The Journey to Western States 100 (vol. 4)

Passion always looks like sacrifice to those who aren’t in love.
— Shalane Flanagan
Climbing Devil's Thumb (photo by Joe McCladdle).

Climbing Devil's Thumb (photo by Joe McCladdle).

Today is June 1, which officially marks the beginning of Western States month! As I make the final push toward the start line in Squaw Valley, it’s time for one final update.

May was by far the most challenging training month for me to date. I ran the McDonald Forest 50k at the beginning of the month, ran  an overnight 50k the following weekend, spent Memorial Day weekend at Western States training camp in Auburn, and then ended the month with one final overnight run.

This year was my 4th time running the McDonald Forest 50k. It's normally a difficult race, but unseasonably warm temperatures for Oregon spring, coupled with some course modifications, made it particularly difficult this year. Despite running on tired legs, I was surprised to feel pretty good the entire time, almost matching my course PR, and it turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day.

Finishing the McDonald Forest 50k (photo by Michael Leibowitz) .

Finishing the McDonald Forest 50k (photo by Michael Leibowitz) .

Post-overnight 50k with the amazing friends who were awesome enough to spend a night in the forest with me.

Post-overnight 50k with the amazing friends who were awesome enough to spend a night in the forest with me.

The overnight run the following weekend was tough. We started at around 8:15pm and finished just after 2:00 the following morning. I was tired and sore, which I expected, but I also had horrible stomach issues for most of the night, culminating with dry heaving on and off for the last three miles. It’s common for me to have stomach issues late in a 100-mile race, but never during a distance as short as 50k, so that was unexpected. In a way, I was thankful for the issues, though, because, although I continue to experiment with new things to try to minimize stomach problems, I had the opportunity to remember what I’m likely to feel again in a few weeks.

My friend Stephen (also running WS100 this year) and me on day 1 of training camp).

My friend Stephen (also running WS100 this year) and me on day 1 of training camp).

Training camp day 1: the canyons.

Training camp day 1: the canyons.

Training camp was an amazing experience. Having the privilege to run on the Western States course is always a special experience, but this year was particularly meaningful because I was able to share it with so many friends and because this was my first time running the training runs as a race entrant. This was my third year participating in the training runs, so I knew what to expect, but, this time, I approached the runs with a different mindset, constantly thinking about where I was on the actual race course and how I would approach the climbs/descents/heat/terrain at those moments during the race. It was good preparation both physically and mentally.

Training camp marked the peak of my training and capped off a 103-mile week. The following week was a recovery week, which included another overnight run and some mountain repeats, but was relatively low mileage. Now, as I enter the first week of June, I am preparing myself to make the final push to Squaw and on to Auburn. I'm tired and I'm sore, but I am relentless in my training, from PT exercises and yoga to sauna sessions and long runs. My legs are heavy, but my excitement grows with every day. Most of all, I'm healthy. I have one more big training week ahead of me and then I will begin my taper. My good friend Sarah says that if you're not looking forward to the taper, then you didn't train hard enough. I have loved every single painful, heart-pounding, calf-burning, quad-pounding moment of my training, but I am ready for the taper. It's time.