Wednesday, August 8, 2018

For the Fresh Meat, Part 2

The Marji Gesick Ringmaster himself, Todd, called me on Monday. I was actually having a rough day, feeling exhausted and sore from likely jumping back into serious training a bit too soon after HAMR. Instead of a running or riding, I went to the archery range, thinking it would cheer me up. Unfortunately I was shooting like crap. Many rounds in, I finally nailed a fox dead on. Then the phone rang.

It was The Ringmaster, which cheered me up even more than the good shot at the fox. He had a project for me, he said.  I was pretty excited about this, hoping it would be something really important like designing the new Polar Roll run course. He had other things, I suppose equally important, in mind.

He reminded me we have just over 6 weeks until Marji Gesick, when there will be over 40 people out there running on his crazy-ass course with no aid stations. Since he's not a runner himself, he asked if I'd write up a post to give those 40 or so people a little heads up on what to expect. I obliged, even though it's not as exciting as designing a run course.

So, here's a little of what I think to be important. Have I done a crap load of 100 mile races? No. Marji was my first. Did I earn a buckle? No. I'll have to try again for that. Did I finish and learn a hell of a lot in the process? Yes. Yes. And Yes. So, hopefully that's enough that some Marji runners out there might want to keep reading.

Before I get to the training details to give a little insight into where you might want to be in training right now, there are three things you'll need that I think are important to point out. Without them, finishing (or starting in one case) just isn't gonna happen.

1. A bike. That's right. This is perhaps the only 100 mile run you'll ever do where you have to start on a bike. So bring one. It's not a joke. I even wore my helmet. The ringmaster apparently needed to give me some stern words anyway:

Photo- Lisa McIntyre
 2. A GPS of some sort. Yes, the course is marked, but you never know when a Sasquatch might move a few signs.  Or, like last year, they might curl up in the rain and be hard to see. Having a GPS that at least beeps if you go off course will save you a lot of time wandering around lost. Trust me, at some point during the night in my delirium I even turned the wrong way down a well-marked road and was saved by that beeping.

3. Most importantly-A CREW!!!! This race will not happen for you without one. Period. You can mess up the training a little, you can puke, you can get lost, you can take a nap. But you can't run this race without a crew there. Yes, the whole time. There are no aid stations. Zero. The ones you hear the bikers talk about aren't there on Friday and stashing your goods in the woods is not allowed. So if you don't have a crew, get one now. And make sure they aren't afraid of the dark.

Without all these people here, I would never have finished. End of story.

They tolerated my Dr. Pepper obsession well. Photo- Lisa McIntyre
I tried to lube everyone at the start and I still got chafed. Photo- Lisa McIntyre

Really, we did run right after this, but the 8 year old asked me why I was running so slow. Photo- I have no clue who took this photo. It was mile 100 something. I was delirious. I smiled at anyone even if they didn't have a camera.

That's right. It kinda took a village (and a large part of team LCR) to get me through this thing.

Now, on to a few training details. A few general notes before I go into what some of my weeks looked like. One, despite this being my first hundred, this wasn't my first ultra or even my first time on this course. I'd done 50k's, a 50 miler, a 40 miler, and the Marji "50" the year before. I also ran in college so I know my body well and what it can handle. I've found what works for me best is to do two hard weeks in a row, ending with long runs on tired legs, followed by a recovery week. That's just me so that's what you'll see here. Two, I love trails so most of these miles were on trails, many of them mimicking the elevation of Marji. If you haven't done that, I suggest you start, now. The technical difficulty on this course is no joke. You won't be ready by running on the road. Now on to a bit of a training timeline:

April- Built up to 40 miles a week, mostly on trails with lots of elevation.

May- Built up to 50 miles a week, twice averaging nearly 100 feet per mile of elevation for the weekly miles.

June- Built up to 65 miles a week, again trail and elevation specific.

July- things get more specific.

11 weeks out from the race, I ran a 70 mile week.

10 weeks out from the race I ran 80 miles, capped off with a training camp on the Marji course with my LCR teammates who were riding it. I ended the week with 28 miles on the course on Friday and 24.5 miles on the course on Saturday. Then my teammates and I went out to dinner at a restaurant that had what seemed like 200 steps. I was walking a bit funny after all those miles so they found it hilarious to walk behind me and tell people I had to poop. If you're LCR, your teammates are your biggest hecklers. But they show up for you on race day!

9 weeks out was, of course, a recovery week. 30 miles.

8 weeks out was another 70 mile week, with 7234 feet of climbing, you guessed it, nearly all on trails.

7 weeks out was my biggest week, 87 miles, capped off with 30 miles on Saturday followed by 15 hilly miles on Sunday. I chose to starting backing off a bit after this week. I've found with ultras it's better to get the heavy miles done early. Leaving them until just 3-4 weeks before the race leaves me too tired and sore on race day.

6 weeks out. (This is where you are right now if you're doing Marji this year.) Another 30 mile recovery week.

5 weeks out. 61 miles.

4 weeks out. 57 miles with my last long run of 22 on Saturday. I had actually planned for this to be a 70 mile week, but after running my 22 miler in the rain I ended up with a sore throat so I opted to skip Sunday's 13 miler and not get sick before the race.

3 weeks out. 30 mile recovery week.

2 weeks out. 50 miles with 5286 feet of elevation. Longest run of the week was 12 miles. Did some running in the dark to test out my lights and my skills!

1 week out. 33 miles, 3353 feet of elevation, more running in the dark.

Race week- 10 miles, including 2.5 on Thursday on the last mile of the course. I wanted to make sure I would recognize it when I got there! The rest of the day Thursday, Super Kate and I drove around the course picking out our meeting places. This was essential. Since there are no aid stations at this race you can't just meet your crew there. You need to pick your own places and both of you need to know where they are!

Friday- Race day! That's already been recapped here:  I made it to the finish thanks to my awesome crew, always supportive (even when they're making fun of me) teammates and of course Big E, who put up with a lot of months of me training more than I did anything else.
Photo- Ryan Stephens

For the sake of not writing an entire novel, of course I've left out a lot of details. If you're racing and want more, feel free to send me a message on Instagram @girl_unsupervised. I'll do my best to remember everything that happened out there. Part one of this, written right after the race is here: