Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Un-Obvious Western States 100

After a weekend of running long fartleks on the Western States course, I have to admit that secrets to running well on race day are.. Not obvious. The qualities are clear: titanium quads, great heat acclimation, intimate course knowledge, an ability to overcome low points, etc. etc. However, the questions of where to push, how hard to push, what the other runners are going to do, and how much pain is sustainable is not obvious.

My strategy this weekend was to pinpoint my limiting factors by running fartlek (varying fast and less fast pace) to simulate intense pain in various sections of the course and study my physical and mental reactions. Here's what I gathered:

-Little Bald Mountain to Last Chance is a great place to run a half marathon PR.. And blow your quads for Devils Thumb. I never felt too much pain on the downhills, but the climb up out of Deadwood canyon is way harder than it needs to be on dead legs.

-Turnover and control on sudden technical terrain takes discipline. Down south, AC doesn't have a ton of sections that let you open up your stride and then force you to break (or maybe I've already memorized them all). On Saturday I ran from the pump into El Dorado Canyon and got rather carried away before realizing I was coming into random rock gardens too fast and loose.

-The climbs have few sections where a hike will hold 16 hour pace, most of the climbs require a run for a super fast time. However, hiking does generate less heat and lets you take in more fuel than a run. I have to be patient but tough on myself to not lose time in the canyons when hiking can save a race or give up several minutes.

-Timmy took risks in both 2012 and 2013 that no one else would take. Place yourself at the base of all the climbs in the canyons, and imagine running almost every step- three canyons in a row in 100 degree heat. That's like playing Russian Roulette three times in a row, and putting an extra bullet in each time. Each canyon climb is smaller, but the risk of going too hard for three climbs in a row as the heat rises and the legs break down is very real. Fortune obviously favors the brave, but starting the race at 43 instead of 62 or 80 is really tough to comprehend. (Alex Varner, if you're reading this, the race actually starts in Squaw). Bottom line: fast times are really risky to chase after, and which risks to take is tough to tell.

-Speed is relative on this course. I'm not famous on Strava for blistering speed work, but I ran 1:59 on the Cal Loop on Sunday on tired legs with moderate effort. On race day, NO ONE will break 2:10 (ask race veterans). The heat and the fatigue of 62 miles will hold back every speedster. I feel like Sunday validated my training of doing tempo-interval double days, and long fartleks. I don't need to run my college 5k PR to be a competitive runner on Cal Street. I just need to endure and take the punches with a good attitude and a decent turnover.

-The course requires courage. You can't expect to train so hard that you won't have to take a punch on race day. Unfortunate things will happen for "no reason at all" and you have to be okay with feeling awful, stabilizing, and attacking the course again and again, all the way to the finish. 

That's about what I think of the race. I'm going to go out and run another good week of training and start a small taper 3 weeks out with the dramatic taper starting 10-14 days out. 

April 21-27: 51.2mi, 7:39, 8,000ft+: Recovery week from gashing my shin on a fall

April 28-May 4: 63.3mi, 11:41, 10,750ft+: Still recovering my Peroneus Longus

May 5-11: 120.6mi, 18:36, 23,115ft+: Back in, good long runs on the AC course

May 12-18: 100.9mi, 16:23, 15,000ft+: Good downhill quad hammering and heat on Sat in Bishop, nice PR up Mt. Wilson on tired legs on Sunday

May 19-25(26): 83.3mi (105.2mi), 12:14 (15:12), 16,500ft+ (20,000ft+): Took Monday and Friday off to rest and travel. 7 day total was okay, I learned a lot of stuff about States (see above). Happy with building confidence and exposing weakness concurrently.

RAC is making some great original sounds, I love this new release:


Unknown said...

Well shoot... I was planning on meeting everyone at Green Gate.

Alex Varner said...

Clearly I'm with the technologys. This is Alex.

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