Monday, December 26, 2011

All together now...

Week Summary

Carson River 6: 6.0 mi (+28 ft); 10:12 pace
Washoe Lake Loop: 5.3 mi (+184 ft); 10:30 pace
Carson River 6: 5.9 mi (+26 ft); 9:06 pace
Geiger Summit +: 11.1 mi (+1,769 ft); 11:02 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.8 mi (+571 ft); 18:55 pace

Weekly Totals: 34.1 mi (+2,578 ft); 6:42:20 on trail

The holidays are upon us and I'm fortunate to be surrounded by a great group of people.  The Young Mountain Runners were together for Christmas Weekend; they gathered in Reno for a run up Evans Canyon and prepared for Desna's Christmas dinner on the Emma Quarry Trail. Desna, Chloe, and Carrie visited the horses while Darren and I showed Dennis and Mary the views of the Comstock out toward Emma. Marta and Steven joined us for dinner and capped a low-key holiday.

Young Mountain Runners on Emma Quarry Trail
In running news, I started a training program headed toward the San Diego 100, first stop Brooks Falls Trail Run near Pacifica, CA. The program lives in a series of spreadsheets kindly developed by Footfeathers that provide daily guidelines for building base, gathering speed, and getting mentally ready for the season. My successful 2011 was based on a spreadsheet I'd borrowed from Bryon Powell's book, Relentless Forward Progress; I followed it to great results, until sidelined by the ankle injury in Week 22, in my first season of ultra-running. Now that the hook is securely set and I dream of taking the efforts to new levels, Footfeathers has designed a program based on my personal strengths and weaknesses based on interviews, several phone calls, and innumerable emails (where he patiently answers my innumerable questions). The daily schedule is divided into several different types of workouts (e.g., Base, Tempo, Hills), with personalized pace and effort guidelines. I thought I might not like anything more than "go run 10 miles", but having a targeted strategy has already been fun. I was, at first, struggling with the slow 11-minute pace he called for here in the first weeks.  Why so slow? I'm staying well within aerobic boundaries and learning what specific paces feel like.  And, soon enough, out on some trail, I'll remember the Base workouts as I struggle to get back to the 11-minute level!

I appreciate the help and patience provided by Footfeathers in pushing me to grow as a runner. Darren swears Footfeathers' similar program allowed him to build to his first 100 last year, not to mention winning a trail marathon along the way. On top of coaching, Tim has opened a new era of running events on the California Coast (and beyond?)!.  Check out Inside Trail Racing for some great early season events in the Bay Area.

This week's runs focused on the first Base workouts in what Tim calls a "reset" week. I practiced keep my pace steady, trying to keep myself in check as I wandered the flats of the Carson River and Washoe Lake State Park. Thursday's effort included a bit of Tempo work during which I was able to jump to a 8:30 pace for 25 minutes while traversing the Carson River trail. This was a fun lunch-time workout.

Because an endless warmth has set in, Saturday's run reminded me of a cool summer or fall day. I pushed the hills toward Geiger Grade following the nice single-track from Seven Mile Canyon. Due to the ups-and-downs I was able to average an 11-minute pace for the run, while not over-doing the climbs or the descents.

On Christmas morning, the Young Mountain Runners gathered in Virginia City to visit my go-to favorite, the Emma Quarry Trail. We took our time enjoying the pinyon-lined single-tracks and views from Rocky Road and the quarry hill. Our pace varied a lot as we simply enjoyed the company and talked about local goings-on. I couldn't have asked for a better gift under all the trees. Perfect.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Running in the Dark

Week Summary

Carson River 6: 6.0 mi (+23 ft); 8:20 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.7 mi (+480 ft); 10:28 pace
Goni Trails East: 6.4 mi (+1,067 ft); 9:45 pace
49 Palms Oasis OB (CA): 12.0 mi (+1,549 ft); 10:55 pace

Weekly Totals: 30.1 mi (+3,124 ft); 5:01:50 on trail

With the end of the year, not to mention something called Christmas, speeding up on us, we've been struggling to keep an even keel while closing year-end work, practicing hours of equine medicine on the stubborn oldster Coach, and traveling south for some fieldwork. Dez worked with her vet on Coach all weekend, and more, trying to get a digestive problem solved and get the grey Arab feeling better.  He may have turned a corner for the better, but she's watching him closely. I don't think Strider has offered to donate any organs to help his senior stable-mate out. Dez has worked hard trying to keep things in order and the care up to the minute, as it needs to be right now.

