Sunday, January 15, 2012

Base-ics and a Good Loop

Week Summary

Washoe Lake Loop: 7.9 mi (+228 ft); 11:11 pace
EF Treadmill: 5.8 mi (+0 ft); 10:43 pace
EF Treadmill: 5.0 mi (+0 ft); 8:57 pace
Highlands Loop: 16.2 mi (+1,591 ft); 9:42 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.7 mi (+494 ft); 11:04 pace

Weekly Totals: 40.6 mi (+2,313 ft); 6:55:05 on trail

A strong and very warm south wind is dusting up the Comstock this morning, sure signs that we might finally break into the winter storm pattern. And even though fall-like days have been commonplace, I have been trying to keep to my structured early-season training program. This means working on Base runs of varying duration while keeping to an easy, aerobic effort and heart rate. Work took me to southeastern California by way of Phoenix this week, a whirlwind trip that I thought would knock me off my training pattern. I found, however, that the treadmill workouts suit this type of schedule and help keep the Base.

I think most runners dread the hamster-like tedium of the treadmill, and I would certainly prefer to be out on a trail anywhere, especially when the sunny January temperature is pushing 60°. There are, however, clear benefits. When time is short, I can hit Eagle Fitness just down the street from my office and not worry about driving out-and-back to the trailhead. On the mill, I can keep to and learn what a specific pace feels like.  Darren says he is easily bored and can't help but try to experience the different pace and incline variations the treadmills have to offer, but I simply punch up a pace, set it at 1% incline, and focus, or not, on the consistency without drifting into tempos beyond my early-season Base.  Once back on the trail, it is easier to translate the effort into the target range regardless of the variations in topography, footing, etc.  Beyond the Base runs, I can also set the treadmill for some consistent Tempo days, as I did on Friday after way too much time in airports and rental cars on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Striders ultra pack out on the Highlands Loop
I was looking forward to a long run Saturday after a busy week of fieldwork and travel. The Striders had scheduled a Highlands run on a loop just north of Virginia City, so Darren and I joined in. As I parked the Yota at the Highlands Fire Station, a large group emerged from the parking area and trotted down Lousetown Road. Was I late? I then noticed a group hanging back, and recognized a few faces from last week's Peavine fest. The early pack would be a little slower and we'd catch up soon enough, but I was thrown into the fast kids group so I would get to test the early-season Base I've been so focused on.

Of course no one was out to burn up the loop on this beautiful Saturday morning. But I'm a bit more competitive than I care to admit (this is not an admission) and it was a nice mental kick to be with this group. Soon I set off with Darren, Juan de Oliva (Mexico), Steven Burt, Bruce Cyra, Dalius Kumpa (Lithuania), John Trent, and his daughter Katie. John and Katie would hang back with some late arrivals, but now there were about 20 or so Striders looping around the Highlands.

We cruised at what I thought was an easy pace telling stories of up-coming races and recent training regimes. I was increasingly worried, however, each time I glanced at my watch or heard the beep of another mile to see that we were moving at a pace between 8 and 9 minutes per mile, typically closer to 8:00 for the first 6 or so miles. But I wasn't feeling much of anything, other than simply enjoying the group and the trail. The route followed slightly rolling two-track roads with a few rocky patches and one good climb at about the halfway point.

We caught the bigger pack at a trail intersection where we all stripped out of our cold gear to better match the sunny day. The group strung out along the halfway climb where Dalius and I let Darren and the others move through the pack before reaching the water trough (aid station?) at Cottonwood Springs (one of my usual turn-around points when running from VC). Here our small group gathered for the final few miles back to the Fire Station. On the low-grade climb back to the Highlands, Juan, Steven, and Bruce led out while Darren, Dalius, and I along with two ladies who split from the pack (they left before I learned their names) re-grouped at the top for our descent along the pavement to the finish. 

Darren had one of those sluggish days were it seemed like hard work, while I was having one of my best days on the trail. Those things simply cycle around, I guess. I'm sure Darren could have pushed if the plan called for it, but we otherwise just enjoyed the last mile or two along Lousetown Road. At one point Darren turned to me and said, "Hey, we just did a 7:50 mile".  First, I'm not often with Darren at Mile 15 so that cracked me up, but, second, hearing that we were cruising so easily rather startled me. Sure it was a gradual downhill on pavement, so it should be fast, but I wasn't feeling any wear and could easily enjoy the bit of tempo back to the Fire Station. Once there, the leaders could share some more lies and enjoy the arrival of the rest of the Striders - a very good Saturday loop. Easily a PR day for the half-marathon (plus) distance even with the stops and re-groupings which are analogous to aid-stations; my moving pace was close to 9:00 per mile for the 16-mile loop (crazy).

I hope I can take a little of Saturday's vibe into the race at Brooks Falls in Pacifica, CA, next weekend. I'm looking forward to the first 50K of the season, though I'll take it relatively easy. Darren and I are there to experience Inside Trail's seminal event and get in some of great coastal trail-time. Footfeathers put out a sun-drenched teaser about the great coastal weather over the weekend, but given the less-colorful forecast, I bet we are in for some wet fun.  We're all in.

In Colorado news, the Young Mountain Runners have been resting up and healing up. The rest is paying off as Dennis's shin injury has seen much improvement and Mary is hitting the trail/track again after fighting a cold for more than a week. They raced late into the season, so the well-deserved and needed rest can only help prepare for their coming schedule.

Darren and I sign up for the San Diego 100 tomorrow!       

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