In 10 days, the wheels roll north to Two Harbors and then Lutsen for Superior for my favorite running weekend of the year.
I am ready, despite my YTD mileage - which will be ~625 since May 1 as of race morning, which includes a pitiful June - being a good 150-175 miles short of where I would like it to be. But the long runs have given me confidence. I ran a solid slow-and-easy pair of loops at Afton ten days ago, coming in at 3:01 and 3:09 for a 6:10 solo 50K. Together with my 5:27 50K race at Afton, I have had 11 solid long runs this summer time, including one six-hour, 20-mile jaunt in the mountains of Breckridge, CO (Main Street elevation of 9,600', with peaks just under 13K).
I am changing up a couple of things from last year's race to better ensure a finish in these fickle things known as 100 milers. First, I am switching up my fueling to increase my caloric intake to something closer to a semi-arbitrary 300 calories per hour. I know that 200 calories of gels per hour, plus aid stations, is insufficient. And my stomach bailed on gels at Afton in the heat somewhere around mile 20, and so that gives me pause to not rely on them entirely. The plan will be to move to Clif Blocks, one every 10 minutes on a timer with gels taken every hour on the half-hour. Timing the gels will be easy because when there are three and zero blocks left in their six-pack tube, a gel goes in. That will get me to 300 calories per hour right there (blocks are 33 calories each; gels are 90-100), and that plus real food at aid stations with something to take with will put as much hay in the barn as possible on race day.
Second, I went to a beefier shoe after my feet were beaten into submission last year. As much as I love the New Balance 110's, they are really a racing flat designed for less rugged courses and shorter races. Although NB is re-tooling them into the 110v2's (and curiously NB has them listed on their website as "cushioning" shoes...), I went with the 1010v2's earlier in the year and have run all but one of my trail runs in them. Preliminary results are that there is a lot of cushioning and room to stretch as feel swell, and the the tread is designed to tackle most anything. My feet have not been sore after any of my long runs (only Afton and Breckridge had any real gnarliness to them - running at Elm Creek is more of a 10-mile track loop on compacted dirt with no hills steep enough to require a walk), and so I am confident in my ability to keep the soles of my feet intact to Lutsen. The race will hurt, no doubt - there are gaps in the lugs where something could hit my arch or the rockplate hard - but the suffered will be greatly minimized.
Third, my entire family is coming. This will exponentially increase the experience level of my crew, as my wife will he acting as Field Marshall to make things go smoothly. This will be her first time at Superior since 2009, my first ill-fated, inexperienced attempt at a 50 miler. My parents are coming up to watch the little guy, and one of my wife's best friends is coming to keep her company in the woods during this mad excursion. Pacing me on the overnight is a partner at my wife's office, a 3:05 marathoner who has run with me several times, is very talkative and easy going, and will be good company through the overnight. He is more than stoked to be pulling that shift, and was blown away simply by running a loop with me at Afton. Superior is on another level my friend - prepare to be amazed.
Fourth, this is my third go-around at this race while I seek a second buckle (and a new sweatshirt!). I know the trail well and am determined to play the experienced racer. I will go out calm and cool, keeping a steady pace throughout Friday while managing the afternoon heat for the first third, running as smoothly through the overnight for the second third, and pouring on the gas to push through the sunrise and on to Lutsen for the final third of the race. I'll minimize my time in aid stations to keep the downtime to a minimum. Mentally, I am much stronger and ready to grunt myself to the finish ahead of cutoffs, damn the time, than I have been in the past.
The goal? As always, I want to finish above all else. I would love to run 32-34 hours, and anything less than 30 hours would juts be amazing. I believe I am capable of such a time, but everything has to go right, weather included. Cool and calm, overcast, and a warm night. Come into Finland at about 10 PM and just hammer the overnight while not flagging dramatically in the morning. But I'd like to finish, to cheer and whoop and holler across the timing strips, the cathartic release palpable to all present. I'd take that.