Sunday, September 25, 2011

Week Summary (Sep 25) - Escaping the Thunder and Ready for the Fire

Gold Dayton Loop: 7.2 mi (+645 ft); 10:01 pace
Buena Vista Loop: 7.6 mi (+358 ft); 10:04 pace
Kitten Springs Pass OB: 18.1 mi (+3,665 ft); 12:39 pace
Ophir Pass: 15.2 mi (+1,644 ft); 9:42 pace

Weekly Totals: 48.1 mi (+6,312 ft); 8:44:40 on trail

Although I missed a training day due to work for the first time during my own version of Relentless Forward Progress, I capped it off with the best B2B (back-to-back) set of runs in my trail career. In fact, Sunday's run over Ophir Pass, connecting Virginia City and Washoe Lake, ranks as my best 2+ hours on the trail to date. It came as a complete surprise and I soaked it up.

This (Week 17) training-week was set up to be the highest mileage (51) yet in the 24-week RFP training schedule; plus it ended with a nifty 18 & 14 B2B-weekend. I've had higher totals on race weeks and I've reached higher weekly totals by choice, but this one looked a little intimidating on my schedule. No photos this week, though Des has a video of Buena Vista camp floating around somewhere (I'll post it when we get it loaded).

I started with hot lunch on Tuesday by running the interesting loop down Gold Canyon, basically connecting Silver City with Dayton, and back along the Chocolate Factory course.  Temperatures in the 90s bogged me down a little, but I still rather enjoy the good sweat to clear up the workload of the early week. I capped the day by signing up for the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 scheduled for October 8th.  Really a 50-mile training run in my overall plan of making 100, but I'm stoked and especially happy I'll be running and competing with Darren! We booked a hotel in Castro Valley just down the road from the start.

This is Thunder on the Mountain week, an event connected to Street Vibrations in Reno/Sparks. Thirty-five thousand Harleys converge on the area; an aptly named event if ever there was one. Des and I make sure we are very far away. By chance, the week also corresponded with a field project in the Stillwater Mountains about a 100 miles east of town, so we packed up the trailer and headed to the desert of Buena Vista Valley at the base of the mountains. But our departure was delayed by workload in the lab, so my evening run was bumped as we climbed in the rig and headed into the darkness.  Three hours later we had camp set in the quiet of Buena Vista.

I jumped up Thursday morning thinking I'd make up the missed five miles of Wednesday and run again later in the day. But a loop along a powerline road and some cow/horse-trails led me on a 7+ mile excursion across broad, loess-covered alluvial fans. It was a dusty morning run, but it felt good.  Actually a touch of coolness on this first day of Fall.  I thought about running in the evening, again, to make up the missed miles, but my crew showed up and had plenty of stories to tell, so I had little regret in their fellowship at our little camp.

Friday I guided a group of agency personnel and several local Paiute to an ethnohistoric pinyon camp I had previously re-located high in the Stillwater Mountains. A nice hike, but well-below cross-training purposes -- seven hours to cover four miles. It was a good day in the hills, but I wouldn't count it toward any weekly totals.

We stayed into Saturday to avoid the "thunder" in VC so I set my sights on a pass in the Stillwaters by following the Kitten Springs Road east-to-west and back again.  I set off before dawn slowly climbing the long ramp of the mountain-front fans. The rising sun foretold an unseasonably warm day, so I was happy to hit the lower groves of the pinyon-juniper woodland that flourishes in the Stillwaters. The canyons were still cool and darker than I expected. Thoughts of "kittens" played in my head, and though I've always wanted to see one of the big cats that prowl these hills, I'd be satisfied with some distance, not the close confines of a woody canyon. I checked my Nathan pack for my bear-whistle and, of course, it's gone missing. But the morning's too nice to be paranoid, and I have climbing to do. While the cats undoubtedly watched, I made the pass at about 6,370 feet at the nine-mile point, two hours into the trail. I then dropped into Cottonwood Canyon, keeping the descent under control until I reached the cool-running, canyon-bottom creek and heard the coyotes singing somewhere back above me.

