Monday, March 20, 2017

"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"

Since we are chronicling the training and workout program that Clint Welch is following for Western States, let's back up and share his training philosophy and some races that are included as part of his preparation. Clint shared that he does not work with a coach and has used online 100-Mile training programs in the past. One plan included a massive number of trail miles leading up to the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance 100 Mile run in Carson City, NV in July 2015. This was his planned 2015 Western States qualifying race.   As it turns out, this was the most challenging 100-miler and the only one that Clint was unable to finish.  He ended up dropping out at mile 80.   Based on this experience, he has modified his training program around what has worked best in the past.  When he was lifting weights and working out in the gym, he had some of his best races. So the Western States program now includes two weekly strength, agility, and core workouts with Seth Kotelnicki, owner of The Ranch in Loomis, California. I met with Seth and will share a more detailed description of Clint's personalized strength, agility, flexibility, and tissue quality workout next week.

In addition to the workouts and training runs, Clint has included trail races to fine tune his pace, gear, nutrition, and mental focus under racing conditions.  The first trail race just a month after the  Western States Lottery was the La Cuesta Ranch Trail Run 25K in San Luis Obispo, CA on January 7, 2017.  It was part of a winter camping trip with his Born to Run family and Dirtbag Runners. "It was a good run with incredible views." It was challenging and muddy, but Clint finished in a time of 3:43:41.

The second trail race followed a pretty severe two week illness, and Clint conceded that this was his "ugliest 50K ever."  He started off the FOURmidable 50K in Auburn, CA on February 18th feeling "just okay," but the ability to breathe became a challenge on the uphills.  With total elevation gain of 6,000 feet, the FOURmidable includes four major climbs:  Cardiac Hill, K2 (Training Hill), Knickerbocker, and Overlook Hill. Knowing that he was weak and still not fully recovered, Clint's adjusted goal was to finish the race in less than 8 hours. With only one 3-mile run logged in the prior two weeks, he knew this would be a training race to just endure. With a time of 7:56:19, the goal was met, but this will be chalked up in the 'ugly' column of training races. For the record, Clint completed the FOURmidable in 2014 in 12th place overall with a time of 5:41:00.  All runners have to expect life to happen. Clint does not like excuses.  There will be good training days, there will be bad training day, and there will be ugly days.  It's all part of the trail running experience.

This week's training 03/13-03/19/17
Mon - Cap Tappers shakeout run - 3.4 miles
Tues - The Ranch - strength, mobility, flexibility, tissue quality
Wed - 10 mile run (2 easy, 6 push, 2 easy)
Thur - The Ranch
Fri -  Rest and recovery
Sat - Ruck-A-Chuck 50K
Sun - 11.5 Lake Loop around Lake Natomas

When I first interviewed Clint about his Western States journey, two things stood out. First, he kept referring back to family.  He shared many stories and experiences but they all circled back to either his mother, his wife, or his children.  And second, when I pressed and asked for details, he got choked up and tears welled in his eyes when he shared a few stories.  One I will share this week. The second story, about the unexpected support he received from his dear friend Bill Yeates, I'll save for a future blog. But I realized then and there that I was sitting in front of a man who had depth. A man who is so much more than this Western States story.   He has a tough, beer-drinking exterior but that is only the tip of the hilltop. Underneath that tough surface is so much more: intelligence, compassion, emotion, kindness, and love for all those around him.   And soft spots for his mother, his wife, his children, his siblings, and his close friends.

I asked Clint to describe his history of running and athletics.  He said that when he was younger, running was never a 'thing' for him. He didn't know that 5K, 10K, and marathon races even existed. His twin brother Chad was good at sprinting and was the quarterback of the football team.  "He was definitely the athlete in the family."  Clint played football in high school. He also played a bit of baseball and did some rodeo bronco riding.  But all the while, he knew that running came naturally and even looked forward to the requisite mile runs in PE during high school.  But when I pressed, "Where did the running come from?"  Clint kept coming back with,  "When I was young, I ran with my mom. We ran just to run."  Running wasn't put on the scale alongside of competitive football or soccer - running was just running.  Freedom and adventure. So in actuality, it is Clint's mom who planted the seed that grew into a full blown passion for running, freedom, and adventure.

