Monday, May 23, 2011
In spite of all the rain, last week went really well for me running-wise. The biggest challenge was scheduling. Right now both my son and my daughter are playing both soccer and baseball (teeball for my daughter) and they're in different age groups, which results in two different practice and game times for them each week. On top of that, we had my daughter's birthday party yesterday, a couple of weeks before her actual birthday, so that she could invite all of her school friends before the school year ends this week. So, with that and two soccer games planned for Saturday morning, my window of opportunity for squeezing in a 30 mile long run was pretty narrow. It takes a long damn time to run 30 miles, after all. Lucky for me, while filling out my timesheet, I discovered that I only needed to work 2 hours on Friday to get in my 80 for the pay period. So, I cranked out those two hours early and then set off for the Centennial Trail, praying for a break in the rain (which, as I mentioned, I got).
I met Ryan at the Pilot Knob trailhead, which is approximately mile 42 (outbound, 58 inbound) of the Black Hills 100 course. The plan was to run from there to the Rapid Creek trailhead, which is the 50 mile point, and then back to Pilot Knob where we would continue in the opposite direction toward the Boxelder Creek trailhead (but not all the way to the trailhead....just far enough to get in 30 miles total). I actually drove through an area just past Deadwood where it had snowed overnight, which was NOT all that heartening, but by the time I got to Pilot Knob, the snow was gone and the sun was actually trying to burn through the clouds. Ryan and I took off on what was a new stretch of trail for me. And let me tell you, it was an awesome stretch of trail. I'm not just saying that because I'm one of the RDs for the Black Hills 100 either. The stretch of the Centennial from Pilot Knob to Rapid Creek, about 8.6 miles long, is the kind of rolling, twisting, smooth singletrack that reminds you why you are a trail runner. We hit Rapid Creek in no time and headed back. I started to labor a bit on the return trip as there is a bit of a rise in that direction....not a real grunt of a climb, just a steady gain that makes you work a little harder. We noted a few intersections where we'd need to clearly mark the course before the race and actually got confused and started down the wrong trail at one intersection (funny how an intersection you didn't even notice running one direction confuses the hell out of you when you come across it from the other direction). By the time we got back to Pilot Knob, about 17.5 miles into the run, I was feeling pretty good again and ready to keep going. Ryan wasn't feeling so great and, considering he's running a marathon in a couple of weeks, decided to call it a day.
After a quick change of clothes (we had gotten rained on a bit near Rapid Creek) and guzzling an Ensure (not just for old people), I set off to the north of Pilot Knob to finish up the 30 miles. The difference between this section of trail and the first one we ran was like night and day. The first section was non-motorized, pure singletrack. Pilot Knob is the southern-most terminus of the motorized section of the Centennial Trail. Despite all of the rain that had fallen the past couple of days, the non-motorized stretch we ran was in perfect shape. Not true of the motorized section. It was a sloppy mess, with huge puddles (I expected to see fish jumping in some of them) occupying the entire width of the trail in some places and water running straight down it in others. Add in some rocky technical sections and a pretty good climb coming out of Pilot Knob, and it was pretty damn slow going. I pushed forward for a bit, hoping conditions would improve, but after awhile I started thinking "why am I putting myself through this when there's a perfect section of trail back the other way?". So, after a little over 3 miles of skipping between puddles and sliding on mud, I turned back.
I ran right through Pilot Knob and needed another 6 miles or so to finish out the run so headed south again on the non-motorized trail Ryan and I had run earlier. I was in a groove by this time and, although I wasn't running fast by any means, I was able to run consistently without having to force it and my stomach was being very cooperative. I did get off track once and made about a mile long detour (I'll personally mark that intersection before the BH100), but all in all I felt great and honestly was wishing that I could stay out a little longer. By that time, though, it was getting close to time for me to head home so I could take the kids to soccer and baseball practice (which ended up being canceled due to all the moisture, but I had no way of knowing that without cell phone coverage). Overall, a very satisfying day on the trails (even with the 6 miles of slogging through the mud) and a good confidence boost being able to run that long that well so soon after Collegiate Peaks in what will probably be my final really long run before Bighorn. Really, you can never go wrong with a day that includes two hours of work and five and a half hours of running.
