I realized a few races came and went without even thinking about capturing my thoughts. I spent all of August and September (2018) focused on one race: Hot TWOT. These events served as training runs and general reprieve from the dog days of summer. Lots to like about each so I want to capture the memory, even if brief.
- Race: http://www.vhtrc.org/news/mmb50 (50k)
- Where: Wild Oak Trail Head, West Augusta, VA.
- When: August 11, 2018
- Race: http://www.oarevents.com/10-information/35-trail-running-rampage-2019 (40 miler)
- Where: Douthat State Park, Millboro, VA
- When: September 8, 2018
- Race: http://www.vhtrc.org/news/thebigschloss (50k)
- Where: near Wardensville, VA (?)
- When: September 29, 2018
What I loved
- All three events were extremely low key with the two VHTRC events as my first official fat asses. The more I run the more I enjoy smaller races. This is such a far cry from some of the big marathons I did a decade ago. OAR Rampage really stood out: beautiful state park, super friendly RD, and a wonderful course that is as runnable and enjoyable as it is challenging.
- I had never been to Big Schloss but certainly plan to go back with family or friends. This might be one of the best hikes and views in all of Virginia. Just look up Big Schloss to see what I mean. There’s a gorgeous rock formation that overlooks West Virginia and Virginia. We ran through the campsite that was crowded with lots of outdoor enthusiast enjoying one of the only nice days in September. I was glad we ran through the campsite as there’s another climb with an equally spectacular view. I’ve never done Old Rag but am surprised Big Schloss doesn’t get the same attention.
What I learned
- Summer training is a grind. You spend all winter waiting for spring to arrive but summer can’t end fast enough once you get past June. I know I’ll make the same mistake next year but I otherwise plan to scale back the summer months for the years ahead. In the case of this year, I was coming off a big first half of the year and jumped right into August training without much thought. I had two months to transition my 50 mile training to 100 and knew the summer heat would take its toll, both physically and mentally. One thing I learned is that finding events like MMB and Schloss are really good training partners. You get to run with a few familiar faces (hopefully), you get some support through minimal aid stations, and generally get a lot more excited running new trails opposed to the same ones every weekend for miles on end.
- If you want to place on the podium, go to races no one else wants to run! I didn’t have any game plan for OAR but ended up finishing second. Please don’t confuse this for a humblebrag. I was just one of the few dumb asses wanting to run 40 miles in Bath County, VA (the second smallest county in VA!) at a time of the year that is traditionally very hot and humid. This was a really fun race: three 13’sh mile loops with one big climb and some very runnable descents. I held a moderate pace through the first two loops, battled some embarrassing stomach issues on the third loop, but finished the last 5 miles strong to hold onto second place. I had never done loops before and enjoyed coming back to the start area to restock my supplies, change shirts, see Nicole, and then get back on the course. It was also good practice as Hot TWOT will be 4 suffering loops come mid October.
- Fat ass races are simply amazing. These events are small, competitive but not serious, and full of overwhelmingly enjoyable humans. The entry fee is usually a bag of chips or a 2 liter bottle of ginger ale, seriously. You look around and everyone knows everyone. People from all over the state come together for events like this throughout the year. Lots of handshakes, smiles, and hugs from people that want to spend 8 hours in the woods together without ever asking, “so what do you do?” This is such a refreshing experience. I’m still new but I’ve started to make a few friends. I’ve learned so much from the collective experiences of these runners and even found a friend to help me tackle my first 100. If you are new to ultras then start with fat asses first, you’ll understand why later.
- I’m ready for 100. I had a hard time typing that first sentence. I’m a week from Hot TWOT and very much wrestling all the pre race gremlins. But there are some very real reasons to be confident, so maybe writing them now will help me sleep better for the week ahead.
- I ran my most miles for a month in August, arguably the worst running month of the year! My total mileage was around 280 where I’ve traditionally peaked between 230-250 for 50 milers to date. I did a lot of mileage and climbing on some tough trails, including a long, suffering day on The Wild Oak Trail in late August. But at no point did the mileage feel hard or overwhelming. My legs bounced back each week without much fatigue beyond normal tiredness. Earlier this year a day in the mountains would leave my quads sore for a week. That hasn’t happened since June and I generally take as a good sign. I’m getting stronger!
- As this post repeatedly highlights, I did three events (ok, races) of 35 miles, 40 miles, and 33 miles. If I look back even further, I did a 50 miler in March and a much harder 50 in Colorado in late June. Sure, I could have run more (or less?) to better prepare for 100 but I feel as ready and confident as ever.
- I want to prove this to myself more than anything else right now. A lot of people ask why I’m chasing a 100. Aside from the never ending joy of spending hours alone in the woods, I’m relentlessly motivated to prove I have the courage to rediscover my limits. Fifty milers are hard, 100 milers sound impossible, and the fear of failure is burning deep inside. I will undoubtedly be in pain for some or long stretches of the Hot TWOT. I will undoubtedly want to quit at some or many points of the two continuous days on my feet. But I will undoubtedly rely on past experiences, lessons learned, and my relentless desire to finish. As my friend Eric recently told me, “there is no DNF’ing in an ultra.” Such powerful and simple words.