One thing I have worked hard to practice is slowing time down and enjoying the process. I tend to get really excited for things on the horizon and wish them to happen right away. The busier my life gets the faster events in it come and go, and then I’m already thinking about the next thing and wishing it to arrive. So I try to not wish things here to quickly and realize that the process and anticipation towards an event is almost as fun as the event itself. They become two very distinct phases in my memory.
For those of you who were around last year and read my post leading up to my 52 mile run, you know that I went through a lot of phases in preparing myself for a task that I didn’t know for sure I could do. My approach was to be methodical in my preparation and to slowly build my degree of confidence that I could in fact do it. At the time, 52 miles really truly sounded like a giant distance. It was double the length of any run I had done. I didn’t know if I could actually run ALL day because I had never tried. It was a long hard day for sure… there were moments where I swore I wouldn’t do another long run. But I did finish, did reasonably well for my first ultra, and recovered relatively quickly. It just wasn’t that bad. I had signed up for that race thinking that was as big a run as I would/ever could do. The day was super hard for sure, but I also felt a little surprised (and slightly ripped off)… it was doable. It didn’t shut me down, and that meant I could do more. It feels really cheesy and cliche to talk about searching for limits and I wouldn’t say that is my primary motivation for doing a longer race… but it’s hard not to be curious when you suddenly realize that your body and mind can do a little more than you previously thought. So now I’m curious what happens when I try to go even longer. (T.S. Eliot said “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”)
We stopped into CrossFit Newport Beach the day after that run in October to do a recovery wod and I was on a total high. We were chatting with Carl who was a coach with CrossFit Endurance HQ at the time and he casually mentioned something like “well if you ever decide to run the Angeles Crest 100 let me know”. One week later I took a giant leap and applied for the race (this is my characteristic that makes Jesse nervous). I just love running in California, ok 😉 8 months later I’m now sitting on a plane to LA and in the final week of my taper. A lot of you have asked me questions about training and details of the race. I worry that if I don’t get some of my thoughts out now they will be lost in the 30+ hours of running that I will do next weekend. As soon as the gun goes off at 5am on the 21st in Wrightwood the last 8 months might become a blur. I will likely come out the other end with a slightly different perspective on things. There are only so many events in our life that can profoundly do that to us. Knowing that I am preparing for an event like that has made me experience a lot of emotions in the process.
Through the winter I strength trained hard to regain my losses from last years running. It came back quickly and I was PRing most days of the week by Christmas. I was on a CrossFit high until the running volume started to go up again. It really started to hit me during Games Opens that it was starting to swing the opposite direction again. I feel like I retired my yellow PR highlighter sometime in late April and fully accepted that my specialty was again running really slow for a long time. This time around I went through my identity crisis of CrossFitter vs. Long distance runner much more quickly. This time the training felt less like just a fun thing I was trying out and more like a VERY serious project. The magnitude of this race would often make my eyes pop wide open in the middle of the night when I would have a flash moment of clarity about HOW far 100 miles really is.
It would be an understatement to say that I have become this race. Especially in the last 2 months it is all I have thought about, when not distracted by something immediately pressing. I have to admit, I’ve really enjoyed being in clinic lately because its the only thing that really truly takes my mind off the race (unless of course one of you asked me about it!). My food has been extremely tight and very calculated. I have maxed out my health care benefits, traded for more, paid for more and still could probably have used more! Our house had turned into piles of race related items. I spent 12 of the last 18 nights in the sauna at Brennan Park in hopes that I won’t die in the socal mid July heat. Jesse did an amazing job of programming me again and we effectively pushed the boundary between hard training but not over training. I don’t feel that we could have done any better a job of managing my body throughout this process. I am going to stand on the start line 100% injury free. When the stats say that roughly 75% of runners are injured in any season I feel proud that I am not one of them.
Mentally I have learned a lot about myself this time around. I know that I can push hard through crappy situations, that helps my confidence. At the same time I also know that even the best, fastest most experienced runners aren’t guaranteed a finish in a 100 mile race, let alone one of the hardest 100 mile races in North America. But that doesn’t change what I’ve done and what I intend to do. Things that are out of my control that day are just that. And things that I can influence I will. I don’t talk or think a lot about the what ifs. It’s not that I don’t think they are there… of course I wonder if I might just fall asleep at some point while standing, or if my legs might just decide to stop, or if I’ll cry when I see Jesse at mile 75 and beg to get in the rental car…. I just don’t want to focus on those things. I’m not nervous. It’s the #1 question I get asked. And every time someone asks me it makes me realize even more that I’m not. Yet. I worry sometimes that people interpret this as over confidence, me being naive about what it is I’ve signed up for, or just thinking its not a big deal. Trust me, I get it. The stress dreams about forgotten camelbacks, and shorts that are too big and keep falling off, and hours spent wasting time at aid stations are proof. I just don’t want to make a a bigger deal out of it than I need to. I need my mind to think it’s normal so I can get the job done. I don’t really know why I am actually not nervous. I also get this way before big exams that I feel prepared for. But I do feel lucky for it because I think it saves some of my energy. I’m also sure that this will change as soon as I lay eyes on the San Gabriel mountains.
I’m excited for the adventure (it’s like a weekend hiking trip where you never actually stop and camp or go to sleep). As KJ said to me the other day, it’s exciting to wonder where exactly it is that your mind will go in that time. I had a random encounter with another Squamish local on my very last long run. I was feeling nostalgic about the chapter that was closing and he came up behind me on a bike and asked what I was training for. It turned out he had run the Western States 100 mile race 2 times and he told me a bit about his experience. He could not have had more genuine and lovely words of encouragement for me. What he told me I would discover in the race is exactly what I hope for.
So am I ready? Hell yes. I cannot predict how the weekend will unfold. I have done the work, I have put the effort in to my training in every way possible and I have the most amazing support team of 8 with me (Jesse, Susan from Whistler, Kathleen, Alison, Adrian, Ellen, Di and Nils). I am so grateful to my friend Di who will run through the first part of the night with me telling me immature and funny jokes, and Nils who will meet me around 4am to anchor the horrendous last 25 miles with me…. all for no glory at all.
No matter what happens next weekend I will learn from the experience. To say the least it will be life changing. How often do we get to say that, and therefore how could I be anything but completely excited?
(If you are interested in following the race feed on race day you can go to this website: AC100.com/live )