Week 1?

That’s it. That’s the title. I suppose I’m too disgruntled to name this anything other than it is. Ha. But I guess we’re doing this. In case you’re lost, don’t worry. We all are. But, I’ll do my best to catch you up.

So, I lost a bet. I have admittedly been in a bit of a stress-induced rut with my running the past couple months. I’m doing it, but there’s no rhyme or reason to it. My friend, Mach, suggested I start journaling my training again to prep for my 5th go at the Cruel Jewel 100. I quickly said, nahhh fam, I’m good. Mostly because over the last few years, running has become a very personal, very guarded, experience for me. More on that later. But yeah, Mach threw out a “if you can’t track your training for just one week, you’re doing a full on early 2000s blog” bet. And lo and behold, guess who didn’t track their training? *Slowly raises hand.* Mach knows me well enough to know that deep down, I’m craving the structure. So, I figured heck… I’ll just roll with this and see where it goes.

Now, where to begin… How about my history with Cruel Jewel? I’ll try to keep this brief, but there’s no guarantees in ultrarunning.

For those of you that do not know, Cruel Jewel 100 is one of the hardest ultramarathons that exists in the United States. It takes place in the middle of May in Georgia, and traverses some of the most brutal terrain that the Southeast has to offer, during ridiculously hot and humid conditions. It’s a recipe for disaster, but for whatever reason, us crazy ultrarunners just can’t get enough of it.

I first attempted Cruel Jewel in 2016. I finished. It took literally everything I had, but dangitt I finished that stupid thing. (Evidence here. Come on back for that fun story.) At the time, I had done several hundreds, years of ultras, and I truly thought I was at the “graduate level” that was needed to knock that one out. HA. Haa! Ha. Yeah. No. Lord knows I needed a good humblin’. Well, I got it.

I came back in 2018, fit & determined to snag a stronger finish. I finished again. Slower than the first time, but it didn’t quite kill me. It challenged the heck outta me, that’s for sure, but I knew I had approached the beast a little too respectfully. I came in with nothing but fear. The following day when I didn’t feel too beat up or terrible, I knew I had to go back and truly give the race hell.

Sooo in 2019 I went back again. Trained hard. Felt pretty confident it was gonna be my year. Yeaah. I didn’t finish. Barely even made it to 80. I think the Lord himself saw that my running head had blown up to be the size of Texas, so He struck it back down to the more appropriate Georgia girl size. Well. Truth be told I can’t be blamin God for the 3rd dose of stupidity. I signed the waivers.

After Cruel Jewel Round 3, I wrote the race off for a while. I turned my attention and training focus elsewhere, and that worked out pretty well for me. I began to train alone and worked on finely tuning my skills, talents, and abilities. I spent days upon days running by myself in the mountains, learning my body, and trying to understand what it needed and wanted to thrive.

In 2021, I ran an unseasonably hot Grindstone 100 and did surprisingly well. Finished 2nd. A few months later, I ran the 2022 Georgia Death Race, and also raced it well. Finished 2nd again. Both races, I was focused and aggressive. I was back to training within a few days and felt better than ever. It was THEN that I finally had the balls to attempt Cruel Jewel again.

So. Cruel Jewel 2022... Grown up me was finally ready to make peace with the Dragon. Right? Wrong.

Sidenote: The Dragon or Dragon’s Spine is the nickname for the infamous Duncan Ridge Trail aka DRT found in the rugged North Georgia Mountains. You’ll hear me talk about it a lot here. It’s a terribly steep trail known for brutal climbs, and even more painful descents. The trail is relentless with several grades over 40%. It isn’t especially scenic, has thousands of feet of elevation gain, and it’s long and unforgiving. The profile resembles the spikes on the back of some awful medieval beast, hence the whole Dragon thing. Georgia Death Race traverses the Spine once, Cruel Jewel 100 does it twice. But even just a couple miles on it will be enough to fill the average trail junkie’s plate.

So for CJ 2022 I was totally fit. Absolutely ready. And by this point, I knew my body well. I knew it well enough to know that within the first few miles of the day 2022 was NOT, indeed, going to be “my year”. My heart rate was doing some wild kinda thing and my body was going nuts. (The doctor had a 15 letter word for what was going on but that about summed it up.)

Anyway, I was only 21 miles in, walked into the aid station, sat down, and watched my heart rate continue to skyrocket over 190. I told Dan I was pretty sure I was going to have to drop, but wanted to walk to the next aid just to make sure I couldn’t regulate anything or improve it with electrolytes. I couldn’t. I pulled myself at mile 30 and made an appointment with my cardiologist for the following week. (I got some answers. More on that later, too)

Turns out that NOT finishing CJ in 2022 didn’t leave me sad or bummed out or anything at all. It only left me real freakin’ perplexed. Once again, it was a puzzle, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out. I still didn’t waste time saying “never again” though, because the “again” is always just a matter of time for me. My friend Richard told me last week that this race is my white whale. I savored that one in my mind a bit. He’s right. Somethin about this race knocking me down over and over again appeals to the core of who I am as a person. There’s no sense in fighting that…

Where I’m Coming From & Where I’m Goin

Like I mentioned above, since about 2020 I settled into a rhythm of running alone regularly and pushing my limits often. I adopted a training pattern best suited for my high stress life: short and sweet throughout the weekdays riddled with monster workouts and long hefty mountain adventures on the weekends. Over the years, I continued to increase my mileage to the point where I tackle a solo 50k (with roughly 5000-9000ft of gain) quarterly, if not once a month. I’ve kept this frequency going for years now, and my mind and legs have come to genuinely crave both the solitude and the distance.

