Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Week 1 of Relentless Forward Progress; a review and a plan

May Totals: 109.7 mi (+11,469 ft); 19:20:58 on trail

Goals don't have to be immense hurdles, they can and should be attainable steps that keep us motivated. They should be difficult enough to feel success when reached, and they should be personal enough to drive internal competition while remaining within ego's possibilities. I think this pretty much describes my lunar century. A hundred miles in a month isn't especially difficult given that it is somewhat less than four miles a day. It's the discipline of keeping to the days that makes it a challenge. Life too often draws us away from healthy and enjoyable pursuits as we lose sight of their necessity. So I'm happy I have made this start and reached my first goal, one of many to come.

I recently read Relentless Forward Progress, by Bryon Powell of iRunFar.com. Although it is certainly unwise to adamantly buy-in to a first reading of any literature, I couldn't help but be fully motivated while at the same time better informed about the long-term discipline and run-day focus it takes to be an ultra runner. I have second-hand experience from following, occasionally literally, my brother as he trained for, meditated on, and recovered from his first successful 100-mile race at the Antelope Island Buffalo Run this spring (8th place, he says). His enthusiasm was contagious enough that I began to contemplate similar adventures, but I had questions I really didn't know how to ask. He turned me on to iRunFar.com and after following a few of Bryon's race reports and reading his commentaries and personal experiences in ultra-running, I downloaded his recently completed book.

If you have any interest of running far, and far doesn't have to mean fast, Relentless Forward Progress works wonderfully as a beginner's primer; it will get you going and will remain at your side as you begin to feel the success of many, many miles. Although I've told Darren and Desna numerous times, "I'm not in this to compete, I've simply grown to enjoy the exhilaration of running trails," learning about the community of ultra events has peaked an unexpected curiosity. Using his own running and coaching experience, along with guest essays by competitors and specialists (all experienced ultra runners), Bryon clearly presents the whys and hows of ultra-running. He progresses easily from why people do ultras to how to train, and from what to expect from trails and your body to what gear to use; interspersed from start to finish are a myriad of other topics and experienced insights, significant (footwear and foot health) to mundane (how to pee during a race). Although I would like to have read a composite diary of an individual race (his race blogs are always insightful), maybe a based-on-true-events yet fictional aggradation of the best, typical, and worst things that happen during a 100-mile event, I finished feeling I understood a little, no, a lot more about ultra-running, for pleasure, challenge, and competition. I'm already reading it second time, but have already realized that good recommendations of any "how-to" book should simply end with "OK, I'm doing it."

And so my relentless forward progress begins today. In his book Bryon presents four training regimes for running ultras from 50k (31 miles) to 100 miles. These are based on how many miles a runner can get in during the week, with a focus on long weekend runs. He's well aware that many things vie for our time, so he's worked hard to develop a training regime that understands the real world while providing a regime of weekly base miles combined with the occasional very long, event-like runs and back-to-backs (B2Bs).  These teach you how to run on tired legs. Importantly, Bryon also provides guidelines for resting or tapering into your events.

I've chosen to follow his training regime for running a 100-mile event on 50 miles per week. The weekdays are very similar to my current training levels; it's the weekends that build to some challenging distances. That's when I'll learn to be an ultra runner. I did the first training run today, 6.3 miles in the wind of the Chocolate Factory Out-and-Back. In 12 weeks I'll do my first trail marathon; my first ultra distance (50K/31mi) is 14 weeks away.  I even penciled in the Lake of the Sky event at Lake Tahoe as the site of that week's challenge. We'll see if I'm brave enough to join other runners. Darren says, "Do it." If the Leadville 100 treats him OK, he's likely to join me. And because there are aid stations, Desna won't have to drive the jeep down 31 miles of the Pony Express trail, though that sounds like a nice run too.  Sometime in early November, I'll run 100 miles (maybe in Arizona). As Bryon points out in RFP, signing up for events keeps the pressure on the training program. But Trail Option is also about publishing my joy of running and keeping the motivation of a few friends and training partners.

