rabbitELITEtrail racer and Santa Barbara, California resident Wes Judd didn't just complete his first 100 miler in style, he competed - moving up throughout the day at the San Diego 100 and eventually finishing in the top five. In Part 1 of this series written by Wes, a freelance writer by trade, he breaks down his training leading up to the big day earlier this month.
In the six months leading up to the San Diego 100, my first race at that distance, I ran more consistently and in higher volumes than ever before. The prospect of running 100 miles is daunting to say the least, and there are so many uncontrollable factors come race day. What I could control, however, was my preparation. I resolved to make the most of it.
In those preceding six months, I was both patient and consistent in my build up. With guidance from my coach Mike Wolfe atThe Mountain Project, I slowly increased both intensity and volume. I was also in the gym once a week, and, in the two months before the race, was spending 30-45 minutes in the sauna every second or third day. San Diego is often described as a “sneaky hard” race—a course that isn’t necessarily the biggest, baddest, nor steepest, but with hot and dry conditions, constant exposure, moderate altitude (the whole race is run between 4,000-6,000 feet), and long climbs in oven-like canyons on mostly technical, rocky trails, the course has a way of beating you down. I wasn’t going to underestimate the challenge.
It wasn’t long until I felt as fit as I ever had. In March, I raced Ruck a Chuck 50K and set a PR, and did the same thing at the 50 mile distance when I ran Leona Divide one month later. About one month before San Diego, I strung together two back-to-back 100-mile weeks, a first for me. Something I learned is that training to this level, with the burden of quantity, takes a lot of time, especially if you’re figuring out how to do this for the first time. If nothing else, 100 mile training taught me to become as expert time manager.
Wes smiling to a 4th place at Leona Divide
Training was going well—exceptionally well—up until the second 100-mile week, which ended almost exactly one month before SD100. That following week, the legs felt acutely sore—not injured, but a sharper and more cutting soreness than I usually get from big weeks. In addition, I felt as if I had lost my upper edge. Running anything faster than an eight minute mile felt very difficult. Not impossible, but much harder than it should have been, or than it was just a few months prior in training, when sub-seven minute miles were effortless. I honestly felt like I had overtrained myself. My suspicions were confirmed, or at least heightened, when I caught a debilitating stomach bug on the Friday night of that week, three weeks out from SD. In the course of four hours, I went from feeling a little unwell to having a fever and not being able to travel very far away from the toilet. It’s been years since I had a fever, and I forgot how awful that sensation is. I actually sweat through my sheets and all the way to my mattress on that second night. I was in rough shape.
Despite that, I wasn’ttooworried. It sucked, and of course I would have preferred to feel good, but it forced me to rest. If I hadn’t been couch-locked, I would have tried to run the Born to Run 50K in Los Olivos as a last big effort before San Diego. I know I would have also tried to run it quickly, perhaps even keeping up with rabbitPRO Kris Brown for as long as I could. (Likely not that long.) The sickness could have been a blessing in disguise.
Training in the Santa Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara
It took me a full two weeks to feel like myself again, despite being over the bug. This intensified my worry that I had overtrained. In those two weeks, I felt a deep exhaustion—not the kind that comes after a hard workout, but a sort of unshakable lethargy and fatigue—and I couldn’t push any of my runs faster than a recovery pace. This worried me, but not as much as I think it could have. I was actually quite impressed and surprised with my ability to retain perspective on the situation and remain analytical, and thus optimistic, about the state of my fitness: I was about to run 100 miles. Of course I was going to feel tired. I had just spent the better part of six months beating the hell out of my body, trying to turn it into the most durable version of itself. This was the depths of thestress + rest = growth equation, of super compensation. I wasn’t about to race a fast race, and although the loss of my upper end did worry me—I’ve always equated ease and speed with fitness—I knew those weren’t the tools I would need in this race. I needed endurance and durability. As I got closer to the race, I became more convinced that I had—or, more accurately, my coach had—timed this well. I was going to come out of this funk and, ideally, super compensate just in time for the race.