With the North Face 50 done, I turned to training for the Sardona Ultra in Switzerland. I recovered pretty quickly in part because my stomach slowed me down during the race. I was able to start running again right away and was back in full swing in 1.5 weeks. This gave me a bit over 2 months to get ready for Sardona.
This race is going to be a different beast than anything I have ever done. It racks up 20,000 feet of climbing in 53 miles. That is as much or more climbing than many of the mountain 100s out west (e.g. Western States) in half the distance! Now mind you I live in a relatively flat city. The Shenandoahs are 1.5 hours away but don’t exactly offer the same kind of steepness and terrain as the Alps. How am I going to train for this, you ask? Well that is an excellent question!
Since I don’t exactly have facemelting climbs in my backyard, the treadmill has been a big part of it. I’m lucky to have a nice Nordic Track treadmill at home that can handle a 15% incline. I’ve been regularly adding on a few miles at 15% at the end of a run and also doing a 1 hour sustained effort once or twice a week. I’ve gotten to the point where I can run at 5mph for an hour at 15%, which racks up over 3,800 feet of climbing in just an hour. Aside from sweating more than any human being should and possibly making it so no one else can ever enter our workout room, it’s going great! It has made me much stronger and much better on the climbs as well as generally more fit.
I am running the hilliest routes I can find around home, and as far as real mountains I had a fantastic time going out to the Shenandoahs for the VHTRC’s annual 4th of July run with the Browntown loop. I did an extended version and covered 25 miles with over 5K of climbing. I pushed the pace hard the whole way (especially on the downhills) and felt very strong. Even better Dylan happened to be nearby and came out for the run! It was awesome to see him as always. I’m planning to get back to the mountains several more times before Switzerland since the treadmill isn’t quite the same as real trail running (and mountains are awesome). I’m already planning some diabolically steep routes out there.
The last thing I have been doing is starting to run more with my pack. I will have a lot of mandatory gear and at best my loaded pack will weigh in at 15 pounds. While that is relatively light, I still need to be ready to run with that weight and used to carrying it. I started with a mostly empty pack and am starting to slowly add in the gear I will need to have.
So where has all of this left me? I am running 70 miles a week (which I am pretty used to) and getting 10-15K of climbing each week (which I am definitely not used to). I am super hungry all the time and pretty tired, but I feel like I am getting fit and strong really fast. It is amazing how much tougher 70 miles can be when I am also doing 15K of climbing, but I guess that is the point right? Lots of my runs have also been in brutal heat, later at night, and generally not at optimal times and in pretty tough conditions. In other words my 10 month old son has kindly been planning his nap times and bed times to make me even tough and stronger. He’s always looking out for me.
Next week will be a much needed down week before the final 3 weeks of big training before I taper. So who knows what this race will bring, but I think I am doing everything I can so far and preparing pretty well. Can’t wait to actually get out there!