The train is coming, and I can already hear it, barreling down on me. Every Spring I run a 50 mile race in Indiana, and every year it goes, well, poorly. Why? Well, the course is, in my opinion, the hardest course in the world. Harder than Leadville. Harder than Barkley or whatever that “hike” is. Perhaps harder than Everest – in fact much like the Trail Slammer, not only is the run I’m doing next the hardest event ever known, but in fact, this one really is!
The terrain is awful; while Leadville has a few mountains, I think they can be handled – heck, 80% of the course in Leadville is fairly benign, the rest is a bit hilly, sure. And Everest? As I’ve been told by the Trail Slammer himself, that’s pretty much just a hike that tourists do when they’re in the area. But Indiana? Let me tell you about Indiana…
It rains there in the spring. Yep, every run has been mostly during a downpour. And the hills? RELENTLESS! Moraines I think they call them, but 50 miles of up, down, up, down, up, up, up….. well, you get the picture…. And the trails are never well kept – so there is rarely a chance to pick up momentum – always climbing over trees that have fallen, mud pits, - oh man, I’m not EVEN kidding!
So why will this be any different a few weeks from now? Glad you asked. Here’s how I see it – it’s all about the training. 2008 was my best year ever – all year I trained fast, and at distance – classic marathon training – The thing is that I’m a marathoner that runs Ultras; there’s no way around that, and I train best when I train for a marathon. I know some people that are “Ultra runners that train for marathons”; that’s just not me.
2009 came and I decided high mileage was my answer; all that did for me was insure I was sore all summer – 90-100 mile weeks just didn’t do it.
2010 – Last year I’d focus on long trail runs. No good for me – heart rate never up, boring, and usually met with failure, and 2010 was my worst season ever.
But this year??? This year I’m back to the 2008 approach, and I feel great already! Only Sundays are on trails, the rest of the week is me hammering out long, fast runs on the streets; this is who I am – and I think by doing it I get the best fitness I can. Example? How about this weekend…. Friday evening I relaxed and did 3 easy with weights and yoga afterward; Saturday morning was 20 hard – I held 8:15-8:20 the vast majority of that street run, but finished strong. Sunday back up with 6.2 on trails with the Trail Dog (Sandy, my Golden Retriever). But man, those 6 miles were tough! Oh, that magic feeling of hitting the wall at 3 miles! But back to back runs are a good thing for me, so there you have it.
Tuesdays are still hill days, and Wednesday or Thursday tempo days – 8 at around 7:45.
In comparison last year I would have been out in the woods, slogging along at a 10 minute pace for hours.
So, we’ll see – Last year my Indiana run was the worst Ultra ever (that I finished), so it shouldn’t be too tough to beat. Set the Garmin virtual partner to 11 hours and just try to keep ahead. Plenty of Ensure, lots of water, and let er’ rip! I’m heavy still, but running fairly well…. we’ll see…. But no matter what, it’s the toughest course in the world! Why? Well, you know why…..