Dowsing myself with the beautiful water, I turned back to climb to the pass, a gain of 1,300 feet in just under  three miles. It's a good two-track road and I was surprised by not having to walk any of the steeper sections. With that I was back at the pass to see Des and Tephra waiting. Tephra joined me for the descent to the water at Kitten Springs (streams and seeps still going well this late in the year). And we carried on, running out of the pinyon-juniper canyons and onto the fans. The heat was rising, so I stuck with my plan and ended my journey about half-way down the fan at just over 18 miles. Nothing like a good outback trail, just me and my little crew.

A "cold" front signals a change Saturday night and into Sunday. A cloudy cool morning greets Virginia City and should keep the "thunder" slightly subdued. I continued my B2B weekend with a trail that combines a portion of my Emma Quarry route with a crossing of Ophir or Jumbo Pass toward Washoe Lake State Park. Although the names vary, I refer to Jumbo Grade as the direct route into Washoe Valley and to Ophir Grade as the waterline segment that traverses the hills to the southeast and south of Washoe Lake. Dirt roads and trails criss-cross the southern extent of the Virginia Range providing innumerable trail configurations. I would head to the small lake-side ranch were Des keeps Coach and Strider, she'd be working them today so I'd have a ride home when I reached the lake.

I thought this day would be a slog due to the mileage and elevation of yesterday's Kitten Springs Pass. But something in the coolness and the slightly ominous wave-clouds surfing the Sierra energized me. I felt very strong climbing the grade and actually laughed out loud as I turned the switchbacks and powered into the next stretch. I mean this wasn't any Karl Meltzer Speedgoat-like ascent, but I was clicking off ascending miles that had 9s leading the pace times. I actually thought of breaking some PR for 14 miles with some possibility of doing it under two hours given that I'd be descending to the lake soon. I actually started pushing, and felt good doing it. But hubris caught me as I dropped into the first of two amazingly steep-sided canyons. Two break-neck descents followed by similarly steep or steeper climbs; bang-bang, you're dead in the trail. I worked back from those to cruise into the ranch with a still great time, under 2:30 for 15 miles and over 1,600 feet of climb. And this was the second leg of a B2B that I once-upon-a-time dreaded. Turns out, I've never felt happier and performed better on the trail. A good day to be going.

If I analyze my success, I realize a few key components. I've established a foundation that keeps building and supporting the longer (maybe faster) efforts. I've been fueling during the runs with discipline, hydration plus GUs plus a few Cliff Bloks (the Margarita flavor 'roks'), while timing the fueling intervals, sticking to them, and not waiting for the feel of needing energy. During Saturday's 18 I wore McDavid compression calf-sleeves and kept them on for packing camp and the drive home. The white sleeves feel great and I failed to notice any heat-related penalty for wearing them. These undoubtedly contributed to the fresh readiness in the engines of Sunday's run. Plus, I ran the La Sportiva Wildcats all weekend, thinking that I'd move away from the Electrons on the less technical roads and trails. I'm leaning towards the 'cats for Firetrails.

Based on some emails from Darren (hey bro, miss the blog! but love your notes tagged to the Garmin data), he had a very similar weekend. A B2B that surprised him and added some fun to the weekend. He's burning up the trail and I can tell he's as ready as I am for Firetrails.  Dennis and Mary returned from the Midwest (2,849 miles!) and should soon be in the trail news again, I know they are missing it. Get back out there. And keep going...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week Summary (Sep 18) - Playas and Red Rocks

Cemetery 5 OB: 5.1 mi (+529 ft); 9:19 pace
Primm OB: 4.3 mi (+93 ft); 9:31 pace
Ivanpah Playa OB: 7.1 mi (+35 ft); 9:19 pace
Rusty Cliffs - St George, UT: 18.6 mi (+1,831 ft); 11:35 pace
Ophir Grade OB: 7.4 mi (+902 ft); 10.40 pace

Weekly Totals: 42.5 mi (+3,390 ft); 7:28:52 on trail

Working in the Mojave Desert this week, just south of Las Vegas. The conditions weren't at all what I expect for this time of year, but it made for a wonderful few days of work and cool, wet mornings for a few miles of trail.

