Thursday, June 30, 2011

June Totals: Summer is here

June Totals: 160.2 mi (+19,867 ft); 26:45:37 on trail

Significant increases over last month, but only good effects so far. Watching for signs of over-use, etc., but feeling great and often better with each effort. After this initial growth, the monthly totals and rolling 4-week totals should level out. Big pluses with a few of the long runs but in-week efforts won't vary too much.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Children With Hope 10K

Children With Hope 10K Race Report, Grand Junction, Colorado
Submitted by Dennis Young

Dennis and Mary Young: 1st Place Mens and Womens  60+

Both really felt good today. Temperature was in the 80s under bright sunshine. We gained about 360 feet in first half of the 10K but kept the pace up pretty good, watching the average so I didn't stray much from a 10 minute-mile.  There was that one "older guy" who passed us early on and got my adrenalin flowing as usual. He stretched his lead out to over a minute and I thought he was a gone.  But on the downhill return he stayed steady and I pumped it up watching my pace get under 10!  I was finally on his heels in the last mile doing mostly sub 9. Made my move at a half mile and finished doing 6:19 pace with less than 200 HR! 
After he was behind me and I came around the uphill turn to finish, I realized I could beat 60 minutes and churned on in through the crowd at the chip-timer pad for an official 59:47 (Garmin 59:50).  Turned out the "older guy" wasn't even in my division; he is 56 years old and won in the 50-59 group.  

Mary came in under 6 minutes later doing wonderful on the last mile push. She really pulled out on the downhill as usual and finished in the push to the line doing an 8:40 pace at the clock!  She got a 1:06:27 official time. A great ave HR of 164 while mine was in the mid 170s ave.

Neither one of us at PRs but very encouraged by the initial 'up-slope' pace we held and most important, no pain or injury. We were the oldest in the 10K. The only two in 60+, so would have been first place had we crawled in! 
Our 1st Place (60+) prizes!
Marty Wacker won the 10K at 35:24.  Hey, only 24 minutes ahead of me!

Daniel Kirwa, born in Kenya, was a guest runner and ran about a 15-minute 5K, his specialty where he has a PR in the 14s (world record around 12+ I believe). He is from the town where the orphanage the race supported is located.  He is an All-American runner at Harding University in Arkansas.  He signed Moms shirt. Runs like he is floating and the ground is non-existent. 

There was one 81 year old in the 5K event.  Looked wiry and strong but he had too many young 60-somethings in his division because they didn't break it down more than that. He did a 9:06 pace in 5K and finished 4th in the group.  Another inspiration for us, but we will be 20 years older than that when we stop running.

It was a fun day.  Mountain climbing next week (height depends on snow but in this temperature can it survive even at 14,000 feet?) and then Provo, UT 10K later in month, followed by a Monument 5K downhill here at the end of the month.  That's July!

DCraig: Thanks for the Race Report! Here's to the captains of the Young Mountain Runners! And Happy 48th Anniversary!  That's keeping it going...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Week Summary (Jun 26) - A Rest and Western States 100

Chocolate Factory OB: 5.0 mi (+320 ft); 8:59 pace
Ophir Short: 3.1 mi (+296 ft); 8:54 pace
Day at the Office: 5.5 mi (+819 ft); 9:44 pace
Cool - K2 Loop (Cool, California): 14.4 mi (+2,162 ft); 11:14 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.5 mi (+492 ft); 9:44 pace

Weekly Totals: 33.5 mi (+4,088 ft); 5:45:31 on trail

Although I hadn't planned it this way, after the fun of the Burton Creek Half Marathon, my training schedule (RFP #4) called for a slight taper, a week of relatively low mileage. Bryon probably put this in for a break in foundation building. It's probably good for me to take these breaks now, as I keep looking forward to the high mileages and I'm motivated to set new mileage records each week. There must be a reason, so I'll stick to Coach Powell's strategy.  And given that he crossed the Western States 100 finish line in 19 hours and 24 minutes and looked calm, focused, hot, and even happy when I saw him at Mile 62, I'll pay attention. But there's more to it that miles, and I continue to search for and mix those ingredients.

