I love to be outside, a lot of my favorite pictures are taken in the great outdoors and a lot of my favorite activities include being un-roofed. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time outside preparing for a new challenge. I need big (dare I say, epic) challenges to keep me motivated and focused on my training. Without those events on the calendar it becomes all too easy for me to let my training intensity lapse and for rest days to start outnumbering workouts. I’m also an athlete on a budget so I have to find appropriately epic activities that are budget-friendly and generally close to home.

On a tangent…I never really understood why people would travel to races, a marathon is a marathon is a marathon right? Then I registered for and raced an Ironman 70.3 on St. Croix. I get vacation racing now. The race absolutely obliterated me but the scenic vistas couldn’t be beat.

But I digress…when I was browsing for a challenge for 2017 I thought about Ironman and someday I will do one because I want to hear my name announced as an Ironman when I cross that line. And also because you can’t tell people you’re a triathlete without them asking if you’ve done an Ironman. Olympic distance can be plenty punishing, thank you very much. But seriously, Ironman is expensive. Race registration can top $1,000 and then you have to get there and spend some nights and eat lots of tacos. So Ironman was not going to be the challenge for me. Then I remembered another race that was going on last year on the same day I was running a 50K. It was the Daytona 100, a 1oo mile ultramarathon that starts in Atlantic Beach and ends on the beach in Daytona… What’s not to like? It’s close to home and downright cheap compared to an Ironman. On a dollars per hour of event basis it is a downright steal.

For the first time I could wrap my head around 100 miles too. I’m not sure why because I did not feel all that relaxed and groovy after my last 50K but for some reason it just seemed like a good idea. And here I am several months later, several months into training and I still pretty much think the same thing. I made the (really smart?) decision to run/walk/hike a 100 miler to prepare for running a 100 miler while I was searching for an appropriately lengthy intermediate challenge to see how ready I was for 100 miles. The Georgia Jewel has a 50 mile option but I am clearly crazy so why wouldn’t I try and bash out all hundred? “With a 32 hour cutoff you can practically walk it,” the naughty voice on my shoulder whispered. “I’ll bet you get a belt buckle if you finish,” whispered the voice on my other shoulder. I’m not really sure why both voices have it in for me but that probably informs a lot of my decision-making. So a hiking I will go at the end of September. Testing my legs and my patience as I climb (and descend) 16,000 feet over the course of (hopefully less than) 32 hours.

To that end I have been working on doubling up my running on the weekend, getting a long run in on Saturday and following that with a slightly less long run on Sunday to get my legs used to bashing out a bunch of miles in a weekend. I’ve notched two of those workouts so far: a 20 and 12 miler one weekend and 22 miles followed by 12 last weekend. I’ve been really happy about how my legs feel on my shorter long runs. The first 12 miler featured a thunderstorm rolling in around mile 8, the cooler weather and ominous backdrop motivated me to 4 very quick closing miles.

Last weekend featured my highest single day training miles ever at 22. I split that run up into two sections with an intermission for hot dogs. Towards the end of those 22 miles I was beginning to feel a bit disheartened. My left foot was bothering me and my right quad and my right calf and I was out of energy and tired and cranky and questioning the whole effort. I was glad to take the shoes off and foam roll and shower and be not running at the end of the day. There were some tacos for dinner and I was beginning to feel like me again. I did not sleep particularly well Saturday night, thanks in part to my geriatric doggy and a gentle throbbing in my left foot. When I got up to take Indy outside the feeling in my foot was better but it wasn’t great. Doubts started to swirl, should I even be running the next morning? I really didn’t want to sub a bike ride, just not the same. If I can’t make it through 22 miles without feeling good how am I going to get 100? I decided to eat breakfast and enjoy my pre-run morning and decide then if I needed to ride or swim instead. Happily my foot woke up a bit (which makes me think I know what is up with it, but that’s for another blog). I slid on my new trail runners and headed out the door with the goal of running as comfortably as possible. I was able to run around the paces I wanted all day and even had enough left for a marathon race pace kick over the last 3 miles. It felt good to run the last three miles, not looking at the watch and managing pace so closely, confident that I was going to be able to run it out. Head up, shoulders back and moving at a respectable pace again. Of course that last mile in the sun was more about holding on than it was about thriving but I gutted it out and was honestly pretty excited to finish strong.

Then I got to go shopping for new running shorts! That was much more entertaining than it should have been. Also a subject for another day.

I’m trying to be good to my legs and feet this week before going for 50 miles next weekend. Will let you know how that process goes. This week will also feature running in the dark for the first time. Good times!