Monday, May 16, 2011
I took two days off from running after Collegiate and, while the legs had the expected level of soreness, nothing really hurt or felt like it had taken an abnormal amount of abuse. I've felt much worse immediately after some road marathons, Boston and Colorado namely. My first run after Collegiate was a simple, easy 5 miler around town. Immediately I knew that my legs were feeling much better than I had expected them to. The next day I ran a double with 6 miles in the morning and a fairly tough 5.8 mile trail run, which included climbing up and over Lookout Mtn. and then turning around and going back up and over, in the afternoon. My legs felt great on that trail run and I was able to run the entire thing fairly strongly other than the stupid steep, rock crawling sections near the summit, which basically require scrambling rather than running.
Feeling so good, I faced a bit of a dilemma: take it easy on the mileage for the remainder of the week just to be sure or go ahead and crank it back up? I opted for the safe route, partly because I was planning on running a trail race on Sunday and wanted to have somewhat fresh legs for it. I ended up with around 52 miles for the week including a long run of 16 (on roads). Legs felt good the entire week, marking a surprisingly quick recovery from what was a pretty rough 50 miles last Saturday.
As for the trail race, Sunday was the second annual Thoen Stone Seven in Spearfish, which was also the first race in this year's Black Hills Trail Running Series. I've been looking forward to this one because part of it takes place on Lookout Mtn., where I do the bulk of my trail running during the week. Lookout is conveniently located within a mile of my office, allowing me to get out at lunchtime two or three times a week to hit the trails. The entire race course actually encompasses more pavement than trail as it follows a loop from the city park to the trailhead, up and over Lookout, down the other side and then back on the city streets and bike path to the park. After drawing only 24 runners last year, there were over 80 signed up this year.
Immediately after the race started, a pack of 5 guys who were clearly faster than myself, including my friend Ryan (who also ran Collegiate last week), took off together. I settled into what felt like a comfortably hard pace and soon found myself running next to another local, Tanja, who is routinely the first female at local races. Tanja and I finish within one position of each other more often than not, so I figured this meant I was at my appropriate place in the field.
When we hit the trailhead, the pack had started to pull away, there was one guy in between me and them and Tanja and another guy were hot on my heels. Not long after the real climbing on the trail section started, I ceased to hear breathing behind me so assumed I had dropped my pursuers (and it turns out I had). Unfortunately, the dude in between me and the pack was pulling away from me at the same time I was pulling away from Tanja and the other guy. I ended up running the rest of the Lookout section on my own, like I was just out for one of my lunchtime runs. After hitting the summit, I started to push the pace on the downhill, hoping to make up some ground on the guy in front. By the time we hit the city bike path with a couple of miles to go, it seemed like I was making up some ground, but he was still a ways ahead of me. Then, I saw him glance back and see me and it was pretty much done after that. He pulled away some more and I started to lose some steam. Ended up running the 7.1 miles in 56:25, 7th place overall. Ryan, who had labeled the race as a "fun run" earlier in the week, ended up winning (fun run my ass). All in all, not a bad day at all on the trails (and pavement) just a week after Collegiate Peaks.
Friday, May 13, 2011
I have nothing against Mizuno in general....I had a pair of Wave Riders once and they were a good shoe. And I'm not all-on the minimalist bandwagon either, although I do own a set of Saucony Kinvaras and Saucony Peregrines (which are basically the trail version of the Kinvara). But for crying out loud, I can buy three, maybe four, pairs of the Kinvaras or Peregrines (or pretty much any other shoe I run in) for the price of one pair of the Prophecy if I shopped around hard enough. Or I could make a payment on my new-to-me 2005 Hyundai Santa Fe.
