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The Tahoe Rim Trail 50 miler is almost here. And I feel really different going into it this year.

My running throughout the spring and early summer has been inconsistent, to say the least. I lost a lot of time dealing with foot pain, and really didn’t do any long runs. (And I suspect that if there’s one thing a person really SHOULD be doing before an ultra, it’s long runs). Instead, I was limited to runs up to around 10-12 miles, with those runs spread out a bit over the calendar. I did get in a nice training run at the Run Through Time Marathon, but it seems like that was forever ago.

It’s interesting comparing my current mindset to the mindset I had just before the 2012 event. Two years ago I had a bigger build up in terms of physical training, I did a lot more planning in terms of splits and pacing and other race day scenarios, and I had a much greater mental and emotional focus on the event. And despite all that — or perhaps because of it) — I burnt myself out in the first half of the race and had a pretty rough struggle through to the finish.

This year, I know I’m probably not entirely “ready” for the 50 mile run, although I’m not entirely sure what it means to be ready. And perhaps I still don’t know myself well enough to make any reliable determination of “readiness,” however it’s defined. I certainly thought I was ready in 2012, but that turned out not to be the case.

So this year I’m embracing the notion of just going with the flow. I’m hoping to have an enjoyable and inspirational time out on the trail, and if it takes me all day then that just means that I’ve had more time to experience the beauty of the surroundings.

In order to try to keep myself wound down a bit, here’s my approach:

  • I’m definitely not wearing my GPS watch. It’s too much of a distraction to me, as well as a constant and unwanted reminder of how slow I’m moving.
  • I’m probably not even going to wear a non-GPS watch. But I am tempted to wear a heart rate monitor (a simple Soleus Flash that I got cheap on the Clymb) so that I can have an objective way to keep myself in check over the couple hours. I’d just be sure to keep the display set on “Heart Rate” and never switch it to the “Time” display.
  • I have no target splits or pace goals. I’m just going to try to keep the first half of the run easy and relaxed, so that I have enough left in the tank to keep moving forward during the second half (at a pace faster than walking).
  • I’m probably going to freestyle it when it comes to fueling. I’ll make sure I keep a few hundred calories in my pack to get me to the next aid station, but I’m not going to plan out what and how much and when I eat throughout the day. My past nutrition plans have always been forgotten or rejected at prior races, so why spend the mental energy to try to figure it out beforehand? Instead my approach will simply be to eat at every aid station, eat whatever sounds good at that moment, and eat a little more than I think I should.
  • I’m simplifying my drop bags. I’ll put a headlamp and clean socks in my Tunnel Creek bag, and probably also a pair of shoes just in case my Altra Olympus aren’t quite up for the full 50 miles (something about the feel of them has given me doubts recently). But I’m not going to go crazy by adding tons of extra gear and supplies and gels and drinks and other stuff. The more I have in my bag, the more I have to spend time sorting through it whenever I stop, and the more mental energy I spend trying to decide whether I need something, or why I packed it in the first place.
  • I’m foregoing the crew. Even though my wife met me at Incline Village in 2012 (and it was great to see her then), I’ve never really liked the idea of crews, particularly on a race course that’s as well supported as this one. I’d rather she be out doing something besides just waiting for or worrying about me (even if she’ll still be worried about me while she’s out doing that other thing). This year, she’s going to be spending the day at Sand Harbor with our daughter, and I’m much happier knowing that. Even better, there’s shuttle service from Carson City to the start line on race morning, so she doesn’t have to hassle with the parking inconveniences and the time suck of getting me off and running.

I suppose the common thread throughout all of those bullet points is trying to simplify so that I’m just running. I know the event is a race,  but I think I’ll have a much more enjoyable day by taking the race-i-ness out of it.