I remember having the same feelings with my Ironman training. I remember looking ahead at the plans on that pinnacle week and thinking, "How in God's name will I ever be able to do a six hour bike ride and a 45 minute run on Saturday and then turn around and swim 4,300 yards and run for three hours on Sunday?" It seemed an impossibility, but the funny thing was that once I had completed all the training leading up to that week, it was a lot more reasonable than I had ever dreamed. I truly believe that my successful finish at my full Ironman race was due to all those hours I put into the training.
And while I could not look ahead at Coach Ed's plan because it was delivered week by week, I still knew that there would be some ridiculous, I mean fun, mile week where we would be pushed to the limits and beyond. I am honestly happy I didn't know about last weekend's miles, or it may have scared me to the point of dreading it's inevitable arrival. So when Coach Ed announced that last weekend was to be that pinnacle, I was resigned to the fact that I would need to do every mile in exactly the way he prescribed if I wanted to feel the same confidence I felt going into my Ironman race.
Saturday morning my running support team met me at 3am to complete Part 1 of our three part weekend challenge. We were tasked with getting 15 miles in early Saturday morning. My EC100 partner Gabby and I were so lucky to have our early morning running crew ready to support us for these first miles. We did a 7.5 mile out and back up a few steep hills, but then the way back is almost all downhill in return. This mileage and start time was not unusual for us, but what was unusual was that later Saturday night, a 9 pm start, we had to complete another 25 miles. And for Gabby and I (and a bunch of other running crazies), it was a SUPER hilly 27.5 mile jaunt from Long Beach to Palos Verdes as we practiced Leg 3 of our 100-mile course. Gabby and I were surprised at how strong we were for those miles after running so many miles that same morning.
One thing that happened during this leg of the race was that I actually hit a wall at mile 15. I had never really experienced the wall to that degree in previous trainings, and I was thankful to have that happen at least once before race day. I felt like a cloud had descended over me. I felt a little sad, my stomach was upset, and I just didn't feel like myself. I was checking my Garmin every minute or so wondering why the miles were dragging by. I was thankful that from miles 15-20 I found two new people to talk to that not only helped me break through the wall, but I flew through those five miles from 15-20 without even realizing I had run that far. I learned that walls happen, but I need to not listen to that voice that wants to give in because the other side of the wall is pride in how truly strong we have all become through this process!
Now Part 3 was a huge challenge. Ed tasked us with completing a final 10 miles (I was shooting for 7.5 since we did extra miles on Saturday night's run) Sunday morning while we were still exhausted from Saturday's 40+ mile push. Originally I had planned to run a small half-marathon with Coach, but I was so tired that I really need a couple hours of sleep before tackling these final miles. I knew it was a risk. I might not get up again, but I listened to what my body was telling me and I rested for 2-3 hours. At 10:30am I woke up and checked the temperature. It was already 87 degrees and if I didn't do those final miles ASAP, I was going to be starting the miles at almost 100 degrees. I popped up, reluctantly got dressed, and tried to find the shadiest route possible. I found a little one mile loop that had about a quarter-mile of shade through a grove of trees, but the rest was full sun. I did eight hot loops, and was so hot when I reached home that I removed my shoes and socks and then jumped right into my pool fully clothed. I was so overheated that I knew I had to cool my body temperature to feel better. As I kept dunking my head under the water I was once again baffled and amazed by how Ed, or anyone else for that matter, can handle the heat at the Badwater Ultra marathon. Less than two hours in that 97 degree heat and I was practically done for the day.
In reality, I did recover quicker than I thought I would, and then the realization hit me. I had survived the pinnacle of the ultra marathon training plan. I did it! I had completed 50 miles in a little over 26 hours, and I was still walking and talking. In fact, the next day I was still able to put in a few slow miles for my friend Leslie's birthday. I still can't believe how far I have come in 5 months of training. I know that race day at the EC100 is not going to be easy, but I know in my heart that I have done EVERYTHING I could to prepare for this race! I put in the miles, I have raced in different conditions, and run at various times during the day including middle of the night. I have worked on the mental side as well as the physical side. I have prepared to the best of my ability, and come what may on race day I know that I am as prepared as I can possibly be!