I had rolled this race over from the previous year given all the pandemic cancellations so while I was excited to get my WSER qualifier for the year, I had to come to grips with a couple things -
- I really dislike training through the Arizona summers
- I had gotten used to running only a couple days a week (cross-training the other 4-5 days)
- I longed for better and more consistent training/race nutrition, hydration and electrolytes
Start to Mt. Fuji (13.6 mi)
Weeks prior to the race, we kept getting emails from the RD that there was a possibility the race would be cancelled due to the fires (smoke) in the area. I'm very thankful that the weather cooperated on race day to not only blow out all the smoke, but to drop the temperatures down to a very reasonable 50-60F (cold by Arizona standards).
Like any great mountain ultra, you start straight up the ski slope. Nothing fancy - just you, your headlamp, poles and 100-200 of your closest ultra-friends 😊 Cresting this first climb, we were greeted with a very timid sunrise, chilly temperatures and amazing pine-needle-covered single track pretty much all the way to Mt Fuji.
Mt. Fuji to Charlton Lake (32 mi)
I honestly don't remember much between Mt Fuji and Charlton Lake. As the mist dissipated and the sun came up the temperatures didn't change much - which made running so much better!! I just remember thinking to myself that this trail is so runnable despite some of the variations and climbing before you get the Charlton Lake. Additionally, I'll just say that my fueling and hydration were going well at this stage - I was probably carrying more calories than I needed but I'll tell you more about that later.
Charlton Lake was very serene and peaceful. Quite a few hikers and campers out besides the volunteers and race officials. It was a nice place to take a 50k break - I was able to gather my thoughts, more nutrition and enjoy the view of the Twins in the distance (one of the next peaks we'd summit)
Charlton Lake to Maiden Peak (50 mi)
If you haven't looked at the profile for this race, you'd see that it's basically:
Maiden Peak to Finish
So you might wonder, how was I feeling at this point. Honestly, I was feeling better than ever. My shoulders and neck were aching due to the weight of my vest but my legs, head and heart were all full and ready for the downhill stretch to the finish line. I've honestly never felt so good this late in a race and it showed.
I was running just about everything in this section. I took a few walk breaks to help stretch my shoulders, neck and back but my legs were strong. My energy levels and spirits were high knowing (anticipating) a daylight finish was definitely possible.
Downhill running is not always great however and leaving Maiden Peak I was instantly reminded that steep quad-busting sections are never fun after 50+ miles 😖 Despite this 2 mi stretch of vertical chaos, the remainder of this section is just as glorious as the first...pine-needle covered single track trail etched with rays from the setting sun. I had my headlamp but wouldn't actually need it. I was propelled by a consistent energy source I've never known, mental clarity and the shear joy of knowing I would finish under 16 hours.
In past races, crossing the finish line was always a relief. This race, I was proud and elated with not only what I had accomplished but how I had accomplished it. I had tested both a training and nutrition strategy at this race and the results were better than I could have ever expected.
Official finish time: 15:11:16Race results in case you're into those sorts of things:
- 51st out of 90 finishers
- 10th (of 20) in 40-49 AG (men's)
- 13th (of 27) in 40-49 AG (all)
Training and Nutrition Strategy
I won't yammer on about this - look for another blog post with more detail but essentially I flipped my training and nutrition on its head in preparation for this race. Huh? What does that even mean?
Instead of a 3 week build to 1 week rest, I did back-to-back long runs every weekend and slowly built distance without a true "rest" week. I supplemented Monday through Friday with cycling (largely endurance climbing), rowing and boxing.
I started using Vespa, dextrose-based chews and gels along with fatty real food like olives, bacon and guacamole. Even natural sugar (fruit) seemed to confuse my GI while using Vespa. I'm able to consume far fewer calories and burn fat throughout the entire race. The gels, real food and chews help supplement occasionally but using fat for fuel appears to be a game-changer for me (let's face it, I drink beer and therefore have a lot of fat!)
There are numerous other benefits you get from training with fat but I'll save that for another post.
During training, I take the following supplements and vitamins:
- Glucosamine chondroitin (with tumeric)
- Daily multi-vitimin
- Flaxseed oil
- First Endurance Optygen HP