Obviously, I haven't tried them, but it seems like Mizuno is looking to make a quick buck off of the casual running crowd who will just automatically assume that the most expensive shoe is the best. They may be a fine shoe for all I know, but I'm fairly certain you can find just as fine of a shoe for at least 1/3 the price.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Immediately upon finishing the Lean Horse 100 last August, my thoughts turned to what would come next (well, maybe not IMMEDIATELY following….finding a chair was the first order of business). In the few months following Lean Horse, I considered damn near every ultra in the west. Ironically, Collegiate Peaks was not one of them. I was aware of the event, had even heard some good things about it, but for whatever reason it just didn’t enter my mind. Until, that is, occasional fellow Black Hills runners Paul, Ryan and Nathan mentioned in January or February that they were running it and asked if I wanted to tag along. Well, hell, if you’re gonna twist my arm….
By that time, I had actually settled on a race plan for 2011 (or thought I had, anyhow). After I suffered my first ever DNF at any distance at mile 34 of the Bighorn 50 last June, it was obvious that I had to go back for redemption this year. So, I had formulated a training plan that would build toward that race on June 18th. As it turned out, that training plan called for a 30 mile long run on May 7th and a 10 miler the following day for a weekend total of 40 miles. Tack on another 10 miles and cram all of em into one day, and I’m set, right?
As for the actual training, my one mission this year was to get in more trail miles. I’ve progressed as a runner over the years from 5Ks to 10Ks to marathons (I skipped the half-marathon step) to ultras. As a result, I’ve also started delving more and more into trail running in the last couple of years. I’ve now reached the point where, if it were logistically feasible, I would run the majority of my weekly miles on trails. Unfortunately, that’s just not possible, so I still find myself pounding pavement for the most part while hopefully catching a couple of short trail runs during the week and then maybe a long one on the weekend. Not the most ideal training for a mountain ultra since, well, mountain ultras take place on trails in the mountains. I did manage more trail miles this winter/spring than I ever have before, including a 30 mile run on the Centennial Trail (the first 30 miles of the Black Hills 100 course) a few weeks before Collegiate Peaks. I tapered the last couple of weeks before Collegiate Peaks and was feeling reasonably good by the time race day rolled around.
We made the 9ish hour drive from South Dakota down to Buena Vista (which is either B-you-na, B-way-na or B-when-a depending on who you’re talking to….most locals go with B-you-na) on Thursday evening. Lucky for us, an old college buddy of Paul’s lives in BV and offered up his camper, which was large enough to sleep all four of us, for the weekend. Free lodging! Can’t beat that. On Friday, we loaded up in the vehicle again (because we just hadn’t gotten our fill of driving on Thursday) and headed up to Leadville, about 35 miles north of BV, to check it out. Paul had lived there before, so he showed us around and took us on a mini-tour of the Leadville 100 course. I was actually quite surprised by how much of the course consisted of roads. Not that that makes it an easy race, because the climbs we saw were pretty insane (Hope Pass, in particular). Plus the fact that it starts at over 10,000 feet. Maybe I’ll come back someday and find out how hard it really is. Maybe. After the Tour de Leadville, we headed back to BV and checked out a small portion of the Collegiate Peaks course. While doing so, we noted how overly warm it felt, even though it was actually only mid-60s. The cold spring in South Dakota hasn’t offered up much in the way of heat acclimation with only a handful of genuinely warm days. This observed “heat” (which we will consider “chilly” in a few months) would prove to be a factor on Saturday. After dinner at the race-sponsored pasta feed, which was actually fairly decent, we headed to the pre-race meeting and then back to the camper for a surprisingly decent night of sleep.
We were up at 4:30 on race morning to get dressed and down some breakfast before we headed into town to seek out coffee, which we found at the 7 Eleven. We pulled up to the community center, which serves as race headquarters, about an hour before guntime and got a rockstar parking spot very near the start/finish line. This was desirable since the race does not have any accommodations for drop bags on the course….if you want to resupply you have to wait for the halfway point and get your supplies from your vehicle. Having a parking spot so close allowed us to do so fairly efficiently. We milled around a bit, fighting off the pre-race nerves, before we were ordered to line up. Immediately after doing so, I spotted Mike, who I’ve met at a few other races in Colorado and South Dakota and at the Boston Marathon and we chatted for a bit. Then, with absolutely no warning whatsoever, no 10-count, nothing, an air horn went off and the race was on.
