Sunday, July 3, 2011

The best long run

I started my long run at Cougar Mountain at 6:30 yesterday. It was a chilly 47 degrees at the Red Town Trailhead, but ti would heat up to almost 70 degrees within 4 hours.

My plan was to do two loops of the modified Cougar Mountain Ring from 50 Trail Runs in Washington. The course circumnavigates Cougar Mountain by traveling from Red Town to Anti-Aircraft Trailhead, gaining about 600 feet of elevation, heads south to Wilderness Peak gaining another 200, drops down to Wilderness Creek Trailhead, heads 1000 feet up to Long View Peak, cruises along to Far Country Lookout, and then back to Red Town. I add a small loop on the Shangri-La and Tibbetts Creek Trails in the northeast sector of the park which adds another 400 feet of gain. There is 400 feet of gain sprinkled between the big climbs.

Total elevation gain on this 15 mile loop is 2600 feet. I bold this because the gain per mile is comparable to a 100 miler with ~18,000 feet of gain, although there are no climbs larger than 1000 feet.

I was feeling a little tired and breathing fairly hard on the climb out of Red Town on the start of the first loop, which was par for the course; on morning runs it takes me an hour to get over my sluggishness and reach cruising speed. Heading down from Wilderness Peak, I could feel my quads were still a little sore after a run down Mt. Si the day before. I got my second wind on the climb up to Long View and cruised smoothly over to Far Country and back down to Red Town. The climb up to Long View felt as tough as it always does; the slope exceeds 20% over some stretches and turns your legs into jelly by the time you reach the top.

Over the first loop I consumed 20 oz. of water and had a Gu a few minutes before reaching the start/end at Red Town. I was also taking one S-cap per hour, starting at the first half hour. Total time for the first lap was 2:08. I swapped bottles and headed back out up Cave Hole Trail, feeling much stronger after the Gu.

The sun was starting to break through the trees and heat up the trails, and the cool mist that had settled into the ravines around the quarry was long gone. I had to dodge a lot of hikers on this lap, and while I was feeling the effects of those feel-good hormones, my mind was started to drift a bit - no doubt because I was intentionally eating almost nothing and drinking only water. This was one of my depletion runs, the idea being that if I stress my body by making it run almost completely on its own fuel, it will adapt to burning fat and conserving glycogen much faster than it would if I was getting a more reasonable amount of calories.

I popped a Gu just as I crested Wilderness Creek and by the time I got to the bottom of the hill, I could already feel my strength picking back up. I absolutely destroyed the climb, bounding up the ultra-steep sections and keeping my momentum over each peak. My run over to Far Country and back to Red Town felt great, as well, and despite being 4 hours into the run I felt fluid and wide awake. Total time on the last loop was 2:02, a negative split!

While I burned 2,500 calories, I ate only 200 during the run. I had 3 S-caps during the run (each has 13% of the daily value of sodium) and drank 44 ounces of water. Total time was 4:10 for 30 miles and 5200 feet of gain, which translates to a 3:37 marathon over exceptionally twisty trails loaded with rocks and roots. At no point did I push the pace, keeping my heart rate very close to 130 (my aerobic zone, I have a max rate of about 185). I finished feeling good and slept like a rock last night.

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