Wednesday, November 12, 2008

GC R2R2R--The Full Story

First, sorry about being so late with this post--it's been a busy couple of weeks. This run was typically haphazard of me. The Grand Canyon really deserves more respect than I gave it. With a Double Crossing covering 42ish miles (South Kaibab-North Kaibab-South Kaibab) and somewhere between 11,000' and 12,000' of vertical, it shouldn't be taken lightly. I had completed it for the first time last spring--casually--while Kyle, Scott J, and I were spending a few weeks in Northern Arizona. During that run I had only taken six gels with me and had bonked pretty badly coming back up the Bright Angel trail at the end of the day. To the point that I begged a Clif Bar off of a hiker somewhere above Indian Gardens because I didn't feel like I was going to make it otherwise. One thinks I would've learned something from that. Apparently not.

This time around, I spent the week before the run getting very little sleep in the final Get-Out-The-Vote effort leading up to the election, but still ran enough to log 180 miles in the 7 days before my GC effort. Also, I elected to make the drive from Colorado Springs to the South Rim all in one day instead of breaking it up over two days. Driving 12 hours solo is mentally and physically draining (for me, at least), which is weird considering that I'm just sitting the entire time. Anyways, after pulling into Tusayan on the South Rim sometime well after 10pm, finding a nice spot on a forest service road and finally crawling into the Roost, I'd resolved to make my Double Crossing another casual effort; I just didn't want the added mental stress of trying to crank it out solo on little sleep.

I woke up at 6am Saturday morning, and--as anyone who knows me--took my typical dawdling time getting ready to the point that I actually didn't hit the trail until 7:43am. I had a Clif Bar for breakfast, filled my water bottles, packed what I thought would be a sufficient eight gels into my shorts pockets and bottle straps and slipped a couple Endurolytes in there too in case it got hot. The ~6 minute jog over to the Rim from the picnic area/parking lot was frigid. The sun wasn't high in the sky yet, I was wearing only a pair of shorts and a singlet, and my paws were both gripping two bottles of downright icy water. I couldn't feel my hands at the rim.

A funny thing happened when I hit the Start button on my watch, though; my legs just immediately took off. This is typically how it goes on test-piece runs for me: I can't help but give a little extra effort just to see how I measure up. Despite all of my mental waffling the night before, I knew within two strides that I would go for it today for as long as the legs would let me.

The run down South Kaibab was the usual dichotomy of ecstasy over the rising of the morning sun on the spectacular stratigraphy and frustration with the pure shit nature of that trail. Water bars suck. My legs felt decent enough--I never felt smooth really on that first downhill--and I was only slowed up by a minute or so from a couple of ascending mule trains. Also, the trail was maybe the most deserted I've seen it ever. It couldn't have been because of the weather, though. The temperature was perfect with crystal clear skies. I continually marvelled at the grandiosity and scale of the immense landscape. The Grand Canyon is a necessary annual pilgrimage for me--what a fantastic place.

I hit the bridge at the Colorado River just under 54 minutes. I felt good about that time. It was a couple minutes quicker than I expected, so I just hoped that I hadn't already trashed my quads; it didn't feel like it. I took the short cruise over to Phantom Ranch to get my running legs back under me (after all the downhill), and I ran right past the Canteen in 1:01.

The run from Phantom up Bright Angel Creek to Roaring Springs is my favorite section of trail on the entire Double Crossing. The Box is a very narrow canyon with perfect singletrack right next to the creek, and the grade of the trail is such that it climbs almost imperceptibly. On this portion of the trail I focused on getting into a very comfortable but quick rhythm, maintaining a high cadence, and conserving energy in everything I did. And also just enjoying the beauty of the morning. My effort was such that I felt like I was cruising right up and over all of the little rises in the trail. I hit my first gel somewhere a long in this stretch and ended up taking one every 30 minutes or so from there on, until I ran out of gels.

My confidence was bolstered when I hit Cottonwood Campground in 2:03. This meant I had run from Phantom in 1:02--a full six minutes faster for that section than when I did this run last spring. I was a bit worried that I was running too fast--last spring Kyle and I had decided that the pace we had run that day through that section would be sufficient for a record attempt, and I was six minutes faster than that. I decided not to worry and just make sure things felt comfortable.

The run over to the Pumphouse only took 15 minutes from Cottonwood. I completely drained one of my water bottles and stashed a full bottle beside the trail just before the bridge at the Pumphouse. I then took another 20 seconds are so to fill my empty bottle and began the real climb to the North Rim at 2:18.

I felt good on the climb. I was now running in the sun but it wasn't hot. The start of this climb always feels so much more effortless than I expect it to...what a great trail. However, after a couple of flatter sections, the trail really climbs steeply--with a lot of water bars again--until it finally descends a couple of switchbacks down to another bridge. I hit this bridge in 2:49 feeling good after consciously taking this first half of the climb easy.

However, above the bridge, things started to feel a bit rough. The switchbacks there are as steep as anything on the whole climb and I was getting a bit tired. Finally, the Supai Tunnel came into view (reached in 3:03) and I realized that I was probably going to have a serious cushion on my plans of reaching the turn-around in 3:30.

But, the next section sucked. I tried to keep the effort mellow and easy, but the trail had turned to deep dust/sand (as a result of a summer of mule trains pulverizing it) and I was feeling super inefficient. I even walked a few yards while sucking down a gel, and reaching the top of the climb seemed as interminable as ever. Finally, right at 3:30 I tagged the North Rim kiosk, turned around, and immediately began the long descent.

Within a couple minutes of descending I essentially mentally gave up on any sort of record attempt. I just felt cashed. My legs didn't have any real pep on the descent and I was having to force myself to push the downhill at anything other than casual cruise. Eventually, I just gave in and tried to stop caring, and, of course, this is when things started to feel a bit better and I decided I would just keep running and see what kind of time I hit. I really did not feel good on basically the whole descent back down to the Pumphouse, though.

When I did get to the Pumphouse (in 4:15), I quickly refilled my (drained) water bottle, skipped across the bridge, picked up my other water bottle (nice and cool from resting in the shade) and continued on my way down the trail. The now gradual downhill nature of the trail did a lot to make my legs feel better and I took another Endurolyte to stave off any cramps from the downhill.

I guess I pushed pretty hard on the rest of the run back down to Phantom Ranch. I passed Cottonwood in 4:25 and then felt moderately good after that; there was definitely a sense of "Ok, let's just try to hold this together for as long as possible" combined with a knowing reality of impending doom. I knew that last climb was going to be a monster no matter how I rationalized it. About 20-30 minutes out from Phantom, the whole exercise became a real chore.

However, I reached the canteen at Phantom in a still-not-bad 5:17, quickly refilled both bottles (and chugged a full bottle), and was back on my way. I wanted nothing more than to sit down and regroup for 10 minutes or so, but I was hoping I would find something miraculous on the climb and could still pull this thing out.

Of course, it was not to be. I hit my 8th and final gel right before crossing the bridge back to the south side of the Colorado River (5:26), gamely ran the first few yards of the climb, and then just settled into a hard hike. There wasn't much else to the rest of the "run". That is, I alternated between hiking and jogging the rest of the way, and even that was punctuated with a lot of really slow hiking and a couple episodes of hands-on-knees, staring-at-my-toes dizziness that I can only attribute to low calories and electrolytes. It was frustrating. I was surprised at how I was still able to run a fair amount of the flatter stuff, but my actual climbing ability at that point was just laughable.

One notable occurrence was a couple of enormous condors that seemed to dive-bomb me during one of my more delirious moments of uphill hiking--what magnificent creatures.

Finally, I drained both of my bottles, and out of pride I began running for good on the longish flat section before the final climb up "Jacob's Ladder" (damn those final switchbacks) and tagged the South Rim kiosk at 7:16:54. After a few minutes slumped against the kiosk itself, I got up and jogged the 3/4 of a mile back to the Roost, peeled off my dusty 790s, and was done.

