Monday, June 06, 2005

Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon

This was supposed to be my peak race for the first half of the year, but with the win last weekend a good time here would just be icing. Unfortunately, the icing melted and I had a very tough race with a time outside of the range I had hoped for. Luckily melted icing tastes just as good and I still pulled off an age-group win for a full set of point in the Trail Runner Trophy Series.

Since this was a longer trip and I expected to leave it all on the course I called on the assistance of my friend and surrogate wife Holly to accompany me on the trip and help with the driving. I started the weekend by foolishly joining the Rocky Mountain Road Runners at their monthly Trophy Series (no relation to the Trail Runner series) race. It was only 2.4 miles so I figured as long as I took it a little easy it wouldn't kill me for the marathon on Sunday. It was cold and wet, but I kept warm for the most part. I did run a little faster than I had planned, but it felt good. After the race I headed over to pick up Holly and we got on the road in the longest period of rain fall that I have ever seen in Denver. It usually only rains for an hour or two tops, but it had been raining all night and was still coming down at least until we hit Wyoming. It was a 6 hour drive, but the time seemed to fly by. Checked into the KOA, put our tent up, and headed out to look for a good dinner. Unfortunately the only business in Deadwood is Casinos. It was difficult to tell which ones might have a real restaurant as opposed to a bar or buffet which we weren't keen on. As we were wondering the street we ran across Scott Dunlap and his wife Kristy. They had been in town for a few days and pointed us to their favorite place. We checked it out, but they had an hour wait and pointed us to a Chinese place down the street. Not my favorite before a race, but I figured the rice would be good enough for carbo loading. Back at camp I finished my race prep, filled bottles, arranged clothes, etc. and then we settled down for a good nights sleep. I didn't sleep very well for some reason, but woke up feeling pretty good. Holly took me down to the start rather than taking the bus with everybody else. The first thing I noticed when I got there was the huge line for the port-a-potties. We drove down the road about half a mile and found a place for me to run into the woods. At the start I ran into a few Denver runners that I knew, Dave and Gary Black and Jim Chow. That kept the pre-race jitters to a minimum.

The race started out with 1 mile of downhill on a paved road so it was fast and I clocked a 6:30, a little fast, but I didn't struggle to do it so I felt fine with it. At the mile mark we made a hard right, crossed a bridge and were on the trail that we'd be on for the next 24 or so miles. The rest of the first half was a steady climb of about 1,000 feet, while the second half was almost all downhill dropping about 1,500 feet. I made sure to start a little easy and felt good clicking off miles around 7:20 pace. Ran with the lead woman for awhile until we hit a road crossing where a crowd had gathered. I used the crowds energy to surge ahead and started trying to catch the few people I could see ahead of me, including my old friend Scott Dunlap. I picked off a couple, but Scott didn't seem to be getting any closer. Then around mile 11 I started to get a side stitch. I did my best to run through it, but it slowed me down to about 8 minute miles. I never really got scared that everything was over with and I was right, just before the top at the half way mark it went away and although I felt pretty tired from the long climb I was off again. I passed the half in 1:37:30. My goal was to hit it in 1:35 so I wasn't far off. On the way down I didn't feel real fast, but when mile 14 was a 6:44 I knew things were looking up. Then the next two miles were around 6:30. Finally we got to mile 19 where I knew there was going to be a slight climb. I was surprised at how much of a toll that took on me. I think that those 6:30s had taken something out of my legs and they weren't ready for the climb. Then after that torture we headed back down to a short section that seemed to leave the trail for a short bit as it dropped rather steeply. My legs didn't like that at all. I'm usually fine on downhills, even steep one, but my legs were on their last legs (Does that make sense?). After that the my race was all downhill. The course was all downhill from here too, but that's not what I'm talking about. My body, primarily my legs, but also my body as a whole began to shut down. I tried to take in some more fluids and fuel, but then the side stitches came back and much worse this time. That was probably the last I had to drink or eat on the course. Things got a little fuzzy here, but I just remember plodding out the miles hoping to hold on to a decent time and hold off anybody that might be in my age group. We were already passing half marathoners which made the journey much less lonesome. Finally we got to a road crossing where the volunteers told us there was only half a mile to go. I looked back and saw a guy that I remembered from the start. He looked like he could have been sponsored, but maybe it was just a bike jersey. Anyways, for some reason I thought that he might have been in my age group and I wasn't going to get passed this late in the race if I could help it so I picked it up. He was still able to catch up to me, but kept him behind me. When we hit the street I thought that I had dropped him, but then on the last straight away to the finish he came from nowhere and pulled ahead of me. I turned to him and apologized then turned on the after burners and blazed into the finish and nearly collapsed. I still have no idea where anything in the last half mile came from, I think that I had just mentally given up before that and seeing him gave me a short term goal to shoot for. I finished in 3:15 and felt disappointed in not breaking 3:10, but I was pretty sure that I had given it all that I had. After a few minutes of trying to re-hydrate while getting nauseous I went to check the times being posted. I scrolled down the list looking at the ages and there was nobody in their 20's so my face lit up as I gave Holly the signal that I had won my age group.

