Writing a pre-race blog is a new experience. Typically runners write about their life on the trails by doing post event wraps or provide some training advice based on our experiences, plus of course there’s the food blogs -I will never write about my favourite recipe! This time around I find myself sitting in Squaw Valley in sweltering heat looking ahead to the longest run I have ever done, Western States. It’s 100 miles of mountain trails that takes you from snowcapped peaks to the sapping heat of the canyons, this year forecast to be nudging 40 degrees Celsius. It’s arguably the most iconic ultra on the planet and somehow this skinny little fella from the city, who was built to run shorter distances on the track, has found his way here. How did it happen? Well, largely by accident. I am blessed to receive some support from the Ultra-Trail World Tour which means I can apply for elite starts at series events. I popped my name into the mix for Western States under the impression it was an extremely long shot and that if I didn’t get in it would help me gaining an elite start in 2018. Long story short, I scored a bib.
Preparation has been less than ideal. I’m not making excuses, just being honest. If you look at my Strava you’ll see that my build-up to Ultra-Trail Australia wasn’t quite what I would typically have for a race. But I ran nonetheless and took a conservative approach so I’d have gas in the tank and not be broken for this event. In the 5 weeks since UTA I have done minimal training, as I needed to recover, manage long term injuries, and then do just enough running to keep the fitness up but not get tired. It’s not what I’m use to doing. I like long preps and thorough planning, with ample long runs to build the confidence and strength. While I look at the last month and think “Oh my god, I’m so under cooked!” part of me is thinking “This is a blessing in disguise. You’re better off going in under done and relaxed rather than over trained.” Accepting the latter of the two thoughts is the hard part. It’s the rational way of looking at things, but because this is going to be the biggest test of my running life, I’m a tad nervous and lacking confidence, which leads to irrational thought!
At the end of the day, I’m too old and busy with work to only race when everything is perfect. After all, running is a hobby and my wife, work and pug take priority. So looking ahead to the big dance in a few days my plan is simple. Keep moving forward, eat and drink lots, and try not to go too fast early. It’s going to be extremely hot for most of the race and at the top of the mountain there’s loads of snow that’s melting and creating a slippery, slushy trail. I’m going into it with the goal of finishing. Anything beyond that is awesome. I’ve had some great advice from Sean Greenhill about the course and have my mate Majell Backhausen here as a pacer. Plus as always I have the best support crew on the planet in my wife Emma. Her and Maj probably have a more stressful day ahead of them than I do. There’s lots of driving and logistics involved in crewing and I’m very thankful for their support. Hopefully I do their hard work some justice and have a decent run!
See ya in a week or so….hopefully with some good news.