training/race preparation department (hence the title, which, honestly could have been “100 things that are different about this 100 miler training cycle”, but that would have been a crime against your eyeballs so I narrowed it downa bit). Now when it all goes well (or, to hell), I will have absolutely no idea why. So probably don’t try this at home.

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11 (of the many) things that are different about this 100 miler training cycle:

  1. It started with a DNS. Usually (and let’s just clarify right now that when I say “usually” as it pertains to 100 mile foot races, I mean the whopping two other times I’ve run these things), I register 9+ months in advance of the race and proceed to spend all 9+ of those months focusing on that specific event. This time around, I decided I was woefully under-prepared for the 100 miler that I signed up for 9+ months ago and settled on Javalina as a backup plan less than 9 weeks beforehand. So that changes some things.
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Signing up for a race with ultrasignup in one hand & a beer in the other. Not something that is different.

  1. There is no other backup plan. Or option. This race is the LAST CHANCE to qualify for a 2017 Western States lottery ticket. Which means I HAVE to finish it or I sacrifice three cumulative years of lottery tickets – right when the WS100 n^2 ticket accumulation formula is starting to work in my favor. If I complete a qualifying race this year, I’ll earn somewhere in the neighborhood of a colossal 14% chance of entry. You think I’m going to just give up such great odds if things get a little rough out there? THINK AGAIN, PEOPLE. While I’ve obviously always wanted to finish the other 100s I’ve started, the fact that this Jundred is the last chance for a lottery ticket adds a new level of neediness to my relationship with the finish line.
  1. There is no “nutritional” strategy built into my training plan. Unless “eating food when hungry” counts as a strategy, which (IMHO), it should. I’ve experimented with various dietary trends for prior training cycles, but find them entirely too restrictive and quite frankly, unfun. If my boyfriend wants to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon lounging around with a doughy loaf of fresh-baked pugliese and a wedge of triple creamy cheese, I refuse to tell him, “Sorry, I’m not eating carbs today because I might finish 3 seconds slower in my next 100 miler,” instead of, “rip me off a piece of that!” Really, I think if you’re adequately fueling your body with good, nourishing meals (and snacks!), you’ll be just fine. Actually, way better than “just fine”, you’ll be strong and healthy and happily satiated with delicious and nutritious eats. So that’s been my “strategy” for this race(/life).
  1. I have not done a single back-to-back long run (at least I hadn’t when I started drafting this post last week…). Consecutive days of monster mileage are usually a non-negotiable pillar of my training for any ultra. But instead of logging lots of back-to-back long running, I did three longer runs in recent weeks that exceed the distance I would normally aim for with long runs (the 43ish miles at Waldo in August, the 50 mile circumnavigation of the Three Sisters in September, and a 42ish mile circumnavigation of Mt Hood last weekend-more on that later!). Because the runs have been longer, I’ve felt less inclined (or physically able) to run a second long run during those weekends. This was less of an intentional training tweak and more of an irresistible adventure opportunities that happen to involve more miles >>> rigid training runs decision, so we’ll see how it all works out. (Edited to add: I think it’s going to work out just dandy based on how my back-to-back long running felt this past weekend. Shockingly, it does not appear I’ve compromised a ton of endurance gains with multiple 10+ hour outings.)

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  1. I have done speedwork, which normally doesn’t make an appearance at all on any ultra training plan. But since signing up for this run in August, I’ve peppered some variety of faster running into my routine at least once a week. (Usually on Thursdays because I like to avoid it for as long as possible.) Because this race is relatively flat and will involve way more actual running than the mountainous 100s I’ve “run” (read: hiked/shuffled/crawled), I wanted to work a little on my leg turnover and, you know, running. Sometimes I do this with mile repeats on the track, sometimes I crank up the pace to a tempo/want-to-vomit speed during my midweek mid-distance trail run, sometimes it’s 2 minute intervals under the coaching of Lauren Fleshman at the Wilder Retreat, at which any endurance junkie might think “Bitch, please. How hard can 2 tiny minutes be? Add 23 hours and 58 minutes to that and get back to me”, but then you run 2 minute intervals and want to die. I have no idea if the speed work will come in handy on October 29th (theme of this training cycle!), but it’s been unexpectedly fun to move my legs faster than their default speed of “ultra-conversational” or “100 mile shuffle”.

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  1. There were no tune-up races. Unless you count a 55k through Moab’s red rocks…in February. Or, DNF’ing at the Waldo “Get Me to the River on Time” 73k(ish). Based on the fact that I forgot to pin on my bib before starting Waldo, I have a hunch that I’ll pull an equally idiotic stunt in Arizona. No bladder in the hydration vest? Lube in all the wrong places? Wardrobe malfunctions? Stay tuned!