The trip back seemed to take a whole lot longer and of course hurt a little more, but I don't seem to have any major injuries so I'm looking forward to letting the body take a break before building up for future races and a long successful season.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Wyoming Marathon

Well, you can probably tell by the fact that I'm posting sooner that Wyoming went better than CPTR, but if timing was really an indication of how well it went then this should have been posted on Sunday afternoon. I'm proud to say that on Sunday I captured my first marathon win. This is also my first overall win in any established race.

The trip started out fairly typical expect for the fact that I traveled to this one on my own. The drive up to Wyoming on Saturday afternoon was shorter than I remember, I think it took me about two and a half hours and that was with all the holiday traffic and speed traps on I-25. I drove right to where the race would start the next morning which happened to be the rest stop at the highest point on I-80 (close to 8,700 ft.). There I realized that the course was on dirt roads rather than trails so I drove the first part of the course to see what it was like. I made it to about mile 7 when I came across I-80 again so I called that good and headed back to the start to get a gentle jog in to loosen my legs from the drive and see what the starting/finishing hill felt like. It was fairly steep for a road, but not too bad. I then proceeded to look for a place to camp. There was a Forest Service campground about a mile or so up the road the other way from the start so I tried that, but since it was a holiday weekend the place was packed. There was supposed to be another one further down, but I figured it would be packed as well so I headed up to Laramie where I knew there was a KOA. Kasey and I stayed there last year for the Pilot Hill race. Plenty of tent sites there. Now I needed dinner. We ate at a place called the library before Pilot Hill and I ended up with an upset stomach, not to mention the place was dead, so I didn't want to go back there. There were a couple of sit-down chain restaurants on the other side of town, but I was looking for something fairly quick and easy. I ended up at the Wendy's in the truck stop right next to the KOA. I had already loaded up on pasta so I just needed something to top me off. A burger and some chilli did the trick.

Race morning I was up at 4am for a 6am start. Tore down camp and put away a bag of PowerBites for breakfast. Got to the start plenty early and stayed warm in the building for the rest area. I put on plenty of sun screen since I got burned on a hike last weekend, but it turned out that we wouldn't be seeing any bit of sun that day. When the gun went off a few half-marathoners were off like a flash and I settled in to a pace with Tania Pacev. She beat me at CPTR because I had gone out too fast and died and I wasn't going to let that happen again. The first 5 miles were pretty much all downhill and she kept saying that we were going too fast. We also had Christian Hendrickson with us, whom I didn't recognize at first, but soon realized that he was the last person to pass me at CPTR and was also the person to knock me out of 3rd place for our age-group in that race. Christian and I pulled away from Tania somewhere near the bottom or maybe it was as we started the first climb. At the half marathon turn around we were still together watching those guys coming back, but neither of us had counted how many were ahead of us and how many had turned around so we didn't know what place we were, but we were both saying that we didn't care. Once we hit the frontage road for I-80 we could see that there was only one guy about 2 minutes ahead of us. I would later find out that this was Dave medicus. After awhile of running on the pavement my stomach kicked in like usual and although there was no real cover I eventually had to pull over and do my thing. Christian told me that he would be stopping shortly as well. When I got back on the road nobody had passed me and Christian was in my sights, it was at this point that my competitive nature took over any reason that I might have had going into the race. I picked up the pace to try and regain contact. Christian found a port-a-potty about 1/2 a mile up and pulled off there. I had already almost caught him and although I was enjoying his pace and his company I decided to move my sights to that elusive lead runner that we had seen. At the last turn I had clocked him at just over 2 minutes ahead, but going into the next section I quickly lost him. They were some long miles waiting for our turn around where I knew I would see him again. Finally I got there and he was on his way back already. We waved to each other as we passed and I made a note of the place and time then looked for the turn around. Of course it was at the top of a hill. I made it back to our passing point after exactly 2 minutes. Still not gaining on him, but I knew where he was. Getting closer to the frontage road again I saw him and estimated the gap to be about 1 minute, then about 30 seconds at the change to pavement. Then he stopped to re-fuel from his crew which seemed to be taking forever. I approached and saw him looking at me. I expected him to take off if not before me at least with me, but he didn't go. I tried to get a good look at him to size up his state and it didn't look good, but I wasn't going to lose my slow down to get a better look. I almost thought he was going to drop out there, but once on the frontage road again I peeked back and saw that he was still there. This was probably about mile 17 so there was still plenty of time for me to run out of gas. I now had time to think about the miles ahead. I was in the lead and wasn't sure what to do with it. I thought that I saw a tornado ahead of me, but then realized the dark line I saw didn't stop at the skyline, but was a continuous black strip down the center of my vision. I backed off just a bit and started taking in more calories and fluids. I knew that the final 5 miles up hill were going to be difficult and I was wondering if I had gone too hard too early. Was Tania right, had we gone too fast on the downhill? All I could do was keep moving and keep tabs on my body. Constantly checking my form and asking myself if I needed calories or fluids. Once off the frontage road I never saw anybody behind again, but the roads were far too curvy to know what that really meant for my lead so I just kept plugging along. When I finally got to the point where I had warmed-up to the day before I knew I was close enough to call the race mine. I pulled out my phone and tried to call my wife, Kasey. Even if we were seperated physically I wanted her to be with me in some way when I crossed the finish line. Unfortunately she didn't have a signal at that time so I left a very huffy puffy and nearly sobbing message that she had no hope of understanding. As soon as the finish line was in sight my legs started cramping. Boy was I glad this waited until I saw the line. After crossing the line I waited for Dave who came in about 2:30 behind me and Christian about 3:45 behind me. I then went to get some warm clothes on because I just realized how cold and windy it was up there. Tania was the next one across the line and I saw her on her way back to her car.

