Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rush for the Cup

Okay, so the title really has nothing to do with running, but it does describe what's been dominating my non-running life lately. The local Central Hockey League (a professional minor league roughly equivalent to AA baseball) team, the Rapid City Rush, are in the midst of a title run in only their second year of existence and we've been catching a few of the home playoff games (and watching the others online). By my memory (which is admittedly suspect) we've been to a total of 6 games this year (2 regular season and 4 playoff) and the Rush have won every single one. Caiden is convinced that if we had season tickets, the Rush would go undefeated at home. The playoff run has been an exciting one. The first playoff game we went to was just me and Caid for his birthday. That night, the Rush beat the Missouri Mavericks 7-6 in OT to finish off a first round sweep. A few nights later, the entire family went to game 1 of the Northern Conference finals against the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs. Again, the game went to OT and, again, the Rush pulled out the win 5-4. That series ended up going to 7 games and Caid and I went to game 7 and saw the Rush dominate the Bugs 7-3 to win the conference championship and advance to the President's Cup finals. A few days later, it was the entire family again at game 2 of the final series against the Allen Americans and, yet again, the Rush won in OT 5-4 after scoring the game-tying goal with only 39 seconds left in regulation. That series stands at 1-1 (Allen won the opener 4-1) and we're eagerly awaiting the outcome of the next three games down in Texas to find out if/when we'll get a chance to watch one more Rush game before the season is over. Of course, if they were to win all three in Allen to clinch the Cup, it wouldn't hurt my feelings too bad.

Okay, on to running I guess. This was a "hard" week in my training cycle and it certainly felt like it. For some reason, the end of the week was pretty rough. Much rougher than last week, which included a 30 mile long run. Such is the mystery of running.

Monday - Rest. I didn't even play basketball. We were supposed to conduct a prescribed burn at work, so I didn't bother to bring my basketball clothes but then the burn got canceled because it had rained too much the night before and we ended up getting back to town just in time to play. Oops.

Tuesday - 9 miles. Don't really remember much about this one. I think I waited and did it at lunchtime, but I can't really remember why.

Wednesday - 10.2 miles w/ 6 at tempo pace. The term "tempo pace" is relative in this situation. I generally don't like doing tempo runs at 4:30 in the morning because it almost never turns out well and this one was no exception. Under normal conditions (i.e. later in the day when my body is actually awake), I would run tempo miles at around 6:30-6:45 pace. On this morning, it was more like 7:00-7:05 pace, although I did finally dip under 7 minutes for the last couple of miles (but just barely).

Thursday - 6.2 miles. Wow. My legs were REALLY sore after that tempo run, which is odd because it's not like I haven't been totally ignoring speed and temp work. But my quads were shot, like I'd just run a downhill marathon even though the route I ran on Wednesday was fairly flat.

Friday - 25 miles. Actually felt pretty decent for most of the run. Well, except for the fact that I got soaking wet. Scattered showers turned into steady showers at approximately mile 22. Around that same time, I started feeling a significant twinge in my left calf, which for some reason is my problem calf....I never get knots or pulls in the right one. It wasn't so bad that it affected my running, but I did notice it. Regardless, I finished the 25 miles feeling pretty good overall.

Saturday - 15 miles. Oh. My. God. Hands down the most miserable training run I can remember from recent history. By mile one I was ready to call it quits and it just did not improve from there. My legs were sore and dead tired and I just was not into it mentally. The only thing that got me through was telling myself that it was good preparation for Lean Horse because I am very sure that I will feel the same way at some point (probably several points) during that race.

Sunday - 6.3 miles. We had spent the night in Rapid City after the Rush game since Shannon was running a 10K on Sunday morning in Rapid (where she rocked out a PR on a pretty damn tough course complete with a frigid head wind heading up the mile long hill at the beginning). Before the race, I headed up to the Hansen-Larsen trail system on M Hill in Rapid and got some trail running in. I spaced out at some point and was convinced that I had actually run 7.3 miles, but when I got back to the car and clicked the screen on my Garmin over to the page that shows total miles it disagreed with me and I didn't really feel the need to tack on another meaningless mile, so 6.3 it was. Felt better than Saturday's run for sure, although the pace was much slower thanks to running up and down a mountain.

