I stole a run this morning before another cold rain set in. Yesterday I went out at midday to the “Salt Trail,” a new rails-to-trail that starts in Glade Spring. It’s only a few miles from my house, so I head over there regularly. On a nice day I might see 2 or 3 other folks walking, jogging, or biking. With a steady rain and the temperature at 39 degrees I had the trail to myself. The trail runs to Saltville, which sits 400 feet lower than Glade Spring. So the course sets up as an out and back – gentle down on the way out and gentle up on the way back. I’d prefer to climb first while I’m fresh, but it’s not worth the extra driving. What I do instead is use the out section to get my legs moving. After the first 15 minutes I run 1 minute fast every 3 minutes. The gentle slope makes it feel easy. When I turn around at 30 minutes I’ve gotten 5 of these “striders” in and it’s time to go to work. On the way back I keep the tempo up continuously. The slight uphill makes me work, even though the turnover feels slow compared to my strides from the way out. I finish in 57 minutes, feeling little worse for wear.
So what? Here’s why yesterday’s run was remarkable:
• A couple of months ago I was laid up from hernia surgery and retired from running.
• The weather doesn’t get much worse for running – and I loved it.
• This past Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were the toughest running days I’ve had since I started back.
• During the run I set my goal for this year: to run, and win, four 100 mile races.
The 100 mile race has remained enigmatic to me – and I want to lay it open. Most years since I started running ultras I have entered one 100 mile race each summer. While psychologically manageable, this hasn’t worked as a strategy for optimal performance at that distance. This year I want to focus on 100s. Knowing that I have to manage training for 4 races instead of 1 will affect how I prepare. Each event is not only an end unto itself but also a trial and a stepping stone; a trial because I can still make adjustments; a stepping stone because I have to get through each one in order to reach my goal.
I’m not doing the “Grand Slam” of ultrarunning, or even the “Eastern Slam.” The growth of our sport has created an odd disparity between a few hyper-popular events and many under-utilized venues. So rather than rack my brain, adjust my schedule, and rob my wallet to get into the “biggies,” I’ll drive to events directed by good people and run through awesome countryside. I’ll just call it “Eric’s Slam.”
Eric’s Slam, 2011
June 4, Old Dominion
July 30, Burning River
October 8, Grindstone
November 5, Ozark Trail