This was a slight recovery week following the weekend's effort. So before I climbed in the truck to drive toward the Mojave, I got in a few miles around the VC cemetery. Felt no major artifacts of the IT trouble of Saturday. I've been diligent about the roller massage and ice, and I think it is paying off. Once I get driving, I make sure to stop every couple hours for a walkabout to keep things moving.

Really, it's the Mojave Desert; an old highway east of Ivanpah
Monsoon moisture combined with a decent shot of cool air brought a refreshing few days of thunderstorms to the Ivanpah Valley south of Vegas. I ran a short 4 from the Buffalo Bill Casino, crossing the fans above the Roach Lake playa. The tracked roads were muddy from Tuesday's rain.

The rains that followed me all day Wednesday produce a thick fog on Thursday morning. The Ivanpah Lake playa is closed to motorized vehicles and I had some reconnaissance to work out along its margins, so I planned my morning run into the work program for that day. As I crossed the highway the fog seemed to lift and I was a little disappointed that the rising sun was breaking through. But it closed in quickly as I left the truck and skirted the playa for 7 miles. It was surreal moving through shrouded creosote bushes as I kept my bearings by following the playa margin and keeping the diluted orb of the sun over my right shoulder.

A taste of red rocks above St. George, UT
Road to the rocks and Pioneer Trail
As I wrapped up work on Friday afternoon, I decided to head to St. George to deliver real beer to Footfeathers. It would also give us the opportunity to run some red rocks. And that we did. Dawn comes very late, almost 8 AM, this far west in the Mountain Time Zone, but the heat had yet to return to the desert, so we took our time getting ready. We started right from Tim's front door and very soon were climbing a low red outcrop, first following a two-lane highway but soon hitting a trail head. We traced our way along some classic slickrock crags and steps. Some sandy hills led to an abruptly black volcanic scarp; black boulders strewn across red slickrock. After some searching, we found the perfect single-track and wound toward the Rusty Cliffs. Tim had said he almost never saw anyone on the trails, but today the local outback was virtually teeming with hikers and doggers. Still, we were mostly on our own. We skirted a crazy green golf-course (looked fun) and climbed until the trail petered out.

Toward Signal Peak

Footfeathers on the City Creek Single-track
On our in-bound we detoured along some craggy loops and little hills; all of which started to get a little challenging as the mileage increased. Footfeathers is preparing for the Bear 100 next weekend so I hope this little tour through his local scene was appropriate. I'm lucky to get to run with Darren quite a lot, and it was fun to join another successful ultrarunner on the trail. Experienced runners have an effortless floating style that  I'd like to emulate; Tim would easily pull away, moving across rocks and rills that I had to cautiously tread. But he'd wait and we'd soon continue our conversation about running history, the ultra blogosphere, and pluses and minuses of his recent move to St. George. The morning was a nice divergence from my usual Saturday redoubts. 

Slickrocks are a great Trail Option
Based on Tim's recommendation, I'm giving a few pieces of McDavid compression gear a try. I ran in their calf sleeves for our 18 miles in the red rocks and I look forward to trying their other products. By supporting and reducing the stresses of repetitive impact on connective tissue and musculature, compression clothing helps keep the machine running and protected across the miles. I will be giving the McDavid shirts, shorts, and socks a thorough trail and recovery test between now and Firetrails.

Compression sleeves are especially useful when, following a multi-hour run, I jump in the truck for a nine-hour journey home. I grabbed some burritos in St. George or Santa Clara (I couldn't tell where I was) and hit the road through Panaca, Caliente, and Tonopah, Nevada.  I made it to VC by 10 PM, back in the Pacific Time Zone.

Up Sunday for a jaunt on Ophir Grade, following the hoof-prints of the Virginia City 100 (held this weekend). Des had volunteered as part of the veterinary staff, so I joined the group at the Ice House for their post-race breakfast. There is significant cross-over between equine endurance and ultra-running. I met several people who had done Western States (aka Tevis Cup), both with horses and as runners.  A nice wrap to a busy week on the trail, and on the road.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Lake of the Sky 36 - Race Report

12th Place: 8:00:02

Men 1st : Adam Brady of Reno, Nevada – 5:45:35
Women 1st : Caroline Barichievch of South Lake Tahoe, California – 6:24:20

The Lake of the Sky Trail 36 started under a typical Tahoe morning, slightly cool and perfectly clear. A varied group of entrants milled around the starting area waiting for Linda Mathis’ pre-race briefing, as I pinned on #856 (Darren's Leadville #) and Des and Tephra joined me at the trailhead start. Nothing much to the briefing, just follow the red, yellow, and blue flags, basically stay on the Tahoe Rim Trail, thank the volunteers, and have a good day. At 7:00 am, we were off.