This is race has a motto: "Where the race director promises you nothing, and he delivers." That meant no awards ceremony since there were no awards. Very little food at the finish as well so I was glad to have brough some stuff myself. Once my legs had calmed down enough to sit in the car I headed out and was all the way back home by 1pm. Very little fanfare, but still well worth it for me.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Collegiate Peaks Trail Race - 2 weeks late

Another race that ended in pain. Doesn't make me want to rush right home and tell the world about it. I was originally planning on waiting just a few days to mellow out from the race, but that somehow extended a full 2 weeks. It's not that the past 2 weeks have been that bad, but I just never found the motivation to write anything.

This one was another early Saturday morrning race like SDU so we had to go up the night before. I rode with John Rice, a fellow DTR runner and we got a cheap hotel room since the weather was calling for some frigid overnight lows. We decided to stop for pizza on the way down, that was mistake number one. The pizza was great, but the cheese did a number on my stomach even more than usual. Race morning we were up before dawn. The race registration was inside the community center in Buena Vista. That was a welcome change from most other races given the cool air outside. By the time the race started at 6:30 am it was warm enough to start in shorts and short sleeves. I think that in the back of my mind I had high hopes for this race and I started further up in the pack that I probably should have. The first part of the course is pretty flat and the leaders started fairly fast, at least compared to SDU where I lead without really trying. Bernie Boetcher was up front with a couple of other guys and I knew enough to not try and stay with him. I felt pretty safe running with Erik Solof, the defending 50 Mile champion here. I knew Erik from a couple of years ago when he ran with DTR. I did feel that the pace was a little faster than I would have chosen on my own. I pulled away from Erik when we turned on to the trail and started the first climb. I think that he walked a bit since he had to conserve energy for the second lap. The rest of the race is a little fuzzy for me now that I've let it slip away for two weeks. I do remember that the course seemed tougher than I had expected. The times show that it is faster than SDU so I expected this to be a cake walk. The course did some rolling that I just wasn't expecting and the long climbs seemed longer than they should have been. I was running fairly well through about 15-20 miles, but then I think that I just bonked and even though the last part was all downhill and mostly on railroad grade and dirt road I had to walk some of it. I think that I finished in around 3:45, but the results aren't up yet and I forgot to stop my watch at the finish so that isn't even accurate. According to the results board at the race I finished less then a minute out of third in my age group and only a few minutes out of second. I'm pretty sure that if I had run a smarter first half and had something other than pizza the night before I could have beaten both of those guys and finished with a smile on my face. Oh well, another lesson learned the hard way. Let just hope that I've learned for good this time.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Spring Desert Ultra - 25 miles

