Monday, April 18, 2011


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 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 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.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Slacking again

Oh man, I've been slacking again. Fortunately only as it pertains to blogging and not in the the running department. Things are moving right along as far as that's concerned. Rather than a day by day account of what I did the last few weeks, I'll just summarize.

As I think I've mentioned before, I've got my ultra training plan laid out in four week blocks, with the first two weeks of each block being high mileage (80+), the third week being moderate mileage (70-80) and the fourth being a cutback week (50-55). The latest block worked out almost perfectly in that regard with two weeks of 84-85 miles, a week in the mid-70s and then last week with 52. I've read numerous times that the rest days are really where you improve as a runner because it gives your body an opportunity to repair the damage you've inflicted upon it during training. I only take one rest day per four week block (the Monday of the cutback week), but I really did notice a difference during the cutback week itself. My legs felt fresh and I was running faster at an easy effort level than I normally do.

I felt so good, I decided to run a 4 mile road race the Saturday of that week, the Fools 4 Mile race put on by the Black Hills Runners Club. This is somewhat remarkable because I've recently (in the past couple of years) developed an aversion to short road races. As I began to delve deeper and deeper into the world of trail running and ultras (deeper and deeper into The Abyss, some might say), running a hard 5K or 10K on pavement just seemed less and less appealing. For one, it hurts. And I'm not really referring to the pounding of the pavement. I still do the majority of my training on pavement because it's just not logistically possible for me to get to a trail for every run, or even most runs. I'm referring to the physical pain of pushing that hard. Yes, there is physical pain involved with running for 30 or 50 or 100 miles, but it's different. At least after you've run an ultra, you have 30+ miles to show for it. After going through all that pain in a 5K, you've only got 3.1 miles to show for it. The cost/benefit value just isn't there for me anymore. But, since my legs were feeling good and I only had a 4 or 5 mile run planned for that day anyhow, I decided to run the Fools 4 Mile to see how the legs would respond. Turns out, they responded fairly well. I averaged 6:25 pace, faster than I've raced in awhile (although, like I said, I don't have many shorter races to compare to) and finished 3rd overall in a fairly small field (maybe 40-50 runners). For my effort, I got a $10 gift certificate to the local running shop. So, overall, a worthwhile experience (although I still don't have much desire to run another short road race anytime soon).

Despite hitting my weekly mileage targets, the one thing that's been missing thus far is some overly long long runs. Last year while using the same general plan while training for the Lean Horse 100, my longest long run was 40 miles. I don't plan on going that far this year since I'm only training for a 50 miler (two of em, actually), but I was hoping to get in a couple of 30 mile runs. Up until last week, I had only gone 25 miles once with a few 20 milers thrown in. So, last week I made it a goal to get in a 30 miler during the weekend. I was hoping to be able to do that on some trails, but the logistics of that just didn't work out due to kids' soccer games and the weather, so I ended up running 30 on mostly dirt roads. As usual, I started out with a run/walk ration of 10 minutes to 2 minutes and maintained that for the first 25 miles. At that point, I was feeling really, really good, so I just said to hell with it and ran the final 5 and was still feeling great when I got done. Best 30 mile run ever. Now I just need to get one of those done on some trails with significant elevation changes and I'll be set. I've been getting in a decent number of shorter (4-6 mile) trail runs and Ryan and I ran 20 on the Centennial a few weeks ago, but I really need to get something longer to prepare my body for being on the trail for several hours. Lucky for me, I'm planning on doing just that with Ryan and Nathan this weekend. We're hitting the first 30 miles of the Black Hills 100. After that it'll be time to taper a bit for Collegiate Peaks.