There's nothing like race week. It seems no matter the shape I'm actually in, my mind takes over in the days before a big race and convinces me that I'm 100% ready to not only rock the race, but possibly set world records and get millions of dollars of non-existent prize money as well. I guess that's called positive thinking, I don't know...but it beats being nervous or doubtful in your abilities before a race, right? That said, I'll cut through my delusional thoughts to spell out the reality of this weekend's big race.
So here we are, just a few days before the NorthCoast 24 Hour run that serves as the National Championship this year. I couldn't possibly be happier that, even though I'm not in top shape, I will be starting a race 100% HEALTHY for the first time since last November. Even if I put up some less-than-stellar results, I'll be more than happy to just get the experience of another 24 Hour run under my belt. I'll also be encouraged, no matter the final distance covered, by the fact that I know I can get into much better shape (and therefore cover more miles) in my next attempt no matter what. Sure, I'd like to knock out the 135+ in this race, but it won't be the end of the world if I don't.
I should have a few things working in my favor for this second attempt at the 24 Hour event, even if my overall shape isn't as good as last year's debut. First off, the course won't have insane hills, which is nice. Second, while I do expect some pretty good wind to be coming off Lake Erie (and possibly precipitation), there's no way the weather gets as bad as UltraCentric in Texas last year (crazy wind during the day, sub freezing at night). ...and the last (and most important) change from last year will be my pacing plan. Simply put, I learned to run slowly this year. The injury/rehab I went through surely helped me develop that skill, and my 3 races last month proved to me that such a pace pays off in the long run (quite literally). Last year I wanted to stay in the top 3 right from the start, but this year I will literally be ecstatic if I'm in 10th place (or 20th!) after 50 miles. If that's the case it will mean I'm sticking to my plan. Patience will be the theme of the day for me, and my move will be made late.
As for the field, it is super-stacked: I'm pretty sure Akos Konya will win by knocking out 160 miles or so (although I believe he's the only runner in the field who is not a U.S. citizen, so he may not factor in the US Team selection). Current Team USA members Phil McCarthy, Bill Allen and Matt Chaffin will certainly be racking up the miles all day as well. Last year's National Champion Byron Lane will be back (and hopefully healed up from his fall at Viaduct), as will all-time stud John Geesler and the always insanely fast Serge Arbona (who very well might win the whole thing). Talk about some serious talent...and that's just the guys!
*This just in, Scott Jurek was just added to the roster as well. The stacked field just got even stackier. Looks like we have a new favorite to win!
**...and now David James has been added! I'm going to be dizzy watching these guys fly around me on the track!!
On the ladies' side, Connie Gardner will be going for the women's American Record of 145.28 miles, and considering she ran 145.26 miles two years ago at the National Championships, I'd say she's got some revenge on her mind! Team USA member Deb Horn and super fast Jill Perry will also be lining up looking to earn spots on the National Team for next May's World Championship in France as well.
Helping me try to keep up with those monsters of the sport all day will be my beautiful wife Elizabeth and brother in-law Jeff who is flying up from Texas to reprise his role as Best Crew Member Ever from last year. Even if my legs aren't in the best shape, my crew and pacing plan will help me wring the best possible result out of my body by 9 a.m. on Sunday. I'm ready to have some fun out there!!
A couple quick shouts-out here before I sign off: A big congrats to Nick Pedatella who finished 2nd overall in the Bear 100 miler out in Utah this past weekend. That followed up a 6th place finish at the Leadville 100 just last month...it's great to see his year rebound so nicely after injury forced him to drop at Massanutten back in May. Way to go, Nick! Also, a hearty Good Luck to Adam Cassaday in this weekend's Grindstone 100 in VA. He'll have his hands full trying to keep pace with Karl Meltzer out there, but if anyone is going to give Karl a run for his money, it's Adam. Go get him, buddy!!
With that, I'm off to make my final preparations and head out for my trip. Elizabeth and I will actually be making a detour road-trip before the race to swing by Charlottesville, VA and catch the U2 show on Thursday night. From there we'll head up to Cleveland on Friday and meet up with Jeff that night. The big race kicks off at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and everyone can follow along w/ the live webcast here. It looks like it'll be updated every 30 mins or so, and they'll also have twitter and webcam updates all race as well. I'll call in after the race is over to add my 2 cents here on the blog as well.
OK, enough of the pre-race stuff...it's time to pull out the wheel blocks, rev up the engines, and prepare for lift-off!