Upon reflection, there are a few things for me to take away from this run:
1) Endurolytes are not S! Caps. They each only have 40mg of sodium, and that is not enough.
2) A true, race-type effort of the Double Crossing takes some serious calories. I need to use a small waist-pack next time (Nathan 5K or some such) and pack 15 gels or so. And 8-10 S! Caps. Speaking of race-type efforts, an R2R2R record attempt probably deserves an actual taper, too.
3) The Grand Canyon is absolutely astounding. A majestic landscape that never fails to enthrall, amaze, humble, and inspire me. It essentially makes me find my religion. And for that, a run there is never a waste.

The rest of the trip was a blast. The next day I did a great 100% singletrack 4 hour loop in the San Francisco Peaks of Flagstaff from 8000' to 12,000' (Weatherford Trail to Humphrey's to Kachina trail back to Schultz Pass) and on Monday I had a splendid run on the PCT/AC100 course from Inspiration Point to the top of Mt. Baden-Powell (9400') and back, just outside of Wrightwood, CA.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Grand Canyon Double Crossing

Just a quick note from here in Flagstaff. I did the classic R2R2R route (Kaibab Trail on both Rims) today completely solo in 7:16:54. I'd been bandying about the idea of going after Dave's year-old FKT of 6:59:56 for the past week, but with 180 miles in the 7 days before today and with 12 hours of solo driving yesterday I clearly wasn't thinking about it that seriously.

In any case, I gave it a solid effort today, but a lack of calories and electrolytes (not to mention long runs and just consistent running in general, having only been truly healthy for the past 5 weeks or so) did me in and I bonked in a big way coming back up South Kaibab. This is not unusual when one attempts this run. I'll post a more in-depth report of the run later.

Dogwood Canyon 50K Race Report

I need to write this before I forget all about this was already two weeks ago.

New Balance was a big sponsor of the Bass Pro Shops Fitness Festival in southern Missouri, so they offered to fly Kyle and I out there to compete in the 50K or 25K trail races that were occuring the first weekend of the Festival. There was $1000 for 1st in the 50K and $500 for first in the 25K, so we decided, "Why not?"

My plane out of the Springs was delayed so I missed my connector and ended up getting into Springfield, MO about 5 hours later than planned. No problem. The next morning, Monty from the local running club met me at the hotel they put me up in and drove me down to Dogwood Canyon for the race. We picked up Kyle along the way. All in all, Bass Pro's hospitality during this weekend was top-notch.

The night before, Kyle had decided to run the 50K, too (he'd originally been planning on the 25K), so we did a quick 15 minute warm-up together on the course, shed our warm clothes and lined up for the start. It was our understanding that there would be gels on the course, so we both just carried a bottle and a couple gels to get started. I also had a couple salt caps because it was more humid than I was used to.

We started with the 25Kers, and a few of them shot off the front right from the start. Kyle had met a local Kenyan at the pasta dinner the night before who was running the 50K; apparently he'd just won the Kansas City Marathon the week before. After shooting out to a quick lead in the first couple hundred yards, this fellow looked around for Kyle and I and quickly dropped back and tucked in behind us. It was pretty clear he was just going to stick with us.

The course was basically a big 25K loop that had a little lolli-pop loop and a short out and back stemming off of it. The 50Kers would first run this loop clockwise and then complete it backwards the second time. The course was layed out in Dogwood Canyon, which, as far as I could tell, was the several thousand acre private ranch of the owner of Bass Pro.

It was surprisingly pretty country--covered in deciduous trees, occasional limestone cliffs/outcroppings and a lot of water in the river at the bottom of the canyon. The course itself essentially popped in and out of this canyon a bunch of times resulting in a 50K course with ~4500' of climbing in a series of 10 or 12 ~400' ascents and descents. Which was tough. The climbs and descents were almost always steep.

And the footing on the course was often extremely tricky. It was real trail running for sure even if it was almost 100% double-track. Much of the course was really rocky covered with a lot of fallen leaves so one could never be confident in one's footing. I turned my ankle and went down hard on one downhill, which isn't a big deal, but it was a surprisingly rocky, technical course. Kyle's feet were beat up for days afterwards.

Anyways, after an initial flat mile on a paved bike path the course led into the canyon where we started crossing the river for what would be a total of almost 30 times during the race. It was fun, but Kyle and I were almost certainly going a little too fast unconsciously trying to show this Kenyan what trail running is all about. The stream crossings were a blast, and I was glad I'd worn my hot RC130 New Balance flats whose open mesh upper drained like a dream.

On the initial climb, Kenyan buddy stuck pretty much right with Kyle and I, dropped a little right at the top, and then caught us again on the screaming descent. We led him through some more stream crossings went up a couple more hills and then tackled one of the steeper hills on the course where he just cranked it. I went with him for some reason (despite having some pretty well-founded doubts about my fitness---I'd only been running for about 3 solid weeks) and we dropped Kyle and even caught a couple of the top 25K runners (one of which was hiking the hill--it was steep).

At the top of this hill Kyle eventually caught back up to us (he had tripped over some barbed wire on the course...pretty crazy) and Kyle and I eventually put a little gap on Kenya. There was a short, technical out and back singletrack section where I could check out the competition and I noticed that A) I was only about a minute back from the 25K leaders, and B) Kyle and I seemed to be building a tiny bit of a lead. It must be noted, though, that the 25Kers weren't going slow...Kyle and I were just going too fast.

At about 50 minutes into the race we came to the 2nd aid station (we'd already gone by it once) where Kyle stopped for a few seconds while I jogged on ahead and the aid station workers directed us back down the canyon to repeat all the stream crossings we'd done earlier in the race. Kyle and I were cruising along feeling good about the fact that we'd seemingly dispatched with the competition when we came to the intersection to begin the "lollipop" loop and knew that we couldn't be going the right way. We'd also stopped seeing 25K signs. So, after going out 9 minutes and standing around for about a minute trying to decide what to do (and repeatedly expressing our chagrin at seeing our $1000 disappear) we started running back to the aid station we'd just left.

Within a few minutes we ran into a 25K runner and another 50K runner running at us and we turned them around and followed them back to the aid station. Somewhere in this ~1.5 miles back to the aid station Kyle and I both lost a whole lot of mental competitive steam. Kyle was ready to just do a training run if not drop out at the aid station altogether.

When we got to the aid station we saw our Kenyan friend standing there tying his shoe or something and a whole slew of 25K and 50Kers taking the correct turn into the woods where the aid workers had directed us incorrectly the first time. So it goes. Kyle spent a long time at the aid station (a minute or so) convinced that we had lost 20 minutes on the field and there was no way we could make up that amount of time on the rest of the field over the next 20 miles or so. However, I saw Mr. Kenya there (who I perceived as our main comp) and thought "Well great, the race is still even, then!" and proceeded to try to get my mind back into race mode over the next couple minutes.
Immediately after the aid station the course got particularly gnarly--we had to scramble throught a little ravine--and then began yet another climb. On this climb I fell into a much, much more relaxed pace than my earlier effort and began running with Matt Laye--the 50Ker who we'd met on our way back to the aid station during our bonus miles excursion.

Matt and I kept running comfortably--I was solidly into training run mode at this point, as Kenya was nowhere to be seen (he would never be a factor again and would finish more than 20 minutes back )--and eventually Kyle caught back up to us. By this point I'd resolved to at least finish the race as a nice training run and Kyle seemed to be debating back and forth with himself to join me or whether to drop at the next aid station.

It turned into a very nice training run. The conversation between Matt, Kyle, and I was interesting and widely varying (Matt was moving to Copenhagen soon to get his PhD in Physiology and had spent some time running in the Springs, Kyle and I caught up after not seeing each other for a few weeks, etc., etc.). I stopped taking gels.

Then, on the way up yet another hill a woman directing runners told us that we were in 5th or 6th place. We could see some runners in front of us and when we passed them they turned out to be 50Kers (the lead runner at that point was an ex-college XC runner--Drew--from DePauw, who is in Colorado College's conference and knew some of my best friends) and the three of us quite unexpectedly were leading the race again.

However, less than 2 hours in and it seemed like we were back to the start of the loop already, which didn't seem possible considering our 20 minute excursion. We were convinced that we had somehow cut the course, launching ourselves into the lead (even though we were clearly running quite a bit faster than the former leader). However, when we got to the next aid station we were congratulated on our first place status and when we suggested that maybe we'd missed something someplace everyone was sure that we'd run everything.

Kyle was certain we were going to be disqualified--even with aid station workers cheering us on--and once again was ready to drop out but the three of us kept on running. Every time we came to an aid station, we'd come in with the attitude of, "Ok, let's try to attain some sort of clarity here" and end up leaving with the workers there cheering us as victors.

Eventually, we knew were running the right course (it was just the initial loop backwards, afterall) and figured that we'd finish out the course together and just talk to the race director afterwards to try and figure out where we went wrong.

And that was pretty much it. Kyle, Matt, and I eventually made it back through the canyon, splashed through the river crossings, and then picked it up a touch the last 10 minutes or so into the finish to cross the line three abreast in 3:48:58. It seemed a bit preposterous that--if we hadn't gone off-course--we would've run a sub-3:30 50K, so it's my feeling that the course is substantially short. Probably a couple of miles (1 mile per loop).

Immediately afterwards we talked with the person who had designed the course and the race director to try and determine if we'd run the whole course and should be disqualified or not, and apparently we ran everything plus the extra 20 minutes or so and had still won the race by a lot. It was a weird day. We ended up splitting the prize money three ways, and then Kyle and I went for a short cooldown and then a great soak in the gorgeous river flowing right past the start. A couple hours later we were back on airplanes and back home later that evening.

All in all, it was a really fun--if slightly chaotic--race that I would do again. It was Bass Pro's first year and they got a lot of things right, but for future editions I would suggest having a few more course marshals, especially people whose job would be to make sure that every bib number went through every aid station. For instance, at the out and back turnaround point on the 2nd loop there wasn't even anyone there to record your number to make sure you went around the cone. It was completely on one's honor---which is like a lot of things in ultrarunning---but with that much cash on the line, I think it's important to assure some measure of fairness.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

No longer lacking.

Well, it's been a while since I've felt compelled to post anything to this site. I'm still (increasingly) ambivalent with my feelings about blogs, so when I became injured earlier this summer, I had (very) little motivation to share my life in a such a public manner. I'm still not very comfortable with it, but there seems to be a definite interest out there, so I figure, why not oblige? So, on with the (probably) ill-advised act of asserting some sort of agency in the world of cyber.

An update:
Throughout the month of September the neuroma in my left foot became increasingly more and more cooperative, and--after a couple of 20-30 mile weeks--it was essentially completely healthy by the end of the month. So, I've been training very consistently for the month of October with the last four weeks being in the 140-160 mile range. This is essentially where I plan to keep it, depending on weekend long runs. During the week I've been doing ~3hr/day with Tue/Thu being relatively structured hard days--usually long hill tempos or long flat tempos.

I moved from Leadville back to Colorado Springs on the autumnal equinox and began working on the Barack Obama Campaign there as a canvasser and phone-banker. Yes, I am one of those annoying folks who calls you while you're trying to eat dinner or watch the latest episode of...whatever it is people watch on television these days. Of course, I suppose it depends on one's general outlook/disposition, but Obama is one inspiring fellow. Everyone who can vote, should. Period. Do it.

Finally, I recently returned to racing this past weekend at the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Fitness Festival Dogwood Canyon 50K down in the Ozark Mountains south of Springfield, MO. Technically, Kyle and I finished together in a desultory 3:48:58 after getting significantly off-course, but it was fun to go hard again for a while. I'll try to post a full report sometime soon. In the meantime, here are some pictures:

Some other things:

  • David Foster Wallace killed himself about a month and a half ago. He is definitely one of my favorite authors, and for anyone who is interested I recommend his first novel The Broom Of The System. This speech and this article (particularly germane and interesting considering the current Presidential race) are excellent examples of his mastery of words. I was surprised at how upset I was with his death.

  • Fall is the best season, hands down. I've always vacillated between summer and fall, but this year has convinced me: I love fall. Harvest moons, Boxelder mushrooms, crisp mornings, brilliant afternoon sun, and of course, the splendid draining of chlorophyll from deciduous trees cannot be beat.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Running Plans

Hmmm...running plans. A) Get healthy. B) Have fun. C) Run some sweet trails.

I haven't run a meaningful step this entire month. I guess I did a 12 minute run a couple days ago and ended up walking back. I quit running the first of the month because of two apparent neuromas in my left foot--one between the 1st and 2nd toes and one between the 2nd and 3rd toes (I think).

For the first week or so of not running, my foot really really hurt, all the time. I avoided walking as much as I could because it hurt to walk. I was scared for awhile that it was broken. The weekend that I went down to crew Kyle at Hardrock my foot finally started feeling a bit better, but just the few steps of running around that I did while crewing made it hurt more.

The last couple weeks the foot is way better than it was when I first stopped running, i.e. walking is rarely much of an issue, but it certainly is not runnable. I can press everywhere on all of the metatarsals and there is no sort of touchy spot, so I'm fairly convinced it's not a stress fracture in addition to the neuromas. I know the neuromas are there because they often click under the ball of my foot when I walk. But, the ball of the foot isn't what hurts. It's more like an ache/sharp pain between my metatarsals. When I step hard on a rock in the right place (right under the metatarsal head of my second toe) the pain is BAD all the way through my foot. But, it's not nearly as bad as it was, say, two or three weeks ago.

I've been going to a chiropractor here in Leadville that has been doing some metatarsal shearing/adjusting trying to loosen up my 2nd and 3rd metatarsals and has also been doing some ultrasound, but it doesn't seem to be helping much. I'm seriously considering trying to get a cortisone shot because I've heard some good things about them from people I trust.

In terms of my plans for running, the LT100 is clearly out. Even if I could start running tomorrow, I wouldn't do that race. Right now, I only have time goals at that race and running to an unfit 18 or 19hr finish doesn't interest me, even if it were a win.

For a while I was consciously shifting my (purely mental at this point) focus to the Angeles Crest 100 in September. However, as this injury wears on--and AC is currently only 7 weeks away--I've largely foregone that plan, too. I'm really really tired of trying to prepare for a quality 100 miler with only a month or so of training (this was the case for both of my hundreds--Rocky and Pbville--last year). That was a big reason I was so psyched for Western--my training leading up to it had been virtually hitch-free and very consistent for four months, including two promising tune-up 50 mile races.

So, right now, I'm focusing on just getting healthy in time to do some sweet adventure runs this fall. Things I'm pondering right now include running the entire Tonto trail in the Grand Canyon (~100 miles), the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands (really more of a road, but still an incredible 100 mile loop), something sweet in the San Juans (Grenadier Range?), or maybe even a single push on the Tahoe Rim Trail...

Of course, all of this is once again also making me ponder my training approach. The bottom line is that when I eliminate everything else in my life, I run too much. When I was working at the Colorado Running Company this winter/spring I was limiting my mileage (relatively speaking) and incorporating some solid speedwork into my weekly schedule. Hanging out with Kyle and Scott in Arizona, things were often on the verge of getting out of hand but Kyle's mellow attitude would often reign me in (the same when we were living together in CO Springs). It was only after I dropped Jocelyn off in San Diego and I was doing nothing but sleeping in my truck and running for the last couple of weeks before WS that I let the mileage get out of hand.

So, right now, instead of just thinking about changing my running, I'm trying to do it in the larger context of making some overall changes in my lifestyle, i.e. establish some kind of permanent job this fall/winter/next spring before grad school in 2009 and/or embark on a 3ish month period of international living or travel. We shall see.

In the meantime, working at Provin' Grounds in Leadville is great. It's a big hang-out for runners, bikers, and locals and virtually everything is organic and fairtrade, including the in-house baked goods. And Leadville is a great town in the summer. I could probably not stand the winters at 10,000', but in the summer it's a perfect place with great locals, great mountains/trails, and is very living-out-of-the-Roost friendly.

Week Log: June 23-30

Mon-12 miles (1:35) Mesas and Monument

Tue- 8 miles (1:22) Weehawken Trail to Alpine Mine off of Camp Bird Road in Ouray.
Great great run. 3000' climb to 11k' in less than 50 minutes on incredible singletrack. Being in Ouray this time of year makes me wonder why anyone who loves the mountains would ever want to live anywhere else. This run made me feel very very ready for WS.

Wed-7 miles (1:00) Animas River road out and back from Silverton

Thu-15 miles (2:01) Connors Pass from Majors Junction in the middle of nowhere in Nevada.
~2000' climb

Fri-AM: 8 miles (1:15) Maroon Lake towards Buckskin Pass outside of Aspen. A ton of snow still up there, so I turned around.
AM: 27 miles (5:02) Hope Pass Double Crossing with a lot of extra stuff on the Twin Lakes side because of the raging river that was unswimmable. Ended up crossing at the bridge.

Sat-AM: 25 miles (4:00) Mosquito Range Ridge east of Leadville. ~2hrs above 13k'
PM: 5 miles (:40) East Pb singletracks

Sun-AM: 22 miles (4:04) Hope Pass Double Crossing from Winfield side
PM: 5 miles (:41) Mineral Belt bike path plus 15 minutes barefoot. Pissed blood. Nice.

Total: 134 miles (21:40)

Mon-AM: 6 miles (:50) Colorado Trail w/ Alex from Mayqueen.
Well, the foot was done on this run. I turned around and walked back while Alex went on alone. The CT was great, though. Climbed to 11,600' with lots of lakes and a surprising amount of snow still. Last run I've done in a month.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Week Log: June 16-22

Mon-AM: 16 miles (2:10) Garden of the Gods
Raining the whole way, which was a nice change.
PM: 8 miles (1:07) Monument+library in the FFs

Tue-AM: 27 miles (4:13) Manitou-Barr Camp-Manitou Res-Heizer Trail-Cascade-Waldo-Williams-Manitou.  Great loop.  Good heat training (low 90s).
PM: 7 miles (:54) Monument+library in the FFs.

Wed-AM: 30 miles (4:02) Jones Park-7 Bridges-Buckhorn Loop+barefoot
Tired today.
PM: 5 miles (:42) Monument in the FFs.

Thu-AM: 30 miles (4:02) Jones Park-7 Bridges-Buckhorn Loop+barefoot.
Felt better the 2nd half today.  Wore the new mass-production 790s with the stiffer midsole and they were great.  New Balance made a great shoe even better.
PM: 5 miles (:40) Monument in the FFs.  And now the real tapering begins.

Fri-AM: 11 miles (1:30) Monument-RR Tracks in the FFs.

Sat-AM: 25 miles (3:02) Buckhorn+barefoot.
Ran up the mountain in 31:20 feeling very mellow and easy the whole way, so that was very encouraging.  7 min miles the whole way back felt easy, too.  Feeling good.

Sun-AM: 16 miles (2:05) South Santa Fe out and back in the FFs.
Kept it short, flat, and easy.

Total: 180 miles (24:26)

Well, the work is obviously done and now there's nothing left to do but jog around a little each day and wait.  I plan on 1:30 Monday and nothing over an hour the rest of the days until WS.  This will definitely be the longest/mellowest taper I've ever done before a 100 mile race, but I've also had my best, most consistent block of training ever leading up to a 100 mile race.

This past week was also a little different in that when I get this close to a 100 mile race I stop pushing my luck by filling my bottles with un-treated water on my training runs.  I figure that if I have been lucky enough to make it this long without hosting any sort of serious giardia live-ins, then I shouldn't get cocky and pick some up in the last couple weeks before a big race.  

Most un-treated sources that I tend to drink out of are usually springs (often coming right out of the ground or rocks), but there are plenty of "non-spring" streams that I'll frequent on a weekly/daily basis that it's probably a good idea to stay away from with an important race looming.  Of course, I'm not even sure what the incubation period for giardia is anyway...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Week Log: June 9-15

Mon-AM: 20 miles (2:40) Bear Creek-Intemann-Red Rocks-Garden
Great easy loop.  Loved the new Roundup Trail in Red Rocks.
PM: 5 miles (:41) Monument easy in the FFs

Tue-AM: 28 miles (4:10) Manitou to Elk Park and back, 6000'
Ran pretty solid t0 Barr Camp, then cruised it up to EP at 12k'.  Cleared some trees off the trail on the way back.  Pretty tired by the end, but the temp was close to 90 today, so good heat training (finished around 2pm).
PM: 4 miles (:33) Monument

Wed-AM: 30 miles (4:00) 666-Jones Park-7 Bridges-Buckhorn+barefoot, 4000'
Started late because I was waiting for my new NB790s to show up in the mail.  Tempoed the 666 hill in 33:43.  Felt a lot better today than yesterday and wasn't even really that tired by the end.
PM: 5 miles (:40) North Monument
Stopped by the Colorado Running Co. afterwards for cookies and brews.  Felt good despite only the ~2hr or so of rest between runs.

Thu-AM: 36 miles (5:15) 666-Pipeline-North Cheyenne Creek Trail-Stratton Reservoir-7 Bridges-Buckhorn. 6000'  Great great run.  Finally connected the little trail that follows North Cheyenne Creek all the way up to the reservoir at 12k'.  It climbs very very steeply (probably over 1000' in one mile long section) but is worth it.  Felt good the whole run despite only having 2 gels with me.

Fri-AM: 11 miles (1:31) Monument+RR tracks
Ran nice and mellow this morning, but didn't even feel that tired.

Sat-AM: 50 miles (7:20) Garden-Manitou-Barr Camp-Manitou Reservoir-Heizer Trail-Cascade-Waldo-Williams-Manitou-Intemann-Bear Creek-Monument. 6000' Awesome run.  The temp was in the low 90s today so I decided to stay low (high point was Barr Camp at 10,200') in the heat and check out the awesome trail over to the reservoir and Heizer mountain.  I love running new trails.  The climb out of Cascade and through Waldo was perfect heat training as I could feel the waves of hot air hitting me.  Felt good until the last 40 minutes or so...just the usual bonking/dehydrating at the end of a long one.  Really liked the way the 790s performed today.

Sun-AM: 15 miles (2:02) Garden of the Gods
Nice and hot again today: 92F.  Kept it short to be sure I recover from yesterday's last big long run before Western.

Total: 204 miles (28:52), ~18,000'

This was a great week of training.  However, because last week's long runs were on Fri/Sat, I inadvertently logged my highest ever (by far) 7 day total from last Friday to this week's Thursday: (55)+(45)+(28/4)+(20/5)+(28/4)+(30/5)+(36)=~260 miles and 37hr with ~38k' vertical (I only count climbs over 1000').  Holy shit; good thing I didn't go for a run Thursday night like I'd planned.  Well, at least it came the perfect amount of time out from WS and it happened without me really even thinking about it.  Finally, this past weekend was great because I finally got some heat training in--the last element I was looking for going into WS.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Week Log: June 2-8

Mon-AM: 15 miles (2:03) Coast Ridge Road out and back
Jocelyn and I started right off Highway 1 at the Ventana Inn parking lot...sweet ~3000' climb with incredible ocean views the whole way.

Tue-AM: 28 miles (4:15) Cloud Burst past Islip Saddle and back on the Angeles Crest course/PCT
Great run. I really enjoyed getting back in the mountains after so many days running through the woods. The PCT is such a great trail---this run definitely made me want to get out to AC this year; we'll see. Ran ~15min past Islip towards Mt. Baden-Powell before turning around and making the journey back up and over Mt. Williamson and through Cooper Canyon. Probably ~6000' climbing. Loved it.
PM: 4 miles (:30) Lagoon and beach in Del Mar w/ Jocelyn in the Five Fingers

Wed-AM: 11 miles (1:31) San Elijo Lagoon w/ Jocelyn
Ran nice and easy, but didn't feel good until the last 1/2 hour or so.

Thu-AM: 15 miles (2:03) Bear Creek+barefoot
Pretty lame run. I was planning a long long run today but it rained the entire day (and during the run) so I decided to hold off a day...pretty tough to get psyched about 8 hours of running in the rain.

