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...

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