Meet the first few days of the training plan I wrote for him…
I sat down with David to talk a little bit about his Bigfoot 200 aspirations and why the hell he would jump into a 200 miler after completing only one 100 mile race.
Me: David…Bro…Why? Why Bigfoot? Why 200 miles?
David: Okay, here’s the situation. I spent all of 2016 working towards qualifying for UTMB. I started the year with zero qualifying points so if I wanted a chance at running it in 2017, I needed to get all the points in one calendar year. It was a solid challenge for me – I’d never ran anything longer than 50k – so en route to qualifying I would need to complete my first 50 miler, 100k and 100 miler [Badger Mountain 50 miler, The Nut 100k, and Mountain Lakes 100 miler].
I managed to get it done so I threw my name in the UTMB lottery hat at the end of the year. The funny thing was that I had absolutely no backup plan if I didn’t get in. I was 100% focused all year on getting my qualification points. I never even entertained the idea of a different race. I wanted the Alps…I wanted Mont Blanc.
But when I got that sweet little email telling me I didn’t get in, I’ll be honest, I was sort of devastated. I went on a 48 hour internet binge, looking at ALL the other big races. But nothing got me as excited as UTMB. I searched and searched for that emotional charge that would get me excited to train – I wanted a real challenge on the level of a UTMB or Hardrock.
And then I saw it… BigFoot 200.
At first I thought “Nah, no way” but slowly my mindset started to shift to “could I actually do that?” then “how epic would 200 miles be! And in the Cascades!”
I was sold. I registered that day.
Me: Nice. Sounds like one of your greatest impulse decisions of all time. [Laughs.] What’s the deal with the race director – that Candice Burt chick? How is she making the 200 mile distance appealing?
David: It helps that the whole idea of running a 200 mile race is still a fairly new concept. It’s exciting to be a first mover for anything. Why not ultras too? Candice is doing the major things right in my mind to create an appealing event: point to point or loop courses so you are always experiencing something new, the challenge of BIG vert helps, and stunning scenery along the way is the icing. To sum it up though – for me, it was the perfect cure for those UTMB lottery blues.
Me: Are you scared? What’s your headspace like when you think about it?
David: It’s funny. A couple people I told about my plans have flat out said, “Are you crazy?! You’ll die!” It didn’t phase. I know what I have to do to make it to the finish line and I’m gonna do it.
Me: Confident man, Mr. Parnell. How do you feel about your current fitness? What are you weighing in at right now?
David: 210. I usually fluctuate between 180 and 200 when I am racing so I’m definitely at my “off season” weight right now. [Rubs belly.] Besides that, I am feeling pretty good. I’ve built back up to 40 miles per week with a long run of 20 miles with 5k vert. Planning on building gradually up to as high a weekly mileage as I can tolerate. With 5 months till Bigfoot I have plenty of time to really ramp things up. I just have to be smart and listen to my body and keep injuries at bay along the way.
Me: You’ve mentioned fastpacking as a tool for training. What are your thoughts on that?
David: I listened to all the podcasts and read all the blog posts I could scrounge up related to running a 200 miler. There isn’t a lot out there. But the single bit of advice that stood out the most was this idea of fastpacking. And Candice herself recommended it too. It just makes so much sense and will be the perfect simulation for the multi day race scenario. I plan to start incorporating fastpacking once I hit about 30 miles for my long run. Then in place of the typical back to back long run days, I’ll head out for an overnighter – where I’ll still do back to back long runs but instead of a shower and a bed to separate the runs, I’ll throw a bivy sack down on the trail somewhere. Then I’ll gradually build my sessions until I can do a 3-day weekend with 30 to 40 miles a day.
Me: Easy peasy lemon squeezy. When I first asked you about Bigfoot you told me that, “People have always been telling me I can’t do things and I keep on doing them.” Is the Bigfoot 200 for them? Or for you?
David: It’s absolutely for me. Really, it comes back to me simply trying to find an adventure that could get me just as or even more excited than UTMB would.
On the other hand – It doesn’t hurt that I’ll be doing one – a 200 mile race – before my superstar ultra running bro. I know it’s probably eating him alive. [Laughs.]
Me: I’m a superstar all right! Not. Okay, final question – are you prepared to go to hell and back to get to that finish line?
David: I know it’s not going to be easy. It is possible I will reach my true breaking point. But I’m confident that if I stick to my training plan, I can do it. All I can do now is put in the work and be smart when it comes to listening to my body. And hopefully race day will take care of itself.
Me: Don’t you mean race DAYS?
David: Oh, right. Yes … days. Probably three or four of em’.
I got to give it to him. He has some balls. I’ll be checking in with David about once a month leading up to the race. Come August, he’ll be toeing the line and I’ll be in for probably the most wretched pacing experience of my life. But memories will be made I’m sure…