This blog will document the ups-and-downs and many miles of the 24-week journey. I hope you'll come along.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Week Summary (May 29): Healing lessons

Chocolate Factory Loop: 5.7 mi (+428 ft); 9:57 pace
Seven Loop: 6.8 mi (+1,166 ft); 11:29 pace
Town Loop x2: 4.2 mi (+252 ft); 8:58 pace

Weekly Totals: 16.7 mi (+1,846 ft); 2:53:52 on trail

This week was about healing the hamstring and developing patience, challenges that I seem and hope to have met with success. It wasn't as much about sitting still and feeling a new restlessness, as about considering what this means for my as-yet brief running career and about actively helping the healing process. A hamstring strain isn't the end of the world by any stretch, but because it is a remnant of a youthful injury, I had a few moments of panic, albeit mild, that my relatively new endeavor might be hindered by a chronic aggravation. The question of how chronically susceptible I am to this specific strain remains unanswered, but the rest period this week along with pro-active treatment has taught me that discipline in the short term will likely produce results in the long run. If I can remember that on my coming "long" runs, the lesson will certainly be more than metaphor (i.e., this isn't new wisdom to me or anyone, but something I've particularly not been good at applying to personal health).

Desna provided much of the pro-active lesson for getting started again. When I returned from Texas, I was focused on the four days of rest, looking forward to being back on the trail on Thursday. But Thursday's trails wouldn't come without some careful attention to the legs. Des insisted on cycles of massage and ice, carefully working adjacent areas and then letting the ice do its trick. I expect she soon tired of my showing up with a bag of ice asking for daily therapy, but her experience and magic were felt as the tightness and swelling abated. Thursday was an easy run, and relatively slow, though I'm always relatively slow while enjoying the miles (that'll be changing I hope; the speed, not the enjoyment). Paid close attention to things in the engines, but pain never appeared.

Friday I had an appointment with Jon my PT at Peter Barbieri's Physical Therapy.  On my flight to Texas I had considered canceling this appointment because we had moved away from the back pain of a few weeks ago - certainly a combination of PT, running, and the series of stretches Jon had provided. I reconsidered cancelling as soon as the hamstring had presented its strain. Friday's appointment focused on the injury, and Jon worked me over pretty good.  Only rarely manipulating the injury area, he was aggressive with other connection points and associated muscle/tendon groups (there's probably a better anatomical term).  We finished the session with some ultrasound therapy to continue breakdown of any scar tissue. Des had recommended I ask about the ultrasound and Jon said it would be a good idea in this case. My legs felt amazingly beat up and worn out Friday night, like I had been on one of my longer trails. But I woke Saturday to two crazy things -- my legs felt great and new snow had arrived.   

I couldn't wait to get on the trail, trying to beat the snow which couldn't decide whether to stick or simply blow away.  So after cutting and storing our June supply of firewood (a true oxymoron), I sought out a new route in Seven Mile Canyon to avoid the brunt of the big winds that had delivered this late-Spring snow. Jon and Des had both advised me to take it easy, keep it below six miles for a couple days and then use the 10% rule to get back some distance. "If it feels OK, do what's comfortable," were Jon's last words of advice.  So, of course, I picked Seven Mile Canyon! It's not really seven miles long, but it gave me a new route to try and I indeed ended up at 6.8 miles with some good, safe walking while climbing about 1,100 feet in the trail's middle section. Felt great the entire time, with Tephra bopping along beside me (her paws are saying they're ready too!). We kept a generally slow and smiling pace for the duration. Although I tire of the snow-burdened Spring (it's basically June), I was relieved that careful healing works and I can return to the peaceful exhilaration of the trail. I began to see an answer to my first question; I can keep going and will keep going with help and care.

It is still snowing today, Sunday, as we watch the Memorial Day weekend blow away in another cold low-pressure weather system. The week to come doesn't look much better. After the Seven Loop yesterday, I only had three quarters of a mile to reach my first goal of a lunar century (100 miles in a month).  I could easily do that just checking the mail, as Des told me; or I could get it Tuesday on my first weekly outing. But I thought it might be nice to get this in less than 30 days so that it would be comparable to other months, besides February, of course.  I had to stick to the pavement around Virginia City, but I got out in the insane mixture of blue sky-snow, beautiful but come on.  Four miles on my little Town Loop to get to the century mark. An early goal reached and I'm thankful to everyone who has taught me to enjoy this, encouraged me to continue, and kept me going. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Weekly Summary (May 22)

Gold Hill Office Plus: 4.8 mi (+693 ft); 10:08 pace
Chocolate - Dayton Loop: 8.5 mi (+710 ft); 9:27 pace
Celebration Loop - Allen TX: 7.2 mi (+78 ft); 9:28 pace
Bethany Road Loop - Allen TX: 5.9 mi (+105 ft); 14:07 pace