As we tumbled to the weekend, I was keeping my week-day routine in good order. It's been cold, but not low enough to make any run uncomfortable. My problem was planning for my evening runs. It would have been a week without much comment, other than feeling good and doing some pretty good paces; and feeling comfortable in my new La Sportiva Cross-lites (prepping them for some snow, hopefully sometime soon).  But late Wednesday afternoon I paced out along my usual Emma Quarry trail and realized it would soon be dark. I felt good and needed to clear the shadows of the day, so I kept going. Barely past the first mile I hit the single-track and knew it was going to be slow-going. Good practice but I had to "watch" my footing, not that I could really see much of anything. I walked several of my usual fast stretches along Rocky Road and only felt a little frustrated that I would probably be over an hour on this usually quick route. Running along the tight tracks through the pinyon makes one pay close attention and perks up the senses, and it can get a little spooky watching the dark shapes on the trail turn into small trees or having the brush grab your ankles. Note to self: after 4 PM, grab the headlamp.

A few of the forty-nine (the camera sees light I  could not)
I forgot my note.  In Twentynine Palms, California, for the weekend for some fieldwork.  Started Saturday very early and returned to the hotel with enough light to get started toward 49 Palms Oasis (I guess they like to count palm trees around here).  My route took me along the main highway between Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree for a couple miles before turning up Canyon Road toward a day-use trail in Joshua Tree National Park -- I had scouted out the possibilities prior to flying down. I hit the trailhead in a steady mist and fading light. But the climbing trail through the granite boulders looked great and I kept going.  The trail climbs steeply through a series of build steps and switchbacks before dropping into an adjacent canyon with the oasis. It was a bit too dark to explore the palms and ferns. Even in the dark the contrast of the green and the white grussy granite was fascinating.  I didn't linger. With the rain increasing, I climbed out of the canyon and back to the trailhead. (The 49 Palms Oasis Trail is 3 miles round trip, with something like 650 feet of total elevation gain).

It was completely dark by the time I made it back to the pavement and began the long descent to town. The run down the highway was miserable due to the on-coming traffic blinding me to a crawl. I ran along a dirt track several feet off the highway but the cars would flash by, ruining my night-vision and droning out any silence that followed me from the trail. I was happy to seek refuge in my hotel room, but just as happy that I had kept going and reached the palms (I forgot to count them) of the oasis.

Missed my usual Sunday trail due to all-day travel to get home. It was dark enough when arrived at VC to keep me from trying again. The headlamp has always been safely with me, stored in my bag. I have to remember to take it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Reno man loses lottery, happily moves on

Top of Halo Trail, overlooking Reno (Photos by Darren)

Week Summary

UCD Farms (CA): 6.3 mi (+5 ft); 8:52 pace
Goni Trails East: 5.8 mi (+871 ft); 9:53 pace
Evans to Halo OB: 10.2 mi (+1,100 ft); 10:55 pace
Geiger - Ophir Peak Loop: 10.2 mi (+2,413 ft); 12:57 pace

Weekly Totals: 32.4 mi (+4,389 ft); 5:54:54 on trail

The week began with a work-week trip to HQ in Davis, California, where the partners strapped themselves to a conference table for a few days. Short pre-winter days leave little room for street-side running in town, but Kelly pointed me to some nice, very flat dirt roads at the University of California at Davis which I was surprised to find so enjoyable. A dusky dark run through the fields cleared the stagnate air of the day's workload. It was a good few days in the valley.

Singe-track climbs on Peavine Mtn.
The week ended with the Western States lottery in which none of the Young Mountain Runners were chosen; though we'll likely volunteer, we won't otherwise be involved in that event in 2012. This uncertainty aside, we can start planning our 2012 schedule.  With that in mind, Darren and I cruised the chill of Evans Canyon north of San Raphael Park in Reno. Because Des and I once lived adjacent to the park (and Darren and Carrie still do), Evans Canyon is familiar, even though the trail system has expanded and improved. It's a busy place too. As I turned back at the 5-mile point at the "top" of the Halo Trail, a trio of mountain bikers approached. After one of those odd few seconds of disbelief, I recognized some great friends.  Gregor and Erika paused for a long over-due chat (Gabe, intent on the climb, kept going). Although we started to shiver in the chill, it was great to see them all. Darren continued to the turn-around at Ridge View, while I turned back to descend the canyon and beat the darkness back to VC (driving from the park, of course).

