Are You Tough Enough?
One of the major things that helps keep me on track and action-oriented is to continually take on challenges and opportunities that stretch my comfort level and force me to prepare for the future. Another very important component for me is to share my aspirations with others and bring them along on these new adventures. The experience of chasing after a tough goal is so much more rewarding when you have great friends and family taking part in the challenge alongside you. So, what’s next?
With my last major race completed months ago, it was refreshing to take out the old training material and start thinking forward to the next event on the horizon. In the off-season I had opportunity to do some hikes, core training, bike rides, and enjoy a time of renewal, but soon that urge inside built up enough to once again have me chase after another goal worth pursuing.
My new target? Santa Barbara’s ultra distance run fittingly named, Are You Tough Enough?
The race, being held on April 6th, 2013, is an incredible 65-miler that begins in Toro Canyon Park at the edge of Montecito. Start times are 4:30 a.m. for soloultra runners and 7:00 a.m. for above-average trail runners who take on the race as part of a relay. The course follows along the Santa Barbara backcountry’s Sierra Madre Mountain Ridge and drops into Santa Ynez near the finish. Thinking of the amazing trails, dirt roads, and rocky terrain surrounded by mountains and waterfalls along the way keeps me excited and motivated to train for the next four months.
My good friend Chris Clemons has agreed to train with me and we’re both planning on completing the race as solo runners. A few other buddies will bolster us along as part of a relay team. Our minimalist training program incorporates three specific workouts per week, an optional day of easy running, and at least two rest days per week. I switched to this approach about three years ago—after eight years as a marathon runner—and have found that I not only enjoy running much more but also experience less physical wear-and-tear. Most importantly, both my performance times and post-race recovery are faster than before.
Training for us started officially in November but usually five months out is not enough time to gear up for an ultra event like this one. I’m just coming off of a Canadian Ironman-distance triathlon in August, however, and Chris just finished hiking the Appalachian Crest Trail this past summer, so we’re both able to start our long runs at around fourteen miles without much concern. This alone cuts out the first few months that would normally be devoted to building a mileage base. After looking at the April 6th date, I mapped out doing the last three months of a standard marathon training program then five weeks of long weekend runs followed by a ten-day taper up to race day. If all goes as planned, this leaves just enough time to have the memorable journey of preparation with friends before an incredible race experience shared with many others from Santa Barbara’s amazing community of runners—a group that love to live life outside the comfort zone.
Robert DeCou is a fitness professional at Conditioning Specialists in Santa Barbara. Along with his prowess at ultramarathons, Rob is also an Ironman Triathlete and cyclist who has biked across the United States…three times.