Thursday, October 14, 2010

Running Trails at Night

Gina and I have run trails by headlamp and flashlight since we first got into trail running back in 2001. Due to time constraints, most of our fall and winter running occurs after dark. Both of us prefer to run on trails and don't want to let darkness keep us from staying in trail running shape. In addition, there are aspects of running at night that you just can't put into words.

Light Source:

My lighting preference is to use a LED headlamp and a flashlight (halogen or LED). LEDs are a very energy efficient lighting source and cast a white glow (I can't stand to buy and go through a lot of batteries. LEDs have really helped increase the run time of battery operated lights). Depending on your LED headlamp, the beam emitted will be a glow or a focused beam. There are countless options of headlamps for a variety of uses. I'm a fan of Princeton Tec lights. I've yet to find a headlamp that lights up the trail and allows you to get depth perception.

When running at night you get depth perception from shadows being cast from your light source.
The best way to get shadows is to use a flashlight. Holding a light lower, in your hand, helps to get the shadows you need to identify rocks, roots, and other obstacles in your way. With this in mind I usually only run using a headlamp, but if I'm planning to run a trail fast, run a rocky orrooty trail, or run a steep downhill, I will also use a flashlight. Not only does this help minimize getting injured on the trail but it is also smart to have a backup light source in case your primary light stops working.

Three of our Sponsors carry flashlights and headlamps:

Outdoor Trails

Walkabout Outfitter

Dick's Sporting Goods

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

4/24/10 - Promise Land 50k

This marked my 5th run at the Promise Land 50k (34.65 by GPS). Since my first year I have been striving for a sub 6 hour finish, this was my year. Due to the large amount of snow this winter I have been running regularly and my bikes have become lonely. I've been consistently getting in 40+ mile weeks and have felt like my training has been right on for a good running/racing spring. In addition, I've lost some weight and am at my lightest weight in 20 years. It has been so long I don't remember the last time I was under 175lbs. Yeah, I was a heavy kid.

OK, so the Promise Land race boasts 7800ft of elevation gain, beautiful scenery, and a post race meal (veggie burger for me). The perfect combination. The race starts and ends with a 2.6 mile gravel road section. This road becomes one of the steepest roads I've been on. I remember one of my first mountain bike rides with clipless pedal, where I stalled out on this climb and fell over on my side. Steep, steep steep. Not so bad at the beginning of the race but to hit this point after running 32 miles is scary and not knowing whether your muscles or joints will support you is borderline dangerous.
I have made up a little chart for where I think I should be in the race and have used this in the last two attempts. I noticed that this year I was gaining ground on the projected times at every aide station. By AS 4 I was 10 minutes ahead of schedule and feeling good.

The miles between AS 4 & 6 are what I call the lower loop or no mans land. Its an up and down grassy fireroad that seems to go on and on forever. I usually suffer from cramps and a lack of motivation in this section, but this year was different. I was able to run most of it and didn't have any poor me segments.

Once at AS 6 you have a 3 mile run and hike up Apple Orchard Falls Trail This starts out as a gradual climb and then becomes a steep climb with 100s of rock and wooden stair steps. The best part of it is knowing that at the top it is "only" 5 miles down to the finish (there is one short steep 200yd climb in there that most people forget about, but I remembered). I made the mistake of taking some of the stairs 2 at a time. This caused my quads to overexert and I was about to have some cramps. Fortunately I was able to hold off the cramps until the downhill to the finish. I had a few bouts of calf and quad cramps but was able to make pretty good time to the finish.

This year I ended up 19th in 5:41:27. I improved my time by 25 minutes which is 45 seconds per mile.

It's really nice to have things fall into place and achieve and exceed a goal that you know you're able to. It was a perfect day for a race. Started out in the mid 50's, got up to an overcast mid 60's with a nice breeze.

Great day and a great event - see for more info and other races put on by Dr. David Horton

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2/13/2010 Holiday Lake 50k ++

Well it took me over a month to talk about this one. I was happy with the result considering the conditions, but the weather didn't allow for me to hit the PR that I've worked all winter for.

