When the lottery for Western States happens, the race seems so far away. In reality, six months is probably a minimum amount of time to get ready for a 100, at least for me. Some people who live in warmer climates and run trails and ultras year round can probably get ready for a 100 in less time, but a six-month build-up is what it usually takes me to get ready for a big race.
In 1995 (ancient history, I know), I spent almost exactly six months living and breathing for a sub-3 hour marathon attempt, and I needed all of that training time to get there.
So now, we're down to 50 days until the race. It seems so close. But, I've still got time for a solid month of training before I start my taper.
Last year, seven weeks before MMT, I was in a panic. My conditioning was not good and I felt like I was running out of time. In 2005, seven weeks before WS, I was in a similar panic.
This year, things feel a lot different. So far, everything is on track. My weight is dropping slowly to my race target. My long runs are going well. Week by week, my recovery times from hard workouts seem to be dropping. And, I'm seeing the gradual drop in pace in my easy runs that I typically see as my fitness improves.
In the winters, I train on a treadmill and it's not uncommon for me to "run" as slowly as an 11:00 mpm pace. When I make the transition to outdoor running, I usually run at a 10:00 mpm pace. As my fitness improves, my pace gradually starts dropping towards 9:00-9:15 mpm. At least that's been the pattern in the years where I get myself adequately prepared for a 100. It happened in 2003 for Wasatch and in 2004 for Hardrock. In 2005, my pace never really improved much and I DNF'd Western States.
Last year, my pace stayed slow before my DNF at MMT, but things got a lot better through June as I focused on the Vermont 100. I ran my best ever 100 in that race last summer.
So, this week, I've been a bit tired from my hill repeats last Saturday. But, I've gone out for every scheduled workout. I also lifted twice this week. I've been tired at times, but my running pace has been good. Last night, I did a hilly 8 miler at 9:20 pace after lifting in the morning.
Bit by bit, it's all coming together.
Knowing that today was a rest day, I was thinking that it would be nice to relax with a beer or a glass of wine last night. Maybe two. And then, I thought about WS. And seven weeks.
Things are going well right now, but there's still plenty of time to screw them up. This isn't the time to relax on my diet or my training or anything else that I'm doing well.
There will be plenty of time to relax and celebrate after the race.
Rest day today, easy 10 tomorrow, and then 24 miles on Sunday in a 6-hour race. I'm going to run the first two hours moderately hard on Sunday and then switch to walking until I hit the 24 mile mark. It's important to practice walking when tired for ultras, and that is Sunday's goal. It will also be another chance to run on trails, although this course is way less technical than the two 50Ks I've done this spring. My trails here at home are just about ready for running and I hope to start using them in the next week or two.
Next weekend is in flux a bit right now. The runner I was supposed to pace at MMT has an injury and can't run, so I'm trying to figure out what to do for training next weekend.