Desert Rats Stage Race. Sound familiar? It should. If I had a dollar for every event I declared on this blog I was going to do, but ended up NOT doing for a myriad of reasons, I would have enough money to buy myself a registration to yet another event I may or may not do. Hey, what can I say: I dream big. Kind of like that saying “her eyes were bigger than her stomach” when you order far more food at a restaurant than you could possibly eat, my heart is bigger than my calendar – or bank account – when it comes to racing.
Now let’s talk about Gemini Adventures Desert Rats stage race. Last year I had the amazing opportunity to attend the 6 day Desert Rats Kokopelli 150 stage race in Colorado. But unfortunately, my body had other ideas, and when my intestines blew through my abdominal wall at Knock on Wood, I knew my next stop was the surgeons table, and NOT Grand Junction, Colorado.
I was pissed. I was upset. And for a minute I was actually a huge baby about it, and gave unnecessary attitude (in the form of a cold shoulder) to a friend who WAS able to go to the event. I was jealous. But eventually I got over it, and let that dream of
suffering running through the desert for 150 miles go. And I forgot about it…until an email showed up in my inbox this past fall with the offer of a second chance.
I love second chances.
And so without hesitation, I said yes, bound and determined to let nothing stop me from getting out there this year. I’m taking on odd jobs, and even monetized this beloved blog of mine once again (did you notice the ads? Hopefully they aren’t too distracting) to ensure I get my ass out there, zero excuses, this year.
“Adulting” stuff aside, let’s talk about training. A week of running in the desert is no small feat. Looking at the 2017 results is incredibly intimidating, with almost everyone logging a “DNF” or a “DNS” on at least one of the stages. In fact, my aforementioned friend (after I apologized for being a total unsupportive, selfish jerk) described in detail how the 2017 event knocked her down and dragged her through the sand, barely scraping by with an official finish. And this girl? She is a legitimate badass, in fact she worked as an Alaska State Trooper for decades. I like to picture her laughing off grizzly and polar bears with a wave of her hand. I, on the other hand, whined the other day because the texturing on the metal of the pull-up bar at the gym was “too spiky”, and hurt my delicate little palms as I simply tried to hang there.
Point being: I’ve got some serious work to do. Here’s how I’m going to do it.
General training plans for the 2018 Desert Rats Stage Race:
1. Continued Strength Training.
I, of all people, know how important strength training is for runners. I practically have it tattooed on my forehead, with the amount of lecturing I do to fellow runners. Buuuutttt sometimes even I let the strength training slip. I mean, let’s face it: ultra marathon training is exhausting and time consuming. It’s easy to cut corners.
Pretty much all of last year, Geoff and I “went through the motions” at the gym. We showed up, at least 3 times a week, and followed some sort of plan one of us had in our heads (perks and pitfalls of both being personal trainers). But we always had some sort of excuse as to why our lifts were never very heavy, and why we practically avoided leg day all together. It was always “too close” to a race, and we wanted to “save our glycogen stores”.
The past two months I’ve been in the weight room at least 5 days a week (if not 6) and I’ve been lifting with purpose (currently in a hypertrophy phase). I feel fantastic, I feel strong, and it certainly carries over to my running. Ladies and gentlemen, if you aren’t incorporating a regular strength training routine into your running schedule, you are selling yourself short.
(Oops, soapbox. Sorry.)
I feel ridiculous saying this, but even after just a month of 2-3 yoga classes a week, I feel incredible. Dare I say it’s been life changing (I know, I know.) I’ll write an entire post on this in the future, but in short: despite the fact that I find a way to fall in every class (even seated floor yoga) this new yoga practice has not only helped me focus on my physical weaknesses, but it’s teaching me to put my competitive, stubborn ego in check. It’s teaching me forgiveness and grace. And it’s stretching my hamstrings, every runner’s dream come true. I’ll need to be able to tap into all of that (specifically squashing the ego and learning and learning to relax) while suffering in the desert.
Other than a few ridiculous (and I mean ridiculous and in retrospect, unnecessary…but aren’t they all?) races thrown in there, I’ve effectively taken three and a half months off from regular training. It went from necessary, to frustrating, to a huge relief. I needed the break, physically and mentally (but mostly physically).
But now, it’s time to get back.
The Desert Rats stage race covers approximately 143 miles over 6 days (though one day is a “rest” day), in daily intervals of 20, 39, 9, 43, and 26.2 miles respectively. This is going to require solid endurance and strong legs that are able to not only recover quickly, but know how to keep moving forward under exhausted conditions.
I won’t lie, with a handful of other (likely unnecessary) races on my calendar, it’s hard for me to grit my teeth and focus on the end goal (Desert Rats Stage Race) rather than simply choose the longest distance offered at each interem event and run my heart out (as I tend to do). Thankfully, I have a coach (a.k.a. my husband) who is writing training plans for me to keep me on track.
4. Heat Training
Fortunately, I live in the swamp otherwise known as coastal South Carolina. Despite the fact that there was frost on my windshield this morning, the insufferable heat and humidity is no doubt on it’s way. When training for the TransRockies Run in 2016, Geoff and I purposefully ran mid day to learn to push through the suffering. Which in retrospect is pretty hilarious, because it was freezing cold 90% of the time. But the suffering factor helped us learn how to push through the difficulties we would feel when racing at altitude, something we otherwise have no way to train for here at sea level. Which brings us to…
I wrote an article about how we pulled altitude training off (sort of) for the TransRockies Run over on Adventure Medical Kits blog. And actually, to be 100% honest with you, I have no idea what the elevation gain and loss is, nor what altitude we will max out at for this race. But again, I live at sea level, and I’m going to Colorado. I’m going to prepare for the worst.
So, incase you were wondering what was going to bring me out of my running retirement, as well as what I’ll be up to this spring, here it is: I’m training for the 2018 Gemini Adventures Desert Rats Stage Race. And now that I’ve said it out loud, it finally feels real.