The 16th Annual Rattlesnake 50K was this past weekend in Charleston, WV. I ran this race one other time (2006) in 4:30. This year my approach was much different than the last time I ran the race. I went into it with very little expectations. It was going to be a fast "training run".
I've been experimenting with my training the past month and running much higher mileage than I have in the past. Normally I run 65-80 miles/week all year round with a few big weeks mixed in - very little exception. Lately I've added in 2-3 extra runs per week and lengthened some of mid-week runs a bit to bring my weekly average up around 100 miles. My goal race is the Superior Sawtooth 100 in September and I'm interested to see how/if these adjustments help me.
Nonetheless, I came into this race tired - 118 miles the week before and 60 miles already the week of the race with no taper or days off. I had no idea how my legs would feel or respond? This was uncharted territory. My goal was to try to run around or a little better than my time from 2006, but with a controlled effort.
The race started benignly enough with no one really stepping up to lead on the first climb - so I did. Early on I settled into a rhythm of running the uphills solid, then would get reeled in by a couple of guys on the flats and downhills. This is where I lacked that "pop" in my legs or the "next gear" to go as a result of the new training stresses (at least that's my assumption). Kind of strange or counter intuitive that it would be the hills where I felt the best though. It was a humid day - not nearly as hot as it was even the day before - but I knew steadiness would be the key to pulling away in this race. I just had to bide my time and be patient. I focused on my intake of fluids, calories, and electrolytes.
About the half way through the race, I was told at the aid-station that I had a two minute lead at the last one. I remember thinking, "Well. . . it's time to see what I can do!". From that point on I started pushing a bit, gradually increasing my lead, and ended up running strong to finish with the win in 4:27. I was definitely pleased with my effort and the result. My time was certainly not "fast" based on previous years, but would have presumably been at least five minutes faster had the course not had so many blow downs and treetops to weave through that had not been cleared. I'm not sure what was up with that?
All in all a wonderful time. I had a great time hanging out with all the great friends that were enjoying this classic summer ultra. That is without a doubt my favorite thing about running these things - the people. Some of the finest people I've ever met in this world are folks that I've met running ultras.
So, does this mean that my higher mileage experiment is a success? The data is still way too meager and early to make a conclusion. There's still some major training to be done between now and Sawtooth. I hope I can survive it! If I can withstand the training load, I'm confident that I'll be very fit come September. I really want to put myself in the best possible position to win a 100 miler - we'll see what happens. . .