While the event name has the word ultra in it the course is a 25 mile loop that can be run a second time in the opposite direction to make 50 miles. I only did one loop to keep the distance, time, and exposure to heat a little more sane. This is the third year, and third course, for this event held just west of Fruita, CO off from I-70. I made the trip Friday afternoon, carpooling with Jan Ingbrigtsen. We got some dinner in Grand Junction and picked up our packets at the race hotel and then continued west to find a place to camp. We stopped at the start line, but there were signs forbidding any overnight camping so we continued about 8 miles further west to some BLM land that was designated for camping. It was sparsely occupied mostly by ATVers spending the weekend in the hills. With the race starting at 6:30 am we decided to wake up at 4:30 to make sure we had time for breakfast, to take down camp, and make it to the start before the parking lot filled. If you don't get there early enough you could be parking up to a 1/2 mile away. I got a little sunburn last weekend so this time I put on some sunscreen and then got in line for the port-a-potty, another thing I forgot last weekend. The weather was just warm enough that I decided to not wear any extra clothing for the start so it was down to shorts and a short sleeved shirt at 6:15 in the morning. The RD announced that like last year there was a crisp $100 dollar bill waiting for the first male and female make to the top of the first hill about 1.3 miles into the course. The race started slow last year so I decided that I'd start out front and see if that bill could be mine. When the gun went off I found myself quickly off the front. Tania Pacev, a fellow Denver Trail Runner was up front with my for about a minute, but then dropped back. I checked my pace and felt that I wasn't pushing it yet so I stuck with it. I could hear some people behind me, but that were at least 10 feet back. I didn't actually look until I made the turn to the hill and the next person was probably 30 feet back. At this point I wasn't going to let anybody take this from me so I pushed harder than I should have up this first steep, but short hill. I made it to the guy holding my bill and happily grabbed it out of his hand. My race could have been over here, but I kept moving. This may have been the top of the fist hill, but the climbing wasn't over, after a short flat section the trail keeps climbing. Two guys caught up to me shortly after I hit single track, but they stayed behind me. I remembered this as a fairly short hill so I didn't try to move behind them like I should have. Unfortunately it kept climbing for probably 10 minutes or so and I led the whole way up. At the top we got caught be a couple of other guys and one of them went by pulling everybody else. I quickly fell into 4th and had Buzz Burrell right behind me. At this point I didn't feel too bad and decided that I didn't have much to lose by trying to keep up so I pushed a little, to keep the leaders close and after awhile Buzz wanted a piece of the action and blew by me to run with the leaders. I kept them in contact until the first aid station at around 6 miles. There was another long climb after that aid station and that is where I really started to lose touch with the front runners. I had a decent lead on the rest of the pack, but I knew that going out as hard as I did was starting to come back to bite me and it was just a matter of time before they caught me. A group of three caught me a few minutes before the second aid station and passed me when I stopped there. Two others caught me shortly before the third aid station at about the half way mark. We all stopped shortly there, I went out with one of the guys and the other fell behind us. The guy I left that station with was running the 50 so not direct competition to me. I started to get a second wind and wanted to push and catch the group of three that had passed me earlier. That never happened and my pushing turned to agony as we entered a section of the course that wasn't part of last year's course. There was a steep and very technical downhill that made me really feel my quads. The 4th aid station wasn't until mile 19 and the long stretch took its toll mentally. After the 4th and final aid station we started up a service road that was quite steep and most people including me walked up until the pitch let up a little. One of the group of three had dropped back and I caught him at the aid station, but he was also running the 50 and had pushed himself too hard so I quickly left him. What was concerning me was the guy I had dropped at the last aid station was starting to catch up. I gathered what strength I had and pushed up as hard as I could. Once at the top I felt OK, but that didn't last and even on some flat sections I had to walk just to keep moving. He finally caught me shortly after starting the downhill back to the frontage road that we started on. That was probably the longest and hardest downhill I've ever done. Finally I made it to the road and trudged the final mile just looking forward to being done. Results were never posted at the finish and the awards weren't until 8:30 pm, way too late for me to get back to Denver so I still don't know for sure how I placed. I'm pretty sure that I was 6th overall since one of the front runners got lost and came in after me, but I have no idea if anybody ahead of me was 29 or younger.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Greenland Trails Redux

Well, I posted my initial impressions of the race on Sunday while still in a haze/funk of loafing around the house after the race. Yes, once getting home from the race on Saturday I didn't leave the house other than to get the mail until Monday morning. Since then I've had some other thoughts that I'd like to share. The first thing is that I have realized that this race was a tipping point for me. It has pushed me over the edge to the side of over training. Monday evening I did an easy run of about an hour. The run felt fine, but I was a little surprised at how low my heart rate was. I wear a heart rate monitor for pretty much every run and though I don't use it as the key to my effort I have learned what to expect from different intensities of running. This run was easily 5-10 bpm lower than it should have been. I'm not good at running a true recovery pace so I played this off as having finally figured out how to run that easy on my own. This morning I dragged myself out of bed early to do some tempo intervals. I ran Waterton Canyon to attempt to simulate the course for Deadwood Mickelson where I am hoping to peak my training. I don't think that I've ever had a good run in this canyon, but this one wasn't starting too bad. The problem was that even though I was running a pretty good pace considering the slight uphill grade my heart rate was again 5-10 bpm lower than it should have been. It is a little difficult to compare this tempo run with Wash Park where I have been running tempo, but I could tell that I was going about as hard as I could for the length of the interval so I don't think that the poor thing would pump any faster. Some people may say "Great I must be in really good shape to have such a low HR at a given intensity", but I trust Neal Henderson once told a story about a cyclist that showed this phenomenon just prior to a big race. The cyclist thought he was going to have the best race of his life, but Neal told him that he would probably not finish the race. Guess what, he didn't finish the race. This low HR is a sign of over training. It is the body's way of saying "wait a minute, I need a break so I'm not going to let you work any harder. I knew this was my issue, but I tried one more just to make sure it wasn't a fluke, I decided that I'd just take the rest of week off from hard workouts. Well, the second one was the same thing, I finished fine at almost the same pace. The 3rd and 4th were supposed to be back down the canyon to the start, but as soon as I started the 3rd one I knew I was done. My legs just didn't want to carry me quite that fast. I was able to comfortably jog all the way back, I didn't bonk in any way, but who knows what would have happened if I had tried to complete that 3rd interval.
So, back to the race and what I think happened. I think that I've been slacking off on my long runs. I haven't run anywhere close to 3 hours in months and this race took me 3:24 to finish. My body just wasn't ready for that. Luckily I've still got plenty of time before Deadwood. I just need to figure out the best way to get my body out of over training mode and at the same time make sure I'm prepared for Deadwood. I'm starting with a massage tonight then I'm going to a talk given by Neal Henderson and I'll see if I can ask him for some advice. I'm still planning on running SDU this weekend no matter what, but my race strategy may vary based on what I hear tonight an how the rest of this week goes.
Having very aggressive performance goals is very hard to balance with trying to run many races for the TRM Trophy Series. I think that something is going to have to give, I'll try my best to make sure it isn't my body that gives first.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Greenland Trails