Fri-AM: 55 miles (8:01) Garden-Manitou-Elk Park-Manitou-Intemann-Section 16 Loop-Bear Creek+barefoot. Very solid run. This is my biggest run of the Western States build-up and it went pretty well. I could feel the altitude while climbing to 12,000' at Elk Park (spending a whole week at low-altitude in CA), but the run improved as the day went on. Bonked pretty hard going up the ~1500' Section 16 climb, but it was good to do a climb like that so late in the day. Rocked the green 790s and they felt great all day. ~8000' climbing

Sat-AM: 45 miles (6:10) Buckhorn-St. Mary's Falls-Buffalo Canyon-Rosa Saddle-Frostys-Pipeline-Jones Park-Buckhorn-Bear Creek-Monument Loops+barefoot.
This run started out pretty tough...I really considering only doing 4 or 5 hours today. The climb up to Rosa from the 381 Rd was brutal! That's a sweet trail, though, and I want to get on it some more. Pretty quick way to get to 11,000'. The run seemed to get better later in the day, though, and I was psyched to put in such a big back to back. ~6000' climbing

Sun-AM: 28 miles (4:00) UPT-Cascade-Waldo-Williams-Red Mountain+barefoot
After starting out pretty sluggish (to be expected) I really started feeling solid climbing out of Cascade up and over to Waldo Canyon and then felt good enough to tack on the Red Mt climb at the end. A very cool morning with almost no sun--I wore a long sleeve most the day. ~5000' climbing.
PM: 4 miles (:33) Monument Loops

Total: 205 miles (29:06)

Another very solid week contributing to the most important phase of my training going into Western States.  I was very pleased with my ability to pull off three solid days in a row over the weekend even if I didn't feel stellar for any of them.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Western States Course Preview: Week Log May 26-June 1

I spent the second half of this week driving with Jocelyn back to San Diego. We decided to take the long way in order to check out some of the Western States course and then enjoy a roadtrip together taking our time cruising down the coast on (mostly) Highway 1. First, the week of training:

Mon-AM: 30 miles (4:00) Started from Red Rocks, then up 666-Jones Park-7 Bridges-Buckhorn-Capn Jacks-Chutes-Stratton+barefoot. Did the 666 hillclimb tempo in 33:23. Very solid.
PM: 4 miles (:33) Monument Loops easy w/ Jocelyn

Tue-AM: 30 miles (4:00) Jones Park-7 Bridges-Buckhorn Loop+barefoot. Almost the exact same run as yesterday---ran fairly hard up 666 in 34:40.

Wed-PM: 8 miles (1:07) Canyon trails in Fruita, CO. Driving all day.

Thu-AM: 15 miles (2:01) Double tracks right out of Austin, NV. A few 1000' climbs.

Fri-AM: 50 miles (7:26) Western States course: Michigan Bluff to Last Chance and back then to Cal-1...with bailing out of Robinson Flat early in the morning and getting lost for miles between MB and Foresthill.

Sat-AM: 48 miles (6:00) WS course: Placer High School to Rucky Chucky and back

Sun-AM: 15 miles (2:15) Big Basin Redwoods State Park w/ Jocelyn: Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail out and back.

Total: 200 miles (27:22)

I had a very good start to the week with back to back 30 milers, but then packing up the apartment/traveling got in the way mid-week, which just meant that I was well-rested for the WS Course baptism on the weekend.

Jocelyn and I pulled into Auburn, CA on Thursday evening more than a bit frazzled from the I-80 traffic: Jocelyn commented more than once that driving on I-80 from Squaw Valley to Auburn was going to be the most stressful part of crewing for me at Western. I hope she's right.

We bumbled onto the Auburn Running Company while looking for someplace to poach some internet and buy some groceries and the fellows there were quite helpful and friendly. I picked up a map of the Auburn Lake area that covered the WS course (but, of course, the actual race route wasn't marked on it) from Michigan Bluff to the finish, but I ended up not ever using it for anything.

Jocelyn and I were much relieved to finally hop onto the Foresthill Divide Road with plans of heading up towards Robinson Flat to camp for the evening. We stopped at the General Store in Foresthill in order to dine on the picnic tables there with an excellent view of the American River Canyon.

We then spent a considerable amount of time in and around Foresthill trying to acquaint ourselves with various landmarks of the race course: California Street, Michigan Bluff Road, Bath Road. Because of all this driving around we spent the rest of the drive up the Foresthill Divide in darkness, thereby setting us up for a nice surprise the next morning when all the big views from up there unveiled themselves to us.

However, about 2 miles from Robinson Flat the road was blocked by a couple good-sized snow/ice banks that we decided to not mess with, so we just pulled over near the Sailor Flat sign and threw our sleeping bags down on the luxuriously loamy forest floor.

Friday morning we awoke early with the sun and decided we'd just run the couple of miles to Robinson Flat and hope to pick up the WS route there. My plan was to run the route the whole way to Rucky Chucky and then run/walk/crawl out to the Divide Road where Jocelyn would be waiting for me.

My legs felt great on the road climb up to RF, but once we got there Jocelyn and I were ultimately completely frustrated by no course markings (the training weekend contingent clearly hadn't made it up there), still quite a bit of snow, and barely any signage. We did manage to find a single WS Trail marker but had no idea about which of the many possible (largely snow-covered) forest roads there were to choose from.

The only option was to run back down to the car and drive to a different access point on the trail. I initially thought we could drive up Mosquito Ridge Rd to N-44 and Dusty Corners but decided that was a whole lot of driving for comparatively little more WS trail so I settled on doing an out and back from Michigan Bluff to Last Chance and then planning on continuing from MB all the way down to Rucky Chucky.

So, with 37 minutes of running already in our legs, we set out up the WS trail from Michigan Bluff. Jocelyn instantly fell in love with the perfect singletrack, horse trail, canopy vegetation nature of the path and my spirits were instantly lifted too: FINALLY, I was on the Western States Trail!

I left Jocelyn behind (she would do a double-crossing of Eldorado Canyon) and cruised down to El Dorado Creek in 22 minutes. Immediately on the climb out the other side I could tell that life was different down here at the lower elevations: all the extra oxygen on the climb made it feel as if I was cheating.

It was on this initial climb out of Eldorado that I began thinking about how ridiculously perfect and benign the trails of Northern California were. These were not the usual Rocky Mountain fare. Running in Colorado, to me, has a feel of rugged adventure brought on by rough-hewn, often ill-maintained gravelly/rocky trails, thin air, and an underlying sense that the margin of error is always slim. Coming out of Eldorado Canyon everything felt too perfect and controlled, like a gated community. NorCal trail running was polo and fox-hunting while Colorado trail running is steer wrestling and buffalo hunting.

Of course, that's all a bit ridiculous and I even think I'm pretty much wrong; the thing to remember is that it's not a value-judgement--for me there was just a different feel on the trail.

Anyways, I popped out of the canyon at the "Danger: Hazardous Trail Ahead" sign (or, something like that) at 1:00 even and then traversed my way over the ridge to Devil's Thumb (or, at least the sign that signals the descent into Deadwood Canyon) in 1:21. It took me 13 minutes to get to the river (is this the "Swinging Bridge"?) and then another 22 minutes to climb to the more road-like section of the route (right by the old mine site) that leads up the hill to what I guessed to be Last Chance (there was a big clearing in the road and a nearby placard recounting the history of the WS Trail saying that I was at Last Chance), which I reached in 2:10. Right before Last Chance I was super-psyched to see a big bear lumber off the edge of the trail and into the woods.

After a gel, I turned around and cruised back the exact way I had just come. I loved the 22 minute descent from Last Chance to the Swinging Bridge and then cruised up the 34 (by my count) switchbacks to Devil's Thumb in 23 minutes. The section of trail through this canyon is simply wonderful. Extremely enjoyable running.

I noted on the way back how it's actually ALL downhill from DT to Eldorado Creek, which I covered in 38 minutes and then grunted up the final climb into Michigan Bluff in 31 minutes for a total split from LC to MB of 1:55. Maybe I was just hungry, but it seemed to me the last little bit of the climb up to MB drug on a bit.

After meeting Jocelyn at MB and having her point me in the right direction, we agreed to meet again in an hour or so at California Street in Foresthill. I followed flagging for a good ways on first a gravel road and then a right turn onto a more logging-type road, but I must've missed something because soon I T-boned with a paved road that--through a solid 20 minutes or so of running back and forth on--I determined to be the Michigan Bluff Road (the "1/2 mile to Michigan Bluff" sign was a good tip).

