Sunday, July 3, 2011

Week Summary (Jul 3) - Days of Speed and Heat

Gold Canyon OB: 6.0 mi (+376 ft); 9:15 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.5 mi (+426 ft); 8:20 pace
Ophir Grade OB: 8.1 mi (+1,274 ft); 9:16 pace
Halo Trail at Peavine (Reno, Nevada): 16.2 mi (+2,048 ft); 12:34 pace
Larrys Loop: 7.9 mi (+1,142 ft); 11:07 pace

Weekly Totals: 43.7 mi (+5,266 ft); 7:48:48 on trail

The fifth week of my training (RFP #5) brought some new experiences to the routine. I have been getting somewhat acclimated to the distances, even the relatively prodigious numbers I once associated with weekends. In fact, I recall back in January being restless at the thought of a planned run to Fort Churchill, Nevada, from a starting point at Highway 50, a now common-place distance of 15 miles. I begin this new phase with a slight bump in total weekly miles but this brings with it my first work with speed drills. The speed training is relegated to Thursdays, but I found I was thinking about it throughout the week. And let me be clear, speed is a very relative term.

There is some debate regarding the utility of speed-work while training for the long distances associated with ultras. This is outlined in Relentless Forward Progress which includes two opposing essays from the viewpoints of experienced ultra-runners. In my mind, I had taken a middle stance while focusing on my concern over re-injuring my hamstrings or finding new ways to injure myself. I certainly didn't want to hit a track for field sprints or interval training of that kind though I know it has worked well for Dennis and Mary (Dad and Mom). With that in mind, I thought I'd more likely follow the advice of Geoff Roes (2010 Western States 100-mile champion) and take advantage of the hill-climbs that surround my home; I didn't need sprints, I would simply add high-intensity elevation gains to my Thursday trail run.

In last week's taper I sometimes felt frustrated at the short distances now that I'm working with a decent training foundation.Yet, following Tuesday's nice wandering out-and-back in Gold Canyon, I found myself heading out, as is usual, for my Wednesday-favorite Emma Quarry Out-and-Back. This is my standard "short" run on the mid-week evening, and almost anytime I want to get in a 5-miler.  The route loops easily south of town to find a rocky single-track above the Combination Mine. Pinyons grab at me until the trail widens slightly where ATVs have pirated the route. Another short single-track then connects me to "Rocky Road", a cobble-strewn mile just technical enough to create focus with each step.  This heads toward the quarry trail where I loop around a short, steep climb and head home. At one point the quarry trail emerges from enclosing rock and pinyon presenting a tasty eastward view stretching maybe 100 miles to the Toiyabe Range. Early in the run, I realized this was one of those days and trails that come easy and go happily; I would almost certainly return home wanting a few more miles.  Because I was thinking about my "speed" week, what I might do and how I would react to it, I decided to test a new, higher pace a day early, thinking that I could respond to the good vibes by going faster instead of wishing for further. The mind-set and effort paid dividends in a pace PR for this route that is significantly faster than my previous best pace.  Plus, I wasn't completely spent, it seemed a good sign.

Noon on "speed" Thursday brought the highest temperatures of the newly arrived summer, at least 85 degrees on a day that would break into the 90s. I had some new Patagonia shorts to try out; the pale-blue Long Haulers are a little shorter than I'm used to, but their light weight makes them perfect for the hot days. As I left the office shirtless, one of the guys (Albert) asked me if I'd forgot my pants. Maybe they are a little close to boxers, I thought. But I hardly ever see anyone on Ophir Grade and it was dumb to think about 'em that way. I clicked my gps/watch on and took off. And then the tourist train pulled into the station. I have to cross the tracks at the station to climb into the canyon leading to the grade, but today (I usually time it better) I'm blocked by a trainload of camera-toting tourists stopping to see the things the conductor tells them to see. Mixed into his hourly repeated speech about Gold Hill and the Yellowjacket Mine he says, "And here is an 1870s miner jogging by." He can ad-lib afterall.  Barely ten feet from the train car I wave and say hello, figuring the cameras didn't expect a guy in his boxers on this tour.  

Soon I'm at the top of the first hill away from the tracks and on the grade. I would do fartleks, fast intervals based on landmarks (e.g., trees, boulders, switchbacks on the grade) rather than time periods or specific distances.  I'd run these as fast as possible and rest at a slow pace until I could repeat, paying attention always to what my body was telling me about the effort. Don't get hurt! The efforts came easier than expected, but each fartlek would generate a good burn through my legs and lungs. This wasn't the Roes method, though I was climbing the grade with a moderate elevation gain. I went harder than I expected and I was happy I gave it a go. In the long run it should prove beneficial in two primary ways.  First, it will improve my overall fitness and make hard efforts, when necessary even at low paces, possible. Second, I will get better at running quickly on technical terrain, picking and placing my feet at pace is a skill I could improve upon. So fartleks will become part of the Thursday "high" days.

I felt it on Friday (a rest day), too.  Nice to have a regularly scheduled PT session with Tony. He focused on the newly fired-up groin muscles and general runner's maintenance. The hips and hamstrings are beginning to hold their own as the foundation builds.

Chasing Darren on the Halo Trail above Reno, NV.
Desna took off for Seattle to see Kristen and Robert (and Rush on their last day of the Moving Pictures Tour), so Darren and I headed to the Halo Trail on Peavine after I stopped off at the airport. We would have like to have started earlier, the heat was already ominous by 9:30 in the morning. Darren led the way on a wonderfully winding single-track, moving in and out of the lower canyons of Peavine Mountain. We started up Keystone Canyon in the midst of a mountain bike race but were careful not to interfere. It had been a long time since I was last on the slopes of Peavine, but I quickly remembered the once-familiar pattern of the canyons, ridges, and outcrops. The heat didn't seem too bad in the slight breeze of the ridgetops, but in the canyons the oven-like convection tugged at my legs and lungs. It was good practice for hydrating and keeping the fuel levels good. After 13 miles Darren left for a birthday party, but I had a 16-mile promise to keep and kept going for another climb and drop into Evans Canyon. It was to date the hardest effort I have sustained at my new distances.  A bit of suffering partially due to the heat (96° for the last hour), but probably also due to some remnants of "speed" training earlier in the week. I am happy that I haven't felt the artifacts that such a draining effort might bring, and that I kept going even on a day that I didn't feel that I was performing at even my average level.

Surprisingly, Sunday's early morning run, looping almost 8 miles around my friend Larry's property was very enjoyable. No nagging pain or grogginess.  Not "speedy" by any means, but a good enjoyable pace on a great trail; a trail certain to become a regular installment when that distance feels right. The heats of Week 5 end with challenging effort and great recovery, lessons for the long run.

Dennis and Mary made the summit of Mt. Shavano (a Colorado 14-er) while Darren and I cooked on the bump of Peavine (a Nevada 7-er). Hope to hear the stories soon.


  1. Runs like Saturday are the ones that get you ready for ultras. Way to finish it off!

    Can't wait to here how Shavano went for mom and dad.

  2. LMAO about the tourist bus... I can picture the looks you got... The headline will read something like, "Tall skinny man goes running through town in underwear"... What will the neighbors think??