On Sunday I found a new local favorite. In charting possible routes for the VC100, I continue to check out the equine course. Today I discovered how good the Geiger to Ophir Peak section is. Part of the second equine loop, I traversed north out of VC basically paralleling the Hwy 431 on two-track roads and eventually a great single-track section near the Geiger Summit (6,789 ft).  I could then turn back south to gain the ridge of the Virginia Range following excellent, narrow two-tracks along the crest toward Ophir Peak.  At the peak's towers I dropped back into VC on the rocky two-track that eventually exits Spanish Ravine. A nice Sunday morning loop; probably even better in the reverse direction.

It feels good to be moving steadily and keeping to a conservative increase in weekly mileage. I'll probably drop off a little this week as I travel to Twentynine Palms, California, for some fieldwork.  My first event target is Pacifica in the PCTR series south of San Francisco on January 22nd. In the meantime I'll be weighing the possibilities of the San Diego 100 vs the TRT 100 for my first 100-mile event. These are early summer events, so there's ample time to prepare and get in a few "training" events.  Footfeathers and I are working on the 2012 training schedule now.  It'll conveniently swing into motion as the first snows arrive with the holidays!  Can't wait.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cold Gold

On her way to climbing the podium! Mary Young - Gold in Moab and the 2011 TORY! 

Week Summary

Carson River 3: 3.2 mi (+16 ft); 7:58 pace
Goni Trails East: 5.5 mi (+795 ft); 10:07 pace
Bailey Canyon OB: 10.4 mi (+1,118 ft); 11:49 pace
Sun Mtn: East Trail: 2.8 mi (+1,681 ft); 25:11 pace

Weekly Totals: 21.9 mi (+3,610 ft); 4:34:16 on trail

A good week in the growing chill, exploring some new trails and taking it pretty easy. Well, sort of easy. I was chapped for time on Tuesday so I decided to see what pushing it for three miles might feel like. The Carson River Trails are flat, improved trails between the Carson River and the Empire Ranch Golf Course. They are cruise-able.  It was interesting to see a sub-8 pace in my log when I downloaded my stats; a first for an entire run. Of course, I've had plenty of sub-8 miles but never able to keep it for an overall pace.  Three miles isn't that far at all, but it'll be interesting to see if I can get the mileage to grow while keeping to that pace, especially on the flat courses.

While Tuesday was above the 60° mark, the cold fronts hit on Wednesday and it was below 30° and windy for Thursday.  But I got into the hills at Goni Road and stretched my previous trails to the east. I have found some single-track above Centennial Park (the eastern-most end of my current efforts) and look forward to checking those out.  They will be hilly, but it can't be otherwise out there.

The chill of Saturday morning made me want to check out Bailey Canyon off of Toll Road, a segment of our developing VC100 course. I steered the Yota down the grade to park at the "pavement end" lot below the upper section of Toll Road. As I started out, some ROTC (or worse) guys jogged past me downhill; their smiles and hellos barely masked the scouring black of their semi-automatic rifles and ammo belts.  I was running up-hill and away from these guys, so I easily forgot about them.

I had a bit of trouble finding the trail to the lower portion of Bailey due to "no trespassing, this means you" and other kindness on a 4x8-foot sign. Back-tracking I found the single-track stirred by this summer's equine VC100 and was soon skirting the properties, crossing a stream, and entering the canyon.  The trail shifted from good single-track to a rocky technical path along the canyon-bottom drainage. Once in a while the route abandoned any trail for the rock-choked dry wash. It was slow-going as I enjoyed the careful rock-hopping and steady climb into the low winter sun. Two-track roads took over at the top of the canyon, about 5 miles from my Toll Road start. Here I turned back to keep the effort in-line with my early season plan.