So, I decided to just run that back to Foresthill because I knew it would get me there. That sucked. All pavement (duh) and much further than I remembered from driving it. When I finally met up with Jocelyn in Foresthill I'd added an extra 4-5 miles onto the route. With the 4 more from running up to Robinson Flat early in the morning, I decided to bag running all the way to the River (I sort of wanted to avoid a 9 hour day). Instead, I just did an out and back down to five minutes past Cal-1, which revealed still more beautiful trail. All in all, it was an excellent day of running.

After sleeping on the Placer High School Track Friday night (lots of folks were finishing up a night training run from Green Gate to the finish) I did a much simpler run to Rucky Chuck and back from the Finish.

I spent the first hour or so with Jocelyn shaking the crap out of my legs from the previous day's run, but after she turned around at Highway 49 I gradually got in my groove and actually felt quite good. Surprising, the day after a 7 1/2 hour run. Maybe extra oxygen helps you recover faster, too. Twice between Highway 49 and the quarry I got sidetracked onto other trails where I would run out 5-10 minutes or so before realizing that I hadn't seen a flag in a while. But, from there all the way to the River things were fairly straightforward; I seemed to bumble my way down the right trail, and even with the 25-30 minutes of off-course time I got to the River in 3:15 flat.

I took a break to swim across the river and back just to check its depth and swiftness (not nearly as bad as I thought it would be---I can't imagine what it was like the year they used a raft to get across during the race), and then turned around and started running back to Auburn, finally completely confident in my route.

The run back to the high school was really quite uneventful and I just took pleasure in a beautiful day and what seemed to be an overall slight downhill to the course profile. I climbed up to Green Gate in 17 minutes, was surprised at the ~10min climb up past the rock quarry, but hit the Highway in 1:39, and then enjoyed the very long downhill to No Hands Bridge (2:05) before the final climb up to Robie Pt which I reached in 2:24. I cursed that final little climb (surely not as much as I will in the race), but cruised back to the track in a total of 2:35 and then jogged 10 minutes barefoot to round out the 6 hours.

I'm not sure what to take away from these training runs except that I am surely pleased with how they went. Of course, there are still parts of the route that are unknown to me (the Duncan Canyon climb is the only one I haven't seen), but I guess that'll just make it a little more interesting on race day. A couple more weeks of big training, a nice taper, and I'll be making a trip back out to Cali in no time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Week Log: May 19-25

Mon-AM: 18 miles (2:20) Garden of the Gods+barefoot
Really enjoying this spate of warmer weather. Took it nice and easy, but the legs actually felt pretty good. Afterwards, refueled with several plates of appetizers and glasses of punch at CC's graduation reception.
PM: 5 miles (:40) North Monument
Legs felt surprisingly good. Ran in the FiveFingers for a first time in a while.

Tue-AM: 16 miles (2:01) North Loop then South Santa Fe Trail
5x2min hard/1min easy, 1xmile in 5:25, 3x2min hard/1min easy
This wasn't a great workout. It was hot and windy; I was dehydrated, starving, and sleep-deprived and that one mile was quite a bit tougher than it should've been so I bagged the last couple of "on" segments and just jogged it home.
PM: 7 miles (1:03) Palmer Park with Jocelyn
This was a great run in the FiveFingers. I felt way way better than this morning, and adding a pair of insoles to my FFs provided the perfect extra little bit of protection that my foot needed.

Wed-AM: 16 miles (2:08) Broadmoor/Cheyenne Mt. Zoo
First time I've really explored around over there and there ain't much exploring to do because of all the exclusiveness ridiculousness.
PM: 9 miles (1:29) 666-Mt. Buckhorn Loop w/ Jocelyn and Koch
I'd planned on doing more than this, but we were so hungry by the end that Jocelyn and I just went straight to Chipotle and Josh and John's instead.

Thu-AM: 10 miles (1:30) No Name Creek and back from Manitou w/ Jocelyn
I was planning a much longer run this morning, but for some reason my body was still feeling beat down so I just decided to make it an easy day and have the weekend come a day early.

Fri-AM: 52 miles (7:05) 666-Pipeline-Frosty's Park-Baldy Summit-Frosty's-701-Jones Park-7 Bridges-Buckhorn-Monument Loops ~7000' climbing
This was a great great run where I was really cooking a lot of the day. Baldy is 12,349' and I felt pretty good getting to the summit in 3:31 from my doorstep. However, it was super windy and pretty cold on top and started snowing just as I was leaving and the snow actually chased me all the way back down to 8000' or so. The route I took back down (701) contours at ~10,000' for a long time so the storm had a while to catch up with me. Overall a very good run.

Sat-AM: 43 miles (6:00) 666-Jones Park-Pipeline-Beaver Meadows-701-Frosty's-Mt. Rosa Saddle-St. Mary's Falls-Buckhorn-Monument Loops. ~6000' climbing
Another very solid long run. I was definitely tired/sluggish most of the day, but I just settled in and went with it. I'm really enjoying exploring all the trails up there above 9000' that I never really got to last summer. The trail down off of the Rosa Saddle (11,000') towards St. Mary's Falls is especially cool--I want to run up it sometime soon.

Sun-AM: 15 miles (2:02) Garden of the Gods
Tired from the last couple big days.
PM: 6 miles (:54) Bear Creek from Wal-Mart w/ Jocelyn
Felt horrible. Just a bad time of day. Got some heat training in at least, I guess.

Total: 197 miles (27:12)

Kind of a weird week. It didn't go exactly how I wanted it to, but the back to back long runs were perfect. Showed some restraint on Sunday in that I didn't add on to the horrible evening run just to get 200 miles for the week. Right now it's all about listening to my body while still trying to cram in as many miles as possible. I'm just listening a lot more closely than I did last year.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Week Log: May 12-18

Mon-AM: 16 miles (2:10) Garden of the Gods+barefoot
The first hour my body was readjusting from being sick, but then it turned into a pleasant run.
PM: 9 miles (1:20) Williams Canyon out and back w/ Jocelyn
Nice, easy, pleasant run on one of my favorite trails. Jocelyn was tired from her blazing 17:22 5K this weekend.

Tue-AM: 25 miles (3:05) 666-Buckhorn+barefoot
666 Hill Tempo in 34:10 (didn't go quite tempo effort), then, 15x1min hard/1min easy back through Bear Creek (Matt C Special)
Solid workout; good to go fast again for the first time in a while.
PM: 5 miles (:40) North Monument

Wed-AM: 25 miles (3:15) 666-Buckhorn+barefoot
Wow, pretty worked today. Had to go slow. Happy to be done. Wore the new 790s and they were great.
PM: 5 miles (:43) King Soopers and back to drop off movie

Thu-AM: 27 miles (3:30) 666-Buckhorn-Capn Jacks+barefoot
Felt way better than yesterday, but still not quite completely on it. Sickness is still just barely lingering. It doesn't help that every run this week it's been raining/snowing at higher elevations.
PM: 5 miles (:41) North Monument+barefoot

Fri-AM: 10 miles (1:30) King Soopers and back plus Monument Loops and barefoot

Went nice and easy; not too tired.

Sat-AM: 52 miles (6:30) 666-Jones Park-Frosty's Park-up Baldy Road then down to Old Stage-Gold Camp-Buckhorn+barefoot
Really good run. I know it seems really fast, but after climbing to 11,200' on Mt. Baldy I turned around and had a 19 mile downhill on gravel roads to 7600' that I ran in 2:03 (6:20s pace), so when you're running that fast for that long the miles stack up pretty quickly. I felt very good on the 5000' climb, rocked the long downhill (it's really hard not to), climbed another 1000' over the Buckhorn ridge, and then cruised it home. An added bonus was that the first really warm day (temps in the 80s) gave me some good heat training. Despite being turned around at 11k' because of snow, it seems like the warm weather will make quick work of any remaining snow in the high country. The new 790s performed beautifully on this run.

Sun-AM: 34 miles (4:33) 666-Lake Moraine Road and back+barefoot
Another good run. It took me an hour or so to really get warmed up and feeling good after yesterday's run, but I actually felt OK on the 4000' climb to Lake Moraine (actually a reservoir) at 10,500'. I'm so excited the snow is disappearing! I turned around and ran back down the hill at a very solid clip all the way back home. Don't think I ate enough for dinner the night before so I was really starving for a lot of this run and had to take a couple of gels. More good heat training in the upper 80s.

