Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shit Ultrarunners Say

Funny because it's true:

Monday, January 30, 2012


Those numbers have nothing at all to do with temperature this time, although 80 degrees in January would be pretty damn impressive (and entirely unwelcome). It's all about miles this time as I try to remind my body what it's like to run for a lot of em. The highlights of the week were back to back 20 milers on Saturday and Sunday, giving me 40 miles for the weekend and 80 (82 and change, actually) for the week.

I hit up Lookout Mtn. a couple of more times during the week, giving me 8 summits so far for January, well beyond the pace necessary to get up there 50 times this year (like almost twice as many). Maybe 50 was a soft goal? After all, I didn't get my first summit last year until March probably, maybe April, so I've got a few months' head start this year. In any case, both runs up there this week were a chore in different ways. The first one was a slog through several inches of untouched snow, so I was breaking trail the whole way. Two days later, the snow had largely melted in some spots, or had gotten packed down and turned to ice in others, so there was either ice or mud to contend with the entire way. These aren't fast runs, by any means, but I'd rather slog slowly up Lookout than pound out a faster run on pavement (last I checked, Bighorn has a noticeable lack of pavement).

Having said that, though, there is also real life to contend with. Which is what led me to pounding out 20 miles, mostly on flat pavement, on Saturday morning. My son's basketball team, which I'm the coach of, had a game on Saturday, making it unrealistic for me to drive to a trail and get in a long run, so I hammered out some windy, cold miles around Belle. I balanced that out on Sunday, though, as Ryan and I ran the first 10 miles of the Black Hills 100 course. The trail was crazy icy in a few spots, especially in the first and last few miles around Fort Meade, but for the most part it was in incredibly decent shape for late January. The ice necessitated a slow pace in those sections, especially since I don't have micro-spikes nor have I made a pair of screw shoes yet this year, but overall the legs felt really good considering this is the first time I've put in 40 miles in a weekend for a very long time.

I registered for Deadwood-Mickelson last week, squeezing in before the price increase. Still need to get signed up for both Quad Rock and Bighorn. You'd think that, as a race director myself now, I'd stop procrastinating about this stuff and sign up for a race early, but I still find myself procrastinating until the last possible moment. Can't teach an old dog new tricks....or an ultrarunner to commit too soon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

45 degrees in 10 miles?

The plan for Saturday was that I was going to run the backroads from our house in Belle Fourche to Spearfish, where I would meet the rest of the family before heading out to lunch and bowling to celebrate my wife's birthday. Conveniently, it's almost exactly 20 miles from our driveway to my office if I follow the backroads and weave around Spearfish in a specific way. Also convenient is the fact that my office has a shower, so I wouldn't have to stink up the Chinese restaurant or the bowling alley with 20 miles worth of sweat.

Not so convenient was the weather when I woke up. The forecast had called for a high of 45 that day in Belle, but when I woke up it was only 3 degrees. WTF? I quickly checked the current weather conditions in Spearfish and found that it was 48 degrees there. Double WTF?? As the crow flies, Belle and Spearfish are only about 10 miles apart. Was there really a 45 degree difference in those 10 miles? Several times, I've driven to work in the morning to find Spearfish 20 degrees warmer (it's position up against the Black Hills tends to lead to inversions, trapping warm air in), but 45 degrees seemed a bit extreme.

Of course the bigger question was, if it really was that much warmer in Spearfish, what the hell was I supposed to wear for my run? Forty five is shorts and t-shirt weather. Three is, well, not. I ultimately decided on something in between....less clothing than I would wear for a typical 3 degree run, but more than I would for a 45 degree run. As I started running south toward Spearfish, I couldn't really tell if the air temp was rising or if it was just the fact that I was producing heat and keeping warm (having a northerly wind at my back certainly didn't hurt). Then, about 10 miles along my route, just as I was nearing the backside of Lookout Mtn and the outskirts of Spearfish, I felt the wind shift to the southwest and an associated definite, sharp increase in the temperature. I paused to shed a couple of layers of shirts, my gloves and my hat. By the time I finished my run, the bank clocks in town were reading low 50s, although the stiff wind and cloud cover made it feel a little cooler. Still, significantly higher than the 3 degrees I started out in.

It never did really warm up in Belle that day. After lunch and an attempt at bowling (the bowling alley was full, so we couldn't get a lane) we returned home. When we left Spearfish, it was 53, back in Belle it was still 24. That warm air never did make it 10 miles to the north.

An odd occurrence for sure, but at least it worked out the way it did. It would have REALLY sucked to start out in Spearfish in shorts and a t-shirt and end up freezing my arse off in Belle.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Okay, so I follow Anton Krupicka's blog and I know for awhile he was keeping track of how many times he summitted Green Mtn. outside of Boulder in a year. Green Mtn. is a fairly formidable run, featuring a few thousand feet of climbing and, from what I've heard, is more of a powerhike than a run, unless you're name happens to be Anton Krupicka (who may or may not possess mountain goat genes). In any case, I don't have a Green Mtn. Well, there's probably some protrusion somewhere in the Black Hills called Green Mtn., but I'm not sure where it is nor have I ever run it.

