guest post by developmental editing client Scott Forrester
I recently participated in the Western States 100 training run that covers the last 22 miles of its 100.2-mile race course.
The training run is a unique event and wonderful opportunity to experience the legendary course if you will not be racing in the Western States 100 in June because you at least get to step on the same storied course of the oldest 100-mile race where it all began when Gordon Ainsleigh took what had been a horse race and finished it on foot in less than 24 hours.
The weather on the day of the training run was perfect. Not too hot and not too cold. It was great to spend time among the trees breathing the oxygen they supply instead of being concerned with the air quality as is so often the case in Fresno where I have been living. I believe that nature is important for our health. Its transformative power on the inner man is just as important as the fresh air we breathe with our lungs. We are biological creatures after all.
I am an expert at getting lost, but I didn’t have to worry about that on this course. There were plenty of pink marker ribbons that were placed at a height that made them hard to miss even for those who were tired and/or busy watching the trail for obstacles. Chalk that marked the turns and showed where not to turn also helped.
Leading up to the run, I realized that I had not run with people for a year. I always run with my dog. As rewarding and fun as this run is, I realized this would take me way outside my current habits because this run attracts high-level ultra-runners. I had only had one day per week for training over the course of the last year because I work full time and had devoted a large amount of time to write a book (The Aware Athlete).
I also had some setbacks in my training. I got a chest cold that lasted three weeks and then as I was going to do my longest run before this training run, my dog ran in front of me, which threw me into a face plant on the pavement. With blood running down my face and not being sure how badly I was hurt, I cut that run short.
Memories of last year when the laces on my homemade tire sandals unexpectedly failed and I struggled to make any time at all on the trail also came to mind. (This year I wore commercially made Luna sandals.)
But when I woke up that morning, I realized that I would approach the day by just doing what I could do, not what someone else can. I was not intimidated by the distance. I knew I could do the miles, but I wondered if I could make the cutoffs.
Two hours into the run I was at a pace I couldn’t hold.
My energy seemed to be gone. I was uncomfortable at that point. But by adopting a sustainable pace, walking more, and monitoring my breathing, I was able to continue much more efficiently. I was also able to get more food and fluids from my waist pack down to replenish my energy.
When I reached the first aid station I was really happy to find that I was there one and a half hours faster than last year when I was struggling with footwear issues. I hadn’t been on the last part of the course before, so I was unprepared for the two long, steep, rocky climbs I was faced with next. And they slowed me up quite a bit. Nevertheless, when I got to the final aid station at No Hands Bridge with only three miles to go, I thought I had it made.
I was ready to finish the last three miles into town, but the race organizers said that time was up. Darn! But I was so happy about how things had gone compared to last year, and now I know more of the course. Maybe next year!
Whether you finish in time or not, one of the best things about this low-key and well-planned event is the opportunity to make new friends. This year, like last, I made a couple of new friends, and I got to see ones I made last year.
Fresh air, food for the soul, and deep smiles, yes. Plus stiff, sore legs from climbing. It was a challenging but very fun day.
It's always rewarding to experience something you haven’t done for a while or at all and feel more alive because you did more than you thought you could do.
Scott Forrester is a Feldenkrais practitioner, Physical Therapist Assistant and author of The Aware Athlete: How the Wild Origins of Our Nature and the New Science of Neuroplasticity Are Redefining Fitness. He enjoys helping people overcome limitations and injuries; spending time outdoors; running and fastpacking with his dog, Stealth; trail running with humans; and spending time with his wife of forty-six years, LeeAnn. Connect with Scott at awareathlete.com.