Weekly Totals: 26.3 mi (+1,587 ft); 4:48:07 on trail

This week on the trail had pluses to strive for and set-backs to avoid. The week began filled with motivation, driven by the pleasure of the previous weekend's adventures. Storms continued to roll in to western Nevada leaving snow in the mornings but trails would typically clear by noon. Comfortably cool each day but unseasonably so. Monday I added miles to the office loop by running into town and heading for the short single track south of VC High School. I had great pace, and good recovery from the hills and storm of Sunday's ridge venture, but my route disappeared and I cut through the brush and scrambled over mine tailings trying to regain it. I remembered it from a couple years ago, but the little creek had eaten the old trail away. As is often the case, loss of pace was easily off-set by the fun of hopping through the rocks and sage.

The next day, an intense squall welcomed me as I left the office; pellet snow approaching small hail hammered the truck on the drive down to the Chocolate Factory at Moundhouse. But the skies cleared as I descended the grade and Moundhouse was dry; the sky was a sheet of grey behind me, two different environments on either side of the sheet. It's the reason I created the Chocolate trails as a place to come off the mountain in search of a dry tread and less snow. Today I felt great and the interesting weather led me to search for a new variation focusing on a way through the houses at Gold Canyon. I hesitate to trespass on roads or paths on private property and steer away from encounters with landowners or their pets that might take interest in a moving target. Because of this I had avoided Gold Canyon, but I knew a trail around the two or three residences had to exist and it would be nice to reach the opposite side. I easily found a good trail and was soon contouring toward Dayton on the old toll road.

Moving toward Dayton I thought this variation might take me too far to the north of town and overly extend my time out at lunch. I'd forgotten my water bottle (again) and didn't want to take things too far, but it was a beautiful afternoon and the route was fascinating. I ended up in old downtown Dayton, running along an abandoned stretch of old Highway 50. I've been on the 50 through Dayton many, many times, but this block revealed a part of Dayton unfamiliar to me and I enjoyed the mile of newness. We'll have to visit the little restaurants I noticed in the downtown. Leaving downtown I found my usual turn-around point and joined the trail for the return to the Chocolate Factory. I'll likely make this my usual run when I visit the dry trails between Moundhouse and Dayton.

Thursday is usually a run day but I was on my way to Texas (where I write this) for my nephew's (Robby Young) high school graduation. Although Darren can't make it, the rest of the Young Mountain Runners would be uniting for some roads and trails in Allen, Texas. It's fun packing my running and nutrition gear for "exotic" trails beyond the desert. And an interesting test in the humidity and heat, but I enjoy some flatland running on occasion.

Everyone was up early on Friday morning, ready to run as a team. Thunder welcomed us to the trail as we crossed fields of siltstone and carbonate rocks that I remember from childhood here in Collin County. It's built out now and I can't get a grip on my location even though I once lived not too far from where I'm running today. The concrete trails are ubiquitous and almost compensate for the bland repetition of concrete and boxed suburbia. We circled parks and dove into little stretches of remnant woods on our short run, pausing to chat with our teammates, each with their own pace and daily goal. Very fun. I left the group for the run to Bryan's house, the last mile and a half or so. Dad had disappeared toward the house on his second lap so I chased him on my third as the sky opened and a downpour filled the streets and soaked my skin. It's was nice warm, big-dropped rain and I motored at a fast but comfortable pace, or so I thought. At mile 7.0 at a good steady pace on a suburban street, in a nice heavy rain, with a smile on my face, my hamstring barked at the back of my right leg. I slowed and wondered what went wrong. Here, at the end of a nice little workout on the trails of what was once my home I could only mildly panic at the onset of an injury. Hamstrings have been my downfall for years; old soccer injuries that I never allowed to heal. But I haven't suffered any recurrences since initiating my training program. I grabbed the ice and Vitamin I and started resting.

On Saturday, I tried a short jog to test the leg while exploring another set of creek-side, concrete trails. It was as feared, slowing going with a slight tugging mild pain. I trotted slowly along the trail for a couple miles and gave up to a walk. Dejected, but I know what to do. I'm only a dozen or so miles short of my lunar century (100 mile month), but I'll rest it for a few days and try a slow return mid-week next. I need to be disciplined about recovery as much as I've become disciplined about training. It's frustrating and worrisome to alter my regimen, but I'll return soon. It's all a part of keeping going.