So here's to a bit of rest. My new definition of rest means abbreviated distances on my usual weekly trails. It seemed odd turning short of the water tank at Dayton but, again, there's a reason. I felt somewhat subdued and groggy, artifacts of my nice pace in last Sunday's event. Again, I ran into patches of "gravity dirt" that pulled on my feet as I made my way up a short run on Ophir Grade on Wednesday. In fact, I felt like I was just warming up as I finished the charted 3 miles. Do I need to be so literal with this?  

I discussed this a bit with Darren on Thursday morning as I realized I had been paying a lot of attention to "pace" lately (even putting PRs in my summary lines). It is important to have training measures in order to monitor progress, health, and expectations as I continue along this path, but an old voice kept telling me that this personal competition might soon get misplaced (and I might get disappointed). Most of my running has focused on finding peace in effort, creating mental strength, and developing my skills. It is not about being fast; I simply want to keep going. I can find added satisfaction in a good pace and use pacing wisely to help with skill and endurance, but I can't let it be a major factor in what defines a good day on the trail.

Sure enough, after meditating on this for a while, I went on a rambling, joyful run I've called a Day at the Office. I only wish it hadn't been a taper day because 5.5 miles simply wasn't enough. I have to put the thoughts to longer use in the coming weeks.

Temperatures reached into the high 80s this week, signaling the arrival of Summer. I've thought a lot about my weekly schedule and can't fathom moving the times of my mid-week trails because I really enjoy breaking up the day.  I work well in the mornings, and enjoy the refreshment of post-trail afternoons. I will keep it this way for a while. Occasional (two times a week) hot training days should add some endurance and teach me to stay hydrated. 

On Saturday, Darren and I drove down to Cool, California, where Darren had raced previously. Also we were in position to get up to the Forest Hill aid station, Mile 62 on that day's running of the Western States 100.  It was our plan to run a small, 2- or 3-mile section (at Hwy 49) of the great event while taking in 14 miles of trails around Cool.

We left the Yota outside the Cool Cafe were lunch would await us and headed north along fenced pastures and oak woodlands. Rutted, slightly technical trails led to the Hwy 49 cross-over where we joined the Western States route (no markers this early in the day - we are only 8 or so miles from the finish and runners are hours away). We dropped though dense woods on trails that shifted from rocky ruts to dusty paths. In particularly dense sections, Darren and I discussed the botanical attributes of poison oak, none of which we knew clearly. "Don't touch anything."  Last year it was on or near this section than Geoff Roes moved past Anton Krupicka on his way to becoming 2010 champion; this year, a momma bear and her cub would hold up the lead group of women, possibly influencing the outcome given that it was highly contested and this is close to the finish. Quite an important little stretch of trail!

No Hands Bridge
We crossed No Hands Bridge above the rushing American River, and with this marking our low point, we turned to climb the hill that local runners call K2. It's a bit of an overstatement given the lack of snow, falling rock, sub-zero temperatures, and what all, but it IS steep. Darren gave me a good lesson in trail walking as we worked our way up 1,100 feet in barely a mile.  We then wound through the growing heat, again traversing pastures and oakland trails that we shared with a few bikes and plenty of horse and rider pairs; Cool is also home to a prominent aid station on the original (equestrian) Western States 100. I felt good in the heat and concentrated on hydrating well.  It seems my two bottles are good for about 12 miles, longer than that will need another strategy.

No so cool, near Cool, California
We were back at the car after 12.8 miles in about 2:30. I grabbed some water and we did a road run to finish with a little more than 14. As we finished, we purchased a sandwich at the deli where we learned that the lead runners were tearing up the Western States course. We didn't learn this from anything at the deli, per se, in fact it seemed very few knew this event was taking place. But we could sit with our phones and get the real-time feeds from the course. We crunched some numbers and figured we might actually be late if we didn't hurry to Forest Hill where the Silver State Striders hosted the aid-station.  Darren is loosely connected with the Striders and we might get good info hanging around that area. 

When we got to Forest Hill and began to hear news and rumors we knew we had plenty of time. In fact, when we arrived Darren decided to volunteer and help escort runners through the maze of booths at the station. The runners have medical and official checkpoints, along with food, gear, and hydration facilities  along their path through the station. A myriad of volunteers staff the booths, provide spectator information, shuttle services, etc.  Darren was assigned to a small group of greeters who would meet the runners just short of the station and guide them through, helping with supplies when needed.  There were also large crews, "teams", or family and friends just beyond the station where runners might provision themselves.  Forest Hill is one of the more elaborate set-ups on the Western States, probably a welcome and potentially overwhelming sight after a long day under racing conditions. And it was a good place to watch things unfold.  I decided against volunteering only because there where already so many helping out, and we were only staying until the 24-hour "cut-off" point at 6 pm.  More generous volunteers would continue to help the determined and dogged tired runners later that night.  

