Friday, March 16, 2018

Eastern States 100 Group Training Run

Looks a little different in March than it did in August.

It’s pretty rare that I write a blog post about anything other than a race. It’s even more rare that I write a blog post about a training run. I almost exclusively only carve out the time to write a post when I am ready to put together a race report. The fact that I had the drive and felt the need to begin writing this post suggests to me that this past weekend of back to back long training runs must have been special or at least far enough out of my normal routine to cause me to reflect on them this week. It wasn’t the first time that I’ve done long (25ish mile) back to back training runs in a single weekend so it wasn’t the consecutive long days that made these training runs feel any more notable than other big training weekends. It was two other aspects of these runs that are causing me to reminisce on them with more joy than they they would probably bring most others. The two characteristics that made these training days noteworthy to me were the specific routes I ran and the groups that I ran them with.

An early climb from the first day.
The routes I ran this past weekend were significant to me because over the course of the two days I covered the second half of the Eastern States 100 course. Day one we ran from the Halfway House AS to the Blackwell AS. Day two we ran from the Blackwell AS to the ES100 finish and then about a mile beyond to the campground visitor parking lot (a somewhat cruel joke thanks to a certain Runhole). Although I’ve thought about the ES100 course extensively and replayed my experience there many times over, I hadn’t seen the course in person since running the race in August. Surprisingly, for as often as I relived that race in my mind, much of the course looked completely new to me. A few areas began to rekindle some memories:  the water only AS that was anything but a water only AS where I loaded up on perogies, the hemlock woods just before the final aid station, the crazy final descent just before the finish where it felt like my legs wouldn’t be able to stop me from just tumbling down the loose rock. But for the majority of the 50 or so miles, I had very little recollection of it. Of course there is a great explanation for this; for much of the time I spent running the second half of the course during the race the only light I had was my headlamp. Even so, I expected to recognize more of the trail or for it to at least feel more familiar than it did.

The finishing point of day one.
The second aspect of the training runs this past week that made them out of the ordinary was the fact that I met up and ran with a group of runners both days. To some runners this isn’t an oddity, but since I’d estimate that well over 90% of my training miles are run solo it was a big change for me. Especially considering the size of the groups. I didn’t do a count both days, but I’d guess we had a group of about 15 on Saturday and around 12 on Sunday. The groups between the two days weren’t completely unique, but other than myself and about four others who ran both days they were. It was a great chance for me to run some long miles with some company for a change.

We had a bit more sun on day two.
So this long training weekend stressed two lessons upon me:  the second half of the Eastern States 100 course wasn’t nearly as bad as my memory of it and that group running is important, maybe more important than I like to admit. Running the second half of the course on fresh legs was a huge confidence booster, especially this early in my training build up. Nearly all of my memories of the second half of the course before this weekend focused on how exhausted I was, how much I hurt, and how difficult the terrain was. I’d like to think that having now run it at a comfortable pace during back to back long runs I’ll be better prepared to face it again come race day when my legs have already endured 50 some miles of abuse. And the second lesson that I went home with was a greater appreciation for group training runs. Everyone has a busy life. I’m a father of two young boys that works full time so I’m no exception. I manage to train for ultras by running when I have time. By doing so, it makes scheduling group runs difficult because I’m asking others to accommodate my schedule. Therefore, I train when a few free hours present themselves. However, after this weekend of running with a fun couple of groups, most of whom I hadn’t met before, I feel like group running should have a place in my training regimen. So another running goal for me this year is to put forth a greater effort to make group runs happen and to partake in them when they appear.

A part of the group from day one.

Scott Snell
March 16, 2018

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