Total - 71.7 miles

Exactly two miles shy of last week's total. I ain't losing any sleep over it.

Oh, and hey, while I'm rambling about totally unrelated topics, the NFL Draft was last weekend. Once again, I didn't get selected (bastards), but the Seahawks actually had what appears to be a damn fine draft, at least on paper. Of course, we won't know for a year or two, but maybe there's actually room for optimism about the coming season. For the record, I wasn't a big fan of hiring Pete Carroll as their new head coach but so far, so good I guess. We'll see if it translates to the playing field.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring below, snow above

After a cutback last week, the plan was to ramp the mileage back up into the 70s this week. Coincidentally, the temperature also crept up near the 70s for much of the week as spring seems to have a pretty solid foothold in western South Dakota. Unfortunately, the warm temps were accompanied by 20-30 mph winds pretty much all week. Buzzkill. Regardless, I imagined to get in all of my runs with only one hiccup on Wednesday:

Monday - Rest, played basketball.

Tuesday - 9 miles

Wednesday - 10 miles w/ 4 x 1 mile tempo intervals. I had planned on doing a straight up tempo run (i.e. 2 miles warmup, 6 miles tempo, 2 miles cooldown) but after a half mile the howling wind convinced me that that wasn't such a great idea. That and an inexplicably unhappy digestive system. So, I turned back (stopping at the house on my past to take care of some business) and headed to the high school track, which is at least partly sheltered from the wind, to run tempo intervals instead. The first one felt like crap and the urge to just say to hell with it was pretty strong. The next two felt better, but after the third I was forced to run over to the nearby rec center to use the bathroom (again). I went back out and finished off the 4th interval and felt pretty wiped out after that....more wiped out than I should after a relatively easy hard workout (if that makes sense).

Thursday - 8 miles. Made my first venture of the year up the Tinton Trail. Ran into some snow in the shady spots up higher, but for the most part the trail was in great shape.

Friday - 6.5 miles. Headed up Lookout Mtn. for some more trail running.

Saturday - 30 miles. I planned this one to be a Lean Horse simulation of sorts. I drove to Deadwood so that I could run on the Mickelson Trail. Although this is a totally different section of the Mickelson than the one that Lean Horse covers, the terrain is virtually identical, so as far as my legs know it's basically the same. The plan was to start at the trail terminus in Deadwood and run 15 miles out (backwards on the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon course) and then turn around and head back down. Problem was, spring hasn't full arrived yet above 5,000 feet. I got about 6.5 miles up the trail and ran into soft, knee deep snow that continued on for as far as I could see. So, I created Plan B on the spot. Lucky for me, the spot where the snow started was also right at the point where the trail forks, creating a loop that goes back past Lead and then toward Deadwood again. As it turns out, this loop is almost exactly 15 miles. So, two loops, 30 miles and 4:49 later, I was done. It actually felt pretty good too. My legs were definitely tired the last 5 miles or so, but not "oh my God this bites I can't take this shit anymore when the hell can I stop??!!" tired (trust me, I know that feeling).

Sunday - 10.2 miles. Just an easy cruise around the countryside. My legs felt really heavy at first, but they loosened up after awhile and I actually pushed the pace down to 6:48 for that last 0.2, just for the hell of it.

Total - 73.7 miles

This coming week should be pretty similar mileage-wise. The only real difference will be the weekend, which will feature 25/15 instead of 30/10.

