Our weekend agenda as of late has included one constant: trail running. And there have been a few nods to a “training” regimen, of sorts. And for once, these somewhat planned miles are not only leading somewhere other than an organized race, but also outside of the 26.2-mile range.
Scene of the brainstorm: an impromptu backpacking trip in Big Sur over the Fourth of July weekend, reminiscing the Zion adventure. There were a few people trail running, zooming right past us and our 30-lb-pack-shuffle. There was a sudden suggestion: what if we ran through Zion?
ALL of it? The whole 50 miles?
Or, maybe just the 38-mile section?
Something about that “shorter” version, that we’ve already done on foot, sounded oddly doable. There was some rationale that we could safely run ourselves from point A to point B via the Trans Zion Traverse. I have no idea where the part of my brain that thought “…we could totally do that” – up for an ultra-marathon – has been hiding, but all of sudden it was like I’M HERE! Let’s go!
We spent most of that overnight trip thinking about logistics, dates, training, food, trail heads, friends who may be up for it, and the epic post-run meal we’d have at Oscar’s. It became clear pretty quickly that we’re both onboard. Apparently there are a few things that are highly motivated by kick-ass sweet potato fries and a hoppy IPA.
The “training” begins: we started booking more trail races and scouting areas where we could actually start acting like “normal” trail-runners. Since we had survived two trail half-marathons in June, we went with the 25K option next. Big Basin was a beast of 15.5 miles, taking me a whopping 3 hours, but we made it through that, too. But alas, not every weekend should involve a race registration or 2-hours of driving. It was time to mature past the phase of needing ribbons, flags, aid stations, and finish-line treats.
We finally got a mix of both. Saturday took us to the local Fort Ord trail system to retrace our January steps for a 9-mile loop with plenty of climbing and the soundtrack of Laguna Seca’s racing. Sunday we signed up for a local event in Garland Ranch, because we’ve hiked there a few times but never thought to run it! The race was a 7.7 mile loop, which didn’t quite stack up to the mileage we probably need to start building at this point, so we did it twice. I now know that finishing a race with your “speedy” kick du jour, downing a small dixie cup of peanut M&Ms and two cups of Gatorade does not necessarily translate to “fueled for round 2!”, but we scraped by. We also know that there’s a lot to be said for hitting those trails early, before the August sun is wide awake.
The upcoming training adventure: Ragnar’s Tahoe Relay this weekend!
The thing is, even after seven dances with the marathon, I’ve never felt any pull towards the Ultra. Even after doing several trail races here in Northern California, where our 10-25km picks are always on the “short” end of the day’s options, I’ve had no sense of FOMO for the miles that lay beyond number 26. Yet there’s no part of me that’s nagging at this decision and trying to pull out the seams as they come together. Instead, I’m like: Cool, we’re doing this on our own terms in a ridiculously stunning national park and why the hell not?
I can’t promise we’ll get to the trailhead of Lee Pass in early November without scars, injuries, or temporarily broken-by-the-elevation-gain spirits, but I can assure you we’re pretty f-ing pumped to give it a try.