So, let's go back to the first of the two stories that caused Clint to tear up and pause to take a few deep swallows of his Breaking Bud from Knee Deep before he could continue.  Clint was describing the importance of his family's support and approval to indulge in this extreme sport. He was telling me how he had established a sort of tradition of stopping to pick up his young daughter Halle prior to finishing his major races. He is even willing to give up a place (and did so in 2015 at the Mokelumne 50K) in order to allow his daughter to participate in his success.  "I will look back and remember the hours, the pain, and the difficulty of these races.  But I want Halle to look back and remember that she was so important to me that I made sure she finished with me."

Young Halle chasing after her dad at the finish.
But there was one occasion when things didn't work out quite as planned; another experience for the ugly column, or in this case, by Clint's own admission, maybe even the the bad column. Clint was experimenting with nutrition on his 2013 Run On the Sly 50K in Pollock Pines, CA. His experiment was not a success, and he had to dig deep at the finish line to keep from upchucking and sharing the nutrition with the dirt trail. As he approached the finish line, he saw Halle's excited little face, anxious for Dad to sweep her up in his arms.  But he couldn't.  He had to focus.  When he made eye contact with Halle, he had to press a finger to his lips to hold back the rising spew.  He finished with an applaudable time of 5:30.24, and Halle eventually caught up to him.  This race photo of his finish is indelibly etched into his plan for all future major race finishes.  If Halle is present, you can bet she will be holding her dad's hand - even if he is crawling.

In addition to Halle, Clint is very fond and protective of his mother Nancy and his wife Becca.  Nancy shared a story with me about a time that she was running on trails with her son a few years ago.  At first, she and Clint could run together, but slowly Clint grew faster and faster, and his mother could no longer keep up with him.  So, Clint would run ahead and then every so often he would circle back, re-run the trail backwards to check on his mother.  She would try to shoo him off, "I'll be fine!  I'll be fine!  Just run on ahead!" But Clint argued that the extra running and mileage were good for his training.  "He is such a good person - always taking care of everyone.  He's a twin, but has taken on the middle child 'peace keeping' personality trait."  In the short 20 minute conversation with Nancy, I think she said she was proud of her son at least five times.  What she loves most about him is that he is a family man first and a runner second.
Clint filling some big boots

And true to form, Clint's supportive wife Becca was with Clint this Saturday when he logged in more miles at SingleTrack's Ruck A Chuck 50K.  This is a great training race that is run 100% on the same trail, but running in the opposite direction towards Forest Hill, as the Western States course.  To keep things real, Clint had to acknowledge that this run wasn't one of his better runs.  Plagued with osteoarthritis in both knees, the elevation climbs of over 5,000 feet are always tough, but the downhills were even more of a challenge.  "I usually make up time running downhill, but this time I had to take it easy."  Enjoying a can of Moonraker's Zulu Haze on Sunday afternoon, he was honest about the experience and even admitted he had a bout of sulking at the end of the race when he was forced to face the reality that he is not currently performing at the level he has performed at
 in the past.  One thing that Clint really doesn't like is excuses.  "All ultrarunners have their 'thing' that they deal with.  We all have to suck it up and work through our 'thing.'  (#dbp)  We all have to play the hand we are dealt."
Wall hanging made by Shawna
Before I left, Clint showed me a wall hanging that his sister Shawna made for him. He showed me several other things that were made for him by family members who support his Western States dream, but let's start with the gift from his sister that very much represents the strength of character that he may need to be reminded of a few more times as he faces all the challenges of realizing this dream.

#seeyouinsquaw   (in 96 days)


  1. Wow! Very well written (again). Loved reading the more personal side of what makes him tick. It's very motivating!