Here's some thoughts I posted as a comment on Footfeathers' blog where he got me thinking about the afternoon at Forest Hills:

Once Darren and the Forest Hill crew started escorting runners into the aid station on Saturday afternoon, I watched and cheered in amazement as each one or two hit Mile 62. It was cool to see the few leaders, but the rest simply amazed me.

I'm new to this, having mostly observed from a respectful distance by listening to Darren's stories of Antelope and other ultra exploits (your SD story, for one!). I've set foot on trails as a climber, biker, skier, but only recently as runner. I can hardly call it that yet, but I'm beginning to understand.

I thought I was tired and happy from our 14 miles that morning, but seeing the relative calm, strength, and focus of these men and women while fighting all the demons that only such efforts bring, motivated me to look forward to many more miles. I have no idea why, but there seems to be something out there you guys/gals find. I'm in.

Here's to Kilian, Ellie, and everyone who lined up early Saturday not knowing when (or where) it might end.

It was an interesting afternoon at Forest Hill. When Darren escorted Kilian Jornet, the first into Forest Hill and the eventual 2011 champion, through the station he seemed like any other guy out for a good run, no real signals that he had just completed 62 miles and had a meager 38 to go. In fact, each person through the station had a similar presence, though one could clearly sense a bit of personality in each competitor. Some smiled and acknowledged the supportive cheering, others were determined and focused on the tasks of the station. The heat and miles were taking their tolls (many had dropped out at shorter distances), and yet, each of these guys and gals were intrepidly, steadily, moving on. Everyone had many hours ahead; truly awesome.

I ran slowly Sunday morning, a bit tired from the heat and climbing of my Saturday "rest" at Cool. But I had a new idea on what it takes to go long. It's a foundation of talent and practice, but it's also, probably more so, the mental focus to keep going that needs to be strengthened. Ability is one component of endurance; it takes you the first few miles.  The intangibles of personality and mental strength lead you through the rest. Some folks drop out, each for their own reasons, but most will toe the line again, ready to test the intangibles, and do their damnedest to keep going...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Week Summary (Jun 19): First event, a good time

Chocolate Factory OB: 6.0 mi (+484 ft); 9:16 pace (PR 9:06)
Emma Quarry OB: 5.5 mi (+455 ft); 8:59 pace (PR 8:31)
Ophir Grade OB: 6.4 mi (+1,141 ft); 9:57 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.5 mi (+619 ft); 9:19 pace (PR 8:31)
Burton Creek Half Marathon: 14.7 mi (+1,437 ft); 9:11 pace
Post-race Extra: 1.7 mi (+200 ft); 12:21 pace

Weekly Totals: 39.8 mi (+3,726 ft); 6:19:56 on trail

This week (RFP #3) was highlighted by my first sanctioned trail event; actually, first running race of any kind, track, road, or trail. Kept to my schedule and felt really good on my usual trails, a little slower pace than last week but I was wondering how I might recover from the Lost in the Woods adventures of the previous weekend. No worse for wear, so I'm very happy. All training runs this week occurred under the best of conditions, prime running weather here in northern Nevada. Tephra got a little hot on Tuesday's trail at Chocolate Factory so she might be limited to early mornings or short evenings.

Because the Father's Day race at Burton Creek is on a Sunday, I moved my weekly long run to the event day and put in a short pre-event run on Saturday.  Early Saturday morning I repeated the Quarry Out-and-Back for the usual "recovery" distance and Darren came up from Reno to join me. It was nice running with someone on my local trails, and I was happy to show Darren some of our nicer single-track sections around Virginia City. We took it easy, chatting about the Burton Creek event of the coming day.

Sunday morning dawned cool and breezy, probably the coolest morning of the week. We left VC about 6:30 to meet Darren and Dan Dixson at the Mount Rose Raley's so we could cram everyone plus Tephra into the Yota for the drive to Burton Creek, near Tahoe City, California, on the northwest shore of Lake Tahoe. Clouds hung low over Mount Rose as we drove over the summit.  They had a snowy greyness to them, but there were too few to amount to anything other than sunlit decorations at the mountain tops. Sun returned as we dropped into the Tahoe Basin.