Sun Mountain  (East Trail to broad saddle near summit)
Everybody should have a mountain.  Anton  has his Green Mountain (I guess he shares it with the many runners of Boulder, CO), Darren gets his hill-repeats on Peavine Mountain north of Reno, and I have Sun Mountain (aka Mt. Davidson) in my backyard. This winter I will be hitting the mountain weekly (or more) and letting the steep climbs and descents (I expect post-holing snow days, once the storms arrive) challenge the legs and strengthen the drive to keep upward movement.  The East Trail climbs 1,500 feet in a mile on an amazingly gravelly single-track. It's the kind of trail that you can reach out and touch as you slog upward, and occasionally slide back into your previous steps.  I love the work-out and the reward is the typical, though never tiring, morning view of the western Basin and Range and a rising winter sun.  Forty-five minutes to the summit, 20 minutes down.  My goal is to get under an hour, but right now it is basically a nice morning hike.

Sun Mtn Summit, looking west to Carson Range
East Trail - Sun Mtn

No caption required!
Dennis and Mary wrapped their 2011 season at the Winter Sun 10K in Moab, UT on Saturday.  A cold wind took time away from many of the 577 participants, but Mom didn't let it slow her down.  She crossed the line for Gold in the 60+ Age Group (Ladies), bringing home another podium position for the Young Mountain Runners.  Despite the brisk wind she pulled in a 10K PR, beating her previous time by 1:38.  Dad pushed against the wind to finish 9th in the 60+ AG (Mens).  His success was measured by a friendly competition with Charles McFalls of North Carolina who beat him last year by almost three minutes. This year they yo-yo'ed to the end, with Dennis winning their race-in-a-race by one second at the line. A great, successful close to our season.

Although I'm sure to stir up great controversy, Mary Young is a shoe-in for the 2011 Trail Option Runner-of-the-Year Award !  (I expect the comments to fill up with the this-and-that regarding my biased and super-secret TORY selection criteria).  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

November Totals - A good rest

November Totals: 48.9 mi (+4,321 ft gain); 8:22:13 on trail

Feeling good and ready after a bit of a break. Just some easy trails this month, enough to keep some movement and avoid complete stagnation - "keeping the mellow" as my friend Kelly calls it.

Will begin the build-up to the new season (started today) during December; running into the chill of the shortest days.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanks, now back to the trail...

Week Summary

Carson River 3: 3.3 mi (+17 ft); 9:04 pace
Long Valley OB: 7.4 mi (+428 ft); 9:19 pace
Washoe Lake Loop Plus: 8.9 mi (+738 ft); 10:54 pace
Sun Mtn: Spanish-Bullion: 6.4 mi (+1,731 ft); 15:37 pace

Weekly Totals: 25.9 mi (+2,914 ft); 4::54:35 on trail

As I've mentioned before, Thanksgiving Day is my "running" anniversary. Last year (2010), after a conversation with my brother Darren, fascinated by his desire to race 100 miles at Antelope Island, I went out to Long Valley and knocked off seven miles. I didn't know what "pace" was, I didn't even keep track of time. I had simply laid out a route in Google Earth, put on a few layers (it was 11 degrees that day), grabbed the YakTrax, and off I went. The addiction wouldn't set in until six months later, but I started a regular routine to prepare for the field time in Africa and to better understand Darren's training efforts.

Twelve hundred miles later, Darren and I returned to Long Valley on Thanksgiving morning to mark the beginning of another season. It was my first effort in a month or so where I went for more than 30 minutes, a refreshing change from the needed rest period. In fact, it felt so good to be back on the trail I continued into the weekend with some easy but longer outings. This will grow into December as trail time and effort gradually increase; the first races might be as early as February (the 2012 race calendar will get set after the Western States lottery on Dec 10th).

As I diverted energy away from the trail during the rest period, I was soon scouring Google Earth for new trails around Virginia City. We'll get plenty of snow (someday) but it typically gets packed enough to continue getting miles in, and the deep snow of Sun Mtn will provide some great post-holing hill-climb workouts. With this in mind, and looking to add some longer efforts to next season, I turned to the maps and went on some virtual runs. I started with the equine endurance course of the VC 100 and soon had three loops (50+26+24) mapped out stretching from the Highlands to Moundhouse. Darren and I will begin checking portions of these (including Long Valley) and have already begun to consider a possible "Fat Ass" run where we'll invite a few folks for an informal 50+ mile event.

