Friday, June 3, 2011

Final Day - Western States Training Camp

Western States Running Camp, final day 5/31
Getting off the bus to start day 3
As we got off the bus and started down the trail I wondered how my body was going to feel.  In the last two days I had run 50 miles. Today we would be running the last 22.5 miles of the race, from a little above Green Gate to the track at Placer Union High School.  Besides a little hip pain afterwards, I felt great.  Would today be the day that my legs protested?  At this point in the run I felt pretty good, but I was guessing that it wouldn't last.  I purposely let Aliza go ahead of me.  I didn't want to get caught up in running to fast, plus she was planning on spending the day with Meghan Arbogast, last years second place woman's finisher.

Aliza and Meghan
About a mile in I was cruising downhill at what I felt was a very comfortable pace when I went by the two of them.  Meghan asked what the rush was and I started to wonder what I was doing.  Still, it felt very comfortable to me so I just kept up the pace.  I little bit up the road I stopped for a potty break and the girls went by.

I figured that would be the last I would see of them for the day and I went about trying to pay attention to the course, which was beautiful.  I was expecting quad pounding downhills and instead what I got was super nice single track through a pretty forest mixed with the occasional water crossing.

Aliza and Meghan
It wasn't to much later that I caught up with the girls and one of Meghans training partners.  The pace felt good so I just quietly stayed on their heels. As we started to chat I discovered that his 50 mile PR was just a little over 7 hours.  I became a little intimidated and again I wondered if I was going out to fast for a 22 mile run.
The train that I latched onto
My new friend Adam from Colorado had tagged on with us as well and had said to me that he was just trying to hang on.  I looked at my Garmin at somewhere around 7 miles and saw that we were cruising at a 7:15 pace.  "Shit" I thought.  What the hell am I doing?  I decided to just try to hang on until 10 miles and then I would bail out if I wanted to slow down.

On the other hand I felt pretty good about being able to keep up with some elites and it was a great mental boost, even if they were just cruising at what was surely a pedestrian pace for them.  Lately in the Ultra-running crowd I really don't know where i fit in.  I have only raced once this year and I was a little disappointed with my 9th place finish.  I know that I am not a mid-pack finisher anymore, but I haven't made the mental jump into convincing myself that I can place with the front runners.

We seemed to always stop to take a food or pee break right when I needed to and I felt great on the climbs, which we ran rather than hiked for the most part.  I kept wondering when I was going to blow up.

In a little over 2 hours we came to the 14 mile aid station and took a nice couple minute break.  As we headed out up a dirt road climb, I heard dirt bikes.  There was a motocross track right down the road and I really enjoyed watching the bikes.

Meghan gave us a lot of commentary on the course, which was excellent and sure to help on race day.  In 4 or 5 more miles we came to "No Hands Bridge", the 97 mile point during the race.  The camp had set up another aid station and again we took a nice relaxed break where I ate a few more pieces of my new favorite training food, Payday bars.

Meghan, Aliza and Adam at No Hands bridge, mile 97 of the race
At this point we faced a 3 mile climb to the finish line and I was hopeful that our group would stay together until the end.  As we started up I knew that the pace was something that I was easily going to be able to handle.  Honestly, I felt great.  In the last mile or so we came to the paved road and the hill got steep!  We all ran every step of it and then through the town headed for the track where the race finishes.

It was a great mental boost to be able to run those last 22.5 miles in around 3 1/2 hours.  On race day it will be much slower, but knowing that for three days I banged out 30, 19, and 22.5 miles without being very tired or sore is encouraging.

The finish line track
Going out to the training camp was a great experience.  Besides being pretty homesick within a few days, the trip helped me get a much better idea of what I am going to be facing during the race.  It also helped me decide on some of my gear.  I brought two shorts, to see which would be better and picked a pair to wear on race day.

Altra Instincts (left) and Intuitions (right, womens version)
 I went out with three pairs of shoes.  My Hoka Bondi B's, my Saucony Peregrines and my Altra Instincts.  I also used Drymax Ultra socks all three days.  The Hoka's and Saucony's never even came out of my travel bag.  I used the Altras on all three days and they were absolutely perfect.  I made a slight modification to the heel (I removed a piece of external strapping) and they handled everything I could throw at them.  Running all these downhills was a test to see if my toes would be comfy.  The fit of the Altras makes it so your foot is held in place and the toe box is so nice and roomy that your toes never slip and jam into the front.  I'm so happy this new company is in the market.

There are only 4 more weeks before Western States and the beginning of my Potentially Painful Summer. I'm finally starting to feel like I might be ready for this and that my hard work is paying off. Of course that could change any minute, but for the time being I'll take it!

Can't wait to see this plaque on race day.


leeapeea said...

Wow, Nate, what a confidence booster! Glad you had such a wonderful experience at the camp!

sherpajohn said...

One of the first things I learned in Ultra Running was thatif you wanted to do well at a race you needed to do two things, 1.) Go see the course and 2.) train at home on terrain that resembles the course as closely as possible. Good work... Now taper...