The Burton Creek Trail Run (5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathons) is presented by Solomon and is part of the Adventure Sport Week Tahoe and the TrailRunner Magazine's Trophy Series. The hard-working Race Director and crew had a challenge on their hands dealing with the slow snowmelt this Spring. The course had to be re-configured slightly and trench-like paths were carved through a few snowbanks. Nice single-tracks and a maze of two-track roads carve their way through Burton Creek State Park. The course was nicely marked and a few marshals kept everyone moving in the right direction. As part of the reconfiguration, the Half Marathon course did an 11-mile loop and then closed with a second lap on something close to the 5K course. The marathoners did something similar, completing the 11-mile loop twice, and then working their way around the 10K course. It made the distances more like 14.7 and 28 miles for the respective races, but it was a good compromise for not being able to get to the trails up in Anton Meadows.  A few of the half-marathoners missed the message about the second short lap, and had a short break before realizing their error. An unfortunate event, but the memo was very clear during the pre-race briefings.

I simply had a great time running the Half Marathon. We started as a group with the marathoners so I watched the speedsters from both groups pull away. I quickly settled into a nice pace following in the footsteps of a small line of runners climbing out of the start point. As we swung down to Dollar Creek I realized I was going at a really fast pace (for me), caught up in the energy of the group. I was just behind Dan's bright orange shirt but decided I needed to settle in for my own race given that I had no experience at this distance except for a couple training runs at much slower pace. It was beautiful running through the trees, dodging the growing puddles of melted snow. Soon I was basically running alone only occasionally passing someone or being passed. Each pass was a brief new conversation, "Hey, how ya doing?", "Isn't this beautiful!", "I don't think I've ever actually met someone from Virginia City", "Do we have to climb back out of this canyon?". I hadn't really imagined talking with people. Only the ear-plugged, i-podded people were quiet, smiling nicely or struggling on their own on a climb or mud-crossing. 

I soon felt the joy of good effort in a beautiful place that defines trail running. I was making good time and counting off the miles while seeing the same one or two people a little ways ahead of me. Should I try harder? No, this is a training run after all, just a piece of the bigger picture. I carried one large Gel-Bot bottle and a few Clif Bloks and kept feeding the water and an occasional blok at regular intervals. Aid stations were nicely spaced and kindly attended but I only slowed to fill my bottle at about Mile 9, after the long slow climb from Burton Creek. Then it was downhill into the start area where a few nice people cheered and I oriented my way through the easy maze of tapes and flags to start my second, short lap. As I entered the start area, a La Sportiva jersey swept past me and into the finish shoot - I assumed he was a winner of my event and I still had about three and a half miles to go. Not my league but fun to see the possibilities. I laughed and continued on. Seeing Desna and Tephra waiting at the start of the lap, I handed off my shirt and said I'd be back soon.

Hitting Dollar Creek again I considered the possibility of getting a sub-two-hour half marathon. I was on pace to do it but the topography rallied and I had to begin my second climb on the north side of the creek. Hit the 13.1 mile mark at 2:02, my goal had been 2:10. But I still had a ways to go, didn't really know how long it would be at this point. I caught sight of Dan again, at about the same place I let him go on the first lap. He was in the longer event and had slowed on the climb, I had slowed a little on this hill but knowing I was almost to my finish I could push a bit more.

Back into the sun of the Nordic Center ski runs where the race tents were, I felt great heading to the finish. Hit the line at 2:15 after a course total of 14.7 miles. Never any aches or pains, just a couple of slow hills and general fun. My average pace turned out to be about 9:11 per mile, which is on par with my average pace for my shorter-distance training runs. The event pushes a little, but I think you get used to the new pace and simply keep going at the new level.  I was the oldest guy to finish at that point though I ended up 5th in the 40-49 age-group. I was 20th in the men's group and something like 27th overall out of about 90 entrants. But no matter. The results of the race are nice and I'm happy with my level of contribution to the competition. The best part, however, is having done and enjoyed it. I'm already looking forward to my next one.

