I'm a week and a half removed from Bandera, and, in addition to the incredible experience of running up and down the rocky, cacti-littered hills of the State Nature Area, the thing that I keep coming back to is how I felt after the run.
100 km is a long way, especially over such difficult terrain. In 2008, I was hobbling around for a couple of weeks after covering 50 km in the Hill Country. This year, I was mildly sore the morning after the run (or, I suppose, the morning of the run, since I finished at 12:47 a.m.), but nothing compared to the aches and pains I'd felt the prior year. And I had covered twice the distance.
So what has changed?
Well, other than the obvious ultrarunning experience I've gained over the past year, the single biggest change is the addition of working out with a personal trainer.
For nearly two and a half months leading up to Bandera, I have spent three days a week with Dave at The Body Firm, as he put me through grueling, high-intensity workouts designed to increase my functional strength (i.e., the stuff I would need to perform at my best). 90 minutes a week with Dave dropped useless body fat, firmed my core, and built up my legs. And, if Bandera is any indication, it worked. The constant ascents and descents of Ice Cream Hill, Lucky's Peak, and Three Sisters (to name a few of Bandera's challenges) were tough, but I powered up the hills feeling strong and much more confident that I ever expected to be.
So again, amigos, I leave you with this advice. If you don't have a good* personal trainer, get one. Simply put, it works.
* Quick footnote -- there are a lot of personal trainers out there and not all of them are what they ought to be. If you've ever spent time in a gym--especially what I will call a fru-fru gym--you know what I'm talking about. These are the trainers who spend more time chatting with their clients than pushing the intensity. (Not that there is not a time to chat, but training, in my opinion, should be about training, not about what was on TV last night.) A workout should be just that--a workout. I do not believe in the "no pain, no gain" philosophy--that's stupid--but I do believe that you should feel your workout when you are finished. You should know that you pushed your body of its comfort zone, and you should always, ALWAYS insist on quantifiable results from your trainer. If you're not getting that, then you're just not getting it.