Monday, January 31, 2011

Frost Giant Double to end a 90 Mile Week

I went up to Estes Park this morning with Nick to run the Frost Giant 5K and 10K. I had no great hopes of running fast times due to the 7500 feet of elevation, the rough cross country sections of the courses and the 75 miles in my legs already this week including 22 miles of hilly trail yesterday. We arrived in Estes with over an hour until race time, so Nick, Ryan Burch, and I did an easy warm up on the 5K course which started with a mile up the road out of town to a mile loop on a dirt road and though a lumpy field at McGregor Ranch and then back to the finish down the same road we'd come up. When the gun went off, I ran hard but could feel the fatigue in my legs up the hill and never felt like I had the umph to really race. I finished in 22:30 just ahead of Fort Collins running great Jon Roeske who won the 60-69 age group.
I went with Nick and Ryan who placed 1st and 3rd in the 5K on a between race jog of about 1.75 miles over the first mile+ of the 10K course and back down to the finish. Back at the car, I grabbed something to eat and a drink of water, tried to do a little stretching, made a quick trip to the bathroom and then got back on the starting line. I had already decided to take it out very conservatively on the 10K which started with an even bigger hill than the 5K and this paid off. I ran the first mile in 8:17 and felt good. I was feeling even better when I hit the 2 mile mark at the top of the course in McGregor Ranch and I passed 5-6 other runners. I really enjoyed the 3 miles of cross country on the 10K course and cruised through it comfortably, being careful not to turn an ankle or take a low hanging branch in the face. My energy level dropped some in mile 4 and I was passed by a few of the guys that I'd passed earlier. After 5 miles, the course headed off the fields and back on to the road for the same downhill mile to the finish as the 5K. I worked pretty hard to catch the runner ahead of me and ended up finishing about 1 second behind him in 46:24.

We (Nick and Ryan placed 1st and 2nd in the 10K) went out for another mile and half cool down jog which brought the day's total miles to just over 15. It was a fun couple of races on a really nice day in the mountains.

This was another good week with 90 miles in 10 runs including a good 20 x :30-:30 fartlek on Tuesday, 3 runs on Thursday, the last one being a 38:27 run up Towers and a comfortable 22 miles on Saturday. I plan to make this next week a bit easier and cut the miles back a little. It would be nice to run the T&H 8K next Sunday with fresh legs and see if all the miles of the last 4 weeks have paid off.

Monday, January 24, 2011

4 Weeks 'til Moab

Me, Phil, Cherilyn, Kemp, Brian and Don at the
Blue Sky Coyote Ridge Jct.
Photo by Lysette

Eight of us met at the Blue Sky trail head this morning for a nice long run to Devil's Backbone. We are all running the Red Hot 33K and 55K in Moab next month and were looking for a good training run that included plenty of miles, a few hills and lots of rock. Blue Sky, Indian Summer, and Devil's Backbone provided it all. It was great to see Kemp and Lysette who came up from Golden for the run.

It was a nice morning and even though the thermometer at the house said 16 degrees when I crawled out of bed, the sun was out and it was warm enough for shorts when I got to the trail head.

I felt great as soon as we started down the trail towards Loveland and was happy to cruise along and talk to Phil about shoes and upcoming race plans.

We regrouped at Coyote Ridge before heading down to the valley and up the Indian Summer Trail. The group split up a bit at this point as some were planning to run the loop and head back while others were going further. The trail condition on Indian Summer was in great shape and the views across the valley were spectacular. At the south end of the loop, Don headed back while Cherilyn and I continued on to Devil's Backbone. I always try to convince myself that I like the challenge of this part of the trail. In all honesty, I really struggle with the rocky uneven terrain and I spend a lot of energy trying to keep up a decent running pace without falling on my face into the sharp red rocks. I know it is good preparation for the slick rock in Moab. There were a lot of people on the trail as we got closer to the Devil's Backbone parking lot. We made a quick stop at the keyhole and then ran on to the trail head.

Kemp came in just behind us and we took a quick break to eat and fill water before turning around and heading home.

The run back went smoothly. We met up with Joselyne on the way out of Devil's Backbone and then ran back over Indian Summer, picking up Kemp's lost glove along the way, and then back down on to Blue Sky. I had a mild, low blood sugar moment heading up the last real hill towards the Coyote Ridge Trail, but recovered after choking down a Gu and a Tiger's Milk bar. I felt strong over the last 2.5 miles and we got back to the cars in 4 hours and 10 minutes with 21.5 miles on the Garmin.