Darren had similar success; OK, that's understating it a bit. He was first in the men's division of the marathon, finishing 3rd overall as two ladies strode to first and second place with gazelle-like efforts. It was great to see him descend the final hill by himself to stroll across the finish line. He had a couple tough spots late in the race, mostly because the last 10K-like lap was mentally challenging especially when you know your are going beyond the 26.2 miles that you planned to race. Bonus miles that can break you. Indeed, Dan hadn't been feeling well at the start of the his "bonus" lap and eventually gave in at Mile 25. So close. He had asked me for a coke or something similar at the beginning of the lap, but I had failed to notice the cooler of freebies at one of the nearby tents and thought there was only water and electrolyte drink. I wish I had known, maybe it would have helped him get through the tough last miles. But he won a Suunto watch in a raffle, so it wasn't all bad. It was good to see him and I look forward to sharing the trails with him and everyone else again soon.

My training log had 16 miles on the schedule for my "long" day this week, so Tephra and I did a short lap down Dollar Creek to get the miles in. Another good week. My up-coming week tapers a bit for some rest; I'm curious how that will feel.

Dennis and Mary (Happy Father's Day!) did a 10-mile trail run on Easter Hill near Grand Junction. I'm glad to hear that the trails are being kind to them. It sounds like they like the softness of the trail surface and enjoy the new challenge of footing and route-finding. Here's to more adventures - they head for some 14,000-foot summits next weekend. 'Tis the season.  Keep going. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Week Summary (Jun 12): Mt. Tam and Stinson Beach - Low Elevation Heights

Chocolate Factory OB: 6.1 mi (+515 ft); 9:06 pace (PR 9:06)
Emma Quarry OB: 5.5 mi (+949 ft); 8:31 pace (PR 8:31)
Stinson to Steep Ravine OB: 6.6 mi (+1,221 ft); 11:15 pace
Lost in the Tamalpais Woods: 14.1 mi (+3,324 ft); 11:51 pace
Stinson Beach: 5.7 mi (+32 ft); 10:05 pace

Weekly Totals: 38.0 mi (+6,041 ft); 6:52:19 on trail

Seems the weather has finally changed for the better; long warm days are upon us. The warm trails brought out some fast paces even though I have yet to feel I'm really pushing on the mid-week distances, still letting the miles roll by and the foundation build, little by little.  I've maintained my targets each day (now in RFP Week 2) and have let the natural tempo of the run determine the pace without breaking steadiness.  Still, I returned from my standard Tuesday and Wednesday trails with two Personal Records (PRs) for paces at those distances.  Felt good to be shirtless on the trail and let the sweat works its magic. This week I signed up for the Burton Creek Trail Run - Half Marathon at Lake Tahoe held on Father's Day, June 19th. My plan is not be concerned with racing, but to be focused on getting experience in group running and following a course. It fits within my training schedule though I have to swap Saturday and Sunday and I'll need to add a few miles onto the end of the event. I'm not "tapering" my efforts to get ready for this event because it is only part of the bigger picture, that is, getting to the big mileage events later in the year.

Every couple years our owner's group escapes for a planning retreat at Stinson Beach, California. We rent a house and lock the doors for a couple days to consider the future goals and needs of our operation, our staff, and our science. When breaks arrive the attraction of the beach and the hills of Mt. Tamalpais is hard to ignore. Given my increased attention to trail running, I was aware that the trails of Mount Tam are some of the best in California. It's the locale of the Miwok 100k and having read some of the past race reports and searched a variety of maps and guides, I knew I was in for some fun, among other things.

I flew to Oakland on Thursday and made my way to Stinson. After our day's work I took a quick break for 6 miles on the Dipsea Trail and up Steep Ravine. The Dipsea Race from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach is the oldest organized race in California. The race is Sunday so I followed the blue-and-white flags backward along the lower section of the route. I thought carefully about course markings and following the trails, getting ready for next week, even though I was heading against the flow. It was nice practice as I climbed out of Stinson Beach - everything is up-hill when you start at sea-level. I found well-made steps leading from Highway 1. Thursdays typically include a little hill climbing but I usually don't hear the ocean breaking behind me.  The stairway wound steeply through shaded creeks and then ejected me onto an exposed headland of deep-green shrubs and tall grasses. The tread of the trail was perfect. I chose a brief detour that took me out stunning and secluded overlook between two hills.  The golden grass-covered hills framed a large, perfectly round oak tree.  A small board hanging from a rope tied to its lower branches swayed gently while two large deer, their young antlers strung with velvet, stared at it. I startled their focus on the swing, were they really thinking of going for a ride? Maybe they had just finished and were considering another go. Whatever it was, I spoiled it. One bolted for the cover of the chaparral, the other stepped away and chewed at a large bush. he knew I was on the clock.