The last few months have been intentionally lowkey for me running wise though, as our family slowly emerged from a long season of difficulty and trauma. While stress is still a mile high for all of us, there’s nothing terrifying staring us down, so I finally felt I could swallow a big training pill again.

My most recent events after Cruel Jewel 2022 were Leadville 100 this past August (I finished in 26:14 with no real issues) and Tunnel Hill 50 (I dropped down from the 100 thanks to me being a total Southeastern wimp in freezing temps and snow.)

Other than that, I’ve focused on keeping my speed and turnover in check. My weekly 5-7 mile tempo runs are in the mid to high 6 range. My weekly “long” runs have been shorter than normal, but not terrible. About 12-14 miles. I’ve kept my vert up by means of regular workouts on the Nordictrack incline trainer in my garage. I love the thing and I don’t care what anyone says, it’s an incredible tool for mountain running. (I would die on this hill, but that would kinda defeat the purpose right? Sorry. I had to.)

So What’s The (CJ) Plan, Sam?

Heaven forbid anyone listen to me about anything, because we all know I am it’s just the blind leadin the blind here. So if you read on, please do keep that in mind.

With Cruel Jewel 100, experience tells me that specificity training is a must. I remember one time a coach saying to me there is “no such thing as being mountain fit”. Clearly the man had never set foot on the Dragon’s Spine, because if you’re not mountain fit, you’re not gonna be fit enough to make it. The race is a far cry from anything you’re going to find out West, or even really much of the Southeast. It’s more of a hiking race with a little bit of running thrown in, and I swear that beast is quick to weed out folks who never learned how to hike efficiently. Due to this fact, much of my preparation will again include uphill running and hiking.

2018 was the year I came closest to solving my personal CJ riddle, so I looked back at the notes of what I did then. The one unique thing that stood out to me was I used a sauna for training. I didn’t do that the other years. Due to the race falling on the first hot and humid weekend of the year, there’s no real time to acclimate to the conditions. Implementing sauna work will be critical in making sure my body and heart survive round 5.

This week, I recorded ALL of my workouts and my HR. Which was huge for me, as I haven’t much cared for doing any of that detail crap for quite some time now. I’m going to continue recording it all up to the race and maybe after so that I’m dealing with raw data for round 5. (My cardiologists also insisted recording HR was critical. I mean… he might know, considering he’s smart and educated and what not.)

This is how “Official Week 1” went:

Mon: 7.02mi / 8:14 pace / 432 gain

Notes: Easy local trails. Sunny day, just chill & enjoying the weather.

Tue: 7.05mi / 8:30 pace / 0 gain

Notes: Treadmill. Catching up on some Netflix

Wed: 3.00mi / 30 min / 1032ft gain

Notes: Tread again. Slammed with work. Intended to go longer, ran out of time.

Thur: 6.00mi/ 8:54 / 393ft gain

Notes: Meh. High humidity. Struggled to breathe well & felt worked.

Fri: 10mi / 1:51 / 854ft gain

Notes: Local trails with buddy Adam. Humid. Felt fine first couple miles then absolutely terrible. Realized about 8 in that the Joys of Running While Female (TM) were the culprit. Decided to reduce mileage & back off a bit.


Notes: Skipped the run. Spent the entire day working an aid station.

Sun: 17.00mi / 2hr 54min / 4021 ft

Notes: Tread Mountains! This is how I train when I can’t get to the real mountains. It’s not the best, but it’s great for building mental strength & self discipline.

6M: chill / flat

5M: .5 @ 10%/5ish mph .5 @ 20% 3mph (repeat 5x)

6M: downhill, focusing on quick turnover with dead legs

Annnnd that’s a wrap! I suppose with the backstory and all that, this ended up being much longer than I anticipated. Definitely didn’t agree to penning a dang novel, so hopefully next time I can spit it out a bit quicker. Anyway, feel free to leave feedback and comments below. I have a thick skin and rarely get offended, so speak freely. LOL. Y’all have a great week. See you next Monday.

16 Replies to “Week 1?”

    1. It does! I incorporate it frequently, but it maxes out at 7:30mph @ -3% grade and 6mph @ -6% grade, the latter being too slow to be useful for me. Nope it’s just like running how you normally would on a treadmill just has a slight tilt! I’ll try to get a pic of it next post

  1. I absolutely love this and am so glad you’re doing this so I can piggy back off you in the future.
    I totally want to be you when I grow up 😂👏🏼

  2. Thanks for this! Always enjoy your race recaps so this is fun to see how you train. See you at Cruel Jewel. Going for number 2

  3. Very useful information. You are a great writer. I do about 10k-12K vert per week mainly hiking on treadmill since I am in Texas. It does +15%/-3% . Maybe I should increase for March and April after my Lovit 100 next weekend. It is a tough one but nothing like Cruel Jewel. Did you use poles the entire race or only on Duncan ridge trail? I didn’t see you with any poles in the pictures. Whats your opinion ?

    1. Thanks! & dang. That’s a lot of weekly vert! I’ve done with and without poles both for the CJ race & just training or racing in that region in general. I have found Im much faster without them, but also my legs fatigue a few hours sooner without them. I think this go around I’ll probably use them for the back half only.

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