This run was a great finish to an awesome week of running. I ran a 3 x 1 mile interval workout at the park on Tuesday and a 4 mile marathon pace tempo run on Thursday. There were the relaxed, fun, social night runs with the trail runners on Tuesday and Thursday. Saturday morning, I ran to Maxwell trail head and met up with the Fort Collins Running Club for a good 10 mile out and back on the Horsetooth Half course. I got out for easy 8 - 10 mile runs around the park and Pineridge on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. My legs are feeling less tired now than they did a week ago and I was able to finish the week with a total of 85 miles.

I am looking forward to another solid week of running with another chance at Towers on Thursday and the Frost Giant 5K/10K double next Sunday in Estes Park. I am going to work hard to get out for some short morning runs next week too, so I can keep the mileage up without having to go out for 10+ miles every evening.

I turned in my registration for the Horsetooth Half yesterday and I'm anticipating a big course PR. Looking to future races, I am thinking about running the Bighorn 50 mile again instead of the Black Hills race in June. I'd love to run Black Hills, but the timing is tough and it would be great to go for a course PR at Bighorn, too.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Long Run

Look closely at the center of the picture to see my foxy friend

The 20+ mile long run is the staple of marathon training. When I used to be a road runner in California, I would go out most Sunday mornings and run a 20-24 mile loop that took me out to the ocean, past the pier in Seal Beach and along the beach bike path in Huntington. These were always lonely runs, but putting in long runs at a steady pace felt like a necessity in preparation for a road marathon. I hadn't done a run like this in a while, but I knew it had to be done and I needed the miles for the week. I set out from the house this morning to run a 27 road mile loop along the reservoir and the full length of the Poudre and Spring Creek bike paths. No one responded to my late post to the Trail Runners list for running companions so it was just me and my thoughts for a 4+ hour run around Fort Collins.
It was a cold morning, but the prediction called for mid 40's so I went out in shorts hopeful that the sun would come out and the day would warm up. I started out slowly and ran through the park to Overland. I saw a fox who sat and watched me from the side of the road so I took a few pictures and continued on.

I kept a slow pace up the hills of the Horsetooth Half course along the reservoir where I stopped to put my long sleeve shirt and hat back on. It never did warm up, but it wasn't too terribly cold either.
I stopped for a chai at Dazbog just off the Poudre Trail after running 16 miles in 2 and a half hours. I was glad to finally hit the Spring Creek Trail at nearly 20 miles and start heading home. The last couple miles were tough and I was relieved to finally get home after 4 hours and 21 minutes for a total of 27.7 miles on the Garmin.
It turned out to be a pretty solid week with 80 miles total that included a little speed work, a run up Towers, the Twin Mountain Trudge and a long lonely road run. There was nothing fantastic this week. My intervals on Tuesday were slow and I was nearly 5 minutes off my PR on Towers. I am not feeling very fast and my legs are tired all the time, but I am counting on the miles and the tough runs to build a base of strength that will transfer to speed as we move in to spring.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Twin Mountain Trudge 2011

The Trudge update from Alec Munthig on Jan. 2 stated, "Less than two weeks to the Trudge! I hope all of your training and mental preparation is going well, as this year may very well prove to be one of the toughest yet." Despite his warnings, 42 people showed up at Blair-Wallis this morning to trudge 11 or 22 miles through the snow. I've run this race the last two years and it has always been tough, but today's run was far and away the toughest. After less than half a mile on the snow crusted dirt road, the course veered off in to shin to knee to thigh deep snow and other than the occasional wind swept clearing, it continued this way for the next 10 miles. Little of the course was runnable due to the depth of the snow and much of it was difficult to even walk in. It was a clear morning with only slight winds as we set off and I realized I was overdressed in the first mile. I stopped and pulled off my jacket and fleece and ran the rest of the race in only a capilene long sleeve top and snow pants. I trudged along at about 20 minutes per mile hoping that the trail would hit a more runnable section, but soon realized it was only going to get tougher. I was passed by Sam and later Jen who had arrived at the start a little late after being redirected to a new start location a well meaning group at a gas station only to get there and find out that it was a ski race. I made it to the aid station at about 4.6 miles in about an hour and a half. I grabbed a handful of pretzels and a lemon cookie (which was really good) and I passed on the frozen shot glass of whiskey. From the aid station the course headed up the steepest climb and then off on to the Devil's Loop. This was the hardest and slowest section of the course and my pace slowed to 25 minutes per mile. At the top of the climb out of the Devil's Loop, the wind picked up to gale force speed and the temperature dropped drastically. I knew I should put my jacket back on but I also knew the finish was less than 2 miles away and I really didn't want to stop and pull off my pack and take off my gloves so I trudged on as quickly as I could. I made it to the finish line in 3:26, a full hour slower than last year. Cherilyn finished just moments later looking strong and smiling. Jen and Sam decided to forgo a second lap which seemed like a wise choice. Two brave runners did head out into the snow and wind for another rip around the Twin Mountains. They turned out to be the only ones to go for the 22 mile distance and as I sit here typing 5 hours later, I hope they are now finished and warm and dry. Brian and Marie finished their first trudge together in just over 4 hours. Marie said that this was one of the hardest races she has ever done which is a strong statement from someone who has run several of the toughest 50 and 100 mile races around (Big Horn, Leadville, Wasatch, San Juan Solstice, just to name a few.) We drove back to Fort Collins sharing stories of our struggles and the joys of spending the morning on the snow covered trails of Wyoming.
With the snowshoe race last weekend and the Trudge today, I have had enough of running in the snow for a while. I am looking forward to a nice long run on the roads and the bike paths tomorrow with promise of high 40s and little to no wind in Fort Collins.
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Monday, January 10, 2011

