Sunday, March 6, 2016

It's All About The Equipment - Umstead Marathon 2016

I've finally cracked the marathon. On my 8th marathon (my 4th Umstead Trail Marathon), everything finally clicked and fell into place, at least in my head. How? Good question. Here's my final solution to the marathon puzzle.

Just skip it. Really. It's not worth the time or effort. I ran 32 miles the month before the race, and that included a 20 mile "hike" in the Uwharrie Mountain Run 20 miler. The two months before that weren't much better. Looking back, I realize I could have trained much less and had the exact same result in the Umstead Marathon. Next year, I'll train by only running my favorite races. My Strava training log will be a barren wasteland, much like my quads, and it will not make a damned bit of difference come Umstead Marathon race day. I'm fine with that.

Training Miles: Low. Very low. 

Pancakes, lots of them. And waffles, and omelets, and bacon, and hash browns, and coffee, and... My weekend "training" for the past few months has been an informal social run along the Eno River, ending with a visit to a diner for some classic greasy spoon breakfast goodness. Not low carb, not high carb, but high happiness. Eat what makes you happy, especially after a fun run with friends along a beautiful riverside trail. There is no greater happiness in life than good food with good friends.

Pancakes: 15, or as many as you can happily stuff into your gut.

New shoes, right before the race. Why new shoes and not some well known, well worn shoes? New shoes make me happy. It doesn't matter if your toes are rubbed into oblivion during the race, or if you develop a raging neuroma between your toes, or even crack one of the small unimportant bones in your foot (there are plenty more of them down there to take up the load). Your pre-race happiness is all that counts. Make sure you have ZERO running miles on your new shoes before the race. Their suitability should be a complete mystery, solved only through the marathon laboratory crucible of pain and suffering.

Blisters: Dozens. Deal with it.

Choose The Right Race
Most importantly, you must choose the right race for total marathon domination. I recommend the Umstead Trail Marathon. It's devilishly difficult. Even the guy who designed the course said he would never run it. However, having a stupidly hard course isn't the right selection criteria. You have to choose the race for its atmosphere, and that's where the Umstead Marathon wins. Even when my suffering was at 11 on the 10 point scale, I only had to hit an aid station to be reminded of why this race is so freaking great. The people. Umstead organizers and volunteers are absolutely top notch. It's a runner's race, pure and simple. No gimmicks, no massive crowds, just a run through a gorgeous park surrounded by awesome people. It just doesn't get better.

Happiness: Off the chart.