17 April 2021


I started off 2021 with some seriously concerning health news along with a minor tendon issue. I will save the health issues for a separate post at a later time, but suffice it for now that it had me not only start off the year with minimal running. I even had to punt on my favorite race, Mountain Mist 50K in late January. Instead, I hit the reset button. While I had already been following a 100% plant-based diet for the past 3 years, I now decided to take it a step further. It wasn't an ethical decision as much as a health decision. I decided to go whole foods, sugar free, oil free, salt free (WFPB SOS, what a ridiculous abbreviation). I may not be able to sustain this approach, but the goal is to limit foods that do not fall in this category. Basically, you try to avoid eating any processed foods, not really a bad idea for anyone regardless of their current state of health. After all, just going plant based 3 years ago had me all but eliminate any inflammation as a result of training or racing, feeling amazing most of the time, which is reason enough for me to keep at it.

In addition to this dietary adjustment, I also changed my training approach to try to overcome my tendon issue that had been plaguing me since overcoming COVID-19 in early December. I decided to follow the Maffetone method, which essentially suggests that runners train at a very low heart rate and in a limited zone. I slowly increased my weekly mileage, never adding more than 5 miles and ramping up in 4 week blocks before taking a down week. The results were pretty amazing once I put the training to the test. In my first shorter road races in more than 2 years (10 miler and a half marathon) I hit times barely off my PR marks from more than 7 years ago.

I decided to put my training to the real test, the Double Top 100K aka Stone Anvil 100K at Fort Mountain State Park in Northern Georgia. A gnarly course with 5000' of gain for each of the three 20 mile loops over very technical terrain. I set a lofty goal. I wanted to win this race, but since this race is very low key with very few runners participating I felt my stretch goal needed to be even more aggressive, so I decided to shoot for the overall course record as long as the weather cooperated.

I arrived at Fort Mountain State Park just in time for packet pickup as Perry Sebastian, the RD was at the cabin aka race HQ getting some things ready. We had a crew of 5 Huntsville runners arriving shortly after one another. Jerry and Jeff decided to camp at the state park and while I had driven my camper van, I was too late in getting campground reservations, so Paul was kind enough to let me crash at his hotel room in town. None of us were utilizing a crew or pacers, so everyone decided to use their cars at the start/finish line as their own supply station as they would hit that every 20 miles. I took a different approach. The course consisted of roughly 10 miles of an outer loop and roughly 10 miles of an inner loop. The aid stations were spaced in a way that allowed me to run pretty light. I was able to place a dry bag as my singular drop bag at one of the aid stations (Lakeside AS) that we would essentially hit it every 10 miles. Due to my restrictive diet, I had to make sure I brought everything I would need in regards to nutrition.

My gear and nutrition approach was pretty simple and straight forward. I would use one UltrAspire handheld along with the Fitted Belt 2.0 to carry everything I would need for each 10 mile section. I carried 7 caffeinated Nuun electrolyte tablets in a tiny ziplock bag along with 30 SCaps, a chap stick, 2 dude wipes (ya never know), and my emergency medial kit (4 Benadryl tablets in case I got stung by yellow jackets to prevent anaphylaxis).  Every 10 miles, I would pick up one of the five nutrition bags I had prepared. Each contained 2 Spring energy gels and 1 ziplock bag with Silver Star Nutrition Vegan Endurance mix. I would shoot for one bottle of fluids per hour, alternating between one bottle with Nuun electrolytes followed by one bottle of Silver Star Nutrition Endurance mix the following hour. I would also consume one Spring energy gel every hour along with a couple of SCaps each our. This very personal nutrition schedule ensured that I would consume roughly 200-250 calories per hour. I would supplement this nutrition with half a banana here and there at aid stations. Later on, I would consume several cups of Coca Cola as that seems to always help me late in a race. This plan worked perfectly. I never bonked and I was still smiling at mile 42, proof is in the picture above:-) 

I may not have bonked, but that doesn't mean I didn't have serious struggles. Just as I was leaving the Lakeside AS at mile 42, my legs started to remind me in no uncertain terms that while my training may have prepared me to run 62 miles, it did not, however, prepare me to climb 15,000 gnarly feet and worse, descend 15,000 feet. My body was now reminding me of that fact in no uncertain terms and it would get worse with every step, especially on the descends. To be fair, I had expected it. I knew I would have to lean into it if I wanted to accomplish my goal of running the fastest time on this course. This is were the hard work begins and where your why becomes important. If it's not a strong why, whatever that may be for you the runner, then it is easy to just take the foot off the pedal and collect another finish or worse, quit altogether because it just hurts too much. If it's strong enough, you get to work. My why was strong enough on this day and I did lean into it. The payoff came as I crossed the finish line, exceeding even my own stretch goal by almost 45 minutes. Granted,m I couldnt walk straight for more than a week after as my quads were completely blown from the descents and my complete lack of vertical training, BUT I was able to run all day and I'd call that a huge success as I look ahead to a massive summer of ultras. Next up are a couple of final training races leading into my summer racing project, formerly known aka pre-COVID as Untamed Triple Crown or UTC1000, 1000 miles of racing in 14 weeks. However, I had to make some adjustments due to race cancellations, etc., but more about that and my summer training and logistical prep in a later post.

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