I’ve noticed there are two responses that come up when I talk about Western States. There’s the non-ultra-runner response of “I don’t even like to drive that far,” then there’s the person who understands the odds to get in and becomes EXTREMELY STOKED. It’s so encouraging to find someone who has run it before, or crewed it, or who is simply a fan of the rich history behind the race. But no matter which train of thought we start on, there’s one question I am getting no matter what. That question is, “are you scared?”
The answer is simple – I’m not scared. I’m not frightened. Don’t get me wrong – I’m certainly aware of the difficulty, the heat, the canyons, and the possibility that I won’t finish. However. My main attitude through this whole training process has been – If I didn’t have a spot in Western States, all I’d be wishing for is a spot in Western States. People wait 5 years, 10 years, sometimes a lifetime to get it. And I may never get to do this again.
So no, I’m not scared. Scared would be ridiculous! I’ve gotten what I wanted, and I plan to make the most of it. My main feeling right now (with two weeks to go) is simple. I am excited. Very, very excited.
Training for a race in June has been a trip. In the two previous years in which I’ve done ultras, my big races have been in late summer (2012 – Canadian Death Race (August) and 2013 – Pine to Palm 100 Miler (September)). Western being “early” in the year means my usual winter downtime was spent building training runs, and my typical social life ceased to exist…although my trail social life flourished, a welcome side-effect of spending all evenings/weekends/mornings on the trails.
Western States has provided so much more than I could have asked for, and I haven’t even reached the start line. It’s been a reason to focus, and a needed distraction from career stress. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve tied my shoes up at a trailhead, vibrating from my day. With a few hours and a few laps (or lately, a LOT of hours and a LOT of laps) I reach the end of my run with a new sense of clarity and calm. I recognize how stoked I am to drive to Squaw Valley. I remember how surreal it felt to have my name drawn in the lottery. I’ve never been so excited to put myself through hell. I’ve become that person who carries compression socks in their carry-on, and I even managed to conduct a work meeting on a running trail when I found a like-minded client. These running goals are what drive me, what keep me sane, and what gives me confidence in my abilities. I’m a better person through running, it’s helped in my pursuit of self-improvement and most importantly – I’m already planning what goal I’ll set once this is over.
I’ve been feeling good and training has gone well, aside from some lackluster foot circulation and an ankle that seems to roll itself a little bit more every time I go for a run. Neither are colossal problems, and I’ve been working through both of them. The toughest thing I’ve had to deal with is my travel schedule, which involves small planes, remote locations, and long days – a horrible combination for health. But I’ve done my best to frequent a hotel gym (when there is one), do hotel-room strength training, and take rest days when there are no options for fitness. My weekends have been consistent and predictable – long runs, long runs, long runs. I’ve never done so many back-to-back long days which is likely why I’m feeling pretty stoked and ready for Western. Of course, time spent on couch with feet up has increased dramatically, too. Couch time is so much better when it’s earned.
I’ve learned that my training is different from many people. I don’t wear a watch when I run, I don’t track total miles, and I don’t obsess over training logs. I operate under a simple plan – get out often, spend hours on my feet, climb, descend, climb, descend, and then descend a lot more. Hot yoga was my jam years before I started doing ultras, so I’ve been hitting that up too to keep my hips loose (the term ‘loose’ being relative to a runner). The ‘hot’ portion of ‘hot yoga’ helps the training, too (just got a note from a friend in Truckee that ‘the canyons are heating up so I hope you’re heat training.’) Vancouver is lovely and wonderful but not the ideal location for heat-training pre-June
Speaking of Vancouver, my love affair with this city continues. I’ve moved to a new neighborhood and although the concentration of coffee shops within 500 meters has decreased, I’m a lot closer to the mountains and I can actually run to a trail head in less than 30 minutes (which I’ve done many times now). I do not mind the rain, and I do not miss the endless Alberta winters. The trail system is so vast here and offers so many options – I’m grateful for a solid group of running buddies who actually know where they’re going (I’m getting there, slowly. Never said orienteering was my thing though).
I am so truly grateful for this opportunity, for the people who have supported me in my training to get to Squaw, and for a healthy body and mind to allow me to take the steps and cover 100 miles. It’s an opportunity not afforded to everyone, and I recognize that. I feel lucky.
My number one goal is to finish the race. To cross the finish line before the 30-hour cut-off. I’ll be happy with 29:59:59. If the planets align and the wind blows the right way and my stomach is functioning exceptionally and I’m having a good hair day, well, a time closer to 27 hours would be a bonus. I want a Western States buckle. I may never get the chance to do this again, and so, it’s time to give it all I’ve got.
I’m ready. I’m excited. I’ll #seeyouinsquaw!