The Western States 100 Training for April 2016

Down to less than three months left of Western States 100 training. If I thought the training was going to get any easier, I would not have taken on this challenge.

April 4th-10th Workouts (Total 50.3 Miles / 7 h 48 min)

Monday –  1 Mile Run
Tuesday – 1 Mile Run
Wednesday – 9 Mile Track Workout (6×1-Mile Repeats)
Thursday – 5 Mile Run
Friday – 4 Mile Run
Saturday – 30.5 Mile Trail Run
Sunday –  1 Mile Run

After a bit of an easy week with Flowertown Festival and my mom visiting us, the mileage went back up. My training plan now would start to call for a few more focused workouts to try to simulate some of the features of Western States 100 missing by living in Summerville, SC. First, came a 1-mile repeat track workout on Wednesday night. With the significant lack of long hills to train on, I need other ways to replicate the feelings of pushing up or down a long hill. The mile repeat workout consisted of a 1-mile warm-up, 6x-mile repeats with 60 seconds rest, and a 1-mile cool-down. Not knowing if my body could handle this type of workout, I kept it conservative around 6:00-6:30 per mile. It was a great start to a more focused portion of my training plan.

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Come the weekend, I originally planned to take a trip up to Asheville, NC to hike up and run down Mt. Mitchell with Nathan Dewey. The trails in Asheville would have been a perfect training session for the Western States 100. However, with our house getting ready to go on the market, I felt compelled to stay in town to support Nicole and Samuel.  I made an agreement with Nicole to allow me to complete a long run with Nathan.

Swamp Fox Passage Run

On Saturday morning, I got an extra early start on driving out to Witherbee Ranger Station to meet up with Nathan on the Swamp Fox Passage. With a 6:00 AM start, we had about 40-minutes of running in the dark. Thus, we kept the pace easy as we navigated by the beam of our head torches.  Covering 30-miles today would mean venturing out 15 miles on sections of trail that neither of us had too much experience. We were both looking forward to the adventure. Nathan is currently in training for the El Diablo Challenge on June 3-5, which is a 140.6-mile race on a different set of trails in the same forest. Thankfully, his goal race meant that he was in the same mindset as me. That is, no running a lot of races this year or pushing a hard pace.

We talked pretty consistently all the way up to Hwy 17A sharing stories of training, asking questions, chatting about fatherhood, etc. We ran through a section of trail where the park service had just finished a controlled burn. Logs where still smoldering and the smell filled the air. Another section of trail required us to slow down to navigate lots of roots and wood planks to stay out of the swamp.

After hitting our turnaround point, we both got silent for a while. I had setup a water cooler along the route, but we had passed that back at mile 6.5, meaning we would not see it again until mile 23.5.  We both were getting low on the water that we carried along, so I think our minds just turned to conserving energy without even acknowledging it with each other. We made it to the water, and once we got some more fluids in our packs, the conversation between us came back. Having the fluids gave us both a nice lift in energy to finish a strong 30-mile, over 5 hours run out on the trails.  It was not Mt. Mitchell, but 30 miles on the trails is a great training run nonetheless, and I greatly enjoyed the company.

April 11th-17th Workouts (Total 50 Miles / 7 h 28 min)

Monday –  1 Mile Run
Tuesday – 4 Mile Run + Strength Workout
Wednesday – 6 Mile Newington Hill Run
Thursday – 5 Mile Run
Friday – 4 Mile Run
Saturday – SRC 19-Mile Group Trail Run
Sunday –  3×2-Mile Repeat Workout

Fresh off the long run on Saturday with Nathan, I started this week with a few shorter and slower runs. On Tuesday, I found a new leg strength routine to complete that only takes 10-minutes to do and leaves your legs with a nice burn. First, you complete forward lunges alternating legs for 1-minute, then rest 30-seconds. Second, full reverse lunges alternating legs for 1-minute, then rest 30-seconds. Next, 1-minute of reverse single leg lunges on each leg, only letting your foot tap the ground at the start/finish of each rep. Finally, after another 30-seconds of rest, single leg step-ups for 1 minute on each leg.  I’m going to incorporate this short leg strength routine into my training on a once per week basis from now on.

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On Wednesday, I made my way back over to Flowertown Elementary to meet up with the track workout crew for another running of the Newington Hill Spider. Knowing the route right from the start this time, I started a little more aggressive. Settling nicely into a 7:00-7:30 pace per mile. It had significantly warmed up since the weekend, so I elected to not push any harder in fear of not being thoroughly heat trained yet.

After a couple more short distance runs on Thursday and Friday, I found myself back out on the Swamp Fox Passage for another Sunrise Running Company group trail run. This time, however, we were starting from the Northern Trailhead off of Hwy 52 outside of Moncks Corner, SC. Only having run from this trailhead a couple of times the last few years, I was not 100% sure what to expect in conditions.  With the upcoming Wambaw Swamp Stomp 50-50 Trail Run covering this section of trail on May 7th, I thought it was important to see it first-hand ahead of time.

Group Trail Run Fun

We had six runners show up for this training run, and one runner came a little later in the morning. As we got started, we found the trail not to be a complete swamp, but there were some sections that we had to slow to navigate through. Three other runners and I covered a total of 19-miles on the trail, running from Hwy 52 to a closed portion of trail off of Cane Gully Road. It turned out to be another gorgeous day, and the legs felt fantastic the entire time.