Great single-track above Washoe Lake.
So on Saturday I visited the Washoe Lake section of the VC50 loop and went for almost nine miles of single-track through the state park and along the Jumbo reach of the trail. So great to be out for an easy run in almost 60-degree sunshine (so different from last year!).  Des and Strider came along for the start but they turned down to the dune as I ventured toward Jumbo to check the trail. I returned to the lake so Tephra could cool down before meeting Des back at the ranch (Strider and Cochise are boarded at a small ranch just above the Washoe Lake State Park). Des and Strider got in three miles; she's running Strider on a lead as part of some training exercises. The single-track equestrian trails in the park will be a great place to return for flatland runs by the water.
Spanish Ravine above Virginia City

Tephra and Snow -- Sun Mtn Summit
Up early Sunday morning for some elevation gain! Not wanting to overdo it, I took an easy hike up Sun Mountain (7,864 ft; aka Mount Davidson, high-point of Storey County) via Spanish Ravine making the summit in 49:20 (+1,700 ft gain). I hiked the ravine to the north-south ridge road before turning to the Davidson Ridge. A brisk wind met me on the ridge, but Tephra powered ahead seeking the snowy spots near the summit. I returned along the ridge to loop south and made my descent via Bullion Canyon. I have yet to tire of the single-track trails and two-track roads of this little mountain range at the western edge of the Great Basin. The views of the Carson Range (the northern Sierra) above Lake Tahoe are a great reward when climbing from Virginia City. To the east, dozens of north-south ranges form waves in the sagebrush ocean. I've been to most of the ranges I can see from here, but a few remain to be explored. It's easy to plan  new trails while traversing the tracks of Sun Mtn.

Top of Bullion Canyon -- a great, short trail.

Dennis and Mary - "No running in the house."
The Young Mountain Runners had a busy week.  Dennis and Mary hit the pre-dinner road for the Thanksgiving Turkey 5K in Grand Junction. Mom (31:15) grabbed a silver medal and Dad (27:30) also reached the age-category podium with a bronze. Although she missed last year's run after foot surgery, she beat her 2009 time by over two minutes. Dad also improved his time by 28 seconds over last year's effort.

At about the same time, somewhere in Texas, another set of Young runners gave chase in the Turkey Trot fun. Rising to the challenge, Heather reported their Thanksgiving success, "Bryan got a silver (lid) of Greeek strawberry yogurt and I got a gole (banana) and peanut butter after our race." Now those are awards to sink your teeth into. Keep going.

Cheers to the team. IWWD.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Taste of Winter, Gambling on Summer

As I prepared for the week's promised early snow, I tossed my name in the hat for the Western States 100 next June. My feelings mirror my early trepidations of last season, "will I ever make it to marathon distance?", "can I endure something like Firetrails?". I ran through my simple fears with each week of this season, finding pleasure and accepting the occasional pain. I only expect to do the same thing in 2012, though the bar will certainly be set a bit higher.

Footfeathers posed some interesting questions regarding the WS100 on the Inside Trail website; they got me  thinking about Western States and 100s in general, a process that actually convinced me to jump into the lottery (369 runners get in, a few dozen avoid the lottery based on a previous year's Top 10 plus several special cases). Oddly, my biggest concern about entering was the fact that I might get selected! That'll be great, but what a way to kick off a first attempt at the 100-mile distance. I am also concerned that a 100-mile newbie might draw the place of a more competitive and deserving runner. But rules are rules, and, as of today, there are about 1,700 entries so it won't be me who steals an entry from someone else!

Lottery entries close Nov 26th and the drawing is held -- I presume using an actual hat -- in Auburn, CA, on Dec 10th.  What are the odds of Darren and I (and our coach Footfeathers) actually getting in?  I could get my calculator, but I'd rather let the lotto resolve itself on the 10th.  Good luck to all.

Not much running this week. Fieldwork took me away on both of my mid-week trail days. Because I'm in rest-mode I didn't worry about getting some kind of run in on either Tuesday or Thursday. I did get to the gym for my elliptical and leg workouts, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That's actually been enjoyable; I certainly hope it pays off.

