Eighty-nine has been a prevalent number for me the last couple of weeks. That's how many miles I ran each of the last two weeks and both of those weeks included runs on the Centennial Trail (Forest Service Trail #89). One of those runs was significantly longer than the other, but I'll get to that later.
The week started off on a downer. Monday afternoon I was running the trails on Lookout Mtn. and cruising down a nice section of trail through an oak stand. As I was barreling down the hill, my headphone chord got snagged on a branch that was sticking out partially across the trail. Of course, when the music stopped blaring in my ears, I stopped, thinking that the chord had merely been pulled free of my ipod shuffle, which was clipped the pocket of my shorts. Well. when I looked down, I noticed that the ipod was missing altogether; the branch had dislodged the chord from the ipod and the ipod from my shorts in one shot. I figured it would be easy enough to find a bright silver ipod (even though the shuffle is pretty tiny) amongst a bunch of brown grass and oak leaves, but I was wrong. Apparently, when it got ripped free of my shorts it also got sent flying. I spent a good 20 minutes searching for it, raking leaves around, walking a grid pattern...it was not where that it logically should have ended up. I mean, I know exactly the point on the trail where it was lost, but yet I could not find it. Finally, I gave up and continued down the trail. I did head back up Lookout on Friday afternoon hoping to search for it again, but a fresh skiff of snow that fell Thursday night was still holding strong in the shaded area where I lost it, so now it's both lost and lost and under some snow. My birthday's coming up in May, in case anyone is wondering what to get me.....an ipod with a heavy duty clip would be ideal.
Other than that, it was a decent week running-wise. Pretty typical week, really. A few doubles and a hard workout on Wednesday, which this week was 8x800 on the track. This workout always leaves me pretty wiped out for a couple of days afterward. I can run 30 miles and bounce back the next day just fine, but some fast intervals knocks me on my butt.
The long run this week was my last and, really, first big test before the Collegiate Peaks 50 in a couple of weeks. Ryan, Nathan and I met up in Sturgis and ran the first 29+ miles of the Black Hills 100 course to Dalton Lake. I was reminded just how tough the Centennial Trail is. There were a total of four good climbs on this route and they get harder as you go. I mean, obviously you get more tired as you go, but I honestly think that each successive climb is harder than the last, with the exception of the first and second. The first one is a pretty steep almost two mile long haul up some fresh timber harvest roads. Of course, since it occurs early in the run (starting at about mile 3), it's possible to run a good portion of it before power hiking near the top and then making a semi-controlled bombing run straight down the other side of the hill to the Alkali Creek trailhead.
The second climb starts a couple of miles later. This one is easier than the first merely because the trail switchbacks up the ridge instead of just heading straight up. Also, this is the section of the Centennial I've run the most times, so I know exactly what to expect and how to pace myself so that I can run the whole thing (I used to have to power hike some if it, which I guess is a good sign that I'm getting stronger). After that one, you drop straight down the hill to a creek bottom and after a little bit of nice, relatively flat single track running down in the gulch, the work begins. The third climb is a grind up rocky, loose shale that pretty much requires a good amount of power hiking. After that, another drop to the Elk Creek trailhead.
From that trailhead, there's some more nice, relatively flat running through the Elk Creek drainage, including five crossing of Elk Creek itself which, in late April, is approximately 33 degrees. Nothing like trying to run with numb feet. Luckily, there's some pleasant rolling trail after the creek crossings to get the feet warmed back up followed by a short uphill and then back down a bit again. And then it starts. The real climb out of the Elk Creek drainage begins and lasts for what seems like 10 miles (although it's probably more like three). It's a good uphill grind made all the harder by the fact that you can't really see what you're goal is...there's no hilltop to focus on as a finish point. You just keep huffing up the hill and every time you round a corner, there's more hill ahead. Of course, like I said, having legs with 20+ miles on them doesn't help matters much. Finally, you do top out on the ridge and then make another short climb before descending to Dalton Lake.
Overall, a good way to spend five and a half hours on a Sunday. I would've like to have been able to run a bit more of the uphills, but I was satisfied that I was able to run the flat and downhill sections fairly strong all the way through (that hasn't always been the case on past runs on the Centennial). I was also satisfied that Ryan remembered to leave both his vehicle and the keys at Dalton Lake the night before, because it was gonna be a long haul if we had to turn around and run back to Sturgis too.
The last big long run before Collegiate Peaks is in the books! Not sure if I'm tapering now or what. Guess I'll play that one by ear. Collegiate is, after all, a training run for Bighorn, but I probably will take it fairly easy the week leading up to the race. Don't want to drive all that way and come home with (another) DNF.