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