My week three Badwater training recap is basically going to be a race recap of Saturday’s Prairie Spirit 100-miler, which I ran Saturday I ran in Ottawa, Kansas, as a training run in my lead up to the Badwater 135. As part of getting ready for Badwater, I started working with a sports nutritionist because I knew I had weight to lose and I need to take care of every aspect of my fitness if I want to finish that race. Getting to the start line is not enough!
To over-simplify things, my diet has changed to equal parts carbs and protein with 75% of my carbs coming from non-starch veggies. The goal is to not build up my glycogen stores and get more effective at fat burning. That’s what you do during an ultra so getting good at that should go a long ways. It also fills me up and without the sugar, I’ve dropped weight, about 15 pounds in two months. This race is something I added about a month ago as a way to test my lighter body and new nutrition plan. Next up is Keys 100 in May, which will add the heat element, and then Badwater 135 in July, the main event.
I’ve run this course twice before (well, 1.81 times, I DNF’d last October at 81 due to hypothermia) and know it well. It’s flat and quick, weather is typically fairly mild at this time of year, so really it is a good venue to give the nutrition a test. Part of the objective was to see how my body held up with the new race fueling strategy — water only (with UCAN hydrate ) for the first couple of hours, UCAN energy along with the hydrate after that with my water, and a UCAN energy bar every hour after two hours, moving up to two per hour as needed if I felt like I needed. There also was no carb loading for this race, which was a new thing.
I was a little nervous about this because l have a relatively new body, a new pre-race fueling routine and a new in-race fueling routine. What could go wrong, right? I didn’t know what I’d do if it didn’t work — not only during the race but moving forward afterwards getting ready for Keys and Badwater. Time-wise, I went in with a PR of 21:07, I really wanted to break 20 and my stretch goal was to get down around 19.
I had a good crew, one a friend named Lisa who’s going to be on my crew for Keys and Badwater, and a friend of hers named Hillary who jumped in a week before the race for a fun adventure. They had both expressed a little bit of apprehension about the mileage pacing me … Lisa was on for segments totaling 32 and Hillary had 16. I told them not to worry, that by that stage of the game I’d be running 11s if I was having a good day and 13s by the end. Easy stuff.
Anyways, race day I got rolling and felt fine. Heart rate was high early for no reason I can think of aside from anxiety. Should have been in the low 130s but I was in the low 140s. I told myself that low 140s wouldn’t make me bonk (which really wasn’t a concern anyways because the goal was fat burning, right?) but I wanted to keep the effort low and not beat myself up too hard.
I got into a groove and just started running. I was running more-or-less 9:15s early when I kind of wanted to be running 9s, but I didn’t worry. I knew before I even started that my day would be made on the back half when I either held up with the new nutrition or completely fell apart with the new nutrition. That’s a big thing to have in the back of your mind for the first 50 miles but oh well. Temps were good the whole day, 48 up to 65 and then back to 48 or so, but there was a lot of wind. Sometimes it was a dull headwind, sometimes a dull tailwind, and there was a stretch where it was pretty heavy. It was a headwind at first, which irritated me a little.
I felt like I cruised through the first 25-30 pretty easily. My crew got into their routine and we were money. At around 30 I started to get into that spot where it was tough mentally because you’ve got 50k on your legs — you’re fatigued, you’re human. But you still have 70 to go and 20 until you’re at least halfway there. When I run these things, I run for as long as I can and then get into a routine where I run .4, walk .1. The best I’d done before was 41. I thought I was gonna start walking in the 30s but I really wanted to get to 41 and I was able to fight through and do that. Then I wanted to get to 45 because that was the farthest I’d gotten without stopping before and I did. I was running with a slight tailwind and turning 8:45s at around 45 and felt like I was really running better than I ever have.
Then I wanted to get to 50 because that was halfway and I wanted a good first half to set me up mentally. I hit that in 8:11, which was 47 minutes faster than I hit 50 in Daytona, so that was good. Got to the turnaround at 51.5 which is where Lisa joined me. The guys at the aid station asked me how I was doing and I was pretty simple with my answer … “I’m having the run of my life.”
Lisa and I headed back but the wind was pretty vicious. After 56, I finally decided to do my run/walk intervals, but I was fine with getting that far without walking. Kept on pushing, I felt strong during the walk portions, I think that definitely goes back to the incline hikes I’ve been doing on the treadmill. Absolutely stronger walking than I have been in past ultras.
From there, I just kept on ticking off the miles. Mostly mid-10s to mid-11s with the walk breaks. I told Lisa and Hillary all day long that I was wondering when I was going to fall apart, the day was going so well. But I also kept saying that the farther along you get, the less falling apart impacts your time. I was happy to continue putting good miles in the bank. As we started to get through the 60s, I was really starting to get excited about the day I was having. Too good to be true!
