At 3:33AM on the 10 January 2023, I received THE email. The one that I had been waiting for. The one I had been talking to friends and family about for months. The one that was going to drastically change the shape of my family and my 2023. The one that states emphatically, “You’re In”.
I had been dreaming about doing this event for a long time. Since reading Born To Run some years ago (twice) it has always held an mythical, unattainable status in my mind. Yet here we are, Jan 2023 and 7 months of training for the race of my life.
This blog outlines the questions, “how I’m feeling” and “what I’m doing” during my training for the 2023 Leadville 100 Mile Run. Almost like a future letter to myself from when I was (hopefully) at the peak of my fitness, ready for the race of a lifetime.
With 7 months to go until Leadville, it seems like a long, long time. But I don’t particularly want to feel like dieing during the race so starting early. I’ll feel like dieing regardless, but maybe starting this early will be less painful.
Still keeping up gym work, with a routing that looks something like the below scribbles. Basically, a full body workout mainly using the barbell doing squats, bench, deadlifts, rows and pullups. Not building bulk but just hoping to maintain some core strength.
Starting February I was excited. I had organised to start a training plan with a local coach via Run As One coaching, I was feeling somewhat fit and ready to embark on some training with purpose.
In early January I booked myself in for a trail marathon, which didn’t really fit with general strategy, that being “start slow and build without getting injured”. I was excited for the weekend away to Robe for the Robe Run and it was a good opportunity as well to test myself and see where I was at. I ended up running 3:17 for the marathon distance which I was pretty happy with considering my training for that sort of distance was not great.
Otherwise in February is a was a good month. Consistent long trail runs on the weekend (15-20km) and some really good workouts. Averaging about 55km per week which is entirely manageable at this point. I keep reminding myself that the 160km weeks are coming before I know it.
March was more or less a holding pattern from February with a slight increase to my weekly km average (to about 65km). I kept up with the twice weekly workouts, courtesy of Run As One, and as a result definitely starting to feel stronger. A 5km time trial in April, in addition to a 58km Ultra will be good ‘testers’ to see where I am at.
I’m quite liking the hard workouts, I initially thoughts they seem like the wrong type of training to be doing when trying to tackle a 100 mile event. After doing them consistently for a couple of months now though I can feel the benefits. I also read something about being more efficient at running faster can also help your slow speed to be faster and more efficient. I hope that’s the case.
There were a couple of longer sessions in this month too. A 4 hour rogaine event which was a lot of fun and also a few 20km+ sessions.
Coming into April things are looking good, except also coming into the colder months which I’m sure will see my motivation start waning.
April was a month where I finally started to see the fruits of my labor, but was also dealt some harsh realities. I continued my 6 sessions/ week training schedule with the occassional strength session and the also biking to work.
I ran a 5km tt, which you’d think is not an important thing to do when you’re going to be running 100 miles at a slow, slow pace, but it was good to see where I was at. I ran the 5k in 18:45 which was faster than I have done for quite a while. Another highlight for the month was the 58km Ultra Marathon, 5 Peaks. This is a beast of a run that takes place in the Adelaide Hills. I was glad to have done this one as I suffered throughout it from going out way too hard. Though I have ran plenty of Ultra’s, it’s becoming apparent that I still try to go too fast. Lessons learnt from 5 Peaks were, go sloooooow (i.e. the person who wins the race is the one who slows down the least), take on more nutrition than I did, and DON’T FORGET THE SALT TABLETS!
I’m looking forward to the next long event where I can practice going slow and taking on more nutrition throughout the event.
I picked up a Stryd footpod towards the end of April, so looking forward to reporting back on it.
Well, things certainly started to get tougher. Not only the mileage but also just the relentlessness of the training. 6 days a week, varied speeds, hills, slow stuff, man…it is a lot. This sounds like whinging, and it is, but I am truly enjoying sticking to a plan and knowing that I am doing everything I need to to ensure I finish the damn race.
