The Calm Before The Storm

A discussion about the ‘calm before the storm,’ that period of calm readiness that occurs before the ‘storm’ of a goal race.

By on June 13, 2014 | Comments

AJWs Taproom

The week between 23 days and 16 days out from Western States is always a bit tricky for me. While it is certainly time to begin cutting back miles and stocking up on energy, I have always also felt that it is a good time to make those final preparations in fitness and execution that can make the difference between success and failure on race day.

As such, I spent much of this last week calibrating my workouts to address the issues that are lingering in my mind and body. In many ways, this week’s training schedule has mirrored my mind’s need for reassurance and, in so doing, provided one last jolt of confidence:

Saturday, June 7 – 28 miles. Shenandoah National Park with Marc Griffin.

The penultimate long run run of this cycle. The goal for today’s run was simple: hike the ups, jog the flats, hammer the downs. I chose the course with the canyons transitions in mind to remind my body how important it is to flow quickly and smoothly from going down to going up and vice versa at Western States. As a whole, I felt pleased with the outcome of this run and recovered with very little angst.

Sunday, June 8 – 12 miles. I knew this run was going to suck from the first few strides out of the parking lot. I was joined by John Andersen and Jason Farr and the idea of this run was to wait to start until the heat came up and then attempt to run a tempo-ish pace along the rolling dirt roads of Albemarle County in a pace about a minute or so faster than my typical, all-day 100-mile pace. Unfortunately, the weather gods had other plans for this day as the humidity turned out to be oppressive. The 12-mile tempo turned into a 12-mile death slog leaving me depleted and starving. In other words, it was great 100-mile training!

Monday, June 9 – 3 miles. One of the things I have added to my training over the past three years is a Monday ‘Tempo Walk’ during the last three weeks. These walks are usually about 40 minutes long, are scheduled during the hottest parts of the day, and are completed in a full bank-robber suit. If you are not sure what that is, imagine layering up with black tights, a tight-fitting wool long-underwear shirt, a cotton sweatshirt with a hood, gloves, and a hat and going out for a 40-minute walk in 95-degree heat. That was today’s exercise. And, believe it or not, it actually felt better than yesterday’s!

Tuesday, June 10 – 7 miles. I woke up early and got back to the normal June routine. The plan was to run a relaxed road 7 miler from the house with the goal of keeping my heart rate down below 65% and running sub-8 minute miles. This was one of those runs that makes me truly believe in the value of accrued fitness, not just over weeks and months, but over years. Today’s run was one of those rare times when a run feels more like a stroll in the park. Effort was minimal, environmental concerns non-existent, and energy level sky high. If the race was tomorrow I am pretty sure I would win. :) Like the cyclists say, “No chain!”

Wednesday, June 11 – 9 miles tempo after 3 miles warm up. Of the many pre-WS100 rituals I have, one of my favorites is the Titus Van Rijn One Hour Footrace (TVR). This intentionally de-centralized event, facilitated by my friend and pacer Andy Lee Roth, is a one-hour run on a local track taking place anytime between May Day (May 1) and Flag Day (June 14).

I thought that, this year, it would be fun to organize a group run for TVR so I sent out an invite and, despite torrential rain, frightening lightning, and rabid skunks around turn two, 12 people showed up. I managed to achieve my goal of just over 14,000 meters in the hour (14,083 to be exact) and felt a nice boost of confidence about the fact that I haven’t completely lost all the foot speed I might have accumulated over the years.

Thursday, June 12 – 5 miles. Today’s run was intended to be my first true taper run. Smooth road running, heart rate in the 60%-effort range, and no exertion to speak of. Only thing unusual about it was that I ran, intentionally, with wet feet, my bank robber suit, and an empty stomach. Mental training more than anything.

I am off for one final long run on Saturday in West Virginia at Highlands Sky. By all accounts it is a great Western States trainer and will be my first ultra in West Virginia. It will also be the first time my sons Carson and Logan will crew me without their mother as Carson now has his driver’s license and my wife Shelly is taking Tully to a lacrosse tournament in Virginia Beach. Should be fun!

Until next week!

Bottoms up!

Epic Hopulent IPA sq AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Epic Brewing Company in Salt Lake City, Utah. Earlier this week I had a taste of Epic’s Hopulent Double IPA and it was incredible. It was poured on nitro and the head was amazingly creamy and smooth. While it was not quite up the standard of Heady Topper or Pliny the Elder, it was pretty darn close.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

Who else is in the ‘calm before the storm,’ the third-to-last week before your goal race? What have your workouts looked like this week? What’s your mental status?

Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.