A few notes on preparing for a very long run...

JonRoig.com | Posted: 2010-06-22 05:53:19 | 13025 hits | View in Hi-Fi Mode

Tapering is a bitch. I, like, don't know what to do with myself, so I guess it's time to update the blog.

Western States. A few days away. Holy crap.

The thing is... I don't feel like it's total hubris that I'm throwing down for this crazy race. I've done a lot to prepare... I've assembled a crew. I think I've found a pacer. I've settled on gear... broken in new shoes...

... but more than that, I've been running. A lot. I'm better set for this race than I've ever been in my life. Which is good... since this Western States, at least on the face of it, sounds astounding in its brutality. 100 miles... sure, that's tough... but throw in 18,000 ft of climbing and 24,000 ft of descent, you've got yourself a serious challenge.

Honestly, I put name in for the lottery, thinking that, given the odds of getting accepted, I'd be safe from having to set foot at the start at Squaw Valley for the rest of my running career. And yet, next Saturday, that's where I'll be... for better or for worse, this is really going to happen.

Since it's been awhile since I updated my blog, I thought I'd say something real quick about what I've been doing to train for this crazy race.

Mostly, it's been a lot of just straight up running around the neighborhood, of course... that's kind of my bread and butter -- my early morning jaunts around Tempe Town Lake / Papago Park with the dog. Obviously, Gus loves that stuff... and we've been doing longer runs on Saturday morning, mostly at South Mountain. With the heat being what it is, he's pretty maxxed out around 10 miles, but out there on National, that's actually a pretty good workout. We hit Camelback at least once a week as well... and, of course, I've been pretty careful to not do anything horrible to myself on that mountain. Beyond the usual horribleness, naturally. I've also been rock climbing regularly with Dr. Jen and Judy... and that's just awesome. Totally my scene. I can't wait to devote more time to getting good at that, but clearly I've got a ways to go.

I finally climbed fucking Flatiron... but more than that, I did two really awesome night runs to prepare for the effects of sleep deprivation and really hard runs. First up was the Grand Canyon with Kirk, Jody, and Paulette... it goes without saying, rolling with those guys, who are all just really superb athletes, was an incredible experience. Really, that adventure deserves its own separate report, but here's how it went down: I worked a normal day, then, in the late afternoon, we all met at Jody's place and drove up the Grand Canyon's South Rim. We began our descent just as the sun went down and ran all night. Obviously, that place is spectacular... and while the climb up the North Rim was relentless, by the time we'd returned to the pumphouse, the sun was starting to come up and I felt refreshed and reinvigorated. Paulette and I officially declared our rivalry with each other... so that's good. I'm sure we'll have our showdown soon enough... There's certainly something to be said for the opportunity to run with a couple of Hardrock-level runners... it was interesting to see how they approached long distance runs. The best random thing? I'm cruising along the river at the bottom of the Grand Canyon at like 6:30 in the morning and around the corner comes David, another local guy from PHX who I battle from time to time during races. I wonder if he successfully did a 5 hour r2r?

Obviously, we met a bunch of cool people along the way... Honey, Debbie, and Aaron were out there, too, so we crossed paths a few times and met up at the end.

More recently, I did a night run at Catalina Island... and that was just crazy fun. I stayed up late Friday night and did some drinking at Scott's birthday party. Then, I got up early in the morning, dropped the dog off at the kennel and drove west until I hit the edge of the Pacific Ocean at Dana Point, kinda near L.A. From there, I took a ferry over choppy waters with a bunch of drunk and exhuberant marines, found my pal Tent Girl and had dinner in that adorable little village, then ran all night, again, leaving as the sun went down. Gotta give props to both Tent Girl for helping to provide a measure of sanity to this run -- it's always good to have someone who knows more or less what you're up to around -- and to to the ranger at the campground just outside of town. He casually suggested that running the Trans-Catalina trail alone at night might not be the best idea and that I might be better served by the dirt road that crosses the island. He was totally right.

