It's that magical time again....taper time. Really, I don't know think I freak out quite as much while tapering for an ultra as I do when tapering for a marathon. When I run a marathon, I'm typically shooting for some distinct goal that I know is going to be relatively hard to achieve, which leads to a few weeks of mental anguish leading up to the race. I'm still new enough at ultrarunning that I don't really worry about the time so much as just covering the distance. But, Bighorn has some special meaning this year since I DNFed there last year, so I am starting to get the "did I do enough?" thoughts passing through my brain.
So, did I? Hell, I don't know. I had several weeks of 80+ miles including four runs of at least 29 miles (including the Collegiate Peaks 50). One thing I noticed when looking back at my log is a distinct lack of back to back long runs. In fact, I really only did back to backs on one weekend and that was back in March. Not sure how that happened, as I'm pretty sure I planned on doing more. But, the number of 30 milers (I count the 29 as a 30) is encouraging and I think is equal to, or maybe even more than, what I logged when training for the Lean Horse 100 last summer. I also managed to get in many more trail miles than I did last year. While I would always like to run more on trails, I got in enough miles this winter/spring that I've noticed a definite improvement in my trail running ability....I've learned the hard way to find a grind gear and power up hills instead of just hammering them and then burning out.
This last week was kind of a mystery. After running relatively low miles with no long run the week before while I was vacationing in Minnesota, I expected my legs to feel fairly good this week. Wrong. My first trail run of the week, a 5 miler, felt like too much of a chore and a 9 mile road run the next day just felt absolutely horrible. The next day was better, including 4.5 miles on Lookout Mtn. I did my long run in Friday, knowing that I wouldn't get it done over the weekend because of the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon (I didn't run it, but my wife ran the half and we both volunteered at the expo on Saturday in addition to the kids finishing the kids marathon that day).
I was determined to get in one more long trail run before Bighorn, so headed to the Old Baldy trailhead south of Spearfish. This location is convenient because you can link together three separate loop trails (Old Baldy, Rimrock and Little Spearfish) to get in a decent-sized long run. I started out with Old Baldy and the legs didn't feel all that great right off the bat. But, I took it slow and easy and, after a couple of miles, thing loosened up and I started feeling pretty good. After running the Old Baldy loop, including the spur up to the Old Baldy summit, I followed the connector trail over to Rimrock, which features some awesome rolling single track for a couple of miles before you drop rather quickly through the rimrocks (hence the name) to the Little Spearfish Canyon. Rimrock and Little Spearfish share a trailhead in the canyon bottom where I jumped onto the Little Spearfish loop. The first part of this loop is a fairly gradual but long climb out of the canyon. I did a good bit of walking here, but also threw in some running as I was still feeling pretty good. After topping out, you're rewarded with an equally long downhill on the backside of the hill to finish out the loop. I jumped back on the Rimrock trail and took a different route up. This route is a grind for sure. It was about 0.8 miles and I power hiked all of it. When I got back to the top, I headed back to the Rimrock Old/Baldy connector and back toward the Old Baldy trailhead. The climb up Rimrock took a bit out of me, but I was still feeling decent and was at 21 miles when I got back to my vehicle. With time becoming an issue (had to get back to town for my kids' baseball games), I decided that was sufficient (or would have to be) and called it a day. All in all a good run in almost perfect weather conditions. If you're a numbers/charts geek, here's the link to my Garmin data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/89937710
One thing I've noticed is that I usually feel suprisingly good the day after a long run such as this one. Not so this time. My legs felt totally fine after the long run and throughout that evening, but when I got up the next morning for a planned 10 miler, they were not happy. Just no energy whatsoever and it was a chore to get in 5 miles. Not all that encouraging, but hopefully something taper will take care of.
Let the madness begin!