. . . Before the race has even started, I've met at least one goal; as of today, $2000 total raised for GPACT. So of course I'm raising the bar - the new, lofty goal is $4000. Because, hey, why not? And, as I did last year, I'll write whatever you want, in whatever color marker you want, on some article of clothing that I wear during the race. If you haven't told me what you want written yet, let me know soon.
In other news, I thought that there would be more levity here in this blog since the last post, but there hasn't been. Not in a bad way, exactly. It's just been work, work, work, and then work some more to put the finishing touches on the best possible training and preparation that I could muster for this race, considering the deeply compromised state that I was in back when this journey started in February.
All things considered, it's been a solid effort. I've averaged 82-ish miles per week for the past four months, and 93-ish miles per week for the past month. Last week (30 June - 6 July), I ran my first honest-to-goodness 100-mile week (i.e. without a ridiculous race to prop up the mileage) since - get this - the last week of January 2012. And that was a week that, like each of the preceding weeks, included a quality long-hill day. (Most weeks included a hill day and a tempo day, but considering the magnitude of last week's hill workout, and its proximity in time to the race, I'm okay with just a hill day for last week).
Typical minor dings, scrapes, and bruises aside, I feel no worse for wear. Obviously, a one-week taper is a bit of a gamble, but considering the relatively short length of my mileage build (about half of how long I had to build last year), I'm guessing that I have a little less damage to repair. In any event, random unfortunate events aside, I'll most likely be lining up on Monday much healthier than I was last year.
But that's all the numbers and technical stuff. What has me the most excited about this race is the level of mental focus that I have going in, which has steadily increased since the TARC 100 fiasco. My training in the weeks following TARC has been some of the most consistent, joyful running that I've done in a long time. Especially in the past couple of weeks, there hasn't been a question in my mind about whether or not I was going to do the workout that day. The workout was going to happen, and it was going to happen according to the plan, and physically, I was responding. And there's a quiet joy in the rhythm of that kind of consistency in training - the joy that comes from the slow, steady progress towards a desired state of fitness.
And there's also the more visceral joy in the process. The sweat pouring down as I clip along at a measured pace under a blazing-hot afternoon sun, in 100+ degree humid Baltimore City heat. The smile that I can't suppress as I fly down a steep hill at breakneck pace, the scenery blurring in my peripheral vision. And the sublime relief that comes at the end of a long, hot run from downing a huge glass of ice water and flopping on my back on the cold-floor, with the stereo blasting Kaskade. The process feels good again, and has felt particularly good lately. And that means something.
But make no mistake about it - by and large, Badwater this year is not about me. While it's certainly encouraging and exciting to feel this level of joy in running again, I don't need to go all the way to Death Valley in the middle of July to feel it.
But I do need to go all the way to Death Valley in the middle of July for a lot of other people - the folks at GPACT, my little sister, all the people who donated to support GPACT, all the people that I've trained with in preparation for this event, and all the people that have otherwise sponsored, supported, or encouraged me to get back out there, for whatever reason. All of you are the reason why I need to go back to Death Valley, and all of you will be the reason why I will be able to endure the inevitable pain and suffering in the 135 miles between the Badwater Basin and Whitney Portal.
So that's all for this blog until after the race. Stay tuned to the rest of the internet (Facebook, the Badwater webpage, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, whatever) for updates in the meantime. And thanks to all of you for getting me to that starting line - you'll get nothing less than my best effort between there and the finish tape.