They say the third time’s a charm and it would be pretty cool if that was the case. I’ve done this race in each of its first 2 years of existence (2016 race report) and can’t wait to go back again. It’s weird because when I first started reading about ultras, I would see people go back and do the same race over and over again and wonder why. I thought that would be boring. There’s tons of races out there, why limit yourself to the same one every year? Well, there’s many reasons why people keep doing the same races – gorgeous courses, friends, and/or challenging terrain to name just a couple. For me though, timing and proximity keep bringing me back.
This is the third time that I’ve been training for a spring 100 miler and Naked Bavarian has fit perfectly into my lead up to each of them. I won’t typically do a training run more than 30 miles or so in and around my house so it’s nice to have a bit longer run heading into a 100 mile race. Forty miles is a good balance between stressing my body, yet not so much that I’m incapacitated for a number of weeks. The race location in Leesport, PA just north of Reading is only about an hour 15 minutes away so is very convenient. This lets me sleep in somewhat, drive to Blue Marsh Lake, and still get there about an hour before the 8am start.
The course is a 20 mile loop (or 20.55 according to my Garmin) around Blue Marsh Lake and is on some of the same trails as the Blues Cruise 50K. It’s a classic lollipop course with a 6 mile out-and-back section of trail with a 7 mile loop at the end. My watch has measured the elevation gain at 4862 feet and 4956 feet so somewhere around 117-120 feet per mile. The trail is very runnable (on the first lap) with only one 250 foot hill at mile 9 and the rest of the hills in the 50-100 foot range.
The race is organized by Uberendurancesports, which is known for their well run, low key events in the greater Philadelphia area. I’ve run most of their races over the past couple years and I’ve never been disappointed with any aspect of them. They always do an excellent job marking the courses and I’ve never felt close to being lost. The other draw for the Naked Bavarian is that it’s a no frills race with no swag (who needs another T-shirt?) though they do give out small mementos to all finishers, which is neat.
Now onto my expectations for the race. In each of the first two years, I’ve been slightly disappointed in my times (8:13, 8:11). The first year I had a wonky knee that really blew up my pace on the second lap. Last year I was a little under the weather and messed up my nutrition for a portion of the first lap, yet was still able to knock 2 minutes off my time. I’ve gone back and reviewed my training volumes over the past 2 years and this is how the miles have stacked up.
Looking back, I’m frankly a little amazed I did as well as I did last year with the mileage I put in (3.9 miles/day vs. 5.6) though this was probably more a function of my knee issue in 2015. My mileage this year stacks up really well and should translate into a much faster time given the increased number of 20+ mile runs. [aside – this is the first time I’ve looked at training block mileages heading into a run, which is kind of amazing as I keep these numbers partially so I can go back and analyze them.] The other benchmark I can use are the MAF tests I took right before last year’s race and this year. My test Saturday was 7% faster than the one in 2016, which if spread over the entire 40 miles would allow me to lop 32 minutes off my time. This seems like a gargantuan amount of minutes though so I’ll be happy with anything in the 10-15 minute range faster.
Who am I kidding? Now that I know how much faster my benchmark running test was when combined with the mileage I’ve been doing, I’ll probably only be happy if I can run under 7:40. I can try and play all the mental games I want (40 miles is much longer than a normal training run, I haven’t been on trails much recently, it’s going to be colder this year, I always go out too fast in races, yadda yadda), but none if it truly counters the hard numbers. And my mind is drawn to numbers like my son is to candy (hint: it’s a lot). I guess it’ll all come down to Saturday. I just hope I’m the one doing the executing and not the other way around.
Wish me luck.