That was just a magical night, running alone and self-supported, under clear skies and an almost totally full moon. Salt air... shooting stars... I had the place to myself... and those roads totally delivered what I was looking for in terms of relentless rolling hills and easy navigation. At one point during the night, I was cruising along without a headlamp or flashlight, and I see this big black blob moving in front of me. "What the heck?" I turn on my flashlight, and it's a big buffalo, looking as surprised to see me as I am him. He let me by with no problem.

All in all, I did 44 miles in 10.5 hours or so, taking it pretty easy, but staying in constant motion. My journey took me all the way across the island, stopping once at at a campground in the middle of the night to refill water. Some random dude, probably wasted out of his mind in the middle of the night, spotted me on my way in and was like, "Where did you come from?" "Avalon." "Holy shit, that's a long run."

'Course, I still had to run back. I met Tent Girl again for breakfast and from there, I hopped back on the ferry where I immediately fell asleep, drove to Blythe, CA, slept in some parking lot, and drove the rest of the way home. Pretty brutal... kind of messed me up for a little while, but in the best way.

That's how you train, right?

Finally, just went to Havasupai with Jason, Amy, Tom, Jon, Sean, and Brian... that place is just stunningly beautiful... a really great adventure. I spent three days running around down there and approached it in a pretty minimalist fashion: no tent, just a sleeping bag, a change of clothes, my handy jetbroil, and a bunch of food. Oh, and my 100 oz Camelbak and an old pair of MT100s to use as water shoes. And a towel.

Since I'm still not a super experienced backpacker, I didn't do a great job of just bringing the bare essentials, but I did manage to pare it down to about 22 lbs with water. Not too bad -- fit comfortably in my newer, mid-size REI pack.

I decided to experiment with running with the pack on and it worked just fine. I made it down to the village (9 miles) in about 1.5 hours, which is totally solid... although it's almost all down hill. It took a little while to adjust to the extra weight, but I tried to be meticulous as I picked my way through the rocks. Of course, I managed to catch up with my pals as they made the final way down to the campground -- Jon started running along with me, and was like, "Hey Jon!" but at first I didn't recognize him. I was in The Zone and feeling good. Later that day, we frolicked in Havasupai Falls.

Day two, I made my way out to Mooney super early in the morning, had the place totally to myself. Took a leak off a very high cliff... maybe the best way to start the day ever. As it warmed up, I set off for Beaver Falls, a couple of miles downriver toward the Colorado. I thought about going all the way to the river, but that seemed like it would actually require real effort -- the guy managing the Pygmy Trail Guides group told me it would take all day -- so I just decided to go easy on myself. I was kind of wrong about that -- with tons of creek crossings and trails in pretty ragged shape, it felt a little sketchy during the parts where I was hiking by myself through tall grass with tons of lizards scatering as I approached. Since I had no idea where I was going, I just followed water splotches in the dirt as they made their way in and out of the creek, thinking whoever preceeded me would probably know what they were doing. My tracking skills proved successful; the trail led to a group of Boy Scouts from St. George, Utah. The final approach to Beaver felt a little dangerous, but I think that's just because I'm a wuss.

... On the third day, I hiked out. Took like 3.5 hours, something like that... taking it easy but moving forward. Not too much of a story there, except that the parking lot was totally devoid of any people when I reached the top. There were cars 'n' stuff, but not a soul to be seen.

All in all, we shall see how this all goes this weekend. Trying to set expectations low, 'cuz... really... who knows. It's 100 miles! I will say this, though -- I'm way better prepared than I was for Vermont and the JJ100. It's hard to believe that JJ100 was only last October. I'm feeling fit. Solid. Relaxed. While I didn't make it out to the training run, I got in some really solid stuff.

It's gonna be pretty fun though, no matter what. This whole affair is pretty epic and I kind of still can't believe I get to participate in it.


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