The truth is that this is exactly the kind of jolt I needed. Training the last six months has become mundane and I was feeling the spark start to fade. Western States is one of the few remaining goals I have in ultra running -- the kind of goal that gets you going at 4:30 on a February morning. I really hoped all along that it would happen because I didn't really want to half-ass another hundred like I did at Bear last year.
Time for the Rocky quotes.... This is what I need, to get that look back. I had it at LT100. I could never find it for Bear 100. I tried to make Bear special and I couldn't do it. And, predictably, when it got hard, the race got the best of me. Fortunately, I finished and kept the Western States dream alive!
So what has changed? And what will change? Well, this is all preliminary, but here are a few thoughts I have about changing things to be prepared for my best shot at sub-24 hours:
1) My ideas about training are pretty well cemented at this point. I know who I am and what my body can take. I have written about this in the past, but I am not a mileage junkie. I believe in mostly MAF/aerobic work with some light quality (fartleks, hills, strides, progression) and just enough true-quality (lactate threshold runs, intervals, hard longs, long-longs). Typically, I race best between 65-75 miles per week as my "peak" weeks. I will do a few more B2B longs this time than I did for Bear. However, for the most part, I will try to get my mileage through consistency and, likely, 6 days a week of running.
2) This time out I will emphasize more night running, hopefully doing 3-4 quality night runs. While I am not looking to burn up the track at night, I do need to get more comfortable running on trails at night plus all that encompasses (non-fasted state nutrition, temperatures, changing light, etc..). To aid in my cause, Santa will be bringing me a Petzel NAO headlamp. What a nice guy!
3) Being Western States, I will obviously have to train for heat like I never have before. I am not totally sure what this means yet, but I do know runners typically use saunas and midday runs with layers on to aid them in preparation. The good news is that most events I have raced in the past were hotter than normal (Leadville Marathon 2011, Silver Rush 2011, Leadville Trail 100 2012, Bear 100 2014) and I typically handle it pretty well. And, the one event that I have done in the past that I think will most mimic Western States conditions is North Fork 50, my best race ever. North Fork isn't as hot as WS, but it is an exposed, dry track with overall trail conditions like what I expect. And, it is a fast, runnable course, like Western States.
4) I won't go crazy for vertical gain. When peak trail training, I typically land between 30K and 35K per month in total vertical gain. That number is comfortable for me and a reasonable estimate of what I'll be doing March - May.
5) This is TBD, but I am unlikely to do any tune-up races. There aren't a ton of good Colorado trail events prior to early June. Plus, I don't want the risk of training and preparing for more than one thing. Eye on the prize. I want to be all in on this event.
6) Nutrition continues to be an on-going experiment. I suppose that is true for everyone. I am super happy with my LCHF approach, but I need to figure out in-race nutrition for the 100 mile distance. I gave up way too early on my plan at Bear 100 and paid for it late in the race. TOO MUCH SUGAR!!!