I’d planned on taking it easy climbing from the Tahoe City trailhead, for the first four or five miles it’s a pretty steady ascent until just after the Cinder Cone aid station. There were about 30 in the 36-mile event, but we were combined with a marathon and an 18-mile group, so the first part of the rocky single-track was a bit crowded.  I fell in with a couple guys, an 18-miler seemed to pacing a 36-miler, but they were going at a very comfortable rate so I stuck with them for a while. I could tell this 13-minute pace was perfect, and that my guess of a 17-minute pace for this first climb was way too slow. When the two guys pulled off for a break, I went ahead and joined a senior runner, a guy who’d been running ultras, he said, since 1973.  I kept steady, occasionally walking the steep sections, and Frank kept with me. But he had some trouble in the rocky terrain. While he was telling me of his exploits, his voice would be interrupted by a crash and I’d turn to find him, his bottles, and sunglasses strung out on the trail. I was surprised the first time, but kind of got used to it after the third. At one point I just kept going, but I eventually slowed up to see if he was still on the trail. He was OK. Then I decided to leave him and the forming group as we topped that first climb. Without thinking too much about it, I was 20 minutes ahead of my splits as I reached Cinder Cone.

The aid stations were well-provisioned for this type of event; even so, at Cinder Cone I forgot to fill the one hand-held I carried. I had simply checked the goods, so I could tell Des, who would meet me at Painted Rock station, what I might be short of – nothing much as it turned out. The about 5-mile spacing between stations meant I could simply carry the hand-held and a few GUs and I’d be good.  Except for this first mistake, I downed a bottle between each station and ate a GU every half-hour; I’d supplement that at the station with odds and ends that looked good, always adding a couple cups of the electrolyte drink. Thanks go to the volunteers at each station.

I gave my shirt to Des at Painted Rock and moved quickly on, a full bottle with me this time.  The trail was perfect. Four of us were basically together, spreading out between stations as I typically moved ahead and re-grouping at the stations. At Watson Lake Station, the marathon turn-around, I was still 20-minutes up on my splits and feeling very good. Des kept me loaded with a few GUs and counted the empties to make sure I was fueling.  All was good.  Just past Watson Lake, Adam Brady passed me on his in-bound, running nicely on the way to his 5:45 finish.  Only a few others passed me before the Turnaround.

I probably spent a little too much time at the Turnaround station chatting with Des, Marta, and Sharon (who’d we’d seen at Leadville). But I felt great as I started the in-bound, figuring I was in 8th place after almost 20 miles.  To my surprise, I ran into my brother Darren taking my picture as I ran through Mile 21. I had caught Derrick Tsang and we created a partnership that would last for about nine miles. Darren would run past taking pictures and an occasional video from behind a tree or rock. By the time I hit Watson Lake station again, I was 30 minutes up on my splits. But a look at my Garmin stats shows that I after Mile 16 my average pace had dropped to a lower plateau, even while catching a few people and being happy to run into Darren on the trail. As I enjoyed the gradual descent into Painted Rock I thought I was feeling great, but my pace had begun to slow (the Garmin tells the story).  At the aid station I was still in 8th or 9th; I grabbed some more fuel, put on a shirt, and moved on. Thunderstorms grew over the Escarpment at Squaw Valley but they stayed there and rumbled for the remainder of the afternoon.

As I ran through the rollers to Mile 30, I noticed a chipmunk perfectly still and staring at me from the trail. As I touched him with a toe, he squeaked but didn’t move.  Other runners were coming so I pushed and encouraged him to the trailside where he jumped and chirped a few times but moved awfully slow for a typical little rodent.