Returning to Dipsea, I turned toward Steep Ravine calculating the distance I needed to reach my 6-mile goal and, like the deer, wondering how much fun I should have climbing the ravine; I was aware of the rock steps and even a ladder up ahead. I decided I'd keep a lower pace and climb steady to the ladder and turn back, it would be half way up Steep Ravine trail. At the bottom of the ravine I entered the darkness of a Redwood canopy and wet forest floor. The trail was moist and slippery, but my steps were good as I ducked under fallen trees and skirted cliffs above the small but turbulent water falls. One of the beauties of the Mount Tam headlands is the succession of ecosystems that abruptly change with elevation and exposure. I had been happy with the sweat of the desert earlier in the week, now I was drenched as my body outpaced the meager evaporation. The trail was narrow and technical, slippery stones and entangled roots, but damn it was fun. Different than anything I have yet experienced while running, though at times I thought of the dark and damp of the Congo Basin as I ducked through wet leaves and braced myself against the moss and ferns of the canyon wall. I made it to the worn ladder, climbed to the top and turned to negotiate the descent. I ejected from the bottom of the ravine, climbed a low hill and entered the lower reach of Dipsea.  The sun was setting out in the Pacific and only a hint of a marine layer blurred the view. Nice.

Meetings concluded by the weekend and Des arrived to share a couple days - I had an adventure planned. I wanted 14 miles on Saturday and reviewing the maps and Google Earth I had a perfect route from Stinson Beach up to the Coastal Trail along which I'd make my way to Pantoll Campground, descend Steep Ravine and climb back up Dipsea Trail before dropping to the National Monument at Muir Woods. The morning was  sunny with only small tufts of fog along a few tree-topped canyons. I loaded up with two waters, a couple GU gels, and some Clif Bloks (electrolyte chews). I knew I'd sweat plenty more than I was used to and would be adding significant elevation gains to one of my longer runs so I wanted to be ready. Des agreed to meet me at Pantoll to check on my water and general health in this different environment.  I thought I'd be there in about an hour and a half after 7 miles or so on the trail.

I climbed out of Stinson thinking I'd parallel Highway 1 to the north to find the McKennan Gulch Trail.  I found well-made state park signs quickly, though none for McKennan. I climbed up and then dropped into a canyon on a grassy fire road, thistles played sharply at my knees but I'd heard that about these savanna-like trails. I was soon back down at Highway 1 knowing I'd gone too far north and simply passing the one "trail not maintained" sign. I remembered the Willow Fire Road from the map, and knew it went to ridgeline and would eventually intersect the Coastal Trail so I re-traced my steps. At a water tank my trail ended. Turning back I found my mistake and could continue to re-trace my brief earlier route through the thistles. I passed some mountain bikers gamely climbing what I had earlier descended. That's a tough go. Back on the well-maintained road I was soon at a second water tank dead-end. I swear I had seen switchbacks above, but I couldn't get a glimpse from the tank. Another grassy road with an overgrown single-track in its grade might be it. This one had hints of epic - shady, humid alcoves with tree falls and steep grassy cliffs cut by the old road. I passed back-and-forth between the two environments but with each side-canyon the road degraded to non-existent. Finally, I came to a cliff and waterfall only to notice a blue-and-white rope (Dipsea colors, but no way!) hanging from water-pipes strung along the cliff. The pipes fed water to the tanks far below. Footholds were large but the damp made them interesting and I traversed with the rope to the falls (dire pun indeed).  Here, I noticed another rope disappearing upstream into the brush beside the cool rushing water. A guideline through the destroyed road, it led up the falls, nice and cool, to nowhere. A dead-end. Searching for clues and struggling to recall the map, I finally turned back along the ropes and through shade and sun, all the way back to Stinson. Now was about the time I should have been arriving at Pantoll. (I now recall a sign to "Willow Camp" marking a small single-track, this leads to the not-so-mysterious switchbacks to the Coastal Trail).

