When my sister and I line up this coming Saturday for the HUFF 50K, I’m going to be thinking of Temple Grandin – a 67-year-old autistic professor who as far as I know has no connection whatsoever to running, unless it’s in relation to cattle, which is her field of study.
But Dr. Grandin’s personal philosophy of improving oneself by “building from the ground up” (improving on past successes) rather than “from the top down” (struggling to emulate others) really struck a chord with me when my daughter and I went to hear her speak at Manchester University last year.
What does this have to do with the HUFF? Well, for the past several weeks I’ve teetered between sheer terror that our training has fallen so dreadfully short of what “the experts” recommend and a quiet confidence that comes from knowing we’ve done something similar before – with even less training.
Most marathon training calls for weekly mileage of 40 miles or more. As a 30-mile race, this is considered an “ultramarathon,” which would seem to call for even more mileage. And yet not only have we never hit 40 miles per week at any point this fall, we sometimes don’t even get to 30.
Every time I freak out about this, my sister rolls her eyes and reminds me of our 50-mile run/walk last fall. We didn’t have proper mileage training for that, either. But we’d practiced a couple of times a week on the 10-mile loop that formed the basis of that project, and worked out our run-walk patterns ahead of time. Though we were hurting the last few miles leading up to 50, we felt pretty good through the first 30 miles.
This fall our long runs have maxed out at just under 17 miles – three laps around trail 5 at Ouabache State Park — primarily because of time constraints. It’s not too hard to imagine finishing a race that required us to do six laps instead of three. But that’s on our “home” course.
The HUFF course at Chain o’ Lakes State Park is much tougher, primarily because of all the hills. After our test run there last weekend, it was Traci who was feeling discouraged.
“My legs are still sore,” she said during Thursday’s run back on our home course. “We should’ve done more hill training.”
I’d like to think her gloominess had more to do with going a couple of days without sleep than because her confidence has been shaken.
If we’re going to do this, we’ll need her stubborn determination to resurface – and soon. She hasn’t read all the training plans I have, so she’s not constantly reminded, as I am, what other runners think.
All she knows is what we’ve done in the past. We’ve done the distance, on much flatter terrain. And we’ve run the 2-loop course one time through.
If we can build on those experiences – rather than worrying what the other runners would say if they saw my mileage log — we should be able to finish the HUFF.