Running a 100 miler in March in California – what a delightful idea!
Back in October, as B and I talked ourselves into signing up for the Coyote Backbone Trail 100 Mile event, these are some snippets of conversation that we exchanged:
What a great way to enter into spring! An early season ultra!
It will be a way to escape those last throes of winter!
We’ll miss some of March’s 140+ mm rainfall at home.
March in California brings to mind daytime heat and perfect nighttime running temperatures.
H’ard puts on a great race. I’d love to be part of any event that he organizes.
I fantasize about having to wear shoe gaiters and having foot issues like dust between my toes.
It is a stretch to picture myself wearing shorts and a t-shirt after months of tights, wool and rain jackets.
I can almost taste those freshly-picked, straight-off-the-plant, local strawberries that will be available at every aid station.
And don’t forget about the avocados that ripen right along the trail!
The views will be awesome. There will be incredible views earned with every climb!
Do I even need to mention the Ray Miller trail? That amazing trail will lead us right to the finish line.
Buoyed by these visions, we each entered the race and ramped up our training.
But soon, the reality of training for an early season ultra hit us hard. Two factors quickly reared their ugly heads.
First – the dark. We live a dozen miles south of the 50th parallel. We are treated to long, long days in the summer where it is light enough to be busy outside without a light until after 10:00 pm. At that time of year, we also get used to the early light of the morning where our rooster begins crowing around 4:30 am and blackout curtains are required for sleep (and earplugs too!).
But, in the depths of winter, it is dark on the way to work at 8:00 am and dark on the drive home at 4:30 pm.
We have never really gotten used to the fact that weekends are the only time we get to enjoy seeing more than those next 10 ft of trail. Although running in the dark is possible, thanks to many lumens of flashlights and headlamps, it does sort of suck the joy out of it. I am constantly telling myself that I will rock the night section of this race since my entire training has been done in the dark.
Second – the wet. Here, on the Wet Coast of BC, we are awash in rain. It is wet all the time and sometimes it is very wet. But, on the upside for us running folks, you can train in the rain. If you can get yourself into the right head space, you can run probably 360 days of the year on dirt and take just 5 or 6 days off due to our two annual snowfalls.
To some, the idea of a snowfall might sound like fun but here, in our coastal paradise, it is no fun at all. To us, snow is what we call the stuff as it falls from the sky but, as soon as it hits the ground, its name changes to #%@! (I wish I knew the Inuit word for this #%@! kind of snow) It gets wet and heavy – sort of like wet concrete – and then, due to our typical near 0°C temperatures, it melts, freezes, re-melts and re-freezes, making it either slippery slurpee or blocks of solid, immovable ice.
This pattern continues until the next torrential rain storm finally washes the #%@ away. Usually this happens all within a 48 hour time frame. But not this year.
Just last weekend, early January’s dump of snow/ice/concrete finally disappeared and we were able to actually run 30 km on dirt. It was a low elevation run with only minor climbs but it was still a trail run! But today, as we dig ourselves out for the fourth time in two months and prepare for yet another ‘snow day’, I really wonder if it will be possible to run 100 miles after having trained in 10 km snippets with almost no hill work. Almost all our plans for long runs have been thwarted by weather.
This is the hard reality of being a non-professional ultra runner who works full-time (in a job that I love and for which I am very very thankful!). But right now, it feels like I have been tapering for this race for more than 3 months!
I heard a saying that goes something like ‘you can suffer through the training or you can suffer on race day‘. Although I can attest to having suffered already through my pitiful training, I know that race day will take it to a new level. You can’t fake it for 100 miles.
So, until then, over the next 4 weeks, I will be motivated by pure fear and that long list of delights that I mentioned above. I sure hope they have plenty of strawberries for me!