Total: 213 miles (27:57)

A great kick-off week to the real meat of my WS preparation. I felt sort of off all week coming back from whatever virus I had, but then I was clearly over it by time the weekend rolled around. Tuesday was a nice transitional workout with the hill tempo/fartlek, but I hope to maybe get in a more conventional, flat, get-down speed-type workout next week. Also, I'm super psyched about getting on the WS course next weekend. Not sure if the high country portion will be accessible, but I plan to see at least everything from Robinson Flat to the finish line and hopefully will get in another 50ish miler (Robinson to the River?).  Hopefully I can get an idea about what type of splits might be possible, plus some real heat training.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Week Log: May 5-11

Mon-AM: 25 miles (4:04) A-Frame and back plus Mt. View out and back on the way down ~6000' vertical
Yes! Finally some high altitude running! Ran to Barr Camp in 73:42 (from Hydro Street...even though I start most of my Manitou runs at Memorial Park I always time from Hydro because I need a little warm-up time) and there was NO SNOW the entire way. Above BC there was a fair bit of snow, but it was all runnable as it was pretty crusty/slushy/icy so I could stay on top of it. By A-Frame (12,000') the trail wasn't followable anymore, though, so I turned around and cruised it back down. Felt OK on the uphill, but really felt solid on the downhill and the excursion over to Mt. View at 10k' in order to get some more altitude time. Cranked downhill faster than usual (~48min from BC to Hydro) and then ran some extra at the bottom to make it 25ish miles. Great day.
PM: 6 miles (:47) Shooks Loop Backwards
Easy in the 152s, but feeling good. Stopped at the Safeway to pick up some tortilla chips.

Tue-AM: 25 miles (4:35) Pikes Peak Summit then down to Mt. View over to Barr Trail and down ~8000' vertical
Awesome to get to 14,000' for the first time this year, but ~8000' vertical in ~10 miles is pretty brutal. Felt good except for the last couple thousand feet. It is so steep in some spots. Rocked the downhill solid to get in some great downhill training for Western. Took two gels and snagged a Snickers bar at the Summit House that saved me the last hour and a half. Jogged around a little in Manitou to get in 25ish.
PM: 6 miles (:50) North Loop+barefoot
Easy in the 152s but I somehow felt really good. Gorgeous evening. For some reason when I only take 3-4hrs after a long run I always feel nice and peppy on the 2nd run.

Wed-AM: 30 miles (4:00) Jones Park-7 Bridges Loop+Monument loops and barefoot ~4000' vertical
Rainy all day, so I didn't get out until almost noon. Slow at first, but then I felt good on the climb up 666 so I just went for it and decided to do the full loop because I was having so much fun. Above Capn Jacks there was new snow on the trail (that my NB 152s weren't so happy navigating) and there was rain coming down, but I had a blast. Kinda bonked the last 30 minutes or so because I didn't take any gels or water (did have a muffin for breakfast, though).

Thu- zippo, woke up with a sore throat, headache, body aches, queasy stomach, no good

Fri- 4 miles (:37) Monument+barefoot easy with Jocelyn
Just jogged around with J, but that might have been a mistake. I felt better afterwards than before, but I think I just need rest right now.

Sat- 0
No running today because I didn't really see any improvement in my health from yesterday. I'll just look at this as "stress fracture insurance" and hopefully will be able to start solid running again Monday.

Sun- AM: 5 miles (:42) North Monument

Jogged around easy to just test my health. Feeling better, but still pretty off. Should be ready to go tomorrow, though.

Total: 101 miles (15:35)

Great first half of the week, worthless second half; not much else to say.  I really don't like to believe that going for a longish run in the rain can make one catch an illness...but it probably does compromise the immune system a bit.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Week Log: April 28-May 4

Mon-PM: 11 miles (1:31) Baca Grande road out and back
In Crestone, CO with Jocelyn. Wore the NB 505s because my foot is still bruised. I felt so shitty on the way back that I stopped running and just walked the last hour. Time to take some down time.

Tue-PM: 5 miles (:40) Baca campus road out and back w/ Jocelyn
Felt pretty terrible.

Wed-AM: 5 miles (:40) North Crestone Road out and back
Almost felt normal by the end of this run, I think.

Thu-AM: 5 miles (:40) Baca Grande singletrack+road w/ Jocelyn
Finally feel like a human being again. Felt good enough to do a lot more this morning, but there's no hurry.

Fri-AM: 25 miles (3:01) Buckhorn+Monument Loops+barefoot
The first few miles were a bit funky, and I actually felt like I'd lost some altitude fitness on the Buckhorn climb, but I felt really really good the second half and had a lot of sub-7 minute miles. Really cookin' at times.
PM: 6 miles (:51) Shooks Run Loop w/ Jocelyn
Nice and easy in the 152s.

Sat-AM: 32 miles (4:14) 666-Jones Park-Meadow before Lake Moraine-7 Bridges-Buckhorn and back home.
I didn't feel great climbing on this run but it was awesome because I ran on basically snow-free trails all the way up to 10,000'. Yeah! I'm ready for summer! Felt really good on the downhills, and actually moving good all day until I started bonking the last 3 miles or so.

Sun-AM: 8 miles (1:11) Pipeline trail out+back in Manitou w/ Jocelyn
Decided that I would rather spend the whole day with Jocelyn than go running all day; especially since this "easy/down" week would've still been over 100 miles if I hadn't taken today so easy. Felt good. I love this trail.

Total: 97 miles (12:48)

I guess my body really needed this week after the last very very solid 8 weeks of training and racing. I just figured that if I don't give myself a nice physical and mental break right now then my body/mind will be NEEDING it in a couple of weeks when I'll needing to be putting in the meat of my training for Western States. I was happy with the way I felt by the end of the week, so I'm excited to really get after it now--especially since he high altitude trails are melting out!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Zane Grey 50 Race Report

(Coming into Geronimo Aid at 8 miles Photo credit: JP Pullaro)
First off, the Highline Trail is 51 miles; and that last mile counts.

As long as I've been aware of ultramarathons, Zane Grey has been a race that I've wanted to do. While I feel that its self-proclamation of being the hardest 50 miler in the country isn't quite accurate (San Juan's climbing and altitude trumps the rocks of ZG, I think) it is probably the 2nd hardest and it has an infamous and historic point-to-point course that has attracted a lot of the country's top ultrarunning talent over the years. So, with a classic course and plenty of previous time standards to test myself against, I was lured in.

About 10 days before the race, Kyle and I went down to Pine, AZ (the starting point) to check out some of the course. After doing an out and back 25 miler from the starting line my emotions ranged from, on the way out: "My God, this is some kind of sick joke to hold a race on this pathetic, sorry excuse for a trail" to, on the way back: "I don't know, this is actually kind of fun..." With that introduction, though, I'd decided I'd seen enough.

Zane Grey was under new directorship this year. Perry Edinger stepped in to keep the race alive, and--much to my appreciation--decided to do what he could to invite and accommodate some top runners to this year's race. As a result, I was looking forward to running with some of the East Coast's finest--Bradley Mongold and Eric Grossman--along with former race winner Josh Brimhall. As it turned out, though, Grossman wouldn't be able to make it out because of a re-aggravated hamstring injury.

After much debate, I decided to not wear a headlamp for the race and was glad I didn't. Even with a 5am start, Arizona doesn't follow daylight savings time, so the sky was already lightening when Perry sent us on our way. I took the lead from the first step with Josh, Bradley, and James Bonnett right on my heels. Strangely, there didn't seem to be any flagging at all the first 17 miles of the course, so in the first few miles I relied on Josh's prior course knowledge--and my small preview--to keep us on the right path.

After a mile or so, Josh took over the lead, but then I was on point as we began the first substantial climb of the course. I remembered it being steep the week before, but race adrenaline made it seem not so bad. However, I definitely think I was a bit too aggressive for such an early point in the race. On the entire run over to the Geronimo aid station at mile 8 I felt awkward and uncomfortable, even though I was leading and setting the pace. The extra bulky shoes (Brooks ST Racers) I was wearing to protect my bruised foot just plain sucked. The extra midsole height provided padding and protection but it also drastically reduced my proprioceptive feedback, responsiveness in my footstrike, and ankle stability. Plus, they were a half-size too big. So it goes.