A Snowy Weekend- Hardwater and T & H

Maddie May coming into the finish in 2nd place at the FCRC Tortoise & Hare 4K

After a pretty warm start to the winter and lots of nice runs on dry trails, I got a good taste of running in the snow this weekend. Saturday morning I drove up to Nederland for the Hardwater 30K Snowshoe Race put on by Gemini Adventures. I had been looking forward to this race after having a great time last year, finishing 2nd place overall. I went in pretty confident with a strong base of lots of trail running miles from the holiday break including one easy 5 mile snowshoe run up on Cameron Pass a couple days after Christmas. I was sure that even with my lack of snowshoe prep., my fitness would carry me through a strong race and maybe even a win. I warmed up with an easy jog up the trail before the race without my snowshoes on and felt pretty good. The sun was out and it was reasonably warm, maybe mid 20s. I started out fairly hard to stay with the lead group and within half a mile, the muscles in my shins were so tight that it felt like they were going to rip right off the bone. I had to slow down, walk, then even stop for a bit to try to stretch out. I guess my mistake was not warming up sufficiently with the snowshoes on. The first 3 miles were mostly up hill, giving the muscles in my shins no relief and I struggled on slowly- very slowly. After about 4 and half miles and a short section of flats and down hill, my muscles loosened up and I was able to run again. Things went pretty smoothly for a while and I caught a few of the 20+ runners that had passed me. I made it to the aid station at mile 6 where the short course turns around and the 30K continues to the lollipop loop and the big climb of the course. I grabbed a couple cookies and kept running. I ran the next mile in 11 minutes which sounds slow, but was significantly faster than my pace in the first part of the race. The next couple of miles were tough, because the snow got a lot deeper and the trail climbs for what seemed to be forever. After finally hitting the top of the climb, I pushed down the hill and back to the aid station which meant there were just 6 miles to go. At this point I must have had a real drop in blood sugar, because my energy level and consequently my pace went way down. Once I figured out what was going on and ate something, I started feeling better and was able to run the last 3 miles pretty well...even catching a couple more racers. I came into the finish with 18.8 miles and 5 hours 24 minutes on the Garmin. This was a full 40 minutes slower than my time on the same course last year. The snow was definitely deeper this year, but I have to blame my slower race on my lack of snowshoe training, insufficient warm-up and carelessness with my fueling. It was not the race I wanted to have, but it was a good exercise in suffering and I can chalk it up to some good lessons learned.

Sunday's running was much more fun starting with a snowy wake up and a decision to run the Tortoise and Hare 4K with Maddie. She has been going out for runs almost everyday since the new year and she was a great sport about heading out to the race on a cold morning. It was a lot of fun running with Maddie and I was impressed to see her run so well. She ran the second half of the out and back course a full minute and 10 seconds faster than the first half and finished in 2nd place with a time of 26:24. She ran hard the whole way while we talked, watched a fox run across the trail, and cheered for the rest of the runners as we saw them on our way back. Maddie proudly accepted her 2nd place ribbon and we enjoyed our bagels at the post race breakfast.

I went out for another run in the snow with Ean in the afternoon around the park and through Pineridge. Next weekend is the Twin Mountain Trudge in WY which promises to be another great adventure running in the snow.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reflections on 2010

Socrates wrote, "The unexamined life is not worth living." I am sure this has some meaning in running so here are my thoughts and some data about 2010 in running.

