Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vacation Week 7/21/14

Well what do you do when you just finished the race that you've been planning for 7 months and find yourself in a beautiful area like Lake Tahoe? 
Both Gina and I felt pretty good following the race.  I had a few blisters, will probably lose my right big toenail, but overall feel pretty good.
7/21/14 - We went for a hike at Echo Lake just south of Lake Tahoe.  The trail is part of both the JMT and TRT.  This was a very nice area.  As we drove in we saw a running training camp was going on and being staged from this area.  The trail skirted the north shore of the lake and was a pretty smooth non technical trail.  You could take a water taxi to about the 2.5 mile point of this trail and hike from there if you wanted.  We hiked up to Tamarack lake and then headed back for a nice easy 8.5 miler.
7/22/14 - When we were in Tahoe for our honeymoon I remember heading out to Fallen Leaf Lake.  I don't remember exactly what we did there but I've remembered this area off and on over the last 16 years.  We went to the Glen Allen Springs Trailhead and did a short unimpressive hike.  This area was notable in that it was the first resort area in Lake Tahoe. 
7/23/14 - Leading up for this trip we were looking into what BIG trail to do in Yosemite.  We got to looking at the Half Dome Cables hike as the primary goal.  This is a crazy hike up to Half Dome where the last climb has you being assisted by use of two rows of cables.  One misstep and you'd be a goner.  The trouble with this hike is that is by permit only.  275 of the 350 permits are given out in the early season to backcountry hikers and day hikers and then the remaining permits are given out by lottery.
The NPS website has all the stats for how likely it is that you will get a permit.  I think they had the numbers as around 1500 people try to get the 75 permits available.  Well, we got permitted.
So our last morning in Lake Tahoe saw us getting up at 3am and leaving around 3:30 for the 4+ hour drive to the Yosemite Valley and Half Dome.  We got started around 7:45am for the 16ish mile hike, 8 miles out and back where it was described as having 4800ft of elevation gain.
In hindsight, we should have gone up the Mist Trail and down the JMT, but due to the signage we went the opposite route.  The Mist trail is a steep stair ridden trail that goes along Vernal and Nevada Falls.  The JMT goes off to the side with views of both.  Both trails are fine but I prefer to go out and back on different trails if I have the option.
Both the Mist and JMT head up to Little Yosemite Valley where we took the side trail up to Half Dome.  Before you get to the cables you get to the Lower Dome where the Park Ranger was to check our permits.  We checked in and then hiked up the very steep Lower Dome.  This trail was straight up sections of granite steps and rocks. 
Once on the Lower Dome you have only the last 400ft of elevation and the cables to conquer.  Fortunately there are a number or boards or steps in the granite where you can take a break to catch your breath, give your arms and legs a break, or let up and down traffic by you.  After a couple of breaks we were at the top and on top of Yosemite.  From here you can see almost the entire park.  We soaked in the sights and then walked the perimeter before heading back down.  We ended up with right at 19 miles.  A very tough day on already tired legs but we did it.  As we were winding the day down walking back to the care I mentioned to Gina how close we were to a 100 mile week.  That's all it took for us to look for the last 13-15 miles we needed to hit that mark. 
7/24/14 - Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias - We didn't get off and running very quickly this morning so we got caught in vacationer traffic at the park.  We were actually fortunate because the allowed us to have one of the best runs we could have wished for.  Overflow parking was sent to Wawona.  From here we caught the free park shuttle up to the Sequoias.
We started out on the outer loop and within about three quarters of a mile we were out of the crowds and on our own.  We hit all the major landmarks as we made it to the upper grove and then Wawona Point (this was a nice place to get a lookout and enjoy the scenery and day).  From here we continued on the outer loop to the Wawona Trail.  This was listed as a 6 mile trail back to Wawona and where we parked.
The Wawona Trail was a mostly downhill trail on nice soft footing through some old growth pine, redwood, and sequoia forest.  You couldn't have asked for a nicer trail.  If the vacation had ended with this run alone, I would have been fine with it.  The total for the day was 12.2 miles.
7/25/14 - For our last day and last miles heading toward the goal of 100 for the week we headed to Calaveras Big Trees State Park.  This was another park with Giant Sequoias.  This park was much more low key.  We went to the South Grove and did a pretty unimpressive Bradley Grove loop trail and then headed onto the South Grove Loop.  This loop was much better and had a lot more big trees to see.  After this loop we got back into the car and headed to the bridge and hung out by the river for a little while.  We got in a total of 7.33 miles.
Total for the week; 53.88 miles.  Add that to the race on Saturday and we had a Saturday to Friday total of 104.4 miles.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Race Week 7/14/14

Well the race is right around the corner.  We leave on Thursday 7/17 for Sacramento and then a drive into Lake Tahoe and then Carson City where the race is headquartered. 
The negatives;
  • I injured my back 3 different times this winter.  One doing trail maintenance, one with a horrible fall, slipping on ice and once in a random "tweak."
  • The legs haven't felt good for awhile.  They've felt heavy since Promise Land.
  • My HR has been pretty unsteady. 
  • I've been working on a very sore place on my left quad that was injured late in the winter when I slipped and caught myself on some ice.  Bracing myself I put all my weight on my left quad and since then it has been sore when powering up hills.  I've been rolling and using the stick on it.  It has felt better but it has been nagging at me lately.
  • The 6/14/14 Highlands Sky 40 miler didn't go as planned.
The positives;
  • I've been training and racing in preparation for this race since 1/1/14.
  • I've been training by the Maffetone method of running slower to run faster.  Almost all of my non race training has been at a HR at or below 142. 
  • I had a successful Promise Land 50k
  • I ran 82 miles in 2 days in the Smoky Mtns in May.  This distance was done easier than in 2013 and it was a good training trip that inspired confidence in running 40+ miles.
  • My training stats have continued to improve.
7/15/14 - Ran the 6 mile loop and did a .5 mile cool down at 142.
Since my legs have felt like crap lately I decided to take the rest of the week off until race day.
7/19/14 - The TRT Endurance Runs are comprised of a 55k, 50 miler, and 2 lap 100 miler.  100 Milers went off at 5am and the rest of the field of 500 went off at 6am. 
This race has around 9000ft of elevation with the altitude of the race spanning 6900 to 9000.  Highlights are a screaming steep climb out of the Diamond Peak ski resort at mile 30 and a 7.5 mile decent to the finish from mile 43.
I was fortunate to find a garmin connect link to a runner in last year's event that ran a 9:44.  Based off of my fitness, the expected terrain and elevation, I thought I could pull off a 9:45-10:15 finish which would put me in the top 10.  This was my goal and I had a spreadsheet with my splits to base this off of. 
Since the 50 mile race started with the 55k race, and an hour after the 100 miler, it was really tough to figure out who was who and what place I was in.  So from the start I decided to just run my race and not base what I was doing off of other runners.  It didn't take long before I started catching up with the slower 100 miler traffic.  The course started out with a climb up to around the 10 mile mark where it started to descend to the first "big" aid station, Tunnel Creek, that we would hit 3 different times.  This is where David Landes was crewing us, having everything set for when we arrived. 
I was 3 minutes over my projected time here and felt good.  I hit the trail at around mile 11 and skinned up my palms and right thigh but overall didn't do much damage.  Nothing that would interfere with the rest of the day.  I took off my Nathan Vest, ate two HS waffles and took a hand held bottle.  The next section was side loop starting with a steep descent and then an equally steep climb back to the Tunnel Creek Aid Station (first hint of adductor cramps but nothing serious, just made a note to dial back the steep climbs).  In the middle there was the Red House Aid Station where I got some ice and topped off my bottle with water. 
Back to Tunnel Creek I was 7 minutes under my projected time.  I took my pack back and hand held, ate a honey stinger bar and was off.  This was the longest section of around 11 miles and where I seemed to loose the most time on my projections.  I'm not sure why.  It wasn't all that tough and actually was easier than I expected.  I did go to the bathroom in this section and stopped to put my handheld in to my pack but nothing that should have eaten up much time. 
At the Diamond Peak Aid Station David was there ready for a pit stop style transition.  I stopped to get a new bladder, cleaned myself off, put on sunscreen, and ate a bar, leaving my handheld to start this extremely steep 2.8 miles to the top of the Peak.  I was actually looking forward to this climb.  I was noticing up until this point that I was doing my best when the trail started to climb to the point of hiking.  Any place it was level I was loosing ground on the runners around me.  I'll admit this climb was way more than I planned on.  It was the steepest thing I've been on in a race and the terrain was 1-3" of soft sand/gravel.  In addition, this was probably the hottest I've ever been in a race.  The sun was scorching and I was sweating profusely.  I wasn't sure how this was going to play out later in the race.  Hitting the top was a relief and probably provided the best overlook of the day.  Turning around at the top there was a great view of Lake Tahoe's Northern border.
This next section was an up and down 10 miles to the race's high point, Snow Valley Peak at 9000ft elevation.  This is the next section where I lost ground on my projected times.  I did a bit more hiking on this section than I would have liked.  I was feeling a bit of hamstring twinge on sections where I had to climb for any significant incline.  So I'd back it down to a hike and be fine. 
This is where I was walking the fine line of running a race slower in the hopes of banking speed and power for later on during the last 7.5 mile downhill section.  Just like Promise Land, it doesn't matter how fast you get to the top if you can't run downhill.  In both of these races you can loose a lot of time if you aren't able to run the downhill at a good pace.  In hindsight, I think I could have pushed better on this section.
At the Snow Valley Peak aid station there was an issue with getting my bladder filled, closed, spilled all over my back, refilled, closed and back onto my back for the decent.  Maybe 4 minutes lost.  But I wanted a full bladder for this section and all the way to the finish.  Because of the pack I was able to run through 3 of the aid stations without needing any fluid. 
From here to the finish it was really uneventful.  The course was almost all downhill to around 1 mile to go and then it flattened out and made you work for the last bit to the finish.  During this section I was doing the math on a 50.5 mile race and seeing what pace I needed to be under 10 hours.  I was over a 12:05 minute average pace per mile at the Snow Valley Peak aid station and knew I needed a 11:50 or better to get under 10 hours.  As I ran the last down hill I was watching the pace gradually come down, on my watch, hoping the wheels wouldn't fall off.  Thankfully I was able to run this entire section and I came in at 9:57:16.  I didn't know my finish place.  They guy at the finish tent mentioned there were 4 females in front of me (first female was 2nd overall) which didn't make me feel like my place would be that good.  When the dust settled, I found out I was 9th overall and 3rd in my AG (1st if you take out the top 3 overall males from the AG placings). 
All in all this was a perfect day.  I finished just before the skies opened up in rain, thunder, wind and hail.  The last 10 miles were under overcast skies which were a blessing after the initial spike in heat earlier in the race.  The course was fantastic.  Great footing all day, great views in all directions, great aid stations and volunteers.  It had everything a great memorable race should have.  I would recommend it to anyone.
Total for the week; 57 miles of running

Training Week 7/7/14

Goal for the week is to run at least 30 miles at HR 142 and to try to keep Friday's FNL races from causing to much of an energy drain.
7/8/14 - Ran the 6 mile loop and cool down at 142.
7/9/14 - Ran 6.6 around Grandin Court
7/11/14 - Ran, cleaned up and marked the FNL course - 7.1 at 142.
7/12/14 - 6.6 miles of running around Grandin
7/13/14 - Ran 5.25 around Grandin
Total for the week; 33.05 miles of running

Training Week 6/30/14

This is my last big week before the TRT50.  The goal for the week is to get adequate sleep, get in 50+ miles and to run at or below 142 HR.
7/1/14 - Ran the 6 mile loop and 1.5 mile cool down at 142 HR
7/2/14 - Ran 7.5 at the cove - 4 gorge, ext, comet and road back out.
7/4/14 - Went out and did some cleanup on the FNL course at Montvale - 8.2
7/5/14 - This is the last long run before Tahoe.  Chad Braby and I went out for the 19.5 mile Hollins Greenway loop.  The goal was to go hard but stay at or below my 142 HR.  We did the loop in almost exactly 3:30.  HR was pretty stable today and legs felt so so.  The legs did start to feel rough once we hit Happy Valley at around 14 miles.  It's funny but this was the exact same run I did on this Saturday last year.  See the stats here -
This loop has become a time trail loop for me to see where my fitness is.  It is a great loop with a little of everything.
7/6/14 - Ran 8 with a .75 mile cool down around Fishburn, VWCC and Winding Way.
Total for the week; 51.15

