I’m in the front row of a roller coaster heading up the first climb. This isn’t one of those newfangled metal constructions though, but an old school one. I can hear the wood creaking as we gain altitude and . . . yes, I think the track is even swaying a bit in the breeze. I look at the people on the ground and we’re so far up that they look like ants. I glance down and for some reason the lap bar isn’t securely fastened even though the guy walked by and yanked on it. It’s sitting about 15 inches above my lap and there’s definitely a non-zero chance that I might fall out. Before I can give this much thought, the car reaches the peak and we start to slowly drop over the top of the hill. I raise my hands waiting for the last car to reach the top. I realize that I’m holding my breath as a second turns into two and hangs in the air like Wile E. Coyote. And then. . .
This is what it feels like as I approach ES100 this weekend. That sense of nervous anticipation has been slowly building for several weeks. I can barely concentrate on anything else at this point. Last year, I had no idea what was in store for me and the uncertainty of whether I would be up to the task was almost too much. This year I know what’s in store for me and its almost too much. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life, however I know without a shadow of a doubt that several things are going to go wrong at some point. The heat and the terrain are going to make the afternoon just an absolute sufferfest before I reach Hyner Run at mile 43. And I’ll still have 20 hours left to finish. OK, deep breath.
Goal and Objective
Yeah, singular. I really only have one objective this year and that’s to enjoy the run. While I have thoroughly enjoyed the sense of accomplishment I got from finishing in 2016, that was after the fact and not in the moment. I really didn’t enjoy the run itself much at all. My pace was much slower than I had expected and I was terrified of missing a cutoff. So I ended up wasting a lot of mental energy worrying about banking time and wondering how much I was going to slow down in the second half. I had started out running 16-17 minute miles. Did this mean I was going to end up “running” 25-30 minute miles? If so, then I wasn’t going to be able to maintain a 21 minute pace over the entire run.
This year I’m hoping to mitigate the whole mental anguish issue right out of the gate. I know my paces from last year and I think I should be able to bank some time on that heading into the Lower Pine Bottom AS at mile 17.8. Even as little as 15-20 minutes faster here should give me enough buffer to just kick back and enjoy the rest of the day. There are 2 X-factors for me that should both contribute to a stronger race. The first is that the weather looks to be 15 degrees cooler. The second is that I’ll be using trekking poles the entire race compared to not at all. My guess is that each of these might benefit me up to 2 hours over the course of the race.
Here are the totals for the 100 days leading to my 100 milers. It’s worth highlighting that this period of time for 2017 ES100, OD100, and Cloudsplitter each included a 100 mile race. So the mileage totals include both a taper as well as a recover weeks.
My maintaining block heading into ES100 was in line with Old Dominion from a mileage and long run standpoint and compares well to most of my other training blocks and especially to last year’s lead in to Eastern States. It’s worth noting that my first go at C&O Canal ending up leaving me partially injured so those miles were less beneficial than the raw numbers would indicate. My MAF test last weekend was way off though from earlier in the year. It was a little on the humid side, however I have no idea what was going on there. All I can hope is that it was just one of those tests and is not a foreshadowing of how my race is going to go. Though my legs have felt a little heavy the last couple days. I’m just gonna keep my head in the sand and chalk this up to my normal pre-race jitters and completely ignore. I mean, what else am I going to do at this point?
For the first time in my 100-mile career, I will be flying entirely solo. I haven’t used pacers in the past, but I have always had at least one person crewing for me. I haven’t had to rely on a crew to a great extent, however it has been a nice support as I get later in the race. Because of this, I’m making one slight change to my drop bags. I’ve decided to add a list of directions for myself on 3×5 index cards so I know what needs to happen with each drop bag. This way I won’t forget something in my mad rush to get through and out of the aid stations as quickly as possible. This has happened more times than I care to admit and is something I should have thought of doing a long time ago. Hopefully, this will keep me on track as I progress through the race.
For those interested, there should be live tracking at the ES100 website (I’m runner #48 if you didn’t notice them plastered all over the picture above). Be forewarned though that the cell reception is spotty so not all aid stations will be able to provide updates.
Good luck to everyone heading to Waterville this weekend. Any encouragement you can provide to the guy with the funny looking mustache would be appreciated.