Not only did the shoes feel awkward, but I just felt like I was kind of forcing the pace, which is not the way I like to run so early in such a long race. I had a (very) small gap on Josh and irrationally I kind of wanted to maintain it. I cruised the nice piney section downhill into Geronimo, splashed across the creek (almost running into a photographer because my head was down negotiating the water), skipped the aid (split of 1:10), and started up the switchbacks leading out of the valley. As I was winding up the hill I expected to see Josh and Bradley right behind me but I'd somehow already opened a minute or so gap on them. That would be the last time I would seen any other runner the whole race (which made for a pretty lonely day).

On the next section over to Washington Park (17 miles) I just focused on running smoothly, comfortably, and efficiently. I was trying to make up for what I thought had been a little bit too quick of a first hour of running. The trail in this section actually wasn't too bad for a while. And then came a completely washed out gulley followed by a bunch of burn and downfalls where I completely lost the trail and was literally running around in circles in frustration trying to get back on track. Eventually I picked it back up, though, and cruised to the Washington Park aid in 2:34.

I'd taken my fourth gel right before the station, refilled my bottles and took my first salt cap as I was heading out. It wasn't hot at all yet (the day would top out at only 80 degrees or so), but I was sweating pretty good and wanted to stay on top of my electrolytes. It was during this section that I also saw at least two dozen elk (very cool) and the first of two rattlesnakes that I spontaneously jumped over because it was laid all the way across the trail (not so cool).

The next 7 mile section over to the remote Hell's Gate aid station went surprisingly quickly (I think it's probably a touch short). I just kept doing my thing: enjoying the technical challenge of the rocks and running as quickly and efficiently as possible on the smooth sections of trail (yes, there were some smoother sections out there). I filled my bottles again at Hell's Gate (3:37) in anticipation of the long 9 mile stretch over to Tonto Creek and kept on my way.

I think it was this section of the course that had a fair amount of downhill long grass-concealing-rocks surface that proved to be some of the most frustrating terrain of the whole day. Other than that, I don't remember much except for the unrelenting up and down nature of the trail and the fact that I was pretty happy to get to Tonto Creek (33 miles in 5:06) because after that I could mentally start feeling like I was in the home stretch. It definitely also began to get a bit hot in this section. I stopped to dunk my head at most creek crossings to conserve the water in my bottles.

Coming into Tonto Creek my legs still felt pretty good.  I consistently had to remind myself to take it easy on the uphills and not waste extra energy trying to run too fast over the extremely technical terrain.  Additionally, any time the trail would smooth out a bit my legs would take off and turn over by themselves.  At the station itself I was sure to prepare for the long next stretch by drinking a full bottle of water and filling both my bottles before taking off again.

All of that pretty much ended after the 33 mile aid station.  Pretty soon after the aid there were a couple of uphills that were such an incredible jumble of sandstone blocks that all I could do was laugh out loud as I picked my way up the hill.  Even before I got to the biggest climb on the course at approximately the 35-36 mile point my legs were done.  I had stopped trying to push it on the smooth sections and was mostly in "let's just get it done" mode.

Going up the ~1000' climb was actually nice at first because the trail was now completely back in the forest and out of the burn section, but it was also extremely frustrating for me because the trail was in much much better condition but I no longer had the reserves to really push the pace and take advantage of the improved footing.  And then I actually had to walk the steeper sections of the climb.  I know that walking is often an efficient mode of racing in mountain ultra events, but I hate to do it.  I like running.  I don't like walking.  

But there really wasn't much else I could do at this point.  I still ran the less steep sections of the ascent, but I was seriously losing momentum.  In an attempt to get my energy back I took 3 gels within 45 minutes, an extra salt cap, and drank as much as possible.  This all seemed to help and once the climb started descending things improved a bit.

I'd remembered someone saying at the pre-race briefing the night before that there would be some type of "emergency" aid at the 30, 37, and 40 mile marks, so I focused all of my energy on just getting to that supposed 40 mile mark.  I ran everything up until I reached those folks at 6:17 where I filled one of my water bottles because I was almost out.  From there it was just more of the same all the way to the Christopher Creek aid although I do remember there being a bunch of downfall trees in this section.  Multiple, fully-branched trees would cover the course at times and I would waste time and energy bushwhacking around them and trying not to lose the always-sketchy path.

Finally, I saw the vehicles down at the 44 mile aid and that instantly put a little extra pep into my legs on the downhill leading into the station, which I reached in 7:00.  I took a minute to refill both bottles at the station, grab a couple extra gels, hear that I had an hour lead, and then took off down the homestretch of trail.

I was relieved to hear that I had such a big lead, but that really did nothing to motivate me to try and push for a sub-8hr finish.  I'd had Dave Mackey's 7:51:04 course record in mind when I left Tonto Creek, but the big climb and my subsequent rough spot of the day took most of my motivation away.  Along with the fact that someone at the final aid told me it was actually 7 miles to the finish and not 6.  Ugh.

Either way, I still thought I had a chance at a sub-8hr/2nd fastest time during this last stretch but it was incredibly difficult to motivate.  Essentially, I wussed out and just settled into a survival ultra shuffle that I usually only break out during 100 mile races.  I ran into Karsten Solheim with his chainsaw still clearing the last few miles of the course and almost immediately after that tripped for the first time all day but caught myself from face-planting by landing a water-bottled hand on a huge boulder and thereby emptying the bottle all over the trail.

Unfortunately, the last major climb adjacent to the creek bed really took some of the wind out of my sails and I was relegated to walk a couple more steep stretches as I downed another gel.  I was really kind of out of it.  Any time that I tried to motivate myself with the thought of a sub-8hr finish I could never come up with any other response than, "Man, I just really don't freakin' care."  This is (obviously) pretty typical in the late stages of a long and arduous ultra, but it's disappointing to me because the one time I've had competition in the late stages of an ultra (Red Hot Moab 50K back in February) I was psyched to see how my body was able to respond surprisingly effectively even though I'd felt pretty cashed and complacent at that point, too.  This is definitely a point on which either having a pacer or having some competition breathing down my neck would clearly make a big difference.

So.  After what seemed like forever (and many miles of comparatively beautifully smooth trail) I finally heard cars on the highway and knew I would live to run another day.  However, the night before Karsten had said that you still have 1 to 1.5 miles left when you can hear the highway so I just continued jogging along until all of a sudden, barely 50 yards away was the finish line banner.  I immediately, instinctively kicked it into a respectable running pace and finished in 8:02:33.

Boy, I was done.  I immediately plopped down in a chair in the shade, happy that was over with.  This was a marked contrast to AR where I finished with tons of energy and had no problem at all getting in a 10 minute cooldown.  Here, I just wanted to stop moving NOW.  After a couple bottles of water, though, I felt a lot better and, of course, was able to start being (only a tiny bit) disappointed about not breaking 8 hours.  

All in all, though, I was pretty psyched on my race.  I'm now pretty confident in my technical skills as I rarely felt outmatched by the course's footing.  I would've felt even more surefooted and comfortable in my New Balance 790s instead of the boats I was forced to wear.

Unfortunately, most of my competitors had less-than-stellar route-finding days.  Josh dropped after getting off course for 20 or so minutes and 2nd place John Anderson (9:30ish overall time) and 3rd place Bradley Mongold (another 10-20 minutes back) both got off course for 15-20 minutes together much earlier on in the race.  Josh--who was 2nd last year, and won the year before--said the course was by far in the worst condition he'd ever seen it and that there were way way more downed trees than in years past.  I thought that was funny because I felt like some of the worst downed tree sections came after the 33 mile aid station where he dropped out.  Either way, I'm happy with my race but would enjoy an opportunity to run the course under 2004 conditions (the year Dave and Nikki set the course records).  

I can't say that I'll be back, but I definitely enjoyed running the race and was especially grateful for the aid station volunteers' wonderful assistance all day and race director Perry Edinger's gracious hospitality all weekend.

Finally, if anyone has any decent pictures from the race, I'd love to have a couple for posterity.