The Bigfoot 120 - Or Why a Spiritual Evolution Will Be Necessary To Finish My First 100+ Race
Candice Burt has not so quietly become the most seductively insane race evangelists in the country. At least as far as 100s go she threw out bait I just couldn't resist. The Bigfoot 120. It's like running after a lithe trail-running fairy princess into a dewy mountain meadow of daisies. I love my hometown Cascade mountain range and for a couple years now have dreamed of completing my first 100 here in my beloved home state or somewhere close by. But races such as the Cascade Crest 100 have lotteries, Badger suffers from notoriously bad weather and a slew of bad reviews, Mountain Lakes 100 down in Oregon seems kinda "meh" (I really don't want to see the same trail twice) and a bunch of others outside the state are just out of my price range. Pine to Palm has tempted me in the past but its fair share of logging roads don't sound appealing to me anymore.
Since my DNF in Leadville I've been looking for something more local and perhaps more reasonably lacking in elevation. So when news of the Bigfoot 200 hit and the 120 was advertised a month or so later I thought "cool, why don't I just sign up for this super easy 100...plus 20... with 3 times the vertical of Leadville that makes some of the more famous races like Western States look...kinda wussy in comparison." All-right, so maybe that's not accurate at all (how would I know anyway?), but Candice did manage to plot a route with no less than 32,161 feet of climbing which puts it right there in league with Hardrock's cumulative vertical gain of 33,992 feet. Now I'm hoping Bigfoot has all that nice cushy pine-needle-lined single track that Candice has promised me as opposed to shit jeep trail and lack of trail that I hear populates the Hardrock route... but still, that's a shit ton of vertical. This is no beginner course. Hell, it's no intermediate course either. I've got 32 miles of Bigfoot under my belt already, and that was no walk in the park. I collapsed in lava field jungle just short of the finish and they sent a helicopter after me. And now I'm going back. 'Cause why not? If I finish this one, I'll be ready to kick the average Sky-Runner's ass.
When I sighed up for this race on Jan 1, 2015 during the first five minutes of on-line registration, I hadn't thought any of this through. My "reasonable plan" was to make another attempt at 100 miles at Born to Run in Cali or the Stagecoach in Arizona, both with very modest elevation gains and nearly all dirt trail. That was my reasonable plan. Woops. Within a week of an all too easy sign-up (no prereqs required?!?) I started doing more research: According to stats, that famous race called Western States really doesn't really doesn't hold a candle to this one. Shit. In the past I've been able to just show up at a race kinda sorta in shape with kinda sorta a plan and just gut it out. As a newbie to the sport I've gutted out a dozen or so ultras in the last three or so years. After Leadville I've known that this just isn't going to cut it if I'm going to have any hope of finishing any 100 miler, much less this one. God knows what it'll take to finish this one.
Well what doesn't appeal is a race like Western States. After reading Jess Soco's tale of choking on apocalyptic amounts of desert race dust I have no intention of ever signing up for that one until the Sierra's experience their first decent rains some thousand years or so from now. Hell no. Famous or not, after the first 30 miles Western looks to be a royal shit-hole of a race. Again, never been there, but if there are any mid-packers out there that want to tell me different I'll be the first to listen.
One thing that could that could suck about the Bigfoot course this Fall is the risk of epic fire danger after this snow-less Winter, or for Winter in the PacNW to show up early as it often does...as it did for the first Mountain Lakes 100 a few years back. Some route finding may be an issue as well but that's an 'adventure' issue not 'this sucks ass in every way imaginable' issue. No, all I want is a chance of beauty and fun. This one has a chance at both. I've already experienced some of it. We've got the best topography on earth here in Washington hands down. Come join me and find out a little bit why.
What it's going to take
For all my euphemistic cantankerous optimism I know chances of completing this 100 (plus 20) are slim. That kind of vertical, assuming all other conditions are optimal, to me predicts a less than 50% finish rate. Still, I want to be as ready as I can be. I want to be experienced mid-packer ready. I plan on being in the best shape of my life. At 36 I already am in the best shape of my life...but I'm going to have to aim to be in Patrick Sweeney kind of shape to bag this one. My BMI is going to have to hit "average" for the first time in my life, I'm going to have to get stronger; my core will need to be the efficient center of my physical and spiritual efforts. More than body this will take some work on my mind and my soul. With a past that includes trauma and some resulting chaos, my self care and recovery activities are going to have to take on a certain sense of urgency. Again. And near the center of it all in recent years has been running. So here we go.
Luna Gordo sandals. The backbone of the plan peaks at 50-70 miles weeks with events like White River 50 thrown in the mix for a training runs. I plan to peak monthly with back-to-backs and back-to-back-to-backs, Friday, Saturday, Sunday combos of 20 a-piece or more. In between speed and strength training. Yoga and gym for core and legs - hills for legs. Much lower mileage on non-peak weeks. Link: Basically I have Scott Jurek's Mt Si back-to-backs in my mind and this pervasive idea in the back of my head of "Climb, climb, climb. Vertical. Get lot's of vertical. Go back for more... vertical. Consume canyon like a Tarahumara. Envision cool Belt-Buckle."
Yoga and core-work at gym. Lots of steep trail. Stairs. Speed-work. I hate speed-work that isn't downhill. I want to learn to like it.
Spiritual Plan and Work-life Balance Plan
Really it encompasses a constellation of activities referenced both above and below. There is no magic pill, no smoking gun. My view of a healthy life includes a host of "necessary but not sufficient" things. I would like to cultivate a new spiritual practice of meditation and continue to grow my other primary spirituality that is found from just being in the outdoors. Meetings, meds, petting my fat cat, running, date nights with my wife, camping, glamping, impromptu road-trips to the desert...it's all in the mix. Taken individually most are necessary but hardly sufficient by themselves. It will take a creative combination of most of them and others to make a happy life work...and to make finishing this race work. I would consider a finish to be a healthy bi-product of these efforts and just a piece of my overall happiness.
Turns out just gutting it out doesn't just cut it for a big and happy life. And it isn't going to see me through 120 miles either. No doubt there will be long periods of gutting it out...but I want to be, need to be in good enough shape to be taking in some vistas other than the three feet in front of me. Good sign of a successful trail run? Biffing it big time because a tree root caught me looking of in the distance to some unnamed and beautiful peak. Finding pine needles in my ear after a long run in the woods. In-between the dwindling moments of misery there needs to be fun. Running for fun is basically the plan; it's just that for me there is a lot of work that comes as a precursor to fun on this long long trail being possible.
Beta on Bigfoot:
* Bigfoot Website
* Bigfoot 120 Racing Manual
* Bigfoot 120 Route on CalTopo
* My Training Log/Plan