Rewind back to around 2005. I had just started exercising. My long runs were around 6 miles and I was still blown away by the idea of running 26.2 miles in one day.
Me before my first triathlon, Circa 2005?
My neighbor down the street (the dad of one of my high school friends) was a marathon runner and was slowly introducing me into the world of running.
He was the first person I ran around White Rock Lake with. I still remember that first run around the lake and how unbelievably proud I was to have run the famous 9-10 mile route. (I'm still convinced that that's where my desire to run all the way around things came from)
At some point around this time he said he was thinking on running a race up in Vermont, and that it was 100 MILES. As a 19 year old that had just gotten into running, I thought he was completely joking. Of course I asked him how many days do people get to finish and do they have to run in the dark? This is when he told me that it was on trails. (I was still completely blind to the fact that some people didn't actually run on roads on 24/7. My mentality at the time was, "Why in the world would someone run on dirt when they have perfectly good roads that they can run faster on?!"
Obviously this mentality changed after a few years. I ventured into the world of triathlon and finally ended up at the Ironman World Championships in October 2008 via my qualifying race of Ironman Arizona in April 2008.
My biggest athletic accomplishment ever: Finishing the Ironman World Championships 2008
That following April the same guy who first introduced me to running invited me to the Hog's Hunt 50K down in Hunstville, TX. We drove down the morning of (a 3.5 hour drive) and I finished my first ultra, all while having the time of my life.
First Ultra, Hogs Hunt 50K
I was 150% hooked. It was like two puzzle pieces coming together. I no longer craved the flashy lights and 2,000 athlete races that were Ironman, but I instead found a nitch in this little community that was out here racing because they absolutely LOVED what they were doing, not for bragging rights. Ultra runners (for the most part) are one of the most humble crowds I've ever known. The events we put ourselves through are often times absolutely brutal, yet we do them for nothing more than the sheer enjoyment that is ultra trail running.
After finishing that first 50K, I was still contemplating doing the Virginia Double Ironman. Well thank goodness that filled up before I registered. Once it did, I had to find another race that time of year that would be pretty difficult. Sure enough, I came across the Where's Waldo 100K in Oregon. One of my uncles lives up in Eugene which was around 2-3 hour drive from the race start. I had my first 100K mountain run in less than 6 months.
My first desire to run 100 miles came around August 2009. I'd just finished the Where's Waldo 100K (still my favorite ultra I've ever done). After finishing Waldo in a somewhat disappointing time of 13:47 (looking back now, that wasn't a bad time!) I thought that I could at least finish 100 miles.
Where's Waldo 100K Finish 2009
My feet: Post Waldo
I immediately started eying the Rocky Raccoon 100 down in Hunstville, TX put on by the wonderful Tejas Trails organization. Around this time I had start dabbling in minimal running. I had a pair of OLD Vibram FiveFingers and had started running 1 mile WUs on the treadmill with a 1 mile CD. After doing this for a few weeks I got confident enough to try it on the trails and slowly worked my way up to ten miles on the roads.
To make a long story short, this lead to an inevitable injury which kept me from running till January 2010. The Rocky Raccoon was NOT going to happen. I was unbelievably disappointed, not only in the fact that I wasn't going to get to do Rocky, but the fact that I was stupid enough to run that much in FiveFingers on pavement. My outlook now, is that if you're going to try and run "naturally", you need to be running on a natural surface, and concrete my dear readers, is not natural ;)
So, with minimal training but the foot feeling OK I registered for the Rocky Raccoon 50 and finished in a not too shabby time of 9:18:54. I then had to find another 100 for me to try that year. After much research I finally settled on the Arkansas Traveller 100. I opted not to register until the price increases came around, just in case a random injury did show up.
The summer of 2010 progressed well and I was running more than I ever had before. In early 2010 I had finished the Rocky 50, Zane Grey 50, and the Jemez 50.
This is a "good" trail at Zane!
Beautiful Jemez 50
Looking back now my mileage was still REALLY low (like < 50 miles a week low) compared to others, and to this day I still don't know what that "injury" was.
Fast forward to 2011. Out of sheer frustration at the end of 2010 I registered for the Florida Double Iron Triathlon. I finished in a little over 26 hours and was SO excited. While I didn't train that much, I was VERY determined. I returned from Florida and sat my sights on a hopeful finish at the Arkansas Traveller 100 for 2011.
Early this year I started my trail racing off with a solid finish at the Ouachita 50 Miler in Arkansas.
Loving the Ouachita 50 Miler!
My mileage was still pretty low but I was having fun and feeling strong. Over the next few months I slowly increased my mileage. Not necessarily on purpose, but because I was just enjoying the run and going with how my body felt. My run mileage for the next few months went as listed below:
January: 68.62 Miles
I didn't plan or map out any training until midway through August. That progression happen all on it's own. It's amazing that I'm putting down 60-80 miles weeks like they're completely normal when before this year I don't believe I ever ran over 50 miles in one week.
One of the biggest blessings this year has been the Capt Karl's 60K Night Series in the hill country of Texas. These races have been not only a rude awakening that my nutrition was a complete joke, but that I am capable of more than I thought. I'll spare you the details but if you go back in my blog you can find my race reports from all three races, plus my specific entry about my "Nutrition Debacle". The series was perfect for my AT100 training because all three races were at night and were in good hot Texas weather. This created the perfect environment to perfect my new nutrition as well as get plenty of night running practice.
So, all of that brings us to today. September 2nd, 2011.
I've mapped out the next 30 days in hopes that I'll be as prepared as possible for Arkansas. This week I'll finish with 65 miles. Next week I'll log around 80, and the final week I'll max out around 90 miles. Then I'll implement a drastic taper and really try to recover before Arkansas.
For those of you that have experience, I'm curious as to what has worked in terms of tapers for 100s. With my two week taper what kind of mileage do you think would be ok? I have a 50 mile week planned for the week before, then nothing over 4-5 miles the week of.
As always, I know what I'm capable of in terms of finish times for my first 100, but my number one goal will always be to finish. My training has been very consistent and I've never been this confident in my training before. Most my runs as of late have started slow, but my legs quickly wake up and just go, and go, and go, and go. Even when I feel slugglish like last weekend, my legs still cooperate and just keep moving. "Relentless foward motion" as the vets say.
Looking back now, am I disappointed that I haven't attempted 100 miles yet? Of course I am, but I know now that if I had tried 100 back then I most definitely would not have been capable of the time I would expect from myself.
So here I am about 5 years after first hearing about people running 100 miles, about to embark on my own 100 mile journey God willing. I'm thankful for the fact that I'm even able to run, much less attempt to run 100 miles. Regardless of how all this goes down, It's gonna be a good time. (and it's gonna hurt a lot)