Just beyond the chipmunk scenario, Derrick caught me again, and then passed me for good, though he said “you’ll catch me on the next climb, I’m sure.” I wasn’t.  The IT on the outside of my left knee had started to flare and eventually caught fire. This fire soon engulfed my right IT, so with both knees aflame the downhills became very difficult. I slowed way down, getting very close to the 17-minute pace I’d predicted for the outbound on this same section, but now it was a descent! I started to force myself to run for a couple minutes, following that with a few minutes of walking, being careful on the rocky sections because I’d lost stability with the growing pain. I kept this up over the last six miles, losing time and position. I’m happy I kept at it, and I constantly reminded myself that I was enjoying the day and that I was performing beyond my expectations. I managed to keep a good attitude, even though I was surprised at the pain – I’d never experienced any IT problems in all of my training to-date.

On the final descent Michael Silva caught me; I’d been pacing with him just after the start many hours ago. He’d finish in just under 8 hours. Soon I saw Des and Marta at the finish and the small crowd seemed be counting down, “five, four, three…”  I wasn’t going to make it in under 8 hours, but no big deal.  I’d made it back to the Tahoe City trailhead with a time of  8:00:02 for my first ultra finish.  12th place. 5th in the 40-49 age group.  Derrick, who’d paced with me for a long time, finished with a time of 7:42; curing the IT issues will get me under that time. Twenty-seven runners finished this year’s Lake of the Sky 36.

A great event on a wonderful section of the TRT. Nice massage station and a big burrito awaited me in the finish area. It was great to redeem #856. Great to see Darren on the trail and at the finish; and I’m really happy he got me into this.  Now to prepare for the Firetrails 50 were we’ll run together.

Thanks to Des for joining me on this first of many…

Gear: La Sportiva Electrons, Patagonia software, Injinji socks, Garmin 110, Ultimate hand-held bottle, 14 GUs, 4 Endurolyte tablets.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Week Summary (Sep 11) - Going Ultra

Chocolate Factory OB: 7.0 mi (+507 ft); 9:17 pace
Gold Canyon Short: 3.1 mi (+126 ft); 9:32 pace
Lake of the Sky (36): 35.6 mi (+5,639 ft); 13:29 pace

Weekly Totals: 45.7 mi (+6,272 ft); 9:34:36 on trail

Lake of the Sky: Ready
As I write this morning, my legs, still strong, are recalling the last few miles of the Lake of the Sky Trail Race. Thanks to my training regime and the advice of my team of coaches and heroes (Des, Darren, Footfeathers, iRunFar, Young Mountain Runners), I'm now an ultrarunner and feeling surprisingly good after yesterday's 36.  Although I don't have official results yet, I finished in 8:00:02, slightly under my splits target and three seconds over the slight magic of having a 7 leading that string of numbers.  But the best result of Lake of the Sky, I'm signing up for the Firetrails 50 in October.

Tapering into a race would seem like a respite from training and time to rest and focus on the challenge to come. And yet the addictive side of running appears in the form of aches, pains, and restlessness.  I had a great run on Tuesday, winding around my Chocolate Factory trails for seven miles. Footfeathers mentioned that I should add some brief speed or hill intervals within a 45 minute effort. My training log called for a 7-mile run, so I combined the two. This resulted in a nice pace across the workout as I approached each small hill with the goal of keeping pace though the climb. After Tuesday, however, I simply wanted to forget about my tight hamstring, and new but subtle backpain, and get to Saturday and hit the trail.

Wednesday was the first day in 14 weeks that I skipped a scheduled run. I typically do an easy five each mid-week evening. However, this week I broke with my discipline due to several factors. My training schedule, as mentioned in my Week 1 of Relentless Forward Progress, called for my usual 5-mile day. The schedule, based on Bryon Powell's book, Relentless Forward Progress, has been a wonderful motivator and successful training regime, and, most importantly, I'll keep to it. RFP Week 15 called for only a slight taper because this scheduled 50K race was presented as simply a longer training run though one with aid stations and other runners. And I kept that in mind throughout.  But other factors were also at play this week.  The long run and descent of Freel in RFP Week 14, combined with intensive cross-training (tossing and stacking three cords of firewood) and long bouts of deskchair confinement, had tightened up the hamstrings and lower back. The Chocolate run was great, I almost always feel better on the trail, but the pain seemed to get worse each day. Footfeathers kindly advised me to rest on Wednesday.  And then, getting motivated Tuesday night, after reading the ultra news at Inside TrailI stumbled on a short video at of Anton Krupicka in which he says to not get too caught up in your training regime and listen to your body. I guess this is a long way of saying (and practicing linking to blogs and sites!) I listened to these experienced friends and ultraheads and took an unscheduled day off; though it rather bugged me to finally skip a day.