You really can’t start thinking you have anything locked up in the 60s or even 70s because there’s still so far to go, but I started looking at the time and thought I really had a chance at breaking 19, maybe even by a decent amount.
I ran with Hillary from 78-87 or so and told her for the millionth time that I couldn’t believe the day I was having and I didn’t know when I was gonna fall off and she told me the perfect thing at the perfect time … you don’t get that far in the race that consistently if you’re not capable of it. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I kept rolling, knowing my energy was good, the plan was working, all I had to do was fight through the pain of fatigue. I had the energy and power I needed to keep running.
Lisa was going to run the final two shifts with me (13 miles total) so I game planned with Hillary on the mile 93 aid station she’d be handling. I had a strategy to maximize my caffeine and minimize the chance at nausea over the final 7. Lisa took over at 87, I put my calf compression on and we were rolling. Miles were still good and when we hit 90 I did the math and needed 11:24s the rest of the way. I thought anything faster than 12s at that stage would be tough, although I had just run a 10:29. Seemed like sub-19 was pretty close to in the bag, sub-18 was going to be tough.
Mile 91 was a 10:34, so another 40 seconds in the bank, and I told Lisa, “I want that 17, and I’m gonna f—-ing get it.” I’d put down 91 good miles. No chance I was letting it go to waste the last 9. Mile 92, even with our walk breaks, was 9:21. I was locked in. I told Lisa to text Hillary a change of plans for the aid station. There was not going to be a 30-60 second stop. It was going to be a 10-second vest switch, gas and go. I was deep in a zone. We were in and out of the aid station at 93 in 10 seconds and kept hammering away the miles.
The math got better and better at each mile but I didn’t take anything for granted. You don’t know what your body is going to do 95+ miles in to a run. Cover the ground, get to the finish.
Lisa was more than a marathon into her day at this point. I know had told her not to worry, we’d be running 13s at this point at the fastest, but not so much. We were run/walk alternating but when we were running, we were running at about her marathon PR pace, and she’s pretty quick. She told me, “I never thought my tempo runs would come into play at the end of a marathon” but there we were. We didn’t know how much over 100 because of the tangents, going off course at aid stations, etc., so we had to keep pushing, but the cushion was building and by about 98 or so I really thought we had a solid chance.
Hillary was at the finish and we texted her to run back to catch us when we were within about 1.25 miles or so. I told them before the race that the three of us were running through the finish line together, period. This was a team effort. They worked their asses off, i would have been considerably slower without them. This team was going through the finish line together.
We caught up with her on the way in and asked her how far out she had run. 3/4 of a mile. 17:49 and change on my watch. I knew that if I walked it in I wouldn’t get, so it wasn’t a lock, but it was if we ran it. I felt pretty strong for 100 on my legs. Covered that last portion at a 9:17 pace. 100 miles, 17:56:49. I might’ve have believed you if you’d told me I’d break 19 and go 18:56 but I’d almost have thought that was too good to be true. 17:56? No way.
It was a combination of so many things. The nutrition test was obviously a success. That went very well. Borderline perfection. But that just clears the way for me put my training on display. I just do what my coach, John Loftus, tells me to do. The mix of volume, speedwork, back-to-backs, incline hikes and the damn weighted vest. And recovery and taper — he prevents me from overtraining. I just take it one day at a time doing what he tells me to and I trust the process. I’ve been getting stronger and better and it all came together on Saturday. The only other run I’ve ever had that compares to this one is my single sub-3 marathon I ran 10 years ago. The difference here is that I knew back then I had peaked. Right now, I feel like I’m actually just early in my Badwater cycle and I’m going to get better.
Lisa and Hillary if you read this, thank you so much. I tried to say thank you enough over the weekend but I so incredibly appreciate what you did. I had the run of my life but could absolutely not have done it without you. You sacrificed your weekends, worked yourself into exhaustion … I am so grateful for your efforts. I can’t say thank you enough!
Aside from the race, training for the week was light because I was tapering. This week is light for recovery, but I’m allowed to do the incline walks on the treadmill and lift, so I’ll be doing that.
- 5.17 easy miles with 2x 5×40 sec on/off after work
- 58:15, 3.7 miles at 12.0 incline on the treadmill after the run
- 4.20 easy miles at lunch
- One hour, 3.8 miles at 12.0 incline on the treadmill after work
- Chest/arms/abs lifting at the gym in the morning (six stations, five sets of 20 reps each)
- 5.17 easy miles with 8×30 sec on/off at lunch.
- Back/shoulders/abs lifting at the gym after work (six stations, five sets of 20 reps each)
- 3.02 easy miles at lunch.
- Rest day (travel, too).
- 100.76 mile run in the morning, afternoon, night lol
- Rest day (and travel back home).
- Totals for the week: 118.32 miles running, 7.5 miles power hiking on the treadmill, two lifting sessions.