It’s one of the ultimate endurance tests on the planet. The Western States 100 is the ultra race they all want to do -a 100-mile classic steeped in history and prestige. Tomorrow our Aussie athlete Brendan Davies will fulfil a lifelong dream when he toes the start line in Squaw Valley, California. In his latest inov-8 blog, Brendan looks ahead to the race and his attempts to get his hands on a prized WSR100 finisher’s belt buckle.
It seems a bit surreal sitting here in my accommodation at Lake Tahoe knowing that come Sunday the event that has taken up so much of my time, mental space and energy will be done and dusted.
Whatever my result at the Western States Endurance Run 100 (course details), I will know that I did everything I could to get to the start line in the best possible shape, with the best headspace and as well prepared as I could ever be.
What about the race itself? I can’t really say anymore about this race that hasn’t already been written, and instead of rehashing I really encourage everyone to read part 1 and part 2 of the Western States Killing Machine; an excellent article about the race by previous top-10 runner Joe Uhan that was featured on iRunFar.
But personally, I think this course suits me like no other big ultra that I’ve been part of. This is a runner’s ultra, not so much a climbers or a power hikers ultra. Sure, there are lots of big climbs, tricky trail and of course the potentially hazardous environmental conditions. But on the whole, it’s fast. Give me this type of course any day!
I’ve been here in the States a couple of weeks and have run a lot of the course. All I can say is that I’m so, so impressed by the trail, the country the trail runs through (the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range) and the spectacular scenery.
The race is no doubt a special event over here in California. You can see that the local towns on the course, all the volunteers at the aid stations and the local agencies really get behind this race in a united way to bring the best possible event for all involved. No wonder this race is on so many people’s bucket list. It’s the grandaddy of ultras in the US and a race that is steeped in history.
I’m very fortunate to be here, and I haven’t taken anything for granted this year. I’ve stuck to my guns and my training plan and now I feel like it’s all come together.
Training has gone great. It’s been a big build up since February. I went into a bit more about my training in this interview with Ultra 168.
But in summary, here are a few things that I’ve done a bit differently in this build-up.
* Focused a lot more on periodising my training rather than the usual mixture of speed, strength, trail, roads and treadmill that I have usually done altogether, week in week out in the past.Had key races as deliberate performance markers of my training phases. These were to give me by far the best feedback possible. Nothing beats racing to inform you where you’re at and what is working or not in training.
* Heat and altitude acclimatisation sessions at home on the treadmill and in the altitude chamber at Valley Fitness. This has included layering up in thermals and blasting the heaters or reverse cycle air conditioning!
* Lots more road running, especially in the sharpening phase, which also included a lot of downhill running to enable quadriceps conditioning for the downhill nature of the race.
* Course familiarisation in the two weeks leading up to the event for heat acclimatisation and race pacing purposes. This also included my taper in the week preceding, which included a lot of hiking and hanging out in the mountains.
* A shorter than normal taper. Something I picked up on lately on Talk Ultra podcasts that seems to be the latest trend.
After missing out on the lottery for the last couple of years to States, I was given a ‘lifeline’ of such from Ultra Trail World Tour. It would be remiss of me not to thank them and of course my main sponsors inov-8, for supporting me on the tour. I love the concept of the UTWT and hopefully after this weekend I can cement a spot in the top bracket for the remainder of the year as this will (should?) be my last UTWT event this year. Currently I am sitting in 3rd in the standings.
I want to wish all competitors a safe and rewarding race. Special mention to fellow Aussie Beth Cardelli, who has been an invaluable source of calmness and experience over here and also to the only other Aussie running the race, Dave Eadie. Special shout out to my wife and crew Nadine who has been just so supportive, understanding and bloody awesome through all the training and planning for the big day.
Also to my three pacers, inov-8 team-mate Scott Dunlap, Ben Zuehlsdorf and Daniel Kroeger; your course knowledge will be of great benefit. Be sure to kick my butt all the way into Auburn as hard and best you can please!
And of course, to all my family, friends and supporters back home or abroad that have sent me messages of support, it’s very much appreciated and I will draw on all this on race day!
Follow the Western States Endurance Run live here.