Oh, and today was the Boston Marathon. Hard to believe that at this time last year I was out there, my race done, probably hobbling my way back down Boylston St. to find meet up with some friends for a post-race beer (or ten). Sounds like perfect running conditions this year....Ryan Hall ran the fastest time ever by an American at Boston but still finished in 4th (one place lower than last year). Robert Cheryiout absolutely crushed the course record in 2:05:52. That is insanely fast for that course. Man, being away makes me want to go back, but I've got some other (much longer) business to take care of first.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Back on the trails

We're finally reaching the point where the trails are clear enough of snow to get off the roads and do some trail running. Running roads is all fine and dandy, but as I learned the hard way on Friday, it does little to prepare you for running trails and if I'm gonna get through the Big Horn 50 in June, I'm gonna need to hit the trails more often.

This was a cutback week, as it turns out my first real one since late January. I hadn't planned on going that long without a big cutback, it just kinda happened. But, I knocked the mileage back this week in preparation for another couple of big weeks coming up.

Monday - Rest, played basketball at lunchtime.

Tuesday - 7.3 miles

Wednesday - 9 miles with 5 hill intervals. The new issue of Trail Runner magazine has a "Beginner" section. I'm not sure if I'm still considered a beginner when it comes to trail running, but there was some good advice in there including the suggestion to run hill workouts every once in awhile. This isn't anything groundshakingly new, but I've never done hill intervals and reading that article planted the seed in my head that maybe I should, so I did. I found a hill in Belle and ran up it (about 0.3 mile) hard and then jogged back down for recovery.

Thursday - 7.2 miles. I headed back up onto the Lookout Mtn. trails and this time encountered much less snow (hardly any, in fact). I made a big loop around and eventually over the top of the mountain that ended up being longer than I had planned on running (the plan was 6), but who's counting? Oh, wait, I am....oh well.

Friday - 18.66 miles. I find it highly ironic that in the last few years of training for and running marathons, I have never been able to find a training partner. There just aren't a lot of marathoners around here, much less many that run at around the same pace as me (not that I'm blazing fast, just faster than average). But then, after I decide to run a 100 miler, I find a training partner right away. I just had to quadruple the mileage, I guess. In any case, I met up with another local runner, Ryan, in Sturgis and we ran an out and back on part of the Centennial Trail. According to my Garmin (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/29481251) we gained about 2,500 feet of elevation (and lost it all too) and let me tell ya, my quads were feeling it. Later that day and the next I felt like I had just run a marathon. My legs definitely aren't in trail shape right now, something I need to remedy soon as the Black Hills Trails Series kicks off in a little over a month. As luck would have it, we covered the route of the first race in the series (Alkali Cr.) during our run, so at least I know what I'm in for.

Saturday - 8 miles. Like I said, my quads were mighty sore but once I started running everything loosened up nicely. I actually only meant to run 7 but again misjudged a loop (seems to be happening a lot lately) so I picked up a bonus mile.

Sunday - 4 miles. Just a short easy run to flush some crud out. The quads felt much better, ready for another week of abuse.

Total - 54.16 miles

The goal is to bump the mileage back up into the 70s this week with my biggest long run yet, a 30 miler, planned for either Saturday or Sunday (depending on when I can best fit it in....5 hours is a big chunk of time to account for).

How about some non-running rambling? This past Saturday was my kids' first soccer game of the spring. If you've never witnessed U-6 soccer, you haven't really lived. It's more like rugby than soccer in that there's usually a big scrum with the ball in the middle, eventually the ball pops out and then everyone gives chase. As luck would have it, I got recruited to be the assistant coach for my kids' team and, since the real coach was out of town this weekend, I also got to be the interim head coach for the first game. At this level, it's less about strategy and winning the game and more about time management and trying to get everyone on the field for roughly an equal amount of time. So, in the midst of shuffling kids in and out, I kind of lost track of the game but Caiden tells me that we won 8-6 (with him accounting for 6 of our goals). Chloe did good too....she actually went after and kicked the ball (last year she just ran around but never tried to play the ball, even when it was right in front of her). So, I can now end my head coaching career with a perfect record. It's always good to go out on top.

