After completing my first 100-miler in November 2013 at the Pinhoti 100, I decided that tackling two 100-milers in 2014 would be a great challenge, so I registered early for both the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run (BR100) in Ohio and a return trip to Pinhoti 100 in Alabama. To help build my strength and confidence for this challenge, I added a number of other races to the schedule as a build up to BR100. It was not until later that I realized that this would result in three 100-mile races in a 12-month period.
The month of June was my peak month of training for BR100. Living at sea level means you have to get creative with your training. Three years of this flat-lander creativity felt like it did not get me very far, so I started June with my second straight year at the Chattanooga Mountain Stage Race. The stage race consists of three days of running with 18-miles on Raccoon Mountain for day one, 22-miles on Lookout Mountain for day two, and 20-miles on Signal Mountain for day three. From completing this race in 2013, I knew it was a good start to my four hardest weeks of training for BR100. In 2013, I had trained specifically for the Stage Race doing multiple weeks in a row of back-to-back-back long runs of 15-20 miles in length and focusing mostly on speed of completion of each of these run. In some weeks, I was logging three 15 mile runs in a row in sub 1:45. This year, however, I was different coming in and it showed in my results on each day.
Day 1, 18-miles on Raccoon Mountain, was about the worst way you could start a 3-day stage race. I woke up that first morning with a pounding headache, which remained throughout the race that took 30-minutes longer than Day 1 in 2013. I rebounded nicely on Day 2 and Day 3. Although still slightly slower on each days times in comparison to 2013, I finished each day feeling very strong and confident on my ability to cover long distances. In the big picture of things, the Stage Race was a another great setup for the remainder of 2014 and especially the next few weeks of training.
Just six days after the end of the Chattanooga Mountain Stage Race, I was standing on the start line of the Lowcountry Ultra Bad Marsh Night Ultra 50K in 100 degree heat. ‘’Perfect!’’ is what I told myself, this was going to be excellent training. Right from the start, I took as just that, a training run. The course involved completing seven laps on a 4.5 mile loop around an old golf course. With the heat and humidity so high, I was going through 32 fluid ounces of Tailwind and/or water every lap. My energy levels stayed high throughout the race and I caught up with many familiar faces throughout the evening. I also enjoying running into the night and found myself several times deliberately turning off my headlamp to navigate purely by feel and what sight my eyes and the moon would allow. I came through the finishing line with a time of 5:32:28 to complete another successful 50K trail race.
After back to back weekends of long races, I was feeling spent. However, three days after the Bad Marsh 50K, I was on a plane to California for vacation in the Lake Tahoe area and to pace at the Western States 100. This vacation was spent with my wife, and a small group of her close family members. We enjoyed several days of hiking around Emerald Bay, Squaw Valley, and other activities in the Tahoe area. I did not take much rest from running on this vacation, logging three days of 10-15 miles up and down the mountain roads of South Lake Tahoe, at a starting elevation of 6000 feet each day.
Towards the end of our time in South Lake Tahoe we made our way to the Forest Hill Aid Station along the Western States 100 course. Forest Hill is around mile 62 of the course and it marks the first place that runners are allowed to have pacers. We spent hours at this aid station watching some of the most elite ultra-runners in the world come through at speeds that most would find difficult completing a race of much shorter distance. We remained at Forest Hill until the runner that I was going to pace, Erik Skaden came through, and then we headed down to the American River crossing where I was set to pace him from mile 78 to 93. Running this portion of the course with now 10-time finisher Erik Skaden, was a privilege and great learning experience for when the day that I make it into WS100 comes, hopefully 2015!
The third week of this four week cycle was a bit of a recovery week, dropping from 60-75 miles per week to just 40 miles. This was mostly due to travel back to South Carolina, but also because I wanted to give my legs a little rest to be able to hit my long run goals for week four. The final week of hard training, week four, totaled 70 miles and featured back-to-back long runs of 30-miles and 20-miles, respectively. At the end of this hard training cycle, the date was July 13, nearly three weeks before BR100, and for me time to taper. Tapering for me consists of running only when I feel like running and when the schedule allows it. Working 45+ hours per week as a specialty retail manager, I am on my feet a lot and I have to account for this in my training and taper cycles. During this taper, I might have logged a total of 70 miles over the three weeks. Thus, I approached BR100 a little anxious, but rested, ready, and no aches and pains.