Finally, my first race of the season. I've been waiting since the 1st of March for my racing season to begin. The race felt like crap, but I know that I brought that upon myself with some hard workouts leading up to race day. Even though this was my first official race it was really just a training run for me. I've got plenty of other races to push hard (see list at right).

The race was fun even though I didn't feel good. I knew the race directors as well as most of the people at the aid stations. The course got a huge amount of snow the previous weekend and although most of it had melted and drained away there were plenty of spots where it was still sticking around and melting as the day warmed up. It was a 12.5K loop with options of 1 to 4 laps. I chose 3 laps since it was the longest option shorter than a marathon so it had the best chance for Trophy Series points. As it turns out this race was also had the smallest field with only 17 finishers. I started out front with Tim Gentry a fellow RMRR runner. I let him pull ahead after about a mile or so since I knew he was faster than me and I really wanted to start pretty easy. We had a pretty good lead on the rest of the pack so I figured that I'd be running alone most of the race. Boy was I wrong. The 50K race had started 10 minutes ahead of us and I started to catch the back of the pack before the first aid station. As the laps went on I think that I even started to lap some of the 25K and 12.5K runners who were starting shortly after us. Before the race I got in the port-a-potty line too late and decided to drop out of that so that I could get to the start on time. That error may have cost me because I started to have stomach problems coming into the first aid station that was about 1/2 way into the lap. There was a long deceiving climb coming away from the aid station and lucky for me there were some trees and bushes at the top so I was able to pull off behind some bushes to relieve myself. I got myself going again and felt good for awhile, but still not 100%. I was still in second place so I decided to keep going easy and see how things played out. On the second lap the stomach problems kind of came and went, I finally had to pull off again at the same point that I did on the first lap. This time it really helped and I was able to finish the lap feeling pretty good. That held up until the aid station where I developed a side stitch that I just couldn't shake. Finally about 2 or so miles from the finish I noticed somebody catching up to me quite fast. The only person that had passed me so far was one of the 25K runners and this was the third lap so the faster 25K runners should all be done. He finally got close enough that I could see his race bib that identified him as a 37.5K runner. I was pretty sure he wasn't in my age group, but I still didn't want to get passed this late in the race so I turned it up a notch and my side stitch took a back seat and eventually disappeared. He still seemed to be gaining, but with the side stitch going away I kept gaining speed and before I knew it I seemed to have shaken him. I didn't dare look back though. Finally the finish line was in sight and I took a peek and appeared to have enough of a lead to hold him off. I kept the speed going so I'd look good for all the spectators. My sister in law, Stevi, and her husband Greg had brought my nephews Ryan and Alex to come watch my finish so even though they're only 2 and 3 I still wanted to impress them.
The other thing I should mention is the conditions on the course. Most of it was fine, but there were plenty of sections of snow. The first lap the snow was pretty hard with small sections of mud on either end of them. The second lap the snow was starting to get trampled and melting. The third lap had much more mud and even most of snow was pretty wet. I can only imagine what the course was like on the 4th lap for the 50K runners.

Monday, March 28, 2005

KATY trail in Rocheport, MO

This weekend I took my wife to Columbia, MO to hand her off to my parents so that they could take her to Georgia where she is starting her through hike of the Appalachian Trail. You can read about her adventures on her blog "Kasey Takes a Hike".
So, anyways after dropping her off on Friday morning I needed to clear my head with a good run. I had found some information about a rails to trails project called the KATY Trail. It runs for about 260 miles across the middle of Missouri. There was a trailhead just off I-70 a few miles West of Columbia. It was marked with signs on the highway which how I originally found out about it.
I was looking to get a long run in, but didn't have any gels so I decided to make a semi-long out and back with negative split on the way back. I noticed on the map that there was a section that claimed to have >5% grade and a tunnel just to the West of where I was starting so that is the direction I went. I turns out that the 5% grade wasn't on the trail itself, but a scenic overlook that climbed above the tunnel. I wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere so I too that and explored a little around the top of this mound. The views were pretty neat and it was kind of neat to be up on above this tunnel that I was going to run through. I could have ventured further away from the trail, but decided to get back to my game plan. I went through the tunnel which you could tell had been used by coal powered trains due to the black soot lining the ceiling. As I ran I realized that trains don't like to turn or go up and down hills very often. This trail was very straight and very flat. The only turns were gradual and short, most of the trail had me looking at the same crushed gravel surface for miles ahead of me. The only noticeable hill on the trail itself was a 3 foot mound right before a bridge. I'm not sure why it was there, but it extended on either side of the trail for as far as I could see. I got splits every mile from the original train mile markers. They seemed to be fairly accurate and I was holding a good easy effort the whole way out, getting only slightly faster with each mile. When I turned around I had finished my first mile under 8 minutes, right where I wanted to be. Then I realized that I had been running in a slight head wind the whole way out. My splits on the way back were way faster than I expected and I wasn't even pushing that high of a heart rate or effort. I had taken myself out over 5 miles so holding this pace did become a little difficult near the end, but was still able to pull off a 6:36 final mile. I have to attribute this kind of time to the near sea level altitude and cool temperatures. I've got a short mileage week coming up with some testing so I can't wait to see what I can do at altitude.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Mesa Trail