I decided to retrace Thursdays trail from Dipsea to Steep Ravine, this time continuing up the ladder to Pantoll. Still 3 miles to our meet-up point.  But I felt great and I didn't rush my pace up the climb. The trails are crowded on the weekends and now I joined the hikers and sight-seers as I left the abandoned fire roads and joined the well-groomed routes of the state park. A few passers-by encouraged my progress, "You're making it look easy!" "How many miles?!"  8.4 at that point. 

I showed at Pantoll about 40 minutes late, but Des had hung around and I easily found the uber-Yellow Yota in the crowded parking lot. I dumped my shirt and got some more water and left. I wouldn't be descending Steep Ravine as planned because I was already at 10 miles. I would cut through the Old Mine Trail to hit Dipsea and descend to Muir Woods. The downhill was pleasant with great views of the Golden Gate and a nice trail.  I was back on the marked route of tomorrow's Dipsea Race. Descents can be as unforgiving as ascents and this hurt a little bit, but I arrived at the parking maze of Muir Woods easily and soon ran into Des walking up the road outside the monument entrance. She turned with me and we ran to the car together, crossing through the half-marathon distance on the way. I had to detour up some side roads to get the 14 but was soon at the Yota for lunch. Not too worse for wear, but ready to eat and recount the adventure. Damn this is fun.

We walked up to the monument and toured the Cathedral Grove, cooling down over the 2 miles of boardwalk and parking lots. Dropped back to Stinson Beach for beer and a mixture of ice and the hot-tub. A boy could get used to this.

Sunday follow-ups are going to be a challenge, and I really can't wait (well, slightly) for the B2Bs (back-to-back long runs, Saturday and Sunday) to see how I fair. Though I didn't feel any aches or pains from the Mount Tam adventure yesterday, it was hard to get moving efficiently when I hit the road at sunrise. Well, not as early as sunrise, but it takes some time for the sun to clear Mount Tam and today was fogged in anyway. I took it easy by running a flat loop along Stinson Beach, from the estuary on the north to the rocky cliffs on its southern end. Each new mile was better paced and steadier than the last; that's a good feeling, something I can learn from these short outings following bigger days.

Drove home after one last dip in the hot-tub. The compression leggings are a real benefit on the long drive home. Looking to the new week and my first event.  While I was adventuring around the hills of the oldest race in California, Dad and Mom were running the oldest race in Colorado at the Frisco 10K.  Good times at altitude, getting to the 10K finish in just over an hour. Hope they are feeling good.  I expect Darren was working his way toward the Burton marathon next week where we'll run together for a minute or two.

Good week everyone. Keep going.          

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Week Summary (Jun 5): Gains and early goals of RFP Week 1

Chocolate Factory OB: 6.3 mi (+479 ft); 9:39 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.5 mi (+404 ft); 8:51 pace
Ophir OB: 6.4 mi (+1058 ft); 9:55 pace
Sutro Pass OB: 12.3 mi (+1783 ft); 10:22 pace
Churchill OB: 5.1 mi (+82 ft); 9:19 pace

Weekly Totals: 35.6 mi (+3,806 ft); 5:51:52 on trail

A lot of Out & Backs this week, a week of excellent training and a good start to Week 1 of my Relentless Forward Progress. It was certainly the most consistent week of my immature running career.  I followed my training plan to a T, although I was tempted at times to go beyond. This was especially true on the trails that felt at ease under some of our first good skies since almost January! But how soon I forget, Tuesday and Wednesday were miserable weather days.  

The Chocolate Factory run between Moundhouse and Dayton was a wind-fest. A mid-week storm was making its way across California and this brings the Washoe Zephyr to bear.  Going out on this flat, power line two-track, it is tempting to really stride along the gently downhill and wind-at-your-back segment. Keeping in mind the gusty 30-mile-per-hour headwind I had to return through, I paced along with some discipline; nonetheless I made record time to the Dayton Cemetery. Just short of the cemetery I was thinking hard about the coming push against the wind when I heard voices. The trail cuts into a narrow canyon before its turn-around and the voices surrounded me, echoing strangely in the wind. I've run this route dozens of times and never thought of it as particularly interesting, just a go-to 6-mile, flat out-and-back. Haunted winds belong on some more treacherous trail with dangerous cliffs and fierce animals. The voices grew louder as I exited the canyon where strung out before me walked a conga-line of fifty or so school kids on their fieldtrip, or something, to the historical cemetery. Running is a solitary experience until it isn't.  I was happy to leave the crowd and turn into the wind. A band of wild horses with a cautious stallion waited for me near my western terminus. An interesting hour.

