Eastern States 100 pre-race report. Up then down? Or down then up?

Nathan Stephens

I guess everything has a start? On August 11, 2018. I will be standing at the start of something--The Eastern States 100. As one of the most grueling and brutal trail ultras on the east coast only about half of those athletes at that start will make it to the finish. My goal is to be one of those athletes at the finish.

I never felt like I was a "runner", in fact I have only really started running 5 years ago. I am an athlete. I love all types of sports. My senior year in high school I was a first team all star in soccer, basketball and baseball. (Yes, I lived in a small town, senior class had 46 graduates) Running was just a common training thread through them all. Although I have finished a small handful of tough ultra marathons, I never ran track or cross country in high school. I have never really done any interval training, hill repeats, or even ran on a treadmill. I don't wear a heart rate monitor or a fancy GPS watch, although I do use my phone. I don't really stretch much, no yoga/Zumba/Tae Bo/aquatics, and no weight or cross training. I haven't had health insurance since my divorce 5 years ago. I drink too much alcohol and eat way too much pizza. I haven't been to a doctor for a checkup in 20 years. I have no idea if I have high cholesterol, low blood sugar, high blood pressure, or if I'm flippin' bipolar! I suppose some of these things may have to change if I am going to be successful on this little adventure.

In this pre-race report I'm not going to dive into the boring details about how I plan on orchestrating this whole thing. At this point, honestly, I have no idea. I just plan on providing myself access to all the tools I will need to be successful. I have a wonderful, trail-experienced , and patient girlfriend who is going to be crewing me, as well as a badass military vet ultra runner who will be pacing me. I live close enough to the course that I can do some preview runs all spring and summer to get familiar with the layout. I have all the tools I need. I feel pretty comfortable, for now.

I have read all the race reports that I could find. I have studied all of the course details, and I am pretty aware of what I am getting myself into. That being said, I expect this race to punch me in the nose, kick me in the nuts, and in the process, abuse me mentally. I want this race to wring out my soul. I want to cry for my momma in the middle of the dark night and have no fucking clue where I am whilst doing it. I can't wait to hear the song "ooh child, things are gonna get easier" in my head at mile 73 when I'm trying to decide which leg I want to start chewing off. Even now, 4 months away from that starting line, I can feel the emotional stew starting to simmer and I can't wait to trail-hallucinate during dinner. I am glutton for punishment sometimes. This race should have no problem providing me with such.

In the movie "Three Amigos", the Amigos have to perform for the first time with the infamous El Guapo. Everyone is extremely nervous. My favorite character, Dusty Bottoms, played by Chevy Chase, calmly says, "I'm just gonna have fun with it!" I have recited that quote to myself at every starting line so far. Having fun with it and keeping that positive mentality is paramount to my success in ultra running. It really helps me put life into perspective. I love getting to aid stations that have watermelon. I'll grab a piece and ask, "anyone know where melons go in the summer?" Everyone looks at me puzzled and a bit concerned until I reply, "john cougar's melon camp!!" Then we all laugh, smile, and my happy spirits get recharged. A simple but effective boost of the positive energy that I will need to use all day long in August.

I have little experience running in the dark, let alone after running all day. This is one area that I plan on working on over the course of the next few months. Physically, my goal is to get myself to the starting line as healthy as possible and slightly undertrained. Since being perfectly trained is impossible and over trained sucks, I figure undertrained has worked for me so far, why change that now? I intend on gradually increasing my weekly mileage and introducing some type of weight training into my routines. Stretching, healthier life habits, and yoga are all areas that I will need to work on in order to be successful. I have all the gear I need and am fairly comfortable with what types of food and liquids work for me up to the 100k distance. What is 40 more miles, right?

Oh! and I have sponsors I need to thank! The #trailsroc community is nothing short of amazing. Herein lies a wonderful cornucopia of such different yet like minded souls that is even more welcoming and supportive than one could imagine. They have called me out this year and put money where my mouth is. #EarlyBirdAntiques is my best friend's business. He buys and sells old stuff and he was there crewing me for my first few ultras. #VanGordenBuilders is another high school friend who specializes in high end residential home building. Ironically, his wife was the first girl I ever had a crush on in the first grade. Hahahaha.

I guess I have some things to take care of over the next 4 months. I can only wonder how my post race report will read.....

"The first half, I am running away from something. The second half, I am running towards it." Nathan Thomas Stephens