Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cool Memorial

Young Mountain Runners
at No Hands Bridge

Week Summary

River Flats: 5.6 mi (+10 ft); 10:39 pace
Centennial Single Tracks: 6.0 mi (+589 ft); 10:05 pace
Goni East Trails: 4.8 mi (+572 ft); 9:52 pace
Mathis Memorial - Auburn: 33.6 mi (+4,735 ft); 12:46 pace
Weekly Totals: 50.0 mi (+5,906 ft); 10:02:42 on trail

Ran through a relatively easy week ending with the Memorial Run for Robert and Linda Mathis at Auburn Overlook. The easy schedule meant nothing over an hour in duration and mostly Base-level pace.  The Centennial Single Tracks are impressive, and for the first time (not counting the Rim Trail) I met another avid trail runner, Steve Lang from He has mapped and continues to develop trails and routes around Carson City, his trail maps at the ccrunners website look very appealing.

I added in some quick pick-up intervals on Thursday's short Goni Trail effort. I was surprised to glance at the watch and see a sub-6 pace. Of course, this was only for a minute pick-up, but it was interesting to see what that feels like. Not too bad really, but I'd have a completely different opinion after a few minutes at that level.

On Saturday morning I picked up Darren early for a drive to the Mathis Memorial Run at the Auburn (CA) Overlook. In memory of local race directors Robert and Lina Mathis, a large group gathered at the Overlook Park on a perfect blue-sky day. Although simply a informal trail run from the Overlook to Cool and back, Aaron Summerhays and Jennifer Dicus, along with the usual helpful volunteers, set up a cook-out and a couple well-stocked aid stations (No Hands Bridge and Cool Fire Station). Stories of "my first ultra" and "I loved that event" floated, like colorful balloons, around the starting area. I knew them hardly at all, but I did have a Mathis "my first ultra" story, so it was nice to spend time on a great trail and perfect day with those memories.

Gathering at the Mathis Memorial - Auburn Overlook Park
Darren and I left the park a little early with a goal of completing the 50K+ race route that descended from the Overlook to No Hands Bridge and then climbed the K2 training hill (Ohmstead Trail) looping around to Cool twice and then returned to the Overlook. Participants in the memorial completed a variety of routes, but most enjoyed a 14-mile (or so) out-and-back from the Overlook to Cool. You couldn't have designed a better day to be out on the trail.

Darren moving up K2

...and up, some more.

The descent to No Hands was easy, of course, but we knew re-tracing it up-hill at the end of the day would be a test. There was a nice aid-station set up at No Hands, but then we found ourselves on our first go at K2. Although the name K2 implies something very different, it is a stiff hill nonetheless (not sure where the name comes from). It climbs about a rocky thousand feet in just under a mile. I'm amazed that the Tevis equestrian riders use this for "training", but here we are too.  At the top of the climb we take a long circuitous route on good trail, finally ending up at Cool, where another aid station was presented to us and we met up with several participants completing their versions of the Memorial out-bound.

We dropped onto the downhill return to No Hands and re-filled our water for the second go at K2 and the Cool Loop.  We were now about half way done, and making pretty good time. The return to K2 was slower than the first, of course. My legs felt tight and though ok on the climb I never felt recovered after it. Our pace was ok, and I even came within a mile of my 50K PR (including some rather lengthy conversations at aid-stations), but it took some effort to keep going; this is motivation that will be tested in longer events coming soon.

On our last loop through Cool and beyond No Hands, the aid stations were packed up and the trail markers were cleaned up. But the day was still splendid and though the hamstrings complained we jogged and walked our way back to the Overlook. The parking lot was empty, all of the other runners had undoubtedly enjoyed the cook-out and packed up for the day. That was to be expected.  We'd been out there for seven hours and enjoyed ourselves on the trail. Of course, we were famished and made directly for some giant burgers at Ikeda's Market.

Special thanks to everyone who helped and/or joined in the Memorial Event. As Darren said to Linda's family at the No Hands aid-station, "Robert and Linda helped us find the best in ourselves; they'll be missed." Someone nearby responded, "I couldn't have said it any better."  So true, so true.   

