Monday, May 28, 2012

Week ending May 27

Monday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, 1000ft of gain; 4 miles, Reservoir Ridge, 750ft of gain. No more smoky haze from the Hewlett Gulch fire, so I didn’t have to suffer a burning throat over the first mile or two until getting to high ground. The IT-band feels great, which is to say, I can’t feel it at all. Ran from the department this afternoon and came across a rattler basking on one of the rocks. After taking a second to assess a way around him, he slithered off down the hill. 

Tuesday: 12 miles, Foothills trail and Reservoir Ridge, 2500ft of gain; 4 miles, Reservoir Ridge, 750ft of gain. Still felt fresh on the morning run today, more so over the last hour. It was really hot this afternoon, around 90 degrees, but there was a nice breeze to make it bearable. I think I’ll use these afternoon runs as heat training for Bighorn.

Wednesday: 12 miles, Foothills trail and Reservoir Ridge, 2500ft of gain. It was really hard to get out of bed today, and it took a good 4 miles until my muscles got warmed up – definitely a high mileage week!

Thursday: 12 miles, Foothills trail and Reservoir Ridge, 2500ft of gain; 4 miles, Reservoir Ridge, 750ft of gain. Tuesday redux. Felt a little more tired on the morning run today, but I always wake up before hitting the halfway point right in Reservoir Ridge. For the past few mornings, it’s pretty much been myself and the same few mountain bikers sharing the trails. The far end of the Foothills trail is quite lonely!

Friday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, 1000ft of gain. I’m considering a trip up to Wyoming to run the Wyoming Marathon. I’ll run it as a training race for Bighorn; I’d be running it in the midst of peak mileage weeks, and without the benefit of a taper I don’t really know what to expect. Took it nice and easy this morning and everything feels fine, so it’s looking like a go.

Saturday: Off. Drove up to Cheyenne for late registration at the pasta dinner and then crashed overnight in Laramie. 

Sunday: First place in the Wyoming Marathon in 3:06:46, ~1750ft of gain, all above 8,000ft in the beautiful Medicine Bow National Forest. Despite strong winds, I had an awesome race and laid down a time only a few minutes off the course record. I’d say I’m in prime condition for Bighorn. Report soon to follow.

Mileage: 90 miles
Elevation gain: 13,500ft of gain

This was an awesome week on all fronts: a successful research group presentation on Friday, a week of solid mileage, and I won my first marathon.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Training backlog: weeks ending May 6, 13, and 20

Like I said, I'm terrible. All of this is just transcribing from a journal, though. People still write things on paper, don't they?

Week ending May 6:

Monday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, 1000ft of gain. I'm taking a somewhat hard taper into Quad Rock, so no two-a-days this week. Nice and cool this morning. Too cool...

Tuesday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, 1000ft of gain. Some days I wish that overnight the Foothills trail would magically change its path across the ridge. There are all of these little nooks and rock ledges just waiting to be explored, but trail rules and rattlesnakes keep me from truly running free. Today was a mundane run so I had to make something up, sorry.

Wednesday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, 1000ft of gain. Running is turning into breakfast for me. I always eat the same breakfast, everyday: Barbara's Shredded Spoonfuls with almond milk, and a bowl of Greek yogurt with nuts, dried fruit, and flax. And every morning, I run the foothills trail out to the Laporte dam. I need a new schtick.

Thursday: 12 miles, Foothills trail and Reservoir Ridge, 2500ft of gain. Well, I can just tack-on the Reservoir Ridge loop, I guess. Got kind of hot so I regretted not taking a water bottle.

Friday: Off. Felt lazy so I biked to get coffee this morning in Old Town. Dynamics II take-home final was sent out this afternoon - my body is ready.

Saturday: 10 miles, Timber Trail and some Howard Trail, 2000ft of gain. Did a little bit of the QR course today, the part near the turn-around that I'm least familiar with. Put off working on the final to whip up some Oaxacan-style lentils for a chill Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Sunday: 10 miles, Timber Trail and some Howard Trail, 2000ft of gain. Same time, same place, felt much more confident on the Timber descent.

Mileage: 56 miles
Elevation gain: 9500ft of gain

Week ending May 13:

Monday: Off. Getting well-rested for Quad Rock.

Tuesday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, 1000ft of gain. I am not excited when my IT-band starts to get tight during a taper. I tried to stretch it out today, but whoah, it is rebelling like a teenager on caffeine. I hit the theraband for about an hour today to get it under control.

Wednesday: 10 miles, Foothills trail, 1500ft of gain. IT-band felt a bit better today, although the descent at my turn-around near the Laporte dam felt terrible. That's not a good sign, because the QR course is equally rocky and rough.

Thursday: Off. Nada. Stretching and such.