Leading up to this race we have had a cold snow filled winter. The race course was covered in 4-8 inches of snow. This made for a tough slog for 5hours and 37 odd minutes putting me at 27th overall.

I started the race hitting the trail at the .8 mile point in 12th or so. As we headed into the woods it was clear that not many people had been on the trail. The snow was hard enough to almost stay on top, but just as I thought I was going to push off with ease, my foot would break through. This made for a lot more effort. Then about 15 minutes into the race my group missed a turn and lost a bit of time. The good side of this was now I was behind 25-30 people and the snow was better packed (anything would have been better).

My race plan quickly changed from a PR race to trying to stay at a 10 min per mile pace and trying to hit the turnaround close to the 2:30 mark. I ended up at the halfway point in about 13th place in 2:42. Due to some gastric issues I had to make a pit stop at the 4H camp, took care of business, and hit the trail again loosing some ground, as a few people came through the turnaround while I was busy in the Restroom.

This is a out and back course. You run clockwise on the first loop and then counterclockwise on the return. It's neat and uplifting to get to see all the runners as you head toward and away from the halfway point. This year I was closer to the front runners than I've ever been and the runners behind me were more spread out than I've ever seen.

For most of the 2nd half of the race I was in survival mode. I went out too fast and the effort of running in the snow had my muscles taxed long before they should have been. I hung on for another 2:52 on the 2nd half for a 27th place 5:37 minute 5th finish at Holiday Lake.

Next up is the 4/3/10 6 hour of Warrior Creek Mtb Race. Racing on a Duo Team
Then 4/24/10 I will be running my 5th Promise Land 50k and hoping for a sub 6 hour finish on a course that gains over 7800 feet.

Training this year has been good. Lots more miles on my feet but my bikes haven't seen too much activity.

Friday, February 5, 2010

2/13/2010 Holiday Lake 50k ++

My 5th Holiday Lake 50k is 1 week away. It's going to be a wet, snowy, muddy mess. I can't imagine what's going to happen, weather wise, in the next week. I'm trying to hold on to a positive attitude. Good thing is, I'm physically ready.

Report will come following the race.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

1/16/10 - Swinging Bridge 35/50k

This is a fun low key event put together by the Richmond Road Runners Club. Last year was my first year running the event and I choose to do the 35k. See prior post -
The 2009 race was crazy. -2 degrees at the start and a struggle to stay warm and in constant motion. I ended up 8th in 3:35. This year was different, better weather, better conditioning, and I have entered 2010 at my lightest weight in over 20 years.
Much of this race is run on "primitive trail." This means that there is minimal trail maintenance. Throughout the course there are dozens upon dozens of downed trees, some of which, if you are lucky, have been cut down or cut out. In addition, the single track trail looks more like a deer path than the typical single track around here. It was common to see people getting off course and then looking around for a trail blaze or other marker to get back on course. I was one of these people, I got off course at least 2 times.
The course is an out and back 35k, then for the 50k you can continue on a different out and back 15k. I ended up running in a group for the first 10 miles and hit the halfway point in 8th place. On the way back to the 35k finish I was able to catch a few more people and finished the 35k in 3:02 and entered the 50k portion in 4th. Shortly after entering this section I got off course due to a confusing course marking and lost some time. I was able to work my way up to 3rd place and tried to hold on, but at mile 27 I started to get some adductor and sartorius cramps. I walked for awhile, was passed by one runner, hit a few electrolyte caps, and a gel, and was able to get back in a grove until the finish. I hit the finish in 5:03:10 in 4th place. Not a bad day. I was happy with the outcome and look forward to the next 50k on 2/13/10 at Holiday Lake, where I've run the course 4 other times and don't have to worry about course markings near as much.
For this race there were 5 Aide Stations that offered water, a couple different sodas, bananas, peanut butter pretzels, M & M's, and Famous Amos cookies. I went for the bananas and peanut butter pretzels and drank 20oz of water between each AS.