In other news: Darren and Dan Dixson ran the 50k on Peavine Mountain as part of the Silver State races. Darren agreed not to race and enjoyed a great day on the trail. Here's to Dan for his first 50k, it's an awesome start.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Week Summary (May 15)

   Gold Hill Office Loop: 3.3 miles (+439); 9:32 pace
   Chocolate Factory OB Plus: 8.2 miles (+732 ft gain); 10:30 pace
   Ophir Loop Plus: 7.2 miles (+1,018 ft gain); 10:32 pace
   Emma Quarry OB: 5.8 miles (+526 ft gain); 9.33 pace
   Granite Peak, East Range NG: 4.0 miles (+1,125 ft gain); 14:08 pace

Week Total: 28.5 miles (+3,840 ft gain); 5:05:12 on the trail

Another good week on the trails in the crazy weather of northern Nevada. I'm beginning to feel the foundation I'm building and it seems to get stronger with each outing. I added extra 'plus' segments to daily trails bringing in a few more miles each time. I can measure my growth by noticing that the added miles have come with improvement in overall pace. That's a nice surprise, and a great motivator. It's also reached a point that I feel off if I miss a day in my trail schedule. Unlike the other physical improvements, this mental change is unexpected. Maybe that realization is what makes one a runner.

I added a northern hill loop to the Chocolate Factory OB upping the elevation gain and increasing the training by about two miles. It was nice to get a new view of the southern end of Gold Canyon. I also augmented the Ophir Loop by continuing on to the summit of the grade overlooking Washoe Valley and Jumbo Grade. Not a big elevation change but completing the grade adds about two miles. I ran into about a dozen members of a hiking group slowly working their way down Ophir; nice hats and walking sticks smiling in the noon-time sun. Kept a nice pace on both augmented routes.

Prepping for a hill climb planned for Sunday and jonesing for a little trail-time after yard work, I hit the Emma Quarry trail. For the first time I felt bad getting going even after really wanting to get going. I believe it had to do with eating lunch not thinking about running a couple hours later; my peanut butter sandwich and chips,the lunch of Ultra athletes worldwide, just seemed to haunt me. But I've grown to enjoy seeing what the body does with a little pain, and I've started listening to the occasional muscle or tendon group whine about a certain number of miles so I paid attention to the comings and goings of a plain-old stomach ache. I want to know the pattern of aches and pains for the longer miles to come. I ended with my best pace, by almost half a minute, on the Quarry trail.  So that's what attention to things brings. I'll keep going.

Storms coming.  I'm up Sunday early to meet Darren in Fernley for a summit/trail quest in the East Range of Pershing County.  Granite Peak, a relatively simple highpoint of 8,419 feet give or take, is supported by a set of juniper- and pinyon-covered ridges with moderate slopes. This little hill has turned me back before as it seems to grab the winter precipitation that re-gathers after being drained by the Sierra. My schedule of peak-grabbing in the East Range has coincided with anomalously low-pressure, cold Spring storms, and today was no exception. We ditched Darren's car in Fernley and headed to Coal Canyon Road and Buena Vista Valley in an eastwardly increasing rain. The east side of Buena Vista, rising to McKinney Pass, was lost in low clouds and we were soon scudding along the boundary between cloud and rain. Rain turned to snow as we parked at the pass, a nice trail heading into the clouds would lead us up and to the north. We toyed with our layers, searching for the right combination in the suggestive chill and continued moisture. Then we're off.
Darren and DCraig on the Granite Peak Trail

What was once a wet, though well-packed, trail was soon covered in an inch or so of snow. We had timed it perfectly poorly.  Snowline had dropped through us as we had started.  The wood-cutters trail was steeper than a typical running route, but we were after a little elevation and a summit success.  Traction on the trail was not a problem; the trail's location on a south-to-north ridge, however, was seriously exposed to the freshening wind.  Freshening became a feverish wind as we reached about two miles and 1,100 feet of elevation gain. We huddled in the lee of a juniper tree and thought better of our endeavor. I've turned back from this hill before and it's still here, I can do it again.  We turned head-on into the brunt of the wind-driven pellet-snow, and could only laugh at the intensity required for a once simple two miles of downhill back to the pass. Footing was fine, but winds breaking the ridge lifted at our shells and buffeted every step. The sleet began to coat our windward bodies, thickening as the temperatures dropped and winds increased. An occasional juniper or pinyon provided a respite and we could only laugh as we looked ahead and then sigh as we returned to the fray of our descent. My face still stings by the slap of sleet, silly. The truck was a welcome place to strip from our wet covers and turn on the defrost for our trip home. We'll return someday soon to see where the trails and ridges actually lead, and I'll pay better attention to the forecast. As if that really matters at Granite Peak. IWWD.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Week Summary (May 8)