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Up then Down (and out)

Week Summary

River Flats to Mexican Gap OB: 16.8 mi (+313 ft); 9:22 pace
EF Treadmill: 5.9 mi (+0 ft); 10:32 pace
Prison Hill Intervals: 7.0 mi (+1,600 ft); 12:30 pace
Como Pass OB: 18.7 mi (+2,663 ft); 11:25 pace
Weekly Totals: 48.5 mi (+4,576 ft); 8:41:47 on trail

This week started great! The training schedule called for the longest Tempo run I'd yet done. My goal was to get in a little warm up and then stick to at least a 9:30 pace for an hour while out for about 2.5 hours (a long Tuesday). It was in the low 30s when I set out on the River Flats and  when I got into after about 15 minutes I simply kept going. I was several miles into the Tempo when I checked my pace and I was hovering closer to 8:30 miles, but it felt very good. I soon realized I had the energy to keep the pace for at least 90 minutes and that would get me close to a sub-2 hour half-marathon.

Tephra and I skipped over Mexican Dam and cruised along some private roads in the rugged gap where the Carson River cuts through the southern base of Prison Hill. When I hit pavement we turned around.  Re-filling water at Silver Saddle the PR was easily in hand and just over a mile later I hit the half-marathon mark at 1:54:54.  Nice.  We slowed and jogged back to the Yota. Like I said, a great start. I really enjoy the Tempo days.

West side of Prison Hills, on to the Sierras
After an easy jog on the Treadmill, testing my Hoka Stinson Bs (felt darn good), Thursday called for some hill intervals running 8:00 minutes at best possible pace with short 3-minute breaks. Snow-covered hills, an outcome of an underwhelming winter squall the night before, limited the opportunities. Footfeathers gave me some pointers on doing hill repeats on the treadmill if necessary, but I decided on some single-track at Prison Hill. And then realized I didn't have my watch.

Tephra coming down while I'm going up!

It can be very freeing to run without the time-piece/GPS/statistical generator tied to your arm. So I picked some intervals from base to ridge-line on the hills and enjoyed them as much as I could. The snow was minimal and I found some interesting trails in the uplands of Prison Hill -- I think I was basically following the Prison Hill Half-Marathon course given that there were a few mile-markers on the "Escape Route".  The fartleks were longer than I had planned for but I tried to keep a pace to complete each new climb. However, I was probably slower than I would have been had I been marking 8-minute efforts.

But then the down set in. I crumbled into bed on Thursday night with a headcold, amazed because I'd avoided any such illness for a couple of years. Friday was miserable. And there was to be no Long day on Saturday. I felt better but wanted to be cautious -- I don't need this to settle in my lungs or wherever these things go. So I rested and listened to Darren's stories of an Up and Down on Peavine.

Toward Como Pass, upper left.
The Long Trail would come on Sunday. Feeling much better, I drove to the foot of the Old Como Road and started up the cold dirt road for Como Pass. I didn't push it but I made decent time nonetheless.  And the hills were beautiful in a new veil of snow. This was my first trail effort in the Stinson Bs and I look forward to testing them some more, though I put them through a variety of conditions up and down Como Pass. They shine on the rock-strewn descent but I also liked the feel of the climb even when in frozen mud, snow, and ice. They globbed up on the descent as the warming sun (though still in the low 30s) melted the new snow. Any shoe would collect the saturated silty clay and create a small boot on each foot, but the footprint of the Stinson B is rather large so that means that much more surface area to collect mud and add weight. I'm happy to say, however, they do shed the mud quickly once I hit drier patches of trail so the impediments didn't last for long. Overall, I was happy with the comfort and general performance on this moderately long trail with variable conditions.
Upper reach of the Como Road.

Although I ran a bit slower than I might have otherwise, I did not feel any ill effects of the passing (let's hope) cold. So even though I hate to miss a beat in my schedule, I'm happy and I recognize the need to take it easy when the machine tells you to do so.

Dennis and Mary teamed up at the Sweetheart 10K and placed as the 21st couple. Not so high in the "couple" rankings (though I bet none of the other couples could beat their overall mileage, er, years as couples!), but Mom is Footfeathers-like with her string of 1st-place finishes and Dad nabbed a close second in their divisions.  A good early-season result for them to say the least.

Darren and I will be tapering a little bit for the Mathis Memorial fun-run (50K) at Auburn-Cool next Saturday.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Little of Everything

Week Summary

River Flats to Mexican Dam OB: 12.4 mi (+182 ft); 10:47 pace
Gold Canyon OB: 5.1 mi (+424 ft); 10:37 pace
Goni East Hill Repeats: 6.0 mi (+1,277 ft); 12:39 pace
Gold to Sutro Loop: 18.6 mi (+2,694 ft); 12:20 pace
Weekly Totals: 42.1 mi (+4,577 ft); 8:12:50 on trail

Sun Mountain above Virginia City
The "winter" weather is unbelievable. I can think of this to be good or bad depending on whether I'm out on the trails or pondering the dire lack of Sierran snow. But making the best of it, I continue the trail toward the San Diego 100 reaching some relatively high (for me) training levels early in the season. The training schedule cycles between local races and here in the middle, between Brooks Falls and the Mathis Memorial run, I'm focusing on some building exercises.

