Following the Black Canyon race in the middle of May, I knew that I was on my way to getting myself back into the shape I was before I left for Antarctica, but still with some work to do. Back home, near Aspen, I resorted to doing the age old repeats that I’ve been doing since I was in high school… on, none other than, my high school track. Quarters. 4x4x4. Simple as it gets, really, but effective as they come. I watched my times drop, second by second, week after week. As much as I dread them, there’s nothing that compares to an old fashion speed workout. They are as honest as the laws of physics.
The speed workouts and the hill repeats paid off and by the time Mount Washington rolled around I was beginning to feel like a runner again.
Mount Washington itself was a thrill. I chased young, Glen Randall off the gun. I didn’t want him to get away as he did at Pike’s last year. Admittedly, I thought nothing of it when he took off like a bullet at Pike’s and didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. He held the pace for less than a mile and I found myself leading comfortably through the third (of 7.6) mile.
I spent a few extra days in the New England visiting some good friends from the South Pole, running the Presidential Range, cycling around Martha’s Vineyard and drinking some fine, home-made hard cider.
From there I flew to San Francisco and drove to Tahoe where I paced my Salomon teammate, Kilian Jornet to his first win in the Western States 100. With the exception of losing the trail for nearly 20 minutes, Kilian had a flawless race, running casually the entire time. After a few pleasant days in San Francisco I returned home to begin the training for my biggest project in years – my first ultra.
The ultra marathon never use to interest me. Quite simply, the idea for running 9 minute, 10 minute, heck! 15 minute pace for 10, 20, 30 hours had absolutely no appeal. However, over the past couple of years, talking to more and more people that have been brought into the sport, the idea of spending hours and hours…. the entire day, for that matter on the trail has taken my interest to a new level.
I’ve been very lucky to be able to pick the brains of Scott Jurek, Tony Krupicka, Joe Grant, Geoff Roes, Kilian Jornet and many others. The advice I’ve been given has ranged from how to carry a water bottle most efficiently, how much to eat, controlling the highs and the lows, on and on.
I decided on the Canadian Death Race for my first ultra for several reasons but primarily because it fits nicely into my summer schedule and getting there provides a great reason for a road trip which is where I am right now – day 9 behind the greatest automobile to ever roll the earth, with a wonderful and seasoned travel companion – my mom.
The training for this adventure has been wonderful and I’m becoming aware of the emptiness that I’ve been told might hit me in the days before the race – the time when the training has to end. Making myself hit the trails for five or six hours at a time has been pure bliss. In the past month alone I’ve logged hundreds of miles in the White Mountains, Sierra Nevadas, San Juans, Elks, Tetons, Glacier and Yellowstone. Really, what more could one ask for.
I am not, however, “switching over” as more than one has accused me of doing (mostly in jest). I am not “switching over” because I am beginning to believe that there is no “over”. It is my belief that the many factions that have formed in trail running are part of what keeps it resting in niche. 10k trail, 10k mountain, 1/2 marathon trail, marathon trail, 50k trail, 50 mile trail, 100k trail, 100 mile trail…. Doesn’t anybody else agree that there are entirely too many divisions in the sport?
The sport is reaching a new level of competitiveness and attention where runners are not only doing well at all of these distances, but are quite simply dominating. I’m speaking of Max King and Kilian Jornet – the former taking it a step further by dominating off the trails as well (2:15 marathon?)
Okay, enough ranting.
As for the Canadian Death Race… I have no idea how it will go. I have good feelings about it. I’ve learned as much as I can learn without actually doing the race, though I suspect the learning curve is going to be steep come Saturday. I’ve trained as much as I can train without risking serious injury (and that includes narrowly getting struck by lightning). At this point all I can do is lace up and run.
It’s past 11 o’clock at night and there’s still light in the sky. A herd of elk is tromping through the pond just outside Orange. Sandhill cranes are squawking loudly to keep them from trudging through their nesting grounds. My mom is snoring.