2 weeks out — time to taper. Finally.
Last weekend I completed my final “Race Simulation” (the third consecutive torture session in three weeks), designed to approximate race conditions. It was beyond brutal, essentially training dawn to dusk three days straight on the heels of three exhausting weeks of punishment, completing 95% of the Ultraman distance. I almost didn’t make it, but somehow I survived. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger….so they say. And this time I took it to the brink.
Here’s the breakdown:
THURSDAY — Warmup: 55 mile climbing ride — hit some of the major Santa Monica Mountains climbs in my area — Topanga and 2x Stunt, a steep 4 mile ascent. Felt pretty magic on those hills — it was nice. But this was just my warmup for the 3 days to come…
FRIDAY – Approximating DAY 1 of the race, which will be a 10K ocean swim followed by a 90 mile ride from Kona to Volcanoes Nat’l Park: started the morning with 10,000 yards of swimming as follows — 3000 swim; 1500 pull; 2500 swim; 1000 pull; 2000 swim — 60 secs rest in between. My shoulders were screaming that last 1000 yards, but made it through in decent shape, holding a pretty even pace throughout. Then jumped on my bike for a 75 mile ride. Hit the climbs early — Topanga (again), Piuma (8 mile ascent) and Rock Store (very steep unrelenting 4 mile climb), then down into Westlake Village for a flat loop home in the dark. Felt pretty good, flying up the hills and powering the flats home. Solid 9 hour training day with about 4,000 feet of elevation gain.
SATURDAY: Approximating DAY 2 of the race, which will be a 170 mile ride from Volcanoes to Hawi:
130 mile ride from Calabasas to Ojai and back. This was a learning experience — the very hard (and humiliating) way. I was meant to go 145 miles, but fell short. Here’s why: I FORGOT to bring any $$ with me to buy food along the way. Idiot! I loaded my bike with about 1800 calories of CarboPro
, plus one banana and one Cliff Bar. I generally stop and buy some food about 1/2 into my long rides, as I can’t carry any more (french fries are my preferred on the road food — high in fat / carbs). But at 60 miles in, I realized I had forgotten to bring any money. Arrggghhh! At this moment I should have turned around and headed back to my starting point to get some cash, but I stupidly pushed on. And at about 70 miles I began to bonk. HARD. 65 miles from home without any money or energy. I was lightheaded, a bit delerious, my butt ached and I didn’t know what to do. My solution? I dumpster dived
. I literally ate some leftover fries and onion rings sitting on a table at a remote burger stand in the middle of nowhere on Route 150 outside Ojai. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? In retrospect, I should have just asked for some free food, but I was too embarrassed. I then turned back and headed home. I was also developing saddle sores and could barely sit. That last 2 hours was grueling — my power output had plummeted and I just wanted to get home as darkness set in. I crawled to my car after 130 miles, ate everything in site and figured I would bust out the last 15 miles. But it was too late. I tried to go, but I was spent. I couldn’t make up for the severe calorie deficit I had created and had to call it a day. Ultra-Bonked. So I learned the hard way what I already knew intellectually. You have to eat! I went home that night completely exhausted, ate everything I could stomach and tried not to think about how I was going to handle a 45 mile run the next morning.
Sunday — Approximating DAY 3 of the race, a 52 mile run from Hawi to Kona:
45 mile run. Another long hard day at the office. I awoke terribly exhausted and legs throbbing. My wife looked at me like she was ready to take me to the ER I was so fatigued. I did my best to combat the calorie deficit by eating a large breakfast (something I rarely do before a run), knowing that I will nonetheless still be running not only on exhausted legs, but also on inadequate nutrition (and all day at that!). As if running 45 miles on rested legs isn’t enough, I seriously doubted how I was going to get through this day so absolutely fatigued. But I checked my thinking brain at the door and headed out, fuel belt loaded up with CarboPro 1200
, a super high calorie / electrolyte syrupy drink (which worked great by the way), plus water and Enduroytes
— salt / potassium / magnesium tablets which keep my electrolyes in balance and prevent cramping. I ran the first 21 miles from the Commons in Calabasas to “Dirt Mulholland” — the dirt road portion of Mulholland Drive which begins in Woodland Hills and climbs East basically to the 405 Fwy. I took it to the Nike Missle Tower (the back), which is a very hilly ascent with over 1000′+ of elevation gain. I wanted to run on the softer surface, but I also wanted to train my legs not only for the climbing, but the punishing descents. But I really paid for this on the second half of my run — a long flat out and back from Calabasas down Valley Circle Blvd, around Lake Chatsworth to Santa Susana Pass in Simi Valley and back. At about 28 miles I started to cramp in my right calf, despite all the Enduroytes I was gobbling down. I slowed but continued to run to mile 33 when it seized up on me pretty good. I stopped for 5 minutes, stretched, took in fluids / electrolytes but to no avail. I thought I was done and got ready to call my wife to come and pick me up. Then I thought — this is what Ultraman is all about! I need to push through this, because this is precisely where the rubber meets the road. What separates the men from the boys. This is the purpose of a run like this — to push through the pain at those moments when you want to give up; when you feel like you just can’t make it. Its easy to run long when you feel good. Its when its hard that you have to elevate your game beyond what you think you are capable of. I recalled the words of my favorite ultra-runner David Goggins
, who said that when you think you are at your limit, you are really only at 40% of what you can actually do . So with these thoughts in mind, I started running again, refusing to cave. Slowly, but at least I was running. And as long as I don’t stop, I might have a chance at getting home. The sun set and I began my 15 miles death march, but I made it; and I made it without walking — but when I was done I couldn’t have run one foot further; and I looked like hell doing it. I was cooked. Absolute toast, thinking “maybe starting the run with 1000′+ elevation gain and drop wasn’t such a good idea after all….”
Sunday night I could barely walk. But then I woke up the next morning feeling pretty good, thinking I haven’t trained enough. And therein lie the insanity….
Now I start my taper. Which in Ultraman terms still means 16 hours of training this week, albeit much lighter. The hard work is over and I know in my heart of hearts that I have given it my all. So when I line up at Ultraman I have the confidence to endure. And when it gets tough (and it will), I know I have it deep inside to see it through.