Caleb Bowen’s March Training Recap
March is always one of my favorite months of the year. I love it for a multitude of reasons. First, you get all sorts of fun weather. It could be snowing one day and then 70 degrees the next. It’s wild and I love it. Secondly, the first part of March is a break between the Indoor track and field season and the outdoor season so it’s time to take a deep breath, do something fun, and get ready for the upcoming season. And lastly, March brings my favorite flowers, daffodils, as well as the Appalachian delicacies of ramps and morels! It’s an exciting time for any native Appalachian, especially one that loves running on the trails and finding these hidden treasures.
I started this month off with a fun race called the “Naked Bavarian 40 Mile Race” up in Leesport Pennsylvania. It’s a long drive (6 ½-7 hours from Huntington) but it was a blast getting to stay with former teammates from my college team as well as to officially meet my Trails Collective teammates Ellie Pell and Riley Brady. Plus, I had been itching for a race and this one had just about everything I wanted for my first race since Rim to River. And it was a blast!
I really didn’t know what to expect from the course/competition so making goals prior to the race was somewhat difficult but overall I wanted to run hard and race to the best of my ability. Breaking 5 hours/course record was on my mind but I just was happy to be outside racing again. And so my strategy going in was just to push hard from the gun and then just see how well my body responded to that in the 2nd loop.
When the race started it was a brisk 27 degrees so I kept more layers on than I had intended. In the first few miles, I noticed that there was someone right on my shoulder. I’m not really a fan of leading with someone following me closely so I worked hard to try to put a gap on him and this finally happened right before the first aid station. I found that both the trail sections and road sections were really runnable so I was able to open up my stride and crank out some faster miles than I would on the trails back at home and before I knew it, I was nearing the end of the first loop. Once back at the start line, I shed my outer layers, restocked on some fuel, and then headed back out.
Much to my disappointment, 2nd place wasn’t that far behind. The jolt of adrenaline as I passed him led me to click off some more fast miles but I was starting to feel the fatigue setting in. It was nice getting encouragement from the 20 milers finishing and the 40 milers closing in on their first loop but I knew that it was going to start getting a lot tougher from here on out. I pushed as hard as I could up the biggest hill on the course (about 200 some feet elevation gain so that is pretty respectable right?” but I must admit that I let myself walk the last 20 meters or so of the hill before starting the decent to the 50k mark. I passed 50k at an unofficial 50k pr of 3:42 which sparked a second wind of sorts and then it was all about getting to the finish line.
By this point the trail had been trampled by 300 some people and was getting rather muddy so this coupled with becoming more and more tired made every step seemed a lot harder than they did on the first loop. After I passed the last aid station, I knew I was almost home. However, it was at this time I started to do the math… and the 5 hour barrier was slowly slipping away. I knew there was one more big climb, and the loop was a bit more than 20 miles so it was going to be close but I had a bad feeling that I was going to be on the other side of the 5 hour barrier than the side I wanted. Albeit, I knew that 2nd place wasn’t far behind so I kept pressing as much as I could to get to the finish line.
I crested the last big hill and I looked at my watch. Sadly, it said 4:58 and there was a little less than a half mile to go. But, let’s be honest, I didn’t care as I was really tired and ready to cross that finish line. I kicked as hard as I could and crossed the line in 5:01:53! Andrew Simpson was right on my heels finishing under the old course record as well running a 5:08:36! It was a lot of fun meeting him at the finish line and I wish him the best of luck at Western States here in a few months! Other than the people, the next best thing about the race was the German potato soup at the finish line. That stuff was amazing!
Since the race, I have been just running mileage mostly. Outdoor track has started so my weekends are booked until mid-May and being the coach/director of operations, that means I’m the one that stresses out over all of the travel logistics so my training will be whatever I can get in. I am hoping to start back doing workouts soon and hopefully maintain 70’s-80’s miles per week.
What race is next? Well, I’m not sure. My next scheduled race is the Highland Sky 40 mile race in Davis WV. This is the race that actually got me hooked on ultra-running. It’s a savage 40 miler that runs up to the top of the Allegheny Plateau, crosses creeks, bogs/sods, climbs 6 mile long hills, and down steep rock filled trails. It’s one of the premiere trail races in the state and everyone that runs it finds out how awesome it is! But until then, I’m hoping to run a fast 50 mile in late May after track season finishes so stay posted on developments with that!