I spent most of the weekend in Boulder preparing for another season of coaching for the BBTC. Still needing to get in my workouts I ended up the Mesa Trail. I have good memories of past runs on this trail. It is mostly single track with a short service road on the North end starting at Chautauqua Park and a longer wide trail that may have once been a service road on the South end at Eldorado Canyon. I don't know that it has ever been accurately measured, but consensus seems to be that it is about 7 miles from end to end.
This run was not as fun as past runs, but time on the Mesa Trail is never all that bad. To start with I had some stomach problems for most of the run South. I finally pulled off the trail and found a tree to squat behind. With that out of the way I was able to finish the Southern journey without problems. My intention was to run a negative split on the way back, but my energy levels were pretty low and my motivation just wasn't there. The fact that the trail was very muddy on the south slopes and very slushy on the north slopes. I would estimate that 50% of the trail was this way and some parts were very difficult to navigate without getting completely wet. I was able to negative split by a couple of minutes so at least I accomplished that much.
I think that part of my problem is over training. I realized this after listening to Neal Henderson speak about physiology in the BBTC coaches training. I have been running too fast too often. I know that I train a lot, but I usually like to pride myself in knowing when I need a break and appropriately taking it, but I think that I missed the boat this time. I'm looking forward to the BBTC program to start because that usually gives me an excuse to run slow at least once a week. I'm working with one of the faster groups this time so it won't all be easy, but the program is based on lots of slow running so reading the workouts should provide me with some perspective.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The annual "Kick my A$$" training run

The past two years I have made a trip to the Grand Canyon on Easter weekend to attempt a run from rim(South rim) to rim(North rim) to rim(South rim), known by some as the RRR. Both times I have made it only part of the way up the North rim before getting sick and turning around. I am pretty much reduced to walking with a few short jogs on shallow grade downhill sections. The hike back up the South rim is pretty much a death march where the only thing keeping me going is knowing that it is the ONLY way out. By the time I'm done my body is completely drained both mentally and physically. I have felt that it was that run both years that really started my serious training season. Anyways, I'm not going to make it out there this year so I didn't think that I was going to get that kick off, but today's run felt pretty close to that.

I wasn't expecting it at all, the run was on local trails that I run all the time, but it was a combination that I've never tried before and with a partner that I've never run with before. Garett Graubins, the Associate Editor of Trail Runner Magazine, was in town and had invited me to join him for a training run. We finally settled on running Dakota Ridge, down the new Zorro trail to Green Mountain, a loop of that, back up Zorro, finished Dakota Ridge, across the street to Red Rocks and up the Morrison slide trail(maps here). That was for starters anyways.

The only other time I'd run with him was at the Lead King Basin Loop half-marathon. I beat him pretty handily, but that wasn't my fault. He was out in front with Bernie Boettcher and the two of them got steered in the wrong direction. Bernie found his way back to the trail and was still able to pass me around mile 11, but we're still not sure where Garett went. I think that he was out there for 3 or 4 hours and the RD was probably getting ready to start a search party.

