Everything seems to be falling into place for the Burning River 100 Endurance Run. This Saturday I will finally get to face up to the race that has been foremost on my mind for the past several months. I signed up for BR100 as I began my taper for Boston; I started training for BR100 when the gun went off at Boston (the way I saw it). Now, I am simply waiting for this weekend. Training for the 100 miler has not gone exactly according to plan, but I do feel confident. I didn't exactly get as high mileage in training as I had planned, or as many long long runs (30+); however, I am comfortable with the very high number of 20+ mile training runs I got in, and the good number of back-to-backs and B2B2Bs.
For the first three and a half weeks of June, I was in Jacksonville, Florida. This was less-than-ideal for my training schedule, I thought, but at least I was still able to maintain decent mileage. After a couple weeks there, I was losing confidence. Everyday I would go out to run and feel sluggish and beat. From my location, there was very little choice in mixing up running routes. I had two directions to choose from, and it was 5 miles in either of them before making any worthwhile turns. It was very hot, and everything was long, straight, flat roads with little shade. So running was boring and sluggish. I started to doubt my 100-miler aspirations, but did remain motivated, if that makes sense. I dragged myself out the door to get those miles in for at least an hour and half or two hours most days.
I tried to make some fun out of it. One weekend I did a 15-miler to Jacksonville Beach, finishing at a hotel where I met friends for the weekend. Another day I ran to downtown Jacksonville, which turned out to be exactly 20 miles from where I was. That was an extremely hot day. Another 'adventure' was my 'exploration' of the Jacksonville-Balwin Trail, a paved rail-trail path. I found out about it via google and decided it'd be a decent way to mix things up a bit and get in a long run. It's a 14.5 mile path. Like everything else, it was straight, flat, and sunny. Another very hot day. I started at one end with a 12-oz Gatorade and two gels. The Gatorade and one gel were consumed at mile 11ish. I turned around at the end of the path, 14.5 miles into the run, dreading the next 14.5 miles. At some point -- maybe with like 10 miles to go or so -- I started walking intermittently and taking breaks. I was very overheated and thirsty. I knew there were two water fountains with 5.7 miles to go -- I had seen them on my way out but didn't stop at them. I struggled along, the thought of the water fountains driving me forward, my pace having dropped to 9 to 10+ minute miles. I finally reached the fountains, only to find them nonfunctional. Dry. I cursed them, laughed at myself a little, thought about crying, and realized that I didn't have any choice but to keep going. Within a half mile, I waved down a passing cyclist, who was kind enough to share with me the coldest, crispest, most refreshing water I may have ever tasted. I took several swigs from his bottle, enough to feel good enough to keep moving forward. I thanked him profusely, as he may have saved me from some serious heat/hydration problems. Eventually, I finished the 29-mile run and downed all the things I had been craving out there: chocolate milk, Dr. Pepper, Gatorade, and sweet tea.
Shortly after this run, I started adding a couple miles at night each day. I would run in the afternoon/evening, usually feeling tired and sluggish, and then go for a shorter run later at night. I quickly realized that I felt 10 times better running at night than during the day, and that the heat must be to blame for the way I'd been feeling. Then I took a look at my log -- my running really wasn't going as badly as I was feeling. The pace for most of my running was acceptable, and I was doing decent miles. And that was with some pretty intense heat and minimal fueling during the runs. Even that 29-miler where I blew up in the heat - counting all the breaks and walking and everything, it was still 9:29 pace. I could live with that, considering it is a 100-miler I'm training for, after all.
So my confidence boosted a bit, and I started to feel pretty good about where I was at. I left Jacksonville and came back to Maryland. After running 91 miles in 7 days (beginning with that 29-miler from hell), I ran the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut Marathon in Pennypack Park, Philadelphia. This race was put on my the same folks as the Dirty German 50k. I figured I would run however I felt, which would probably turn out to be about 3:30, maybe 3:20 if I had a good day for some reason. The first mile felt tough. I let the faster folks go ahead and do their thing, figuring I would just settle in somewhere in the front-middle of the pack But I felt like I was pushing, and then figured out why when I saw the first mile was a 6:30. So I slowed down a bit and tried to find a rhythm. For some reason, that rhythm was still around 7-minute pace, which I kept thinking I would pay for. The course was basically an out-and-back x2. I came through halfway in 1:33, saw my dad, and told myself this second lap would definitely be significantly slower. But I actually started feeling better. As I approached the halfway point, I counted the people who were ahead of me as the course doubled back on itself. I think I was in 12th or something and, based on the gap, it seemed like there was maybe a chance to pull in a couple guys to break into the top 10. So I did; I slowly picked people off, as I started feeling really good, surprisingly. I finished with a 3:07 for 9th place. When I got home, I went out for 6 more miles, still feeling pretty good.
I had a couple of good weeks of running back here in Maryland, where I actually have some hills to train on, before beginning to taper. I volunteered this weekend at the inaugural Endless Summer 6 Hour run, which was a big success at the tail end of a serious heat wave. I was there to help out with the race and help crew Jackie as much as I could, as she ran her first timed event like this. She ran a phenomenal race, completing over 41 miles, less than a half mile behind my good friend Ted, who won the race overall. It was fun to be out there, and pretty inspiring really. Definitely got me stoked for this weekend - just hoping I can deliver like Jackie and Ted did!
So that's the last month and a half or so. Overall, it's gone pretty well and I feel totally ready for BR100. I'm not nervous...just really excited. Maybe the nerves will come as the starting time gets closer, but that really can't come soon enough! I've been focusing on this for months, and I'm so stoked to get out there and hit it.