Monday, April 30, 2012

Night runs

No, not the kind of night runs you get when you eat some bad Mexican food.  The kind of night runs that involve running.  At night.  Besides being something drunk college students do on a regular basis, they're also something that many ultrarunners training for a 100 miler do.  So, I decided it was high time I went ahead and did one.

I run in the dark quite a bit.  During the winter, it actually seems as though I spend more time running in the dark than in the daylight.  But those runs are on city streets or country roads where street lights or the moon/stars provide sufficient illumination (i.e., no headlamp required, other than if I want to make sure motorists can see me).  Truth is, even though I have finished a 100 miler, I had never run on a trail at night.  Yes, the Lean Horse 100 is held on the Mickelson Trail, but the Mickelson is a trail in name only.  In reality, it's a wide bike path that offers virtually none of the technical challenges that come with a "real" trail (like the Centennial, for example).  We were lucky enough during Lean Horse to have a nearly full moon (it was about 4 days past full), which provided.ample light to follow the Mickelson.  I turned my headlamp on a couple of times, but found it easier to run without it.

Bighorn will be another beast entirely.  No streetlights and, basically, no moon (we will be nearing the new moon on June 15th).  Just a dark trail in the mountains.  So, I got to thinking that I should get some experience at this night running thing, both to test my body and to test my headlamp in "real" conditions.  All of last week, I had planned on running 20 miles on Friday night followed by another 20 sometime on Saturday to get a nice back to back in for the weekend with a bit of extra physical fatigue, all while getting my runs done around my kids' soccer game on Saturday morning and a10K my wife was running on Sunday morning.  Of course, Mother Nature, in all of her bitchly glory, tried to throw a wrench in the whole works.  After bright, sunny afternoons with highs in the low 80s during the week (which transitioned into running-perfect overnight temps in the 50s), we got pelted with a cold, two day long rain event on Friday and Saturday with highs in the 40s and snow in the high country.  Rationalizing that it could very well rain (or even snow) during Bighorn at night, I stubbornly forged ahead with my plan.

After running an easy 6 miles on Friday morning before work, working the entire day (which isn't a physically demanding activity, but can be mentally exhausting sometimes), I headed out for Sturgis just after 8:00 on Friday night.  By the time I started running, it was a bit past 8:30.  By then, the rain had tapered off some, there was a slight drizzle floating around, and the moon was actually starting to peek through the clouds.  My biggest trepidation about the run was what condition the trail would be in after the all-day rain, but it turned out to be mostly solid.  A few muddy spots here and there, but that's to be expected.  Other than getting pelted with a brief downpour of freezing rain just past the halfway point of the run, the precipitation stayed away and I stayed about as dry and warm as you could expect given the conditions.  Once I got my headlamp positioned correctly, I didn't have any problems running the trail, although it was a bit slower than my "normal" daytime pace.  But, I think that was actually a good thing, because at the end of the run I still felt great.  The slightly slower pace overall seemed to pay big dividends in endurance, something I need to remember the next time I'm running in the daylight.  Maybe I just need to find a race that starts at night (I know there are a few out there).

Finished the run a bit past 12:30 on Saturday morning and drove home for some sleep.  Turns out, the rain cancelled the kids soccer game on Saturday, so all of my careful scheduling was for naught (2nd time that's happened in the last 3 weeks).  At around 3:00 on Saturday afternoon, I headed out for another 20 around Belle.  The wind/rain had picked back up by then and that 2nd run was fairly miserable....much, much worse than the night run, and not just because it was on roads instead of trails.  My legs felt fine, but the cold, wet wind and a slightly sour stomach were making life a living hell.  Wanted to bail after 5 miles, convinced myself I needed to go at least 15 and then eventually managed to forget about what mile I was at until I glanced at my Garmin and saw I had done 17 and at that point, well, you might as well just get to 20.  So I did.  And then I ate pizza (after chewing on some ginger to calm my stomach down).

Tacked on a meaningless 4 miles, for the sole purpose of hitting 90 for the week (turned out to be 91 actually...damn it, ran one extra), before going to Shannon's race on Sunday morning (where I tacked on another mile running the kids race with my daughter....92 now).

Now, time for a cutback/taper week before Quad Rock on the 12th (where I'm hoping the 5 AM, headlamp-recommended, start will help me set my pace for the day).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Catching up (with more pictures)

Alright, I've been slacking around here. Time to get back up to speed.