Tuesday, under threatening skies that delivered little, I cruised for 12 miles along the Carson River. It was a Base effort for two hours, the most miles I have done in a mid-week jog. A year ago I impressed myself with a 10-mile weekend run; how things have changed. I followed on Wednesday with the usual Base effort, this time contouring around Gold Canyon which gave me an idea for Saturday's Long effort.

And then the dreaded Thursday Hill Repeats! I bet there are probably some who look forward to this kind of workout, but I had been thinking about this particular run since the weekend. Sure they aren't any fun, but repeats will add hill-climb endurance and make other efforts seem less taxing. I did seven repeats, two minutes at a time building on previous 5-repeat efforts. With each repeat I climb about 200 feet. That doesn't sound too impressive, but at that effort level and current fitness (which I think is pretty good) I could not go any further.

My dog and mid-week teammate Tephra surely thinks these repeats are nuts. She finally chose to lie down under a juniper as she lost interest in the back-and-forth, up-and-down cycles. I typically rest on the descent and have about three to four minutes between climbs. By the time I get back to the Yota, the pace seems very pedestrian but the average includes the rest periods. I joked with Footfeathers about how I was quitting the repeats forever, but he encouraged me to keep at them and I'll soon be reaping benefits. Of course, I won't quit.

Red Lines - The Fabric of the Trail Option Universe
I love maps. I spend way too much time searching out interesting locations on my paper topos and I'm certainly addicted to Google Earth, probably the best tool developed in the age of information overload. I plot all of my trails and constantly seek new places to explore. Of course, most of my routes are concentrated on the ridgetops, hills, and contours around Virginia City. But I also have any number of trails plotted away from Sun Mountain and the Comstock. In Google Earth this appears as a jumble of lines at the center of my trail universe with satellite trails at Tahoe and in adjacent valleys. At the outer reaches are some far away races and runs that make up the edges of my trail travels to date. When I sit down to plan a run I often conspire to connect the center with the satellites. One goal this year is to connect the VC trails with the my Tahoe runs where there is currently a five-mile gap near Snow Valley Peak. Last week we closed the gap between VC and the Goni Trails and River Flats; I have a solid line from the front door to Prison Hill. This week I chose to connect my Gold Canyon - Chocolate Factory trails to VC.

Silver City 
Again the skies threatened snow, but warm sunshine broke through the clusters of heavy clouds. I sought a trail from VC down to Silver City having to skirt around private property. I couldn't keep my pace up but I always enjoy a little cross-country travel with sage and bitterbrush tearing at me and rocks and scree chasing me down trail-less hills. I warmed to a single shirt as I skirted above Gold Canyon making the first connection between VC and the satellite trails. I dropped to Highway 50 at Dayton and cruised along a couple miles of roads keeping a 9:30 pace for several miles. I'm realizing I'm much slower without Darren to pace me, but my target was an overall pace of about 11 minutes per mile so this was a good section. The climbs to come would hurt the stats but increase the fun.

Skies above Sutro Pass
Sutro Trail
It was almost hot in the sun of Dayton Valley but as I climbed from Sutro the first sleet squalls hit me. Although recently sweating from the sunny beginnings of the ascent, I was now reaching for my jacket and pulling my hat down over my eyes to keep the snow pellets at bay. The Sutro Road to VC is a rocky, canyon-confined climb that shifts from a bedrock path to a well-built (once upon a time) rock-lined track to Sutro Pass. Just east of the pass I intersected an old out-and-back map line and closed another loop in my trail system. Once across the pass I hit the mud of the half-melted snows and slogged my way back home.

This route had a bit of everything. I had blood, mud, sweat, sleet, and slop, usually in some interesting combination. At one point, back on the Emma Quarry Trail and almost home, my Electrons, which had served so well in the cross-country terrain and canyon-bound bedrock, lost their grip and I found myself butt-bound ricocheting down a snow-covered single-track -- certainly my best pace of the day! Here's to a great outing.