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  1. There are some gaps in the pacer line-up. Technically, I did/do have pacers. But neither of my original duo has a plane ticket yet. And I’m fairly confident they’re both hovering closer to a 7 mile long run than the 20 mile one that the pacing stint necessitates. And they both face a high risk of partaking in too many start line beverage offerings (where everyone crews/hangs out/parties for the entire duration of the 5 loop race) and rendering themselves useless as pacers. But it’s fine. Even if one and/or both of them end up not joining me for a few miles in the desert, I will still love them. If there’s a race I think I can manage without as much pacing assistance, it’s this one. Between its five loop structure and high number of entrants, I don’t expect to feel as overwhelmed with solitude and fear in the middle of the night. But I will obviously welcome any company and trail-side stories that can join me for a few miles of the race.
  1. I opted to train for life specificity over course specificity. Normally, I’m a firm believer in adjusting your training to mimic the terrain and conditions you’ll face on race day (if it’s a mountainous 100, run mountains! If the trail is rocky, run over rocks! #science). But instead of following this strategy, I let life dictate my training schedule. Without giving an iota of thought to race day terrain and/or conditions, I did almost all of my weekday runs from the front door (of either home or office) to maximize my time at the new job and with my guy (and, as importantly, his dog) and tending to the parts of life that don’t require a pair of Hokas.
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“HI GUYS! Do you want to hang out? With food?! I love food. Also, sticks. I love sticks. BIG sticks.” <3 Brutus

And I did nearly all of my weekend runs in the mountains to maximize the fun, even though the course is relatively quite flat and includes exactly zero mountains. And instead of preparing for the desert heat in recent weeks, I’ve been running through the snow and sleet and ice and stuff, because it’s October in Oregon and apparently we just skipped right from summer to winter this year. But if the philosophy “anything that sucks=great 100 miler training” is true, than those ridgeline blizzards might pay much better dividends than a few trips to the sauna.14528353_10153711064052820_1368366526_n

  1. I have never run on the course. Usually (on those other two occasions), I’ve made a point to spend a weekend or two performing some course recon, which has been beneficial on race day when I know what to expect and can maneuver the course with greater familiarity and comfort. Unfortunately, with a shorter training window and a longer distance to travel (and less of a desire to spend time in rattlesnake heaven), this just wasn’t in the cards this year. But I HAVE run in the desert before, so I’m sure I’ll be just fine.

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  1. Speaking of snakes, I am more afraid of snakes than not finishing. At about Mile 73 of my first 100, I started hallucinating reptiles coiled up alongside the trail in the delusional/VERY fatigued state that I found myself in around 2am. If I see similar slithery things in the middle of the night at Javalina, they very well might be real, live, vicious snakes and not imaginary-induced-by-sleeplessness-reptiles. And that is TERRIFYING.
  1. My race plan involves music and maybe also costumes. I’m usually not a fan of racing with music, especially if there’s a trail involved. But since this event involves five laps of the same (fairly uneventful) terrain, I’m thinking a little music might help distract me from the monotony. So I’m bringing an ICE listening device (that’s In Case of Emergency, not frozen water, although, I’ll definitely be needing some of that too when the desert turns up the heat). If you have energetic beats that will help me endure miles and miles and miles and miles of monotonous desert running, please do share! Also, there’s a costume contest (since it’s Jalloween weekend) and I feel like I need to play along. If you have any brilliant/creative/hilarious costume ideas (that can survive 100 miles of desert running), please pass those along as well.

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In conclusion: many things are different with my preparation for this 100 miler. But, while I’m sure a lot of this post reads as fairly self-deprecating (something that’s certainly not a departure from the norm), I don’t necessarily believe that different equals worse. I’ll share more about this in a separate post (this one is long enough already!), but I actually feel unexpectedly satisfied with my current fitness and confident with my ability to run a happy race at Javalina.

16 days!

9 Responses to 11 things that are different about this round of 100 miler training

  1. Thank you for making me laugh once again! And I love some of your phrasing – neediness in relation to the finish line – yep, I get that. I wish you well on the day and can’t wait to read future posts. I’m at about the 5 mile mark so can’t even begin to imagine 20 times that. A great post!

  2. Good luck! I’m running my first 100 the weekend after you at the rio del lago 100, also a western states qualifier. My training has mirrored the points you made above for this training cycle as opposed to your last 100’s so I’m hoping that your recipe is a success since it will give me more confidence in my training LOL :). (except in contrast to other training cycles I’m doing LESS speed and more back to back). Can’t wait until you get back and tell us the story!!!!! (also thinking of doing the Javalina next year since I know a friend down there, but mostly run in moutains so looking forward to your thoughts on it. )

    • Well, clearly I didn’t do my homework before making that claim. But I’m going to pretend I don’t know that because I don’t want an out! Have SO MUCH FUN (and also some so-not-fun moments) running your first 100! Let me know how it goes!

  3. My goal race (Austin 70.3) is a day after yours, and I feel like I’ve changed a hundred things this cycle too. Have a great race and I can’t wait to hear all the stories. :)

  4. With such a big training base from YEARS of running I bet these training updates will lead to an even better race. =)

  5. I feel confident that you will not meet any snakes in the middle of the night….only during the day. Remember, the desert is frickin’ cold at night, and they’re cold-blooded creatures.

    (And really, if that many people run this race, the vibrations of all of those footfalls will scare them away during the day….well, or scare them across your path.)

  6. You just sound so flipping happy these days :) Good luck at Javalina…you sound as prepared as a girl can be.

    I had an awesome (IMHO) playlist for my last half which included a lot of early-day Britney (before she got cool), some Martika (Toy Soldiers!) and Maren Morris’s My Church. They definitely perked me up!!

  7. My 100 went great :). Story is up on the blog!

  8. OK, so I did a bit of internet stalking and saw your name in the Javalina results, and you name on the WS100 lottery list so I have to assume that everything went well or well enough!