It’s August. We’re less than 10 days from the start of the Bigfoot 200 so it’s time to take a look at how peak month went.
I knew July was going to be a balancing act: I had not fully recovered from June’s Bighorn 100 yet we were planning to have a very high-mileage month.
Coming off of Bighorn, I allowed myself two weeks to recover. During those two weeks, I tried to focus on all things not running, and even fit in a small family vacation.
That is not to say that I did not run — in terms of active recovery, I was more successful following Bighorn than I have been after any other race. I kept the miles low and tried allow myself to mentally and physically recover.
After those two recovery weeks, Sara and I found the bulk of our miles during consecutive weekends running and camping in the mountains of Virginia.
The first weekend we ran two of our favorite loops out in the Shenandoahs: Buck Hallow and Jeremy’s Run. For both, we wore our packs heavy and tried to simulate long days with considerable climbs.
Day One went well; we crisscrosses Skyline Drive and enjoyed some amazing views. We chose to not take on Leading Ridge, rumored to be the steepest climb in Shenandoah, and instead focused on moving forward at a decent pace while working on getting good nutrition. For some reason, staying on top of my calories is always an issue during summer.
It was during Day Two that Sara ad I — admitted coffee addicts — learned the value of caffeine. We thought we could skip our usual buckets of coffee and load up post-run.
We thought wrong.
The first nine miles of our run we barley spoke and it was obvious neither of us were having any fun. Luckily, this course took us through the Elkwallow Wayside and we were able to get some junk calories, and most importantly some coffee. The caffeine worked its magic and I don’t think we stopped smiling or talking for the next 12 miles.
The Wild Oak Trail weekend
The next weekend … lets just start with saying our friend Katie Keier is amazing.
Sometime early that Thursday morning, Katie set out to become the first person to run seven loops of The Wild Oak Trail (TWOT) near Harrisonburg, Virginia. This 29-mile looped trail has more than 8,000 feet of elevation gain, which would net her more than 200 miles and 50,000 feet of gain.
Spoiler alert: Katie ran for more than 5 days and completed her epic journey early in the afternoon on Monday.
Sara and I planned to multitask the weekend, helping pace Katie while getting in some quality (and tough) Bigfoot training miles on the TWOT course.
We had the honor of pacing her on her third loop (almost 90 miles into her run), starting at around 4 p.m. that Friday and enjoyed her company until around 4 a.m. Saturday.
When we got back to camp, we took a short nap and went back out on trail for a second loop on our own. Our plan was to simulate Bigfoot weekend: Run all night, sleep a few hours, repeat. We managed to run this loop sleepy and on tired legs in about eight hours, finishing around 9 p.m.
But that run is where I found the wall.
Originally, we were going to do a third TWOT loop on Sunday morning; but mentally I was spent and Sara didn’t seem to be twisting my arm much to head back out on trail.
(I may have also bribed her with the promise of lunch at an amazing local BBQ joint if we left early.)
Skipping a third loop also meant getting home at a reasonable time to deal with our wet camping gear and relax a little before the work week started up again
In the end, we decided that the added recovery and life stress outweighed the training benefit of another 29-mile loop.
This was a smart move, because during the course of July I found my limits.
After we got back from TWOT, I think I fell asleep every time I laid down — no matter where I was.
Instead of pushing my limit — risking overtraining — and going into Bigfoot tired and achey, I opted to start my taper a week early.
It is better to go into a race rested than broken.
In July I ran 250 miles in 56 hours with a approximately 30,000 feet of elevation gain. Bigfoot….we are coming.