I guess that title pretty well describes most trail runs. You run up. You run down. Repeat. As I've said before on here, it also describes my running in general. I typically have a couple of weeks where I feel great followed by a couple where I feel not so great. Sometimes, it's a day to day thing too. It's amazing how great you can feel one day and how horrible you can feel the next. Such are the mysteries of running, I guess. In any case, that's kind of how this past week was. More on that later.
It occurred to me early in the week that if I ran a 26.2 mile (or longer) long run this weekend it would make for 4 weeks in a row that I ran at least a marathon (40 miles two weeks ago, 26.2 last week, another 26.2 this week and then Deadwood-Mickelson next weekend). I heavily considered doing it just for shits and giggles, but the running gods conspired against me. More on that later too.
Monday - No running, played basketball and managed not to re-tweak my touchy left calf. Small victories.
Tuesday - 9 miles. Felt absolutely effortless, the awesome cruise control feeling you get that is the reason why I run (it's my definition of the elusive "runner's high"). I felt like I should probably pull back and slow down, but I just couldn't.
Wednesday - 10.2 miles. Not nearly as effortless. No runner's high today. It didn't feel bad, mind you, but I actually had to try (God forbid).
Thursday - 6 miles. HOT. What the hell? Is it summer all of a sudden? It actually wasn't THAT hot, maybe mid-70s, but the humidity was much higher than is typical around here and the combination of the two wasn't cool (no pun intended). I had planned on 8 but settled on just 6 soon after I started but then I actually ended up running into a slight breeze on the way back and probably could've done 8 fairly easily, but whatever.
Friday - 20 miles. Another hot and sticky day, so I headed up into the Hills in the hopes of cooler, dryer conditions and, maybe, a trail marathon. Turns out, it was a little cooler and noticeably less humid in the high country, but the 26.2 miler was not in the cards. I ran three separate trail loops - the Old Baldy, Rimrock and Little Spearfish trails - and right from the beginning, my legs felt horrible. Not painful, just like they were totally sapped of energy. I was able to chug along, running the flats and downhills and hiking the uphills (of which there were many) and eventually arrived back at my car after 20 miles and called it good. Another 6.2 miles did not sound appealing, or seem really necessary, at that point.
Saturday - 9.1 miles. Didn't feet as good as Tuesday, but much better than Friday, so I guess that's something. I actually only planned on running 8 but misjudged my loop and ended up with a bonus mile. Oh well.
Sunday - 5.5 miles total, including the 3.4 mile Fat Tire Trail Challenge. Fat Tire is the 2nd race in the Black Hills Trail Series and is held in conjunction with the Fat Tire Festival of mountain biking in Rapid City. The trail race is held on M Hill in Rapid City, which is spiderwebbed with a series of great running/biking trails. I had no idea how my legs would feel, but it turns out they felt pretty good....similar to last week at Alkali Cr, which was also just a couple of days after a long run. The race itself went uphill for the first 2+ miles before dropping down the other side of the hill. And when I say "dropping" I mean it. The downhill route took us down Dirk's Draw, which is normally closed to runners/hikers and features steep pitches and several jumps that were built into the trail for the crazy ass downhill mountain bikers (you couldn't pay me to ride a bike down that thing). It was a fine line between hammering the downhill and skidding off trail on one of the many tight switchbacks. Heading up the hill, I was outside the top 10 for much of the way but towards the top started picking off a few runners. Just before cresting the ridge, I got passed by one guy who pulled away on the downhill. About halfway down the downhill another guy passed me and I didn't have the downhill skills to keep him in range. I thought I was fairly secure in my position at that point, but as we drew nearer to the bottom, and the finish, I noticed that two other guys were closing in. The last 0.4 or so was as much of a dead sprint as I could manage without wiping out. I could hear people cheering below as others were finishing, but I couldn't see the finish yet and I knew the two behind me were getting closer and closer. Finally, I came around a switchback and saw one final straight stretch to the finish and managed to outsprint my two pursuers and finish 2 seconds ahead of them. If the race would've been much longer, I would've been screwed. Ended up 9th overall and 5th in my division.
Total - 59.8 miles
So, coming up this weekend is the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon, my first marathon since Missoula last July. I've run the full once before, two years ago, and the half last year. My strategy this year will be similar to the other time I ran the full: take it easy and don't kill myself. Last time, the full was a training run before another, ultimately successful, BQ attempt in Missoula. This time, it's a training run for the Bighorn 50 mile, which is in turn a training run for the Lean Horse 100. Since Bighorn is just 13 days after Deadwood, I don't planning on setting any land speed records this weekend. Two years ago I ran a 3:36:55 at Deadwood. That time, or even slower, would work just fine for me this year. If I'm unable to jump right back into training come next Tuesday (after my usual rest day on Monday), then I've effed up. Stay tuned...