Anyways, I'm digressing again. Garett and I started out today on the steady climb up to the top of the ridge and he already seemed to be pushing it. I figured that I just wasn't warmed up yet, but I should have realized that this was going to be a tough day. Garett has a different training philosophy from me, he like to push the hills even on long runs while I like to take it easy on long runs and just get the time in on my feet. I work on my power during shorter runs during the week. I was keeping up with him fine so no problems. Then once we had made it around to the far side of Green Mountain and started the long steep climb to the top I finally realized what he was doing. He tore up that hill like it was a tempo run, at least based on my pace, he made it seem pretty easy so that may just be his fitness level. When we made it back to the Zorro trail I looked at it and feared it because this time we had to climb it. We walked for awhile to get some food in and I finally took my jacket off. I had started with it due to a strong wind, but it was warming up enough that even with the wind I didn't need it. Again Garett left me in his dust, what a runner. I just had nothing in me. This is when I started to come up with excuses. I had run a pretty tough week this week with 3 good hill workouts so I had already burned my climbing legs, I had left my coat on too long and lost more sweat than usual so I was dehydrated. Both probably true, but still excuses. When I finally made it to the top Garett had left my sight and I was pretty out of it, then all of a sudden I heard somebody call my name. I didn't see who at first, but it wasn't Garett, it was somebody in a group of mountain bikers. He identified himself as somebody I'd met yesterday and since I was out of it I had no idea what he was talking about, but I acknowledged him anyways. Finally he told me that my training buddy was running away from me, how did he know I was training with the other guy that was probably a good 30 seconds ahead of me. A few seconds later I finally realized that he was a vendor that I had met with yesterday at work and we talked about my doing this run while at lunch. He had said that he might see me today, but I blew it off as him just being friendly to help make a sale. Hopefully I'll see him again so I can apologize for and explain my not recognizing him. I ended up catching up to Garett on the downhill and we ran together to the road, but I knew that I wasn't going to be able to run up Red Rocks trail so I told him to go ahead without me, but he said that he'd walk with me for awhile and we walked all the way to where Morrison Slide splits off. He wanted to get the extra climbing in and I just wanted to finish so we split up there. I was able to squeak out a jog for most of the remainder of the run and beat Garett to my car by about a minute or two. We thanked each other for a good run and Garett was planning to check on his dog, re-fuel and do another loop of just the ridge and Red Rocks, but a few minutes later he drove up and told me he was calling it a day too. He brought his dog down to the water for a swim and I was finally able to sit down so I drove home.

This run was probably less than half the distance and nowhere near the vertical of my Grand Canyon attempts, but for whatever reason it had a very similar effect. Hopefully this will be a run that will kick my body into gear for a big racing season.

Friday, March 04, 2005

I love running at night

I had a lonely, but calming run last night. It started as a group run with the Denver Trail runners, but as soon as we turned onto the single track the group spread out. Two in front of me and two behind me. I ran alone evenly split between the other two groups. That was fine with me too, I wouldn't have minded some company, but I needed to run my own pace and it gave me a chance to unwind. My only wish would have been for a little more moon light so I could possibly turn my head lamp off and really run in the dark.
I've been running nights all winter with DTR. We meet at 6:15 all year round and without daylight savings time that means running at night. I've never really had a problem with it, I usually have my headlamp, but this year I've been getting to really enjoy it. On a full moon night with a relatively smooth trail you can turn the light off and be left with just the sound of your foot steps hitting the dirt.
Although I enjoy running at night due to the peacefulness, I've been thinking that there should be more night races. Come to think of it are there really any night races at all other than ultras or relays that go through the night? Maybe a full moon series during the summer would be good. Adam Feerst is on the right track with his twilight series (hopefully that'll get off the ground again this year), but those are still in the daylight hours. I'd like a start time of at least 9 or 10 at night. Midnight would be good, but it would be that much tougher to draw a crowd.
Anyways, I just wanted to let people know how much I like running in the dark. Does anybody else share my joy?

Mike Robbert

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Second IC Run- More snow, but less falling

Well I made it down to another IC run. This time I was smart enough to wear my screw shoes even though I didn't think that I'd need them. The route was to take the road (Lover's Lane) to Garden of the Gods, then hang a left on Rampart Range Road and climb that all the way to the radio tower. RRR is a dirt road that climbs with just enough steepness to make you feel it and keeps climbing long enough to make you want to turn around. Don't do it! If you can make it to the radio tower then a few meters past it you'll find a cairn on the left side of the road. There is a small trail there that will take you down into Williams Canyon. On this day the trail was just a few footprints in calf deep snow down a very steep slope. If this was my first time and I was alone I would have thought twice about following these footprints straight down, but I had been on the trail once before and there were others from the run with me so down we went. A few minutes of sliding with every step later we ran into Matt Carpenter chatting with a friend. This was the intersection where the people looking for a longer punishing run could take their leave from the standard route. I was one of those people. We let Matt lead the way since our trail went straight up from here. A few minutes later Matt was out of sight never to be seen again on this run. The rest of us were making an attempt to run, but with the snow and the steepness of the climb it was pretty much punching your toes into the snow to get a horizontal surface to climb. I made it to the Waldo Canyon loop ahead of the other two I had started this climb with and ran into two others that had passed me early on RRR. A short break to wait for the one guy right behind me and we were off again towards the trailhead for Waldo Canyon. This is where I think my screws shoes helped. There were plenty of icy patches on the descents where I probably would have been on my back if I didn't have the screws. I was still slipping some so it wasn't easy running by any means, but at least I was on my feet the whole way. At the trail head we crossed US-24 to pick up the Ute Pass Trail which is rumored to be uphill both ways. I had only gone the other way in the past, but I see what they mean. It is a series of fairly steep climbs and descents. Longer and steeper than I prefer, but not so long that I was cursing each climb. The snow was pretty bad on this entire section. The climbs were little more than a walk trying to find good places for your feet. The descents became ankle torture as the snow was frozen and uneven enough that every step would turn your ankle one way or the other. Surprising to me I pulled away from the rest of the group on this section, unfortunately that left me alone at a gate with a private property sign at what appeared to be the end of the trail. I had been on this trail from the other end before, but that was 2 years ago and I didn't remember this part. I could have gone between the fence and some bushes to the right, but that appeared to head towards a horse farm that was probably the owner of the private property and it didn't look like a trail, but I later found out that it was the right way to go. I waited a short while for the others, but didn't want to stand around too long since the time was already over 2 and half hours. So, I decided to cross the fence and follow the path on the other side that went to the left. This circled around a mountain and to another fence that let me out of the private property. There was somebody walking her dog here so I figured I must be on the right path. When I got dropped on to the road I knew that I wasn't on the right path. I followed the road down hoping that I hadn't made a wrong turn long ago and ended up in the wrong town. Nothing looked familiar here. I kept following the road looking for anything that I recognized. I saw a park that said Manitou Springs so I knew I was in the right town, but still didn't know where I was. At least the road kept going down so it was easy to follow and I had my cell phone just in case. Finally I came out on the main drag in Manitou, but I was way on the other side of town from where I wanted to be. Made my way back to Love's Lane and followed it to the car. 2:48 on my watch, but wait Kasey wasn't at the car waiting for me. She was going to do an out and back and I expected her to only be out for about 2 hours. I called her and she had to walk most of the way back due to IT band issues, but she was almost there.
Another exciting run under my belt. Oh, speaking of belts... I was trying out a new Fuel Belt on this run. The company had sent me a package with three different Fuel Belts, a race number belt, and some extra bottles. These were all the newer design that I had never tried before, but after having it on for nearly three hours I can say that they work as well as the old ones, but the pocket is much bigger. They put the pocket on the back of the belt instead of the front where it connects. I had my cell phone and keys back there and never had to think about them.

