With the weather looking good and Elizabeth looking for some 'girl time' this weekend, I headed out west to the Massanutten Mountain Range for an overnight training trip. This was another great chance to familiarize myself with more of the Massanutten 100 miler course which I'll be racing on May 17. As always, the course made me laugh aloud as I re-acclimated myself to its overall insanity. Seriously, I defy you to look at this trail and not laugh. or cry. or reach for a pair of crutches.
Saturday's run was about a 16 mile loop that took me over two major mountains on the course. I can't overstate how important it has been for me to run so many sections of this course (about 70 miles so far). My race plan changes just about every time I learn more about each section of this trail. Right now I see the key to running this course successfully is to take full advantage of the actual "runable" sections and hit them pretty hard. Since there's no way to make a 2 mile vertical climb with horrible footing any easier, I won't try to fight those climbs. I'll plan to fuel up in the valleys before the climbs and use that slower-paced climbing time to digest before running the downhills/flats as hard as I can. I like this plan even more because trying to eat a gel on a fast and rocky downhill usually ends with me punching myself in the mouth more than anything else.
This is a fun race to plan for since the only opponent I care about is the clock. A sub-24 hour run is the goal (should get me into the top 10), and I need to execute my plan smartly all day long since the Clock never has a bad day on any race course. He's a jerk that way.
Since I had a bit of a late start to the day on Saturday, the last 3 miles of my loop were run in the dark. I figured this would be the case, so I had my headlamp and flashlight ready in my fuel belt. I knew the footing would be even harder to negotiate in the dark, but it was nice to experience an extended downhill section in those conditions to remind me exactly how much it will slow me down on race day no matter how my legs feel.
One thing I'm thankful I don't need to worry about on race day is the blanket of fallen leaves that currently cover the trails. Those sneaky guys hide more ankle-twisting rocks than I care to recount here. Let's just say I'm quite thankful for the biodegrading elements Mother Nature will bring to these trails in the next 4 months.
Once I stumbled out of the dark woods on Saturday night, I climbed into the back of the X-Terra just in time to avoid a few hours of steady rainfall overnight. There's nothing like being able to sleep in the back of your car when the other option is to pitch a tent in a heavy downpour.
The sun broke through the next morning and back to the trails I went. The plan for the day was to run a section of course that I've asked my friend Amelia to run with me on race day. She'll be in my crew all day long, and I think she'll really enjoy running a short section of the course in between crewing duties. The footing on the section between miles 65 and 68 is mostly good, so I think I've found a prefect spot for her to jump in with me. I'm looking forward to those miles already.
With this month's fun mountain trip in the books, I'll get back to 3 or 4 weeks of long flatter runs in the DC area to get my base mileage up in preparation for a fast Umstead 100 miler in April. It's easy to look past this race when I'm so focused on the Massanutten race, but Umstead is equally as important overall in terms of training for the Run 192 goal.
Speaking of my overall training, I'll be running between 75-80 mile weeks through January. Lots of people run more than that, but I find doing much above that brings back diminishing returns in terms of my legs falling apart and forcing me to take time off to deal with injuries. I place the highest value on my long run each Saturday, and this month I'll alternate between 35 to 40 milers on the Mt. Vernon and C&O Canal Trails. I'll add in more speed work as the month progresses, and February will be full of lactate threshold work to get ready for the flat-n-fast Umstead race. Of course I'm always keeping one eye on Massanutten, so my weekly treadmill death march (15% incline, 6.0 speed, 1 hour) will continue all winter/spring. God I hate that workout.