On Thursday, I did a short shake-out in Gold Canyon.  Just a flat out-and-back of three miles. On Thursday night, Des began to work her magic with massage and ice. This we repeated on Friday night while watching Running the Sahara. Watching that would help in the last few miles of Lake of the Sky as I reconsidered how much pain I could run through.

At the start
Saturday morning we were up at 4:30 to hit the road for Tahoe City. A veil of wildfire smoke covered Virginia City and the Truckee Meadows, but we climbed out if it as we passed Mt. Rose and circled the north edge of Lake Tahoe. A little after 6:30 I picked up my race packet and Linda Mathis (co-RD) handed me my race number: #856.  I felt like Hurley from LOST, not that number! It was Darren's darkness-filled bib from Leadville. Redemption was at hand.

I'm planning a full race report for a subsequent post. Here, I jot down some highlights and lowlights from my first Ultra-marathon. The Lake of the Sky was fantastic. Des and Tephra are great crew, Marta is a top-notch fan and trail friend, and Darren is like George Lucas in Montrails (though his videos are all sideways!). My pre-race splits for each aid station and finish predicted an overall time of 8:02:00.

Mile 21

-Finishing in 8:00:02 (sorry Footfeathers, I'll slow-up on the climbs next time; didn't realize split cards were biblical; though maybe if I predicted 7:50 I would have done 7:48).
-Seeing my wonderful little crew at each station, ready though I never need much.
-Being almost 30 minutes ahead of Splits at AS2-inbound, Mile 28.
-Great trail, great day, nice approaching thunderstorms.
-Running into Darren at Mile 21, Mile 25, Mile 35...

Watson Lake Aid Station

-Not having to dig into my crew bag due to well-stocked aid stations.
-Generous and super-nice volunteers, except for one over-zealous dude at the very last aid station, who, after telling me how difficult it was to mark the trail, told me "these last 4 miles will feel like 10", they were more like 20, but I didn't need to hear it.

Climbing back to Watson Lake - Mile 22
-Crossing into Ultra territory (>26.2 miles or marathon distance) for the first time with a cool guy named Derek and Darren just behind us. Nice whoops from us all. (Derek finished at 7:45:00). 
-Helping a dazed chipmunk off the trail (damn there goes my sub-8 finish).
-Feeling fantastic most of the day.
-Never tired, just the IT pain.
-Making myself run when the ITs said stop.
-A small but exuberant and beautiful crew and cheers at the finish as the clock ticked twice past 8 hours.
-A burrito.
-Feeling very good Sunday morning.
-Being an Ultrarunner.

Mile 35 - Feeling great but for the downhills, it's all downhill now!

-Downhills after Mile 30. (How do I solve the IT issue that I haven't experienced during training??)
-Downhills after Mile 31...
-Downhills after Mile 31.2 ... (we'll fix this).
-Losing 30 minutes in the last 6 miles (Lost 3 spots to people I dropped on about every climb all day, and I was simply "walking" those climbs).

Fourteen weeks ago I could only imagine, with some trepidation, the possibility of success in an Ultra. The work and fun have paid off. The success feels great, and, best of all, it opens the possibilities of reaching higher peaks. Thanks to everyone, and let's keep going.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Week Summary (Sep 4) - Flats and Testing the Sky

Fazio Levee: 7.6 mi (+44 ft); 9:37 pace
Davis Paths: 5.0 mi (+29 ft); 9:27 pace
TRT - Echo Summit: 8.24 mi (+1,381 ft); 11:27 pace
TRT - Brockway to Tahoe City: 19.1 mi (+2,584 ft); 11:38 pace
Seven Loop: 7.0 mi (+1,009 ft); 10:47 pace