The predicted snow arrived late Friday and early Sunday morning. It wasn't much but the flavor of the air has changed making the runs crisp though a little damp. I kept to my 30-minute efforts, doing one lap of the cemetery (Town Loop 3) and my favorite little jaunt along the Combination road and single-track. Sunday's snow along the Combination reminded me that I can enjoy the crunching trails through the pinyon and I look forward to some longer snowy trails coming soon. (And I need to remember my camera!)

Received some McDavid arm-warmers from Footfeathers this week, so I can use the calve-sleeves appropriately (back on my calves!). They're Dodger-blue, but I can forgive him for that.  Thanks Tim, good luck on your new trails!

Dennis and Mary are getting ready for their Thanksgiving Turkey 5K in Grand Junction, CO. Mom didn't get to run last year because of an injury, so they'll both get to shoot for PRs this week! They've PR'd just about all their distances this season, so we have high expectations. Mostly, have a good run!

In honor of Marta's birthday we've updated the Trail Pages link in the sidebar. There's some location and description information included. Darren and I look forward to building on this through the winter. Marta (a friend of the Young Mountain Runners) has asked me about our local trails and I know she's been leaving some tracks out there. Happy Birthday.

Week Summary

Town Loop 3: 3.1 mi (+230 ft); 8:55 pace
Combination OB: 3.6 mi (+240 ft); 8:14 pace

Weekly Totals: 6.7 mi (+470 ft); 00:57:26 on trail

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Learning to Listen

When events conspire against us for the better, we should pay attention. A couple weeks ago the goals of my trail season were compromised by what I thought (was told) was a stress fracture; today I rest in my off-season with a perfectly good ankle. When confronted with the injury I was distressed that I wouldn't reach goals set many months ago and almost overlooked all the positive experiences of my first ultra season. I now realize that the injury, though not a fracture, was a billboard informing me that I wasn't addressing my long-trail recovery needs. In all likelihood, the PA at St. Mary's (who I've seen a few times over the years) understood my intentions and my compulsive approach to my season.

I had outlined my training and event history as she and I discussed the swollen ankle and I followed up with my desire to be at the Antelope 100K in a couple weeks (now a weekend ago).  She dutifully processed some x-rays, and then informed me that the radiologist wasn't available to look at them but that she could easily make out a fracture. She gave me a boot and advised me to visit an orthopedist for further evaluation. Could it be that she realized I needed to simply rest from Firetrails and my just completed 39-mile weekend? She may have seen that if she informed me of a clear x-ray I would soon be steering the Yota toward the Great Salt Lake. The radiologist certainly would have reported no anomalies, but he/she was conveniently "absent".  After a few days in the boot, during which I had withdrawn from the 100K, I had no swelling and no pain. It may be a strange interpretation of the Hippocratic oath, but her medical advice did more good than harm. When the orthopedist informed me of the clear x-rays, simply pointing out some arthritic deposits which are probably pretty normal for a 47-year-old athlete, I started my off-season with a new emphasis on low-impact cardio and lower-body flexibility and strength (thanks to Jon Hodges, PT). The dreaded and uncomfortable (and successful) boot made me aware of my recovery needs and allowed me to better focus on a productive off-season.

So it has begun. I'm yearning to get back on some trails for a long afternoon of working my way up and over a pass or two, or contouring my way along two-track roads through early fall snows above my house. Instead, I've shifted that compulsion to 30-minute low-impact elliptical workouts followed by balance, flexibility, and strength drills three times a week. The intervening days allow for some trail time but the runs are limited to a maximum of 30-minutes at a reasonable pace. The gym time can be boring but it maintains the foundation while allowing the body to re-build and, hopefully, improve.

I'll keep this up until at least Thanksgiving when my 2012 season "starts". Here's to learning to listen to the signals the machine gives us. We'll rest and grow to keep going...

Week Summary

Goni T-Line East: 3.2 mi (+504 ft); 10:19 pace
Combination OB: 3.6 mi (+217 ft); 9:06 pace
Combination OB: 3.5 mi (+197 ft); 8:20 pace

Weekly Totals: 10.3 mi (+917 ft); 1:34:34 on trail