After a relatively easy pace during the group run on Saturday, for Sunday I decided to throw in some tempo work. I warmed up for about 2-miles, then completed 3×2-mile repeats with a 1-mile recovery between each one. My legs had a little bit of heaviness on them from the long run yesterday, and the pace on the hard 2-mile sections ranged from about 6:40-7:15 per mile. I think that this a pretty solid effort for an ultrarunner that is in the middle part of the hardest training for a race. With that, another 50-mile week was in the training books.

gatlinburg-1April 18th-24th (Total 43.3 Miles / 6 h 12 min)

Monday – 1 Mile Run
Tuesday – 1 Mile Run
Wednesday – 5.7 Mile Run
Thursday – 20 Mile Run (2:46)
Friday – 7.3 Mile Run
Saturday – 6.3 Mile Run on Twin Creek Trail in Gatlinburg, TN
Sunday – 2 Mile Run on Appalachian Trail off I-40

With an upcoming weekend trip to Gatlinburg, I wanted to get most my running in early in the week. Unfortunately, there was a lot to be done before the weekend. The everyday cleaning of the house for showings was starting to wear on my patience. I found no time on Monday or Tuesday to get out for more than just a short 1-mile run with Denali.

By midweek, things were starting to slow down with the schedule. I found the time for a moderate paced run in the morning before other tasks could start piling up. Then, spent the rest of the day on Wednesday working hard to clear my schedule as much as possible. I wanted to have a non-stressed/rushed long run on Thursday morning. The long run in the morning ended up at 20-miles in length at a steady 8:20-8:30 pace. I wanted to run longer than this, but my legs were feeling a little more tired than expected.

As I packed for the trip to Gatlinburg on Thursday evening, I was not sure how much downtime there would be to run. I packed up a small amount of running gear just in case. Nicole suggested that we get a little later start on Friday morning to get everything ready to go. The later start allowed me to go for a run, and to not feel rushed on leaving the house in the show-ready state. I managed to get one more 7.3-mile run in on Friday morning before the sun came up.

Gatlinburg Memorial Service

As we got on the road Friday for Gatlinburg, we embarked on our first official road trip with Samuel and Denali along for the ride.  We were headed to Gatlinburg to meet up with family to spread my father’s ashes. He had passed away about a year ago. With family living in several different states, it took some planning to bring us all together.

With the big move to California approaching quick, this would also be the last time that my family would so conveniently be together. What we learned from the trip is that traveling by car with an infant is not an easy task. Samuel ended up sleeping most the car ride there and back. Him sleeping was good for staying on the road. However, it meant that he did not sleep very well at night in the hotel. Nicole and I ended the weekend feeling very drained and re-evaluating our plans for the move cross country in June.

While in Gatlinburg, I found a trail just out the back of our hotel which ran along a pretty good sized mountain creek. I ended up with almost 1000 feet of climbing on the 6-mile run, and it was very peaceful. As I ran, I thought about all the years coming to Gatlinburg growing up. I also though about the words I was going to share later when we went to spread my father’s ashes. The Smoky Mountains were his favorite place to come. I was thankful that he had shared this love with us as children. There was a real calmness in the air during this run. I felt his and the Lords presence as I ran.

To end the running weekend, Nicole allowed me to stop along the Appalachian Trail off of I-40. I ran up some switch backs for 1-mile and back down before continuing on the drive home. It what was a very stressful and event-filled week, I still found the time for over 40-miles of running. The run through the forest on Saturday morning in Gatlinburg allowed me to re-focus my training energy. It helped me to remember to not fret over every training run on the schedule.

April 25th-May 1st Workouts (Total 35.7 miles / 4 h 41 min)

Monday – 5 Mile Run
Tuesday – 5 Mile Run + Strength Workout
Wednesday – Ladder Workout on Track (5.5 Miles)
Thursday – 1-Mile Run + Strength Workout
Friday – 5K Dry Run of KES Race Course
Saturday – 5 Mile Run
Sunday – 10 Mile Run

The last week of the month and another full schedule. Who would have ever thought that you could be so busy without a regular job? Then again, when you are raising a child, selling your house, planning a charity 5K run, and training for the Western States 100, I guess that is pretty close to the same workload as a full-time job.

Determined not to let the week slip away from me, I got right to the running on Monday and Tuesday. Back to back 5-mile runs over these two days with some strength exercises mixed in helped to set the tone for making running a priority.

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On Wednesday, I joined in with the Summerville Track Workout group once again for a ladder session. The workout featured a 1200-1000-800-600-400-200 with just 200 active recoveries between each repeat. I did not pay much attention to my splits on each part of the ladder. Afterward, I realized my overall average pace for the 5200-meter workout was 6:17 per mile. I started coming to these track workouts regularly a few months back. At the time, I felt that when running fast, my form was poor and nowhere near as fluid as it once was years ago.  During this workout, I started to feel like that active, yet relaxed form was coming back to me. Feeling strong and stable gave me great confidence in my abilities.

KES Champs Cape Crusade Fun Run

On Friday morning, I completed a quick run through of the KES Champ’s Cape Crusade 5K course in White Gables. With my wife teaching at Knightsville Elementary, she had been approached to see if I could help the school organize this first-year event. Starting at the beginning of March, I began donating my time to assist in course planning, permitting, registrations, and promotions. All the work in such a short amount of time paid off. Race day was now upon us, and our registration numbers had soared to over 175. A great sign considering the event only had 45 days before race day to plan.

I spent Friday afternoon hanging out at Fleet Feet Sports in Summerville for packet pickup. We had another 40 people register at packet pickup, bringing the recorded number of participants up over 200! I spent the evening fretting about how the timing of the event was going to play out on Saturday morning. Being a first-year charity event, I committed to helping the school keep their costs as low as possible. Thus, maximizing their donation to the faculty member that was the race honoree.

To close out the week, I had to keep in mind that Wambaw Swamp Stomp 50 was coming up on May 7th. My legs were fatigued, so I elected to back off the mileage. This allowed my mind and body to recover a bit more before the final training push.