A few weeks ago I met up with Ryan and another local runner, Phil, who is registered for this year's Black Hills 100. The plan was to run the first/last 29 miles of the BH100 course, starting at Dalton Lake and working back to the finish line at Woodle Field in Sturgis. This is probably the toughest part of the course with a few good climbs/descents. The northbound direction (the way we were heading) is theoretically easier since you have a net downhill dropping from the Hills into Sturgis, but there are still some good climbs in there (plus, if you're running the 100, you already have 70 miles on your legs).

First thing we noticed upon arriving at Dalton was that it was noticeably colder up there than it had been when we left Sturgis. Cold enough that the puddles in the road were iced over. So, our first mission was to get moving up the hill and into the sunlight. The first picture is taken a few miles from Dalton Lake, on the ridge above the Little Elk drainage (which is dammed, thereby creating Dalton Lake.....somewhat interesting random trivia factoid: of the 22 named reservoirs in the Black Hills, only 4 are natural lakes). The lake itself is to the left, further down the drainage. You can't really see it, but the road leading into the lake is down there somewhere.

After the initial climb out of the Little Elk drainage, the trail rolls a little bit along the ridge before you start a long descent into the Elk Creek drainage. At this point, you're starting to get fairly close to the norhtern edge of the Black Hills and occasionally can catch glimpses of the open prairie to the north and east. Interstate 90 is actually located just below that timbered ridge (referred to by locals as the Hogsback) in the middle distance of this pic.

As the trail nears Elk Creek, you get a few good views of the canyon below. We've heard it referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the Black Hills", but there is also a different canyon that is in fact called Grand Canyon on the Wyoming side. The idiosyncrasies of local names. Regardless, the canyon is fairly impressive from up here.

A bit further down the trail you com across the Crooked Tree, which is incorporated into our race logo. Ryan and I have a strange fascination with this tree. What can we say, we're fascinated by freaks of nature. That's me in the blue and Ryan in the white, by the way.

Not long after the Crooked Tree the trail crosses Elk Creek multiple times. As I documented in a previous post, the creek was totally dry back then, although it might have some water now that we've gotten a few days of steady rain. But probably not much and certainly not as much as it had at this time last year.

Basically, from that point on, we were on the same route that I had run the previous weekend, so I won't rehash the details here. I'll just mention that it was getting a tad warm (upper 70s) by the time we emerged from the Hills into the more open areas around Alkali Creek, Fort Meade and Sturgis. A sharp contrast from the sub-freezing temps that had greeted us at Dalton Lake when we started. The last few miles were a bit of a slog for all of us, although the speedier duo of Ryan and Phil had pulled a bit ahead of me by then. All in all, though, not a bad day on the trails.

Monday, April 2, 2012

March Summary

Miles: 377.9
Time Spent Running: 60:08:04 (10 more than Feb., 15 more than Jan.)
Runs: 38 (just shy of 10 miles/run...guess I should've got in another 0.1 mile somewhere)
Rest Days: 1
20+ Mile Runs: 7
Lookout Summits: 8 (would've been more, but the Tinton trail is now snow free, giving me two lunchtime run options)

Roughly a weekday to weekend mileage ratio of 1:1. My typical week consists of 40-45 miles between Monday and Friday and then 40-45 on Saturday/Sunday (30/15, 20/20, 25/20, etc.). Generally, one of those long runs (the longest one) is done on trails and the other on roads. Not ideal when training for a trail 100, but due to the logistics of juggling running, driving at least half an hour to a trail and family activities, that's just the way it is. Could be much worse....I could be training for Bighorn while living somewhere like Florida (I'll never understand how people do that....or why they would live in Florida in the first place for that matter).

Considering I was happy with 328 miles in February and stated I'd like to get that up to 350, I've got to be pretty happy with 377 for March. Honestly, didn't expect it to be that high, that's just kind of how things worked out, which I'll take as a good sign (it's always better when the miles just happen, rather than struggling to achieve them). I'd expect April to be similar. I'm fairly locked into a routine of 85-90 miles for three consecutive weeks followed by a cutback week of around 60 miles on the 4th week. I may flirt with a 100 mile week if I get in a 40 miler one of these weekends, but it's not something I'm striving for (well, except for the week including the Bighorn100, of course).

Oh, and I'm down about 11-12 pounds since the start of the year. I guess burning roughly 13,000 calories a week will do that for ya.