The Collegiate Peaks course is a 25 mile loop mostly consisting of ATV trail and Jeep roads with a short section of pavement and couple of sections of single-track trail. They have a 25 mile race in conjunction with the 50 mile. Participants in both events complete the loop clockwise. After the first loop, the 50 milers turn around and run the loop again, but counterclockwise the second time. 50 milers are also given the option of stopping after the first loop and becoming a 25 mile finisher. The first couple of miles included the paved section that took us along the Arkansas River and eventually onto what seems to be a twisting maze of ATV and Jeep trails through the hills east of BV. Fortunately, the course was marked very well, so taking a wrong turn was never really a concern. Early on, I was feeling pretty good and actually ended up running much more of the first loop that I had thought I would. There were a few climbs, primarily in the second half of the loop, where it seemed more prudent to hike, but for the most part I was cruising along and didn’t feel like I was putting too much effort forward. I ran and chatted with a couple of other guys along the way, one of whom told me he was considering running the Black Hills 100 or the Bighorn 100 as his first 100. Lucky for him, I told him, he had randomly managed to find and run with one of the Black Hills co-directors. I told him a bit about the race before we eventually parted ways. We’ll see if it worked. The course starts at about 8,000 ft. in BV and tops out at about 9,300 ft. I really didn’t feel like the elevation was affecting me much during the first loop, but I did take note that the last 6+ miles of that first loop included quite a bit of downhill, which of course would become an uphill during the 2nd loop. As I was heading down that long decline, I passed Ryan, Mike and Nathan on their way back up, who were all looking good. I hit the bottom in exactly 4:30, resupplied at the vehicle and headed toward the start/finish. When the dude with the clipboard asked if I was going out for the 2nd loop, I didn’t hesitate and said “yes I am” thinking I was on pace for a possible sub-10 hour finish. Wrong.
The first few miles going back up really weren’t bad and I was still feeling good. I passed Paul, who was on his way down, not far into the climb and that was the last familiar face I’d seen until the finish. I wasn’t running everything at this point, but taking walk breaks every now and then. I didn’t really feel like I NEEDED to walk at this point, but I thought it was prudent to do so knowing that I would be going uphill for awhile. A few miles into this climb, the course switches from trail to Jeep road and the steepness of the ascent sharpens noticeably. I swear to God, I do NOT remember running down that steep or long of a hill on the way down during the 1st loop. I was definitely walking because I HAD to at that point. I could see the road stretching out above me for a long ways and every time I got to the point that seemed like it should have been the top, the damn thing just kept going further. Finally, I did reach the aid station at the high point of the course. At this point, I was definitely feeling the elevation as my heart was hammering in my chest and my stomach was starting to voice its disagreement with the current state of affairs. My legs, while definitely feeling like they had covered 30+ miles, still felt reasonably okay. I still had aspirations of being able to run a good portion of the downhills for the remainder of the race. Those aspirations were quickly shot down as I discovered that running only caused my stomach to feel worse, which forced me to walk much more than I really wanted to. It was at this point that I started playing a very delicate balancing act between taking in enough water and calories while not upsetting my stomach. I ate a ginger chew at some point, which seemed to settle my stomach a bit and allowed me to start running the downhills again. The problem was, I knew that I needed to be taking in calories too but as soon as I did, whether in the form of a gel or solid food, my stomach would start to go south again and I would be back to square one. I would repeat this process of feeling bad and walking until I felt better, to running for awhile and feeling okay, to feeling bad again for the rest of the race. There was never a doubt in my mind about whether or not I would finish, it was just a matter of how long it was going to take.