Friday: 4 miles, Foothills trail, 500ft of gain. IT-band is feeling better, although the day before it's still too tight for my liking. I'm going to have to take it out slowly tomorrow and give it time to warm up.

Saturday: 25 miles, 5500ft of gain, Quad Rock 25. Well, the IT-band held up until the bottom of Mill Creek, when it started to tighten on the first lap. The climb up Howard was fine, but as soon as I hit the first mile of the downhill on Timber I decided to just call it at the turn-around. I gave some stretching a shot at 25 miles but it felt like it made it worse. I'll take an eighth place finish in the 25-mile for going out at a 50-mile pace.

Sunday: Ah, no. Much stretching and ice massage.

Mileage: 47 miles
Elevation gain: 8500ft of gain.

Well, Quad Rock was disappointing, but I had to do it. Bighorn is one of my big goal races this summer, and I really couldn't take the chance of trashing my IT-band one month beforehand. If I would get to the race start at all, I wouldn't be in top form. Sometimes you just need to cut your losses and live to race another day.

Week ending May 20

Monday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, 1000ft of gain; 4 miles, Reservoir Ridge, 500ft of gain. Warmed up the IT-band this morning and followed that with a run out from my department. I guess I never thought about it before, but the Foothills trail is less than half a mile from my office. The IT-band was a little tight in the morning but the afternoon run felt fine. Strength training, stretching, and a massage late in the day seem to be loosening things up.

Tuesday: 12 miles, Foothills trail and Reservoir Ridge, 2500ft of gain. Did the lollipop loop this morning out at the Ridge and cruised along the Foothills trail. I'm doing some more mileage early this week as I'm heading to Berkeley for my brother's graduation this weekend.

Wednesday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, 1000ft of gain; 4 miles, Foothills trail, 500ft of gain. I'm a fan of the two-a-day, because I can use the morning as an easy run and then treat the afternoon one as a tempo run. I think speedwork is underrated in ultra training, especially when you incorporate hills.

Thursday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, 1000ft of gain. Got a run in this morning before heading to Berkeley late this afternoon. I spent extra time getting the IT-band loose so it doesn't get too tight on the plane ride. Sitting seems to aggravate it.

Friday: 8 miles, 1500ft of gain, Berkeley hills and Tilden Regional Park. I had no idea that there was such an awesome natural area/park situated above the Berkeley hills. The route from our rental house up to the hills was pretty awesome - a gradual uphill for a mile along Monterey, a 700ft+ half mile climb up the impossibly steep Marin Avenue (and past some damn nice houses), and then a nice contour run along Wildcat Canyon Road (pictured below). I'm impressed that there are such awesome running opportunities this close to town.

Congratulations to my brother on his Ph.D. from Berkeley's Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. It's been inspiring to watch him over the years. If it wasn't for him and my sister both continuing their education into graduate school, I may not have made that decision, either.

Wildcat Canyon Road. For road-running, this was actually pretty enjoyable...

...because the sunrise over Tilden is beautiful. 

Saturday: 8 miles, Berkeley hills and Tilden, 1500ft of gain. A similar route, but I found a faster way to get to the dirt trails in Tilden. My IT-band feels absolutely fine, now, which is encouraging. I mean, if it survives the downhill on Marin, it can survive pretty much anything. More pics:

 Eucalyptus stands - these guys are so fragrant and wonderful to run through. It's like running through a Vick's Vaporub factory.

Tilden 1 hour after sunrise. You can't get a clean panorama because the trees are so dense.

Sunday: Off, traveling home.

Mileage: 64 miles
Elevation gain: 8500ft of gain

Felt much better this week - the IT-band feels almost fully recovered, so I'll ratchet up the mileage next week.

Quad Rock 50...err 25

Oh man, talk about a late race report. The end of my first year in grad school was absolutely insane - a combination of some very hard coursework, making an hour-long presentation to the climate dynamics research group, and managing the design of a weather calendar. And then there was this whole running thing.

Well, some days you just need to take what you can get. I was originally entered in the 50 mile, but dropped down to the 25 mile after the first lap. I started tweaking my IT-band around mile 15, and it got progressively tighter especially on the Timber trail downhill. While it didn’t get very painful, I didn’t want to keep pushing it - I could have finished, yes, but my IT-band would have gotten stressed enough that I would not be able to run at Bighorn, one of my goal races this year. As it stands, this is something I can fix in one to two weeks with aggressive physical therapy and massage.

How did the race go, injury aside? Really awesome!

Minutes before the race start, the foothills emerged from the twilight with their peaks covered in a thick cloud not 500ft from the base. The air was humid and cool, just a little above freezing – perfect weather for racing. 