I started off in May with a 5km TT (18:24) which was used to get my CP (Critical Power) reading for my new Stryd Pod. Well, new second-hand as these things are far from cheap. The Stryd pod I found to be somewhat handy. Now that I have spent time understanding the different zones, I am using the pod as a guide rather than my pacing. This has been interesting, particularly when running up hills, where it is very obvious that I had previously been pushing way too hard up hills and expending too much power.
I don’t think May was anything remarkable in terms of training, just consistent, no-nonsense training. Following the tried-and-true longy on the weekend and then shorter stuff in the week.
One takewaway from May was, strength training is getting harder and harder to get into the schedule. Needs to be more prioritised.
During June my training has started to heat up, whilst the temperature cools down considerably. June saw a quite a bit more time on legs, going from 28 hours in May, to 34 June. This increase in time on legs came mainly from the addition of a mid-week long run (15-20km) and conistent 30km+ long slow runs on the weekend.
Where these longer runs would have wrecked me in the past, I have been practicing taking on additional carbohydrates to keep the body fueled.
I used to use energy gels sparingly, however after using them every half-hour or so during a long run, I have found my body feels so much better at the end of the run. This is promising as it is showing that I can do those distances with ‘ease’ and consistency.
My weekly mileage in June reached the highest levels in the previous 6 months, with a weekly high of ~96km. We’re putting in the work now, one more month of hard-going and then we’re there. This next month should see weekly mileage reaching the 120-140km mark which will be more than I have ever run. I can’t wait to ‘get after it’ for one more month 💀.
During July I set several milestones:
— I turned 35 (and ran 55km on my birthday) — I set a new Half Marathon PB (1:23:14) averaging 3:57 min/km — I ran my best paced Ultra ultra, starting slow and grinding it out — I ran 423km in the month, the most I have ever ran in a month — It’s my final big training month before Leadville!
It was a huge month, and thoroughly enjoyable and damn tiring. So glad to have done it completed though. This is the bulk of the hard work done, and time to start winding down ready for the big one.
I finished July feeling really good. I was running well, still enjoying it, and the body was responding well too with only one workout missed (post-ultra legs!). Honestly, I finished the month and was telling people “I don’t think I could have done any more without completely neglecting family, work and other responsibilities.” My training plan was well put together (thanks Run As One) and I managed to squeeze the best training I could out of the time I had available and I am so glad I did.
My belief that I can complete the event grew a great deal during July. I’m now confident I can get it done.
Well, here we are. I am writing this August re-cap in September which I think has given me sufficient time to think about what happended in Leadville. To start with, I did not finish it. I am far from dissapointed though. I ran a great race that was hampered by stomach issues and almost finished it. Anyone reading this who is familiar with Leadville understands that the checkpoint cut-offs are quite tight (given the distance and terrain). Well, I made it about 85 miles and missed the final cut-off at May Queen. I was hurting towards the end, lonely, cold and knew I was not going to make the checkpoint. I was and am proud of myself for perservering, and getting so close. If not for me committing the cardinal sin of “don’t try anything new on race day” I know I would have finished.
It was a funny feeling being picked up by that ATV at the top of Power Line (an ominous mountain near Turquoise Lake). An entire day had passed me by after running for 26.5 hours but I just felt at peace. After the ATV picked me up, I jumped into the back seat of one of the Sherrif Department vehicles where the heater was pumping and almost instantly fell asleep. On the drive back to Leadville, the kind Search and Rescue dude commented when passing Turquoise Lake, “another day in Paradise.” That comment struck me as so completely true as we were passing by sections of the course I had ran on some 24 hours earlier. I was able to reflect and conclude, “this course completely kicked my ass, but man I am lucky and grateful for the attempt.”
It was dissapointing not to finish, but the journey to get to Leadville was one of hardwork and discipline. There was no way I could have gotten to the Leadville starting line without the support of friends and family who helped me in so many ways. From pushing me out of bed for yet another 6am training session, to changing long-run plans to accommodate my training needs. Additionally, my coach Damian from Run As One was instrumental in getting me into the best shape of my life and supporting me with his immense experience and depth of knowledge.
Leadville, I hope we meet again.