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.