Plenty has changed since I first started running the trails in the summer of 2010. For one thing, all of those ultrarunners who I thought were crazy … well, I’m one of them now, and have been for more than five years.
The bigger change has come in terms of mileage – daily, weekly, and monthly. I was still working as a sportswriter when I first started running trails, and that left me with about one evening per week that I could get to the trails to run. The 4.5-mile Wednesday Night Beginner’s Run at Shawnee Mission Park in Kansas City was my only weekly run for most of a year before I started adding in a few miles on the weekend. I might have a 10-mile week if I was lucky, and that seemed like a lot back then.
Breaking through to 40-mile weeks and eventually a 50-mile week seemed monumental in the lead-up to my first 50-miler, Leadville Silver Rush, in 2012. By then, I’d broken through the 100-mile monthly barrier with some 120-, 130-, 140, and maybe even 150-mile months.
My weekly and monthly mileage has fluctuated considerably through the years that I’ve been running ultras, especially during the past three years when I’ve run more miles and taken on some bigger challenges but taken everything less seriously. I believe maxing out around a 182-mile month at some point, and I had a 72-mile week last year (71.94 to be exact) the week that I ran my first 100K at Worlds End in Pennsylvania.
I’ve surprised myself plenty since I first started running trails, and the latest surprise came in March when I surpassed another milestone that I never fathomed I’d achieve: a 200-mile month. That number isn’t eye-popping to many friends of mine who regularly log big miles, but my style has typically been to maintain a comfortable low-mileage base and then ramp up quickly for a race. It’s an approach that has worked pretty well for me. In particular, it has kept me mentally happy while running and I’ve avoided burnout.
That said, more miles and more vertical are going to be required this year if I want to cross the finish line at the CCC 101K on Sept. 1 in Europe. Big mountains and 20,000 feet of gain are going to be there whether I’m ready for them or not, and the work has begun early. I don’t have monthly mileage goals, but it just so happened that I was knocking out a few consecutive 50-mile weeks in March and I stumbled into a 205.73-mile month. That effort included a couple of 20-milers, but it was mostly the result of daily running. I had six days off throughout the month (including the 2nd, 3rd, and 31st), and I had four stretches of six days on without a break. The result was a pleasant surprise, and I’m confident that my base mileage is solid enough to have me prepared to do the necessary work during the next few months to be ready for race day.
Just as I didn’t have any monthly mileage goals previously this year, I don’t have any going forward. I’m willing to bet a few more 200-mile months may reveal themselves through the course of preparation, and when they do I now know my legs can handle it.
January: 159.74 miles
February: 154.34 miles
March: 205.73 miles