What I do have is Lookout Mtn., a much less impressive geographic landform than Anton's Green Mtn., but it's all I've got that's easily accessible for a quick lunchtime trail run (I can see the peak out my office window, less than a mile away). The route I take up Lookout is just over two miles (for a 4.8 mile loop up and back down) and includes about 900 feet of climbing. That's not an incredible amount, but the thing about the Lookout trails is that whoever constructed them back in the day didn't really believe in switchbacks. Those bastards go straight up the slope for a ways, level off when the terrain takes you onto a bench and then straight up again. It's kind of like running hill repeats without having to run up and down the same hill. But they are all runnable, save for the final crazy steep pitch up to the summit, which is a power hiker (for me at least...Anton maybe not so much). To put the elevation gain in perspective, one of the other local trails I run on a regular basis is the Tinton Trail. In order to achieve the same amount of elevation gain on Tinton, I have to run approximately twice as far.

So, where am I going with all this? Well, while thinking of Anton's Green tally, I decided to look back at my 2011 running log and count the number of times I summitted Lookout last year. The number, like the mountain itself, is much less impressive than Anton's, but if nothing else gives me a target for this year. Turns out I topped out on Lookout a total of 31 times. That includes one race (the Thoen Stone Seven in May) and one double summit (i.e., I ran up the west face, down the east side and then turned around and went back over for double the climbing).

I think 50 sounds like a good round number for 2012. And with Bighorn on my plate, several more of those double summits would probably be a good idea.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What a difference a year makes

Last January, on MLK day I think, me and few other guys got together in Sturgis and ran the Centennial trail. It was friggin cold....maybe 10-15 degrees with a windchill flirting with negative digits. And there was a good 4-6 inches of fresh snow on the trail, so we were breaking trail the whole way. With the wind at my back, I was comfortable enough, but by the time I'd reached the open area adjacent to the Black Hills National Cemetery, I was getting tired of snow plowing, so decided to turn around...straight into the wind. Almost instantly, my sweaty clothes flash froze around me. It was tolerable again when I got back in the timber, but when I finally got back to my car, I had to turn the floor heat on full blast to thaw out my shoes before I could untie them.

Today, I met up with a couple of guys and we ran the same section of trail, except we went a little further. I wore shorts and while I started out with a hat and gloves, I ditched the gloves eventually and the hat was feeling a little warm by the end. It was in the mid-40s by the time we finished and there was less than an inch of snow on the trail and several sections were totally clear. 20 miles total in weather conditions you don't often experience in January in South Dakota. Or in March, for that matter. I could get used to winters like this (but I probably shouldn't).

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A New Year

I've been meaning to post some 2011 summary stats, but just haven't gotten around to it. I know that I came up a mere 11 miles short of 3000 for the year. That's painfully close, but a full 5 days off in the middle of December while dealing with my blocked salivary gland put the kaibash on any aspirations I had of reaching 3000. Heading into the final day of the year, I basically needed to run a marathon to reach 3000. While I definitely could've slogged my way through 26 miles, I just didn't really see a compelling reason to do so, so I settled for 15 instead.

Winter has been remarkably un-winter like around here. Temps have been anywhere from the 40s to 60s the last few weeks, making for some pretty great January running conditions. Well, up until yesterday, anyhow. We got a dose of reality yesterday with a cold front that brought in sub-zero windchill. But, it's supposed to climb back into the 40s this weekend, so it was a short dose of 'real' winter...for now. The most telling stat is how many times I've run on the indoor track this winter. Haven't been there once yet. Usually by this time of year, I've been there several times. I'm holding out slim hope that I can make it through an entire winter without having to run 200 some laps some morning, but the odds are probably against me on that one.

I'm basically committed to the Bighorn 100. Registration doesn't open until Monday, and while I'll probably hold off for a little bit, I'm basing my training around toeing the line in the Tongue River Canyon on June 15th. One thing I didn't do well this winter is maintain a weekly long run. I ran okay mileage throughout the end of 2011...between 50 and 70 miles per week, I just didn't do many runs of 15 or longer. So now I'm trying to ease my way back into it. The good news is that my body doesn't seem to have forgotten how to do it...kind of like riding a bike (haven't done that in forever either). This past weekend, the first "official" weekend of my Bighorn training, I ran 15 on Saturday and 16 on Sunday and my legs actually felt better on that second run and I ran it faster. Now we'll see what happens when those back to backs turn into 25/15 or 30/10 or 20/20 or 40/10.