   Gold Hill Trail Exploration: 4.6 miles (+1,408 ft gain); 11:11 pace
   Chocolate Factory OB: 5.7 miles (+419 ft gain); 9.28 pace
   Ophir Loop: 5.4 miles (+914 ft gain); 11:29 pace
   Iron Mountain Loop: 10.8 miles (+401 ft gain); 9:59 pace
   Emma Quarry OB: 5.5 miles (+577 ft gain); 9:58 pace

Week Total: 32 miles (+3,718 ft gain); 5:32:56 on the trail

A good week on the trail resulted in my first 30-plus weekly total.  The miles add up when I get out there most everyday. Good discipline at lunch and goals for the weekend help. A week that started with warm, sunny days ended with gusty winds of the weekend cold snap. The winds hit about halfway through the Iron Mountain Loop, but I was thankful that the cold held off until later Saturday night. I am very satisfied that I reached my goal of a 10 minute per mile pace at Iron Mountain where I basically peeled a minute off each mile from my previous effort a couple weeks ago (the subject of my first Trail Option post). The joy of that long run returned this weekend and I was able to augment the effort with a pace target. The Iron Mountain Loop is a great circling trail with a mile or so of road thrown in; I'll have the route posted soon.

A couple years ago I received some disheartening bloodwork results. I missed many, if not most, of the standardized targets, on a few I failed to come close. A very good friend was battling a life-threatening lymphoma, and though a few blood statistics seemed somewhat trivial, I carried a new sense of healthful awareness. Jim is doing very well know, thankfully, and he continues to share a better outlook with many of us. The combination of the big and the small of two years ago provided a new outlook on personal health. Because my doctor uttered the words "diabetes" and "bad cholesterol" primarily, I believe, to get my attention, the numbers weren't THAT bad, I altered my diet and running became a much more common activity.  When Darren took up ultra training, I became really interested as any moderately competitive sibling might and, early last fall, longer trail runs and near-daily office runs were added to my schedule. 

Why I have come to enjoy the mere thought of trail running and why I hope to approach distances I can only imagine today will be explored throughout the Trail Option posts to come. But it seems I have already attained one of the more important goals of this effort. Tuesday I received bloodwork results from my annual (or so) physical in late April. "Perfect" was the doctor's word this time.  If we can believe the standards, then I'm nicely standardized. And I'll take it, and keep going.

In other news, the Young Mountain Runners team was busy this weekend:

-Dennis and Mary (Dad and Mom to some of us) ran their first competitive 10K of the season.  Although the classifications have not yet been posted, Dad is pretty sure they finished at the top of their respective categories because they were passing surprised 30-somethings as they finished.

-After his MRI, Darren received a go to start training again. He's getting back on the trail, so I'll only have a week or so to out-distance him (for once in my life).  As always he'll soon be impressing and motivating us all to keep at it.

-Bryan in Plano, Texas, ran his first 5K of the season in a local charity event.           

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Week Summary (May 1)

   Gold Hill Office Loop: 3.3 miles (+300 ft gain); 9:47 pace
Sun Mountain - 30 Apr 2011
   Ophir Loop: 5.4 miles (+860 ft gain); 10:42 pace
   Sun Mountain Loop: 9.3 miles (+2,000 ft gain); 12:13 pace

Week Total: 18 miles (+3,100 ft gain)

A good week as Tephra joined in the fun. A little short on miles because I missed two days while at PT and getting rid of a lovely infection.  All good after Thursday.

Tephra rounding Sun Mountain (aka Mt. Davidson)
The Young Mountain Runners Team is developing a web-based trail guide that we will post as we run 'em.  There's a link to our "beta" version in the sidebar and most trail names are active links as well.  We are planning for some maps, downloadable gps and kml (Google Earth) files, photos, and descriptions. If you have a favorite trail, let us know. We'll be jazzed to run it and load it up.

Here's to Darren's MRI on his knee on Tuesday.  I know MRIs are only diagnostic tools, but I once had a shoulder injury heeled during one. Coincidence probably, but here's hoping. Good luck.