First the requisite mileage totals:

January: 220
February: 123
March: 167
April: 232
May: 274
June: 249
July: 400
August: 257
September: 146
October: 134
November 223
December: 300

2010 total: 2725 miles

The year started out with a solid January of running despite some bitter cold and a lot of snow, then February and March tapered down as I struggled to deal with plantar fasciitis. By April, the plantar fasciitis pain had not gone away but I decided just to run through it. In May, I decided to go for a summer streak and run everyday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. I did and ran my first 100+ day streak averaging nearly 10 miles per day. The spring and summer continued on well with a strong 52 mile Bighorn race in June and a 8 day, 200 mile run and fast pack on the Colorado Trail in July. This was an awesome trek, definitely a highlight of the year. July also included my first and only DNF at Grand Mesa. It was a frustrating race, but looking back I think I could have and should have continued on to the finish. July was my first ever 400 mile month, with my previous highest mileage month being July 2009 with 307 miles. Surprisingly, my 3rd highest month was the one that ended yesterday.
In August, I rallied after my DNF and ran my first Colorado sub 20 minute 5K. Late August, I ran the Lean Horse 100 in 23:16 beating my 2009 time by over 3 hours.

I tapered off quite a bit in September and October when I ran my first road marathon since moving to Colorado. I did no marathon specific training and still managed a 3:23 with every mile split comfortably under 8 minutes.

November and December were a time to ramp back up on the mileage to begin building a base for a PR 2011 marathon.

All around it was a good year of running. Nothing too remarkable, but I feel that I have built a solid foundation to hit some big goals in 2011. More on that later.

Outside of my personal training and racing, 2010 has been a time of growth and enthusiasm in the Fort Collins trail running community and I am proud of my involvement in that. Ean and I started and have continued a Thursday night social run in March. We meet up with the group at the park and then take a comfortable 5 mile run around Pineridge and then meet back up at our place for a BBQ and potluck. The run has continued weekly and now every other week with the other weeks being the famous Towers Time Trial hosted by Nick Clark. Cat now splits the hosting of the post run potluck with us, so it is at our place every 4th week. The Thursday night runs as well as our Tuesday Night Reservoir Ridge runs have weekly showings of 10-25 people of all running abilities and the social running camaraderie is strong.

Pete, Fran, Mary, Brian, Ean and I successfully put on the 3rd running of the Blue Sky Marathon and Half in October to rave reviews from all participants. After a lot of hard work by all, the race went off without a hitch and we raised a healthy sum to give to Larimer County Parks, Larimer County Search and Rescue, and Athletes in Tandem.

I coached the Blevins Track Team and Cross Country Team. The Cross Country Team this year did not have any outstanding point totals at the races, but I saw every athlete make huge personal growth in running and confidence and they supported each other as a team. For the first time in my three years of coaching cross country at Blevins, the whole team showed up and completed the entire run from school to the top of the A. The nearly 7 mile round trip was quite an accomplishment for many of these kids, some who had never run more than a mile just 6 weeks earlier. And since the team was entirely 6th and 7th graders, I hope to have them all back along with a new group of excited 6th graders for our strongest team ever in 2011.

So there's a bit of examination of my running life in 2010. Now it is time to take the lessons learned and move ahead to a new year.

Happy New Year

My year began this morning with a cold, snowy and fun 5K hosted by the Runner's Roost out at Front Range Village. It was 7 degrees at the start and the 5K loop course was mostly covered in packed snow. I knew these weren't the conditions for a fast race, so I decided to just go out, run hard and have fun. Steve C. gave a quick welcome and race briefing and blew the New Year noise maker to signal the start. The parking lot in front of the store was especially icy, so I took off pretty carefully. We took a right turn to exit the back of the parking lot and enter the neighborhood and I counted 5 guys ahead of me. Just after the first mile marker I moved passed 3 of them and I could see the first and second runners (#2 being Ryan Burch) widening the gap ahead of me. I felt great and continued to push thinking about how nice it would be to finish my first race of the year with a 3rd place overall. The course took a right turn out of the neighborhood up on to the dry sidewalk heading east on Horsetooth then another right on Ziegler. Ean was cheering and taking photos at 2.5 miles and as I made the right back in to the neighborhood I could hear several runners right behind me. I was starting to feel it at this point at being back on the snowy streets was slowing me down. I focused on staying relaxed and pushing to hold on to 3rd. We took a left back on to the path leading in to Front Range Village for the final tenth to the finish. I could hear another runner right behind me so I pushed with all I could muster while being careful not to slide out on the turns. I held on for a 3rd place finish with a time of 20:41. It was a fun race and even though my time was unimpressive, it felt good to run hard and feel somewhat competitive. Being able to push a steady pace for a 5K helped build my confidence in my prospects of running some faster races this year.