Monday, January 24, 2005

First IC run of the year

I finally made it down to Manitou Springs for my first Incline Club run of the year. For those that don't know the Incline Club(IC) is a running group headed up by Matt Carpenter, that trains every year primarily for the Pike's Peak Ascent and Marathon. Their Sunday runs are always long runs that can last from 2-4 or more hours. This week they were headed up Barr Trail which is the course for the PPA and PPM. This early in the season they only go about half way up to Barr Camp, but during the summer some people may go as far as the top and then hitch a ride down.
Since this was my first really long run of the new year I decided that I was really going to take it easy. The mile or so of the course is on the road and pretty flat so I felt good taking it easy, but as soon as the road took a turn towards the vertical I started to feel it. Matt had started towards the back, but shortly after the climb started I heard his screw shoes moving in quickly. He flew on by and I happily let him go. I was glad to have him by me earlier rather than later when my ego would have been more fragile. As soon as we hit the trail I realized that I should have been wearing my screw shoes as well. There were large sections of the trail completely covered with ice. I was able to get by along the side where it was either small sections of dirt or snow. Because I had started so conservatively I was able to pass a couple of people on the W's section of the trail which a place that I usually run into trouble. By the top of the W's though I remembered how difficult this trail really is. I was still trying not to push myself at all, but my heart rate was still very near Lactate Threshold. Anyways, I finally made it to Barr Camp just after Mat and a couple others were leaving after obviously taking a break there. I decided to take a break rather than try to catch up to them. A few others stopped as well and we chatted for a few minutes and then it was back down again. Matt had made the comment before we left that a fall on the way up may be funny, but a fall on the way down may dangerous. I knew this, but I still managed to fall a little more than 1/2 mile from Barr Camp. I'm still not sure exactly what was going through my mind when it happened. I saw the ice, but I don't remember if I thought it was rough enough to provide traction or if I thought my foot was going to land before it so that I could either stop or leap over it. Well, my foot landed right on it and there was no friction what so ever. I went down flat on my back and then slid. I took a quick inventory of my body parts and they were all there and seemed to still be functioning. I noticed my sunglasses were a few feet above me so I scrambled on all fours up the ice to retrieve them. I then got up and walked it off. It didn't take too long before I was running again, mainly so I could get off this mountain faster. I did stop to walk for pretty much every patch of ice from here on down. A while later I noticed some blood on my hand. It wasn't bad, but I really didn't need to see that right then. I took it real easy the rest of the way down until I hit the road, then since I had some gas left in the tank I picked it up a little for the run back to the park. Finished in just under 3 hours with an ascent time of 1:41 so I was relatively pleased especially since I wasn't pushing it at all and this was my first run of the season. I can't wait until this summer when I'm really in shape and the ice isn't there to slow me down.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Article in my home town paper

One of the benefits of growing up in a small town is that it doesn't take a whole lot to get into the newspaper. Even though I'm now hundreds of miles away my parents are still there and they let the paper know about my results from the Trail runner Magazine Trophy Series last year. Eric Gaertner called me up for an interview and wrote a nice article about me and the series.
You can read it online here: Running wild again