Finally, I reached the last aid station, and was actually feeling pretty decent at that point with only five miles to go. Or was it six? No one seemed to definitely know the answer to this question. I thought it was six, but the sign at the aid station said I was at mile 45. By this point, my new goal was to finish in under 11 hours. Why? Who knows? Really, I think I just needed something tangible to work toward at that point. Whether it was five or six miles to the finish, I had an hour and a half to cover it. I decided I should probably just assume it was six miles and pace myself accordingly just to be safe. I left the aid station reasonably confident sub-11 would happen but still resolved to run as much as possible and started off pretty well in that regard. Then, after running a downhill section of trail, the course made a sharp turn up a hill. This hill was fairly steep, but also very short, something I would definitely power up under normal circumstances (of course, “normal circumstances” don’t apply to an ultra). I walked up it, slowly, and as soon as I reached the top I was hammered by a wave of nausea. I reached into my pocket for another ginger chew, but it was too late. I stepped off the trail and, for the 2nd time ever, I puked during a run (maybe not coincidentally, the 1st time was also during a 50 miler). I didn’t have much to throw up, water mostly, but I felt immensely better after it was done with. By that point, I was only about four miles from the finish and still on pace for sub-11. For the first couple of miles after emptying my stomach, I felt pretty good and was able to run quite a bit. After that, the course left the trail again and I was back on the road. This definitely should’ve been entirely runable, but as I ran down the road my stomach started feeling a little off again. I would run for a bit and then would have to walk for a bit while it settled down. Then I’d run some more until the nausea built up again. Wash, rinse, repeat. I got passed a few times along this stretch and really didn’t give a damn. My Garmin battery died at about mile 48, so I couldn’t track my pace, but I was at least able to walk strongly when I was walking and with the little bursts of running thrown in, I knew I was probably going to make sub-11. Finally, I made the last few turns and the community center came into view. Obviously, I had to save my last bit of running for the charge across the finish line, which I did, crossing in 10:53:59.
And, honestly, after finishing I didn’t feel all that bad. The nausea immediately went away. My legs were definitely tired, but not debilitatingly so. I met up with Paul, Ryan and Nathan and caught up on the events of their day. Paul proved to be the smartest one of our group as he called it good after 25 miles. Ryan hammered out an impressive sub-8 finish, good for 2nd in the Master’s division and top 10 overall. Nathan also fought off stomach problems (no puking for him though) and still ran a sub-9. All in all, a successful day. Yeah, I would’ve preferred to run this thing an hour or 90 minutes faster, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me on that day. I was able to fight through and finish, which is all I ultimately cared about (and more than I can say about Bighorn last year). After a quick shower in the coin-operated facility at the community center, we headed down to the Eddyline Brewery for some post-race beer and food. It was good. Real good.
Overall, Collegiate Peaks is well done. I have some small gripes, such as not having gels or ice at the aid stations and the fact that the last two aid stations ran out of Coke by the time I got there, but overall it’s a good event, especially as an early season training run for something bigger later on (say, the Black Hills 100, for example *wink wink*). Nice course, some great scenery, but you might want to bring your own oxygen if you’re not a Coloradan. Hopefully, it will prove to be good preparation for my return to Bighorn next month.
Monday, May 2, 2011
I guess I've kinda sort been tapering. After back to back 89 mile weeks (including two long runs of 29-30 miles), I've scaled it back the last couple weeks with about 68 miles the first and then 54 this past week. My legs certainly feel like I'm tapering, which basically means that they feel like crap. I've had various aches and twinges in my knees and achilles over the last couple of weeks and just a general feeling of sluggishness for the past week and a half. Yesterday's final long run before Collegiate Peaks was a good example. I headed out for a planned 17-20 miles and felt pretty crappy for the first 7 miles or so. No aches or pains, just no energy and felt like I was working way too hard for a relatively slow pace. Then, magically, my body decided to cooperate and the last 11 miles came fairly easily. This week, I plan on getting in a few short to medium runs, nothing spectacular, before a couple days of rest. The aches and pains seem to have gone away (knock on wood), now I'm just waiting for dead feeling to leave my legs.....so that I can pummel them and make them wish they were dead on Saturday.
Stay tuned for the gory details...