In preparing my new schedule, I moved my Monday trail to Wednesday and have decided I would make it a short evening adventure each week. Emma Quarry OB is the perfect trail for this relatively short, mid-week training run. The haunted winds of yesterday have brought snow (again!) to the hills of Virginia City. But it isn't sticking so I head into another windy skyline curtained by squalls. I have never run that route so well. Tephra cruised beside me and we broke through the wind and pelting snow with a new-found energy . It seemed easy and I took almost 40 seconds off my previous best pace.  That's 40 seconds for each mile on the trail, almost 4 minutes off my previous time. Maybe the efforts are paying off.

Up and back on the Ophir OB on Thursday. This will be a interval workout in weeks to come but right now I'm still working my base miles. A cold north wind greets me as I leave the office, the wind is left over from the storm that passed yesterday. But I soon find I'm over-dressed as the sun begins to break through; is this the beginning of Spring finally? Although I'm supposed to avoid "interval" training right now, I feel the same energy as yesterday and simply cruise up the grade, winding through the canyons and cutting across the slopes above American Flat. I'm passed by a couple touring motorcycles and a SUV returning from the summit. I like thinking that they think I'm nuts for my efforts as the junk builds in their arteries; but maybe they're just on an errand from the summit where they hiked for a few miles and hours. I don't know, but for some reason I enjoy glorifying my effort, the short 6 miles that it is. But a little daily glory is just fine, and I end with another PR (personal record) pace on this trail, cutting the old record again by almost half a minute per mile.  Nice.

Saturday is the long day in my training schedule which calls for 12 miles in this first week. One of Dez's roles in the endurance world has grown from helping me with recovery and health to assisting with equine endurance events as a vet assistant (OK, the horses came way before me). In the midst of their 50-mile loops at this week's event in Dayton, the horses get vet checks at aid stations to make sure their health will allow them to finish without metabolic stress or physical injury. Horses and riders are pulled if the negative signs are developed enough. This is standard practice at all equine endurance events, and I'm sure I'll wish for a vet check at my first aid station whenever that day comes. While Dez worked the Dayton event, I ran the two-track trails out to Sutro Pass where it overlooks the portal of the Sutro Tunnel and the town of Dayton.  I could see the horse trailers crowded around the fairgrounds. The day started cloudy and cool but I soon learned it was perfect trail weather and enjoyed the conditions on this very good route. It shares early sections of the Emma Quarry OB trail but soon heads up and down Occidental Canyon to the pass. This historic-era route has several sections of well-built rock walls supporting the track, remnants of the days when Sutro, in the valley below, had important connections, literally an extensive tunnel to de-water the mines, to VC. No record times today, but completely happy with the fine route and my growing endurance.

I think Sundays will be the "trials" of the schedule. Most of my previous long runs were followed by a rest-day, but now the program calls for a follow-up run as an exclamation point on the week's effort.  Although I felt little effect from my Saturday effort (my second longest run ever), starting up on the flat route at Churchill Road reminded me that my legs were indeed a bit tired. As Dad and Mom have noticed on their daily training runs, painful starts grow into good efforts as the legs get working again and find their rhythm. Darren has commented that this is common at the start of training days and in the midst of longer efforts.  Although bad days are bound to happen (Darren had a pretty big energy let-down during 20 miles on Saturday), he says that most of the time our bodies simply realize we aren't going to stop so they might as well get with it. The pain recedes and the flow returns. I like it.  

I met the goals of Week 1 and surpassed performance levels that I can only continue to improve on. I'm certain, however, that challenges are ahead as the daily routine tests each recovery period and the miles start to stack up. Sustaining progress will test my discipline, but I'm here to pass. Next week I'll get to enjoy the trails of the Marin headlands, and then my early schedule provides opportunities for events such as half-marathons. So I'm considering doing my first "event" at the Burton Creek Trail Run in two weeks. Darren has the full marathon on his schedule, I should join him and get the experience.

Nice week everyone; keep going.