Training week 6/23/14

6/24/14 - Ran the 6 mile loop at HR 142 and did a 1.5 mile cool down.
     Ran 4 with a cool down in the evening for 4.85.
6/25/14 - Ran the Hi Dee Ho 4 gorge loop at 142.  Felt Pretty good.
6/26/14 - Biked 10 and ran 4 at Douthat
6/27/14 - Ran 7 miles on Fore Mtn and 7 at Douthat
6/28/14 - Bike 12 at Douthat
This was a great weekend staying in an old CCC cabin at Douthat.  The setting was great, quiet, limited cell/data service, relaxing, and we were surrounded by great trails.  We've already decided to use this as a home base for a running retreat next year as we prepare for our Colorado races.  If you haven't stayed or played at Douthat I highly recommend it.
Total for the week - Ran 37.75 and Mtn biked 22

Training Week 6/18/14

Took some days off from running to mentally and physically recover from the race.  Post race there aren't any real wounds but it did take a few days for my right hip flexor to loosen up.
6/18/14 - Ran the bridge street 6 miler and cool down for 6.4 miles.
6/20/14 - Ran 7 around Fishburn, VWCC and grandin court.
6/21/14 - Ran 6.75 at the RNUTS social on Mill Mountain
6/22/14 - Ran 11 on the greenway 10 mile loop and 1 mile cool down.
Total for this recovery week - 31.15 miles running

Race Week 6/9/14

This is the week of the Highlands Sky 40 Miler.  It's been quite a few years that we've wanted to run the HS40 but the schedule didn't match up until this year.  This is a race that fills up and you have to get in early. 
My legs have felt pretty heavy lately and my HR data has been a bit erratic but this is the last "tune-up" race before the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 miler on 7/19.
6/10 - 6.6 mile loop and cool down.  Legs felt heavy and HR was high.
6/14 - In an effort to let my legs wake up I decided to take the rest of the week off before the race.  Race morning was cool and humid.  I had a spreadsheet with splits and hoped to finish in the 7-7.5 hour range, which from prior results should land me close to the top 10.  Another goal was to try to keep my non moving time to around 5-6 minutes, getting in and out of aid stations as quickly as possible. 
Things were rolling pretty good to start, I was a bit behind my pace in the first 10 miles but felt OK.  Somewhere in the 16 mile range I caught my right foot on a rock, went down, and strained my right hip flexor in the process.  This would continue to be a problem for the rest of the race and ended up making me walk a lot of the miles to come.  I just didn't have power in that right hip after the fall.
Over the last few years my ability to run more of a race and run longer into a race has gotten better.  When I used to cave into the "it's OK to walk" desires, I have been able to push through.  That wasn't the case in this race.  I'm not sure what it was or if it was the combination of rocks, water, mud and the hip flexor, but I spent more time in this race with a "I've lost the will to push" than any race of late. 
I would say that much of the course reminded me of the races and running we've done out west and I think on another day I would have really enjoyed the course, but today, it beat me, mentally and physically.  This is like my Catoctin experience.  The race beat me today and it makes me want to come back and give it another go to see if I can come out on top.
This is one of the reasons I lost my will to keep up to date on this blog.  But that's why I'm writing this, as a first hand account of my ultrarunning experience, what I've learned, done wrong, and done right. 
This was a very tough course with plenty of fire, gravel, and asphalt road that should really make for a faster finish time than what I had but I found that not only did the hiking have a negative effect but my leg turnover on the road sections wasn't there either.  The last 4.5 miles were on road and my pace should have been much better but it just wasn't there.
Somewhere in this negativity I checked out of race mode and turned it over to a training run.  No need to get too down or excited about how poorly things were going.  The big picture is the race next month and all road since January go towards Tahoe.
The final stats are here -
Finish in 7:32 and ended up 15th overall