My mid-morning trail run yielded some pretty impressive wildlife sightings. I was jealous last week when Stephen, Ian and Chuck went for a long run and got a good look at a hawk and heard it screeching. Today I got my turn, as I ran into an area of the woods that had been clear-cutted a few months ago, and got a very good look at a red-shouldered hawk as it took off and perched on a tree on the edge of the clearing. As it did so, it screeched a few times. Really cool to see and hear.
I also saw a deer. Wish I would have kept count of how many I've seen in the past month. It'd be at least a few dozen.
Run itself went quite well. The effects of the taper are being felt in that my speed on the trails is increasing without me realizing it until after I look at the data from the Garmin. Was pretty surprised at today's pace given the technicality of the trails and slowing down to see the hawk and not hitting the stop button.
Ran 5.3 miles @ 8:47/mile pace.
Trails, some fire roads.
Upper 60s, partly cloudy.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.
So, the taper is obviously going well. I am feeling very ready for Western States. In fact, it consumes every period of free thinking I have. The biggest source of "stress" is that if I'm having a good day, I think I have a decent chance at breaking 24 hours. There are times when I'm sure I can do it, and times where I doubt I'll be able to.
I'll list a few of the reasons below to document what's going on inside my head. I hope the "Why I think I can" doesn't sound boastful. It's seriously not my intention. I'm merely just jotting down the analytical process of my approach to the situation.
Why I think I can break 24 hours:
1) I typically finish in the top 25% in ultras. This would put me under 24 hours based on previous results, even during years when the weather was bad. Even with a field that is more stacked at Western States, the math still says I can do it even when taking that into account.
2) I ran the Vermont 100 last year in 22:09:55 three months after knee surgery and missing a lot of training. While the WS course is obviously harder, I'm much better conditioned now compared to then.
3) I'm better conditioned because I've had a pretty decent training period for the past half year, with several great long runs where I've felt strong. I've also focused on my downhill running and have improved my strength and technique, which should bode well for the 23,000 feet of elevation loss.
Why I think I might not be able to break 24 hours:
1) I know of several other runners who have run the VT100 faster than I, but still failed to break 24 hours at WS.
2) If you follow the equation that basically states that Western States is 16% harder than the Vermont 100, my finishing time at Western States would be around 25 1/2 hours. This is consistent with the times mentioned of the runners I've analyzed in the above point.
I can counter the two "why I think I might not be able to" points with that a lot of those runners ran the VT100 when it was a few miles shorter (they made it a true 100 miles last year, apparently after finding out it was two-point-something miles under the mark). And it also doesn't take into account that I didn't go into the VT100 as well trained as I could have been because of the injury.
So, this is obviously a lot of back and forth going on inside me noggin. You know what though? It really doesn't matter much. The only real control I have over the situation is running my best and doing it smart. That means staying hydrated, eating right, keeping the pace steady and keep moving forward. Above all else, I do realize this. So I'm looking forward to getting out there and giving it my best. That's all I can really do.