Weekly Totals: 47.1 mi (+5,046 ft); 8:34:29 on trail

On the Sky route, Brockway to Tahoe City
(photo by Barnowls)
This week was spent in Davis, California, working on our year-end accounting at Far Western headquarters, a change of trail scenery, run scheduling, and elevation gain. Make that no change in elevation gain, none whatsoever. Footfeathers only recently advised me to avoid a long, flat course as my first 100, now I get it. It's not the length (we know what that is); it's the grueling flatness that will pound endlessly, leaving a runner hoping for a bit of variation to change pace, walk a little bit, rejuvenate...  I probably don't want to jump into endless up-and-down either, but that would be better than beating myself silly running from one end of the Central Valley to the other.  I'll play at the edges.  But I kept to the work-week discipline and followed up last week's big run on the TRT with some shake-outs around Davis.

The Fazio Levee is along the Yolo Bypass of the Sacramento River between Davis and Sacramento. Having spanned the bypass innumerable times on Highway 80, I knew I'd find some dirt roads and avoid the pavement pounding in town. I arrived before dawn, the wetlands dark and quiet except for the constant grinding of the highway overpass. Because I really had no idea what the road/trail conditions might be like, I chose the prominent levee, following its grey graveled surface into the dark. Concerned about my post-TRT tightness in my lower back, I didn't push the effort and stuck to a nice pace for the out-and-back. I don't run this early too often, and I enjoyed the sunrise across the wetlands with the Sacramento skyline as a backdrop.

Jumped up early Wednesday to cruise around the paved bike paths near my hotel. Not my choice of Wednesday "shorts", but the road workout kept me moving prior to another long day of sitting at conference tables.

Echo Lake north of Echo Summit
Echo Summit will become a habit. Because I've become a Tahoe trail resident, I've been avoiding going to-and-from Davis on Highway 80, choosing Highway 50 instead. It's a bit longer time-wise, but a much better view once I hit the hills. I repeated my route of last week, and will continue some variation of the Echo trail when travel requires.

Des and Tephra made up the team for Saturday morning. We accessed the TRT at Brockway on the Mt. Watson Road where I started the Brockway to Tahoe City segment of the trail. Our plan was to do a little recon for next Saturday's Lake of the Sky event, 36 miles from Tahoe City to Brockway and back. So we were doing the inbound leg beginning a little bit short of the Turnaround Station. Tephra joined me from the start to Watson Lake while Des met us at intersections between the trail and various roads. She hiked in to Watson Lake to get Tephra and check out that aid station location.

Lake of the Sky
It's a great trail segment and climbs much more in this direction (east to west) than I expected given the overall descent between Brockway and Tahoe City, the lowest spot on the trail at the outlet of Lake Tahoe. It will be a good climb at the start of Lake of the Sky, but I'm working on a plan to go slow and steady early on for a good ever-steadier finish. I felt great for the entire 19 miles. I'm enjoying the fact that a basic 20-mile effort is standard and very enjoyable. Once upon a time, I was spooked by the notion of mileage in the teens, 20 seemed a magical number. My goal is to move beyond the marathon in the same confidence-building manner. And now only three segments of the TRT to go.

Volcanic steps of the Tahoe Rim Trail
Up early Sunday to follow the Seven Loop down Seven Mile Canyon for 7 miles. Although I didn't think I was going fast by any means, I really took a dent out of my previous time on the same course. Every mile was faster than my run a month ago. I was especially happy that I "ran" the climb from the Six Mile Canyon Road to Rocky Road (part of the Emma Quarry trail).

Dennis and Mary summited another Colorado Fourteener this week: Mt. Huron (14,003 feet) above Winfield where we were gathered only a couple weeks ago at the Leadville 100. A five-hour ascent.  Looking forward to a route report. Darren doing high-speed roads in Orinda, California, near the routes of the Fire Trails.

Feeling much better after a good running week which also included a physical therapy session with Jon Hodges. Just a tune up after last week's tightness.  I'm hoping this goodness carries into next week and on toward Saturday. Time for the first ultra. Let's go.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

August Totals - Going Nicely

August Totals: 209.0 mi (+25,756 ft); 40:10:45 on trail

Personal bests in all three categories: distance, elevation gain, and time on the trail. From Freel to Leadville to the Levees of the Sacramento River, a nice month. First ultra coming...