I joined the front pack as it raced out of the start and onto the meandering East Valley and Shoreline trails. There was a solid pack of 10 runners out front as we hit the first climb up Sawmill, Stout, and Towers. At this point, the pack settled out as some of the 25-milers pulled ahead with the lead 50-mile runners. I hooked onto the heels of Jason Koop up Towers and then followed Cory up to the Towers aid station.
Given the cool temperatures, I had barely touched my water and jumped right into the first downhill on Spring Creek. Man, was I feeling good here – I kept Cory in sight and fluidly cruised over rocks and around the turns. If I had to guess, I’d say we were keeping a sub-6:00 minute pace over some of the open stretches. I stopped to pee and was immediately passed by Jason again; this was a very tight group of runners out front, with a handful of runners always just behind you.

I basically ran through the Horsetooth aid station and climbed up South Ridge and most of the Horsetooth Rock Trail with Jason, letting him power ahead towards the top. I decided to throttle back a bit on Westridge and get myself prepped for the Mill Creek descent. There was a layer of snow and frost on the evergreen bushes at the top of the mountain, with views over the edge of the ridge obscured by the cloud. The whole race was like a scene out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

I grabbed some water at Towers and eased into Mill Creek’s winding and drawn-out descent into Arthur’s aid station. It was here that I started to feel that familiar tightness in my glutes and IT-band, so I took it a little easier to see if that would help. I ran with Jacob for half of the descent and we stayed together for about a mile after Arthur’s. He pulled ahead on Howard but I kept chugging, ceding no ground to the runners in close pursuit. I actually pulled ahead a bit on the really technical portions and was done with the climb before I knew it.

The rolling mile on the dirt road to Timber was a nice break after Howard and allowed me to collect myself and assess whether or not I’d drop at 25 miles. My right glute was excessively tight and I could feel the IT-band tugging on my knee even on the gentle hills; while it wasn’t hurting yet I knew that I’d have to weigh continuing on and risking a blowout, or cutting my losses and having a shot at being ready for Bighorn. I decided to make it to the turnaround, try to get it stretched, and then make my decision.

No matter how you feel, Timber is always a fun trail. I thoroughly enjoyed the steep switchbacks and sketchy trails in the forest and opened up my stride on the long, flowing contour trails into Soldier Canyon.
At the aid station, one of the 25-mile finishers offered to help me out and taught me a few new stretches. He did some work on the right glute and my hips to loosen things up, but I could feel the IT-band tightening the more I hung around. I decided to just call it a day. For pacing myself for 50 miles, an 8th place finish in the 25 miler wasn’t terrible. 

I stuck around the rest of the morning and into the late afternoon to volunteer, which was really illuminating. Managing a race like this is, to use a cliché, a logistical nightmare. Major props to Nick and Pete for pulling off such a successful inaugural race. I don’t doubt that most runners will return next year because of the professional level of organization, if not for the course difficulty.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Week ending Apr 28

Monday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, 1500ft of gain; 4 miles, Foothills trail, 750ft of gain. Threw in a two-a-day to see how the ankle/shin felt. There is still swelling but the pain level has dropped to about a 1/10. I can't feel it running uphill or on flats which is great.

Tuesday: 12 miles, Foothills trail, 2000ft of gain. Went out to Reservoir Ridge and back this morning since I had time. I'm moving later this week so I thought I'd get a medium-ish run in while I can. Ankle was fine until I finished the run, at which point it started swelling a bit.

Wednesday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, 1500ft of gain; 4 miles, Foothills trail, 750ft of gain. Much less swelling today, in fact it was only noticeable after my afternoon run. Hopefully this is on its way out.

Thursday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, 1500ft of gain. Still some swelling but there isn't any pain, which is awesome. It seems like the tendinopathy has healed, and all that's left is some latent swelling. Running in 55 degrees in the morning - spring has definitely arrived.

Friday: 8 miles, Foothills trail, 1000ft of gain. I got up super early as I needed to deal with random meetings sprinkled throughout the day, and handling my move to my new condo. It is unfortunately half a mile farther from the trailhead as my old place, but I'm much happier with it overall. The extra distance at the start and end of the run is a nice way to force me to warm up and cool down.

Saturday: Off. Went all out today getting the new place in order and working on projects.

Sunday: 25 miles, Quad Rock course, 5500ft of gain. I did this in 4 hours - that meant no power-hiking, which was tough on Mill and Spring Creek. I also did the reverse loop, starting at Soldier Canyon with the climb up Timber, so that I'll be a bit more comfortable on that second lap. This is a brutal course, with little reprieve - only the stretch in the meadows at the start and end is a break from either rough terrain or steep hills. I enjoyed opening it up on Towers-Stout-Sawmill on the inbound portion of the loop - hopefully it feels just as good in the midday heat after running 40 miles.

Mileage: 77 miles
Elevation: 14,500ft of gain