Also on Saturday, we drove to Rapid City for game 1 of the CHL (that's the Central Hockey League, which is a professional league roughly equivalent to AA minor league baseball) Northern Conference finals between the hometown Rush and the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs (how a team from Louisiana ended up in the Northern Conference is beyond me, but whatever). For the 2nd straight game, the Rush came back from a 3rd period deficit to tie the game and send it to OT. Just over 5 minutes into OT they scored the game winning goal to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Unfortunately, the Mudbugs came back last night and won 4-3, knotting the series at 1-1. Buzzkill.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring snow (sucks)

In South Dakota, you're never really sure if spring is here until, oh, July. By then, it's pretty safe to assume that the last snow has fallen, at least until September or October. Inevitably, April rolls around and teases us with awesome running weather only to pull the rug out with a spring snowstorm. Last year was a good example as we got hammered with three blizzards in a 10 day span during the last week of March and first week of April. It wasn't that bad this year, but we did have a winter storm roll through Thursday night and Friday morning. By Friday afternoon, the roads were clear again and in many areas the snow had melted away, but the Hills (and, consequently, the best running trails) are still covered in a fresh layer. Of course, spring is far from over, so I would be hesitant to call this winter's last gasp, but one can dream.

Monday - Rest. Played basketball at lunchtime.

Tuesday - 9 miles. Ugh. Tuesday's have proven to be rough for me ever since I started Lean Horse training. Something about back to back long runs on the weekend combined with a rest day on Monday (and basketball too) leaves my legs dead on Tuesday.

Wednesday - 10 miles. Headed to the track and ran 4x1 mile tempo intervals. My tempo pace isn't what it once was (like when I was peaking for Boston last year), but I guess that's to be expected when I'm trying to teach my body to run a long damn ways.

Thursday - 8 miles. Inevitably there's a run from the previous week that I really don't remember. I can't recall much of anything about this, I just know that my calendar says I ran 8 miles, so I guess I probably did.

Friday - 5 miles. I definitely remember this one. The aforementioned snow struck overnight. Typical of a spring snowstorm, it was barely cold enough for the rain to switch over, so the snow was of the heavy, wet variety. When I headed out for my run, the streets were covered with an inch of slush. Within one block, my feet were soaked.

Saturday - 15 miles. After staying up late the night before at the Rapid City Rush hockey game (a 7-6 OT win!), I had to get up at the buttcrack of dawn on a Saturday morning to squeeze in a run before heading back to Rapid yet again where my wife and kids were all running the Fools 4 Mile race (well, the kids ran the 1K). After that, it was back home for my son's 6th birthday party. I knew if I didn't get this run in early in the morning, it might not get done at all, so I forced myself out of bed and headed out. I probably ran this faster than I should when I'm ultra training, but because of the time crunch I felt compelled to get it done.

Sunday - 20 miles. I felt the overly fast pace from Saturday early on in this one, but eventually my legs loosened up. I also ran this one on a fairly tough, hilly route, just for kicks. Rather than incorporating a set run/walk ratio like I have been for my 25 milers, I decided I would run the entire way up until about 14 miles where it gets really hilly and then I would walk the uphill and run the downhills, which is basically what I'll end up doing for the first hilly 16 miles of Lean Horse. Well, turns out the road I was running on totally went to hell right at 14 miles. It was pure mud for over a mile. I was able to run some shorts stretches of it, but ended up walking most of it with what felt like 20 lbs. of mud caked on my shoes. Finally, I reached a more solid stretch of road and was able to run again. When I got done I actually felt really good, definitely didn't feel like I'd just run 15/20 back to back and the soreness afterward was minimal. Maybe this ultra training is really working...

Total - 67 miles

This coming week is a planned cutback week, as is every 4th week of my training schedule. I'm hoping to hit the trails this weekend for a long run with another guy who's training for Lean Horse, but we'll have to see how cooperative Mother Nature is in that regard. Right now, the forecast looks good for later in the week, so I guess there is hope.