Dayton Valley from Sutro Pass

I'm feeling a little beat up today so I'm resting the machine. Over the past couple weeks my feet have been sore when not running. Just a general stiffness that is improved with movement and stretching. I can't point to any specific pain but I will be keeping a tab on any changes. A few hours in the Five Fingers feels really good.

Congrats to Footfeathers! Tim ripped up the American Canyon 50k, placing first and setting a new course record. The new course record is almost 20 minutes faster than the previous mark. Nice. He is now two for two in 2012 50K events.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Downhill from Here

Four legs better than two.

Week Summary

Carson River Flats: 9.6 mi (+142 ft); 9:05 pace
Chocolate Factory OB: 5.8 mi (+434 ft); 10:55 pace
Goni East Hill Repeats: 4.8 mi (+1,028 ft); 12:26 pace
VC to Prison Hill: 25.0 mi (+2,252 ft); 11:54 pace
Town Loop (Upper Water): 5.0 mi (+559 ft); 11:30 pace

Weekly Totals: 50.2 mi (+4,415 ft); 9:24:57 on trail

Snow, finally.
Rolled out a full-bore training week to kick off the month of February. After the good rest, the week called for some well-paced intervals and some hill repeats leading into a long Saturday run. It felt really good to get back on the flats for 8-minute intervals at about an 8-minute pace. I warmed up for a mile or so and then jumped into the intervals. Breaks between each interval consisted of four minutes of easy jogging. On the way, however, I experienced a backlash from lunch and probably hit PR pace when I remembered the restrooms at Silver Saddle Ranch, my turn-around point. I spent some quality time in those restrooms as night fell and then continued, with relief, my intervals on the dark return to the Carson River put in. Even with the "break", it was a great workout.

Keeping an easy pace on Wednesday evening, Thursday brought the difficult hill repeats. These are the not much fun, but I think I've realized some benefits of suffering through these. I repeat a 225-foot climb in about a quarter-mile with a goal of keeping maximum output for two minutes. I do five repeats broken by three-minute rest periods as a jog back down the hill. As the season progresses I expect to increase the reps while also varying the duration and distance. In theory, the effort will make long- and race-day hills feel less imposing and improve overall endurance. Let's hope.

A long trail around Prison Hill (in the distance, middle left)
On Saturday Darren and I left Virginia City with the goal of reaching somewhere beyond Prison Hill southeast of Carson City, figuring we would spend 3.5 to 4.5 hours on the trail. Clear skies and a chill 20 degrees started us off and kept us going.

We climbed out of Virginia City on Ophir Grade to find our way up McClellan Peak. We hit packed snow on the upper reaches of the tracks to the radio towers. The crunchy snow was perfect but why has our first snow run not occurred until February?

Upward to the towers.
Darren on McClellan.

We summited at the transmission towers of McClellan Peak, after advising some 4x4s to take a different route - advise that went unheeded though we'd seen evidence of snowbound detours suffered by previous misadventures. The snow disappeared as we descended the long south-facing slopes of the mountain to reach Centennial Park and Highway 50 in Carson (almost 3,800 feet total descent). Although rocky and occasionally super-steep, we were impressed with the quality single-track above the park.

Crossing Highway 50 we grabbed the trail at the Carson River and ran the flats to Silver Saddle and Mexican Dam. The week began to take its toll here. At the half-marathon point my legs felt like lead, but Darren kept reminding me that I was still on my Brook Falls pace even though I wasn't feeling my best. First this made me realize the benefit of tapering into race-day and, second, I could see the pay-off in relatively good performance when I felt otherwise.

The climbs out of Mexican Dam on the south side of Prison Hill follow sand-filled gullies to endless rollers above the river. A cold wind slapped at us as we turned north along the western base of the hill, but we soon found Steven, our ride home (much thanks!), waiting precisely at our 25-mile point. None to soon, I was hammered. But soon I was happy with the results and impressed by the map of our route, a route that connected several of my weekly routine trails.

Out Sunday, another chill day, for an easy hour to shake off the echoes of yesterday; felt pretty good running a slow loop above town. Looking to continue the effort into next week.  Plus, Darren and I have set on the Mathis Memorial Run from Auburn to Cool (California) on the Western States Trail at the end of the month. Check out the Memorial Run Facebook page and join us, or hit the trails at the Chabot Trail Run above Oakland with Inside Trail. And Dennis and Mary are getting ready to kick-off their season at the Canyonlands Half-marathon in March. Get out there and keep going...