Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanks, now back to the trail...

Week Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers to the team. IWWD.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Taste of Winter, Gambling on Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week Summary

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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Learning to Listen

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

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

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

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

Week Summary

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

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

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Season's End (remix) and Muddy Moab Madness

So there's good news and bad news. Having been trapped in a restraining boot for the previous 10 days, I finally was able to get into the Shana Fearnley at Nevada Orthopedics. I hadn't felt any ankle pain in about five days, other than the stiffness when I took the boot off at night. Shana reviewed the x-rays from St. Mary's, asked me to describe the events surrounding my injury, and thoroughly checked out my foot and ankle. She then informed me that she ruled out any fractures, but she noted that there was evidence of some mild bone spurs and arthritis both from previous injury and general use. So good news -- no fractures! St. Mary's seems to have given me a false positive. However, the boot probably did me much good and Shana advised keeping it around for future bouts with flare ups. And therein rises the bad news -- chronic ankle arthritis. Mild it is, thankfully, but I've experienced how painful that can be.

The lesson here is that I need to work on strengthening the joints and to pay attention to my stride. Most important, however, is the realization that I need to be conscious of the recovery time necessary following longer events and training efforts. This happened at season's end, after over 1,100 miles in my first year of seeking the ultra experience. I'm really not surprised, and can now use this for building into the 2012 season.

It feels good to be out of the boot, and now to enjoy a bit of post-season recovery and regeneration. Snow plows on the roads this morning, the early winter-like silence of snowfall broken by the crunching and scraping of the county trucks. I'll do some near-daily runs of very low mileage (3 - 4 max), splitting time between some low-impact elliptical and spinning in the gym (I'm testing things today on the treadmill). Jon at PT will help make sure that the swelling in the ankle didn't do much damage and I'll soon be ready to begin a winter schedule after Thanksgiving (my first real run of the 2011 season was Thanksgiving day last year).

October Totals: 159.1 mi (+21,220 ft gain); 31:58:24 on trail

Season's End Stats: 1,045.7 mi (+129,336 ft gain); 129:37:17 on trail.

These stats are based on my GPS-tracked runs beginning in late April and don't include 100 or so miles from December to April (who knows how many miles we traversed in the Congo). A satisfying and happy first season of ultras.

And now for something completely different -- a preliminary race report from the Colorado division of the Young Mountain Runners.  Dennis and Mary completed the rain-soaked, mud-slathered, and truly slick-rocked Moab Trail Half-Marathon on Saturday (Nov 5th).  Here's the story from Dad's post-race email:

The whole thing was kind of a low key small town affair.  You know, kind of like, 'Oh shit we're late'. 'Ready, set, go'.  Great people in support everywhere, however, even some that camped out in the cold rain last night to man the very remote aid stations beside their jeeps.  Much fun with all of them as we warmed a little by their camp fires.  You had to climb a slippery muddy hill just to get from the muddy parking lot to the start line.  And then climb another slippery muddy even higher hill to get from the creek to the finish line with people laughing and cheering us on at the top as we slipped and grabbed for willow branches. Did I mention mud anywhere in there?  Read on.
It was quite a new experience for us.  We have hiked in many different places and even places similar to this but when you combine the factors of a race (which usually means 'run'), rain, mud, soft sand, rocks on steep trail ascents, crawling up slick rock, sliding on your butt on an exposed descent, more mud, chill wind, 13.1 miles, and not to mention wading for 45 minutes in Kane Creek's icy water, there are things there that you just might not encounter on a normal hike on a nice day of your choosing. Couple that with the fact that the entire field of marathoners and 1/2 marathoners were churning up the mud ahead of us!  We praised that sole on the La Sportiva (Neutrons) trail shoes as it helped us cling to the slick rock wet with rain and the accumulated sand and mud from all those far ahead of us.
It was a great challenge and as the day wore on, and nothing got easier, we just clicked off the miles and forgot about time for the most part.  Tried to pay attention, as much as possible, to the incredible beauty of those wild deep canyons. So much of the slow going for us though is caused by watching very closely thousands of wet rocks underfoot. Younger folks handily move right on up.  Any clear, sandy, spot we turned it on to help our min/mile tally.
When the sweeper caught up with us checking for stragglers we knew we were the last in and knew we would run across that line no matter what!!  And then, about 1K from the finish, they put us back in the creek again and the frozen feet kept saying 'you aren't running anywhere, anymore'.  But we did; right across the line together.  Official time was 4 hrs 59 minutes.  Garmin GPS watch said we gained/lost about 2200 feet in 13.1 miles.
Learned a bunch about what we can do and we really enjoyed getting into long trail racing for the first time.  Easy ones don't tell you too much; this one was highly instructive!  Right now it is our PR for a trail 1/2 marathon.  Perhaps we can hope the next one is a fine trail with pine needles a few feet thick and a bright sunny cool day.  We won't learn as much but it was the kind of thing we were thinking about while wading, on a rainy day, a cold red rock creek draining toward the Colorado River in Utah.
Next race is a 5K road race on Thanksgiving here then back to Moab in December to close out our season with the Winter Sun 10K road race.
Sore. But what a wonderful feeling that is. Once again the days of training paid off.

Epic effort in the canyonlands! Success is measured in so many ways.  IWWD.