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Lessons From My (under)Training for a 250 mile race

Targeted Training

For two months I battled quad and IT band issues. After a last-person standing event win and two good months of training, my weekly mileage plummeted. I spent two months spending most of my disposable income at a chiropractor and physical therapist. My only goal was to arrive able to complete the Cocodona 250. I tried to walk daily, only on level ground, and did a number of bodyweight exercises and prescribed movements by the series of doctors I visited. It really wasn’t a confidence-building training block leading into one of my favorite races.

But, I do have a large volume in my background. At 31 years old I have over 30k miles under my belt, with most of them being on trail, and at a pace that would at the very least help me complete Cocodona under the cutoff… if I didn’t sleep. Two weeks before the race, I made the final decision to move ahead and show up at the start line. Nothing felt healthy, and I had not done many of the little things I like to practice before an FKT or an Ultra…

So I did them the week of the race.

Practicing the Basics

Night Running

I left Bozeman to the astonishment of many friends. I was actually attempting to run a 250-mile race with a long run of 7 miles leading up to the event. It was a bit crazy, and I was nervous, but I had made my decision and now I had to sharpen a few of the tools that would get me to the finish line. I drove about 10 hours from Bozeman down to Moab and parked on a dispersed road I have camped on before. It was midnight and time to sharpen the first of my tools: Night Running. I always like to have night miles, with a headlamp under my belt before a race, and this was my one chance.

I ran for over an hour, guided by the weakest headlamp I could see myself using for the race. It was just the practice of placing each foot, adjusting my eyes to running with artificial light, and becoming used to the feel of darkness. I really enjoy the night hours, but during a multiday race, this is when the weirdness really comes out. For me, that could mean just about anything. I planned to sleep very little, so nighttime comfort had to be supreme to overcome sleep deprivation and keep moving forward. I wrapped up my run and went to sleep. Stage one was done.

Heat Training

The next day I drove to northern Arizona and found ninety-degree weather in the afternoon. Here I set out on another hour run. It was not a fast run, but I needed to get my body used to the shock of heat. Montana winter was barely ending when I headed south and the exposure to a dry heat was paramount. In two days I did a couple more hour-long spurts to adjust to the different climate.

The dry heat has manifested in bloody noses, sun rash, and headaches in the past, and my goal was to get these out of the way before the race. A few extra days in the climate I would be racing would only help me on the long run. On these heat runs I would take no water and let my body slowly adjust to the dry air and biting heat itself. They were an hour-long, and in the race, I would have water the entire time and be able to quench my thirst a lot more readily.

Nutrition Training

The last major factor I wanted to practice before race day was nutrition. Having done only short runs to preserve fitness heading into Cocodona 250, I had no real experience in months of eating and running. During a three-day event, I would need to eat real food at aid stations and consume calories while moving. So three days before the event I had a two-hour run/power hike planned where I ate dinner immediately before leaving. I snacked and drank water during the workout and jostled my stomach enough to feel out the feeling. It was foreign.

So, the next day I did the same thing for a few hours. It was condensed training, but it sharped the skill and brought back the comfort of eating and running/hiking.

At the event:

I felt comfortable at night, and despite some stomach issues, I was able to consume calories and drink water for the entirety. I had one bloody nose, but it was short-lived. The last-minute training may have added very little to the actual success in the race, but it gave me the most important factor of all: Confidence.

The Takeaways

Practice the little things. If you are going to use poles in a race, use them in training. If the race is at night, run some at night. Run tired, and with a failing headlamp. Practice embracing these small things that can play a huge role in the success of a race, thru-hike, or an FKT. All points of adversity can be mitigated by attacking them head-on.

Training for Cocodona 250
Training for Cocodona 250

Race recap coming out next

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