The following excerpt appears in Hard Prairie Volume 1, available now! To purchase your copy, please click the link on our homepage!
Words: Carla Landrum
For various reasons, I pretty much stopped trail running for about seven weeks after Canyons. I still had my eye on Europe, however, and decided to enter the UTMB-CCC lottery anyway. In January 2023, I received notification that my name had been selected. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to begin training in earnest until March, and, with the race occurring in September, this left me six months to prepare for one of the hardest 100K’s in the world.
When I was 12 years old I rode Grand Prix horses, training with professional equestrian riders and breaking green horses just off the racetrack. Growing up around professional athletes, I came to understand that professional grade doesn’t come easy. It takes incredible discipline. Success is a skill, talent is the norm. I had to train harder and at a higher level than I was likely to be competing at. This is what it took to be in the ribbons, to earn money. Performance level could be intense but I acclimated well. Extremes became my climate, sweat turned into equity, grit my territory, and winning was sustenance. All of this became normal to me, in part, because of my Mom. She was an extremely good rider. She rode for sport but was good enough to be a professional. Her confidence was magnificent and she surrounded herself with people who were equally confident and capable. While tagging along with her, I trained and rode amongst some of the best in the United States. The lead-up to Canyons had rekindled a familiar level of discipline and many of my old equestrian training principles without the pressure of performing. I felt confident but knew that I needed to do more to prepare for UTMB-CCC. I needed intel. I needed to know more about what it would take to finish a race in the European Alps, so I surrounded myself with a wealth of experienced runners. Their expertise, respect for the sport, training companionship, and knowledge would prove very valuable in the end.
I signed up for a series of local trail races that I thought would best prepare me for what lay ahead. The first race was Silver States in May, a 50-mile race near Reno, Nevada, with a rather benign 9,000 feet of vert and some mildly technical trail. The race is genuine, grassroots, and old school--one of the last not gobbled up by some commercial conglomerate or franchise. The race would serve as the longest trail race in preparation for UTMB-CCC and I was knocking it out early. This may seem counterintuitive, but I wanted to get mentally comfortable with the idea of long, slow miles from the get-go. My problem was that I had about eight weeks to prepare. I ramped up religiously but slowly with both miles and climbing/descent. I mixed in a lot of swimming to keep my cardio performance up while my muscles were still developing. I forced myself to do simple strength exercises and stretches to prevent injuries to which I’m prone. The longest and hardest training run I did leading up to Silver States was not so much strategic as it was opportune. It had been a bucket list item for me to run Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (R^3) the Grand Canyon. The climate can be so extreme that you either knock the run out in early spring or wait until fall. Spring was my window and I knew it would be good training. For safety reasons, the run ended up zig-zagging up and down the south rim twice, amounting to nearly 40 miles and 10,000 feet of climb/descent, which, for scale, amounts to only half the vert I would bag during UTMB-CCC. It was a long, slow, beautiful day of running.
Several weeks later came Silver States. My goal was to finish in 12 hours. I knew I was pushing it with a long race so early in my training. After all, my legs were still green coming off R^3. I toed the line in the back of the pack and managed to finish the race in 11 hours and 30 minutes with a fairly sore and tender IT band but no real damage.