Leadville motivation was at an all-time high this week, and the reasons were plentiful.
For one thing, it marked the final week of hard training before scaling the mileage down until race day. For another, the Saturday long run was targeted as a new personal-record distance day. Then there was the fact that good friend and training partner Brian Brooks would spend Saturday and Sunday pursuing his first 100-mile finisher’s buckle at Western States, the Rose Bowl of endurance running.
Talk about a triple-whammy of motivation.
I wasn’t so optimistic when the week began. Thanks to a 50-mile training week last week, my legs felt like hell on Sunday and again Monday when I headed to work. I didn’t plan to run, but ultimately tossed my trail shoes in the car just in case. After work, I headed to Shawnee Mission Park to join the Monday group and try for a few slow miles in the humidity. At some point during the day my knees must have decided to no longer be cranky, because they were ready to run. After a 4.5-mile loop with the guys’ group, I cranked up the pace for an extra solo 2.5-mile loop to get the lungs burning in the humidity. Humidity’s my only real option for altitude training in Kansas, and I wanted to take full advantage. Post-run pizza and beer with friends capped a great day and set the tone for what would be a very good week.
The legs felt strong enough for 5 miles of hill repeats on Ogg Road on Tuesday, and then 7 more miles on Wednesday before tendonitis began to flare up in my left ankle (the price of six straight days of hard running without a break).
I gave the legs Thursday and Friday off to rest, which was much needed. The recovery time made little difference by Saturday, however, as the aches and pains barked louder while the miles piled up.
I expected Saturday’s run at Clinton Lake to hurt — and it did plenty, in all likelihood due to the back-to-back 50-mile weeks — but the greater challenge was staying focused. Just 20 minutes after we began running and half a country away California, Brian toed the starting line at Western States and began his quest for a 100-mile finisher’s buckle. The goal was a 7- to 8-hour run, but the trail chatter constantly seemed to find its way back to Brian and curiosities about his progress on the course.
We did a 6.5-mile loop with the larger group, and then about a half-dozen of us headed out for more mileage with an 11.5-mile out-and-back on the white trail in addition to a trip through the Bunker Hill loop. My legs felt fine until the final 10 miles. That’s when my right big toe joint grew very cranky, my lower back tightened up, and the tendonitis in my left ankle began to throb. A fair amount of hiking was mixed in on those final miles.
The final Saturday tally was 31.32 miles in 7:21. Back-to-back 50-mile training weeks were done and the hardest training was officially complete.
The remainder of the day was spent devouring pizza, downing Pedialyte to rehydrate, icing the aches and pains away, and tracking Brian’s progress. He finished his 100-miler this morning in 28:28:29.
Next week will be a mix of recovery and reduced mileage. Ideally, I’m looking for 4.5 miles on Monday and Wednesday, two days of strength training, and then about 3 hours on the trail on Saturday. After that, it’ll officially be taper time.
Two weeks until I’m in Colorado! Three weeks until race day!
While heading home from pizza Monday night, I received a call from Justin Unger — my best friend since kindergarten and brother by choice — confirming that he’d booked his flight to Colorado to crew for my 50-mile race! I know the short-notice trip isn’t easy for him to do, but I’m thrilled that he’ll be there and I know it’s important to him.
We grew up playing soccer together, became Eagle Scouts together and backpacked in Alaska together. He’s not a trail runner, so crewing for an ultra race will be new territory, but I know I’ll be in great hands with someone who will demand that I manage my nutrition properly, monitor my pace, and get my butt across the finish line.
50.32 miles running (biggest running mileage week ever)
649.32 miles running