Sunday, February 24, 2013

Building to Buffalo...

The single-track of Prison Hill
This was a strong building week with a variety of efforts; my first 50-mile week of 2013. Started off with some focused walking practice and a good base run. But the highlight of the week was a smooth Tempo effort out Mexican Ditch during which I averaged a 8:17 pace and a 170 HR for a one-hour interval. The Tempo proved a good challenge and actually felt pretty comfortable right at the edge where the steady effort fights with motivation. I really enjoy the hard workout. I felt no echoes of the Tempo during a smooth shake out in the cool of Friday evening.

That cool evening turned into a blistering north wind as a small group of Carson Runners arrived to get in a long session on Saturday morning. For some crazy reason, Abbey wanted to climb the ridges from Centennial Park toward the high Goni Road near the McClellan Peak summit. I'd hoped to start off easier but the group seemed motivated to test will against wind-chill. So up we went into sideways snow-squalls and the daunting headwind for 2,000 feet in about four miles. Most of the group turned back after the climb, so Abbey and I continued down the descending road eventually heading to the excellent single-track around Deadmans Trailhead and Washoe Lake. The wind had sucked so much energy from us that we took the rolling return to Centennial at an easy pace. I tried to make up some time at the end (toward my 4-hour goal) but the wind was miserable and the car looked welcoming.

By Sunday the wind and my wind-weariness had settled enough to make up a bit of time and wrap the week with a loop through Gold Canyon and Dayton. Felt good to get warmed up again.

Last week I reported on a visit to Ascent Physical Therapy and some focus on strengthening the stabilizing muscles and connectors around the hip and pelvis. Kevin had also provided me with a slight heel-lift to get my legs and pelvis a bit more even. I had worried about changing anything in my running stride beyond strength, endurance, and flexibility, and questioned why any heel-lift would be relevant. When I asked Kevin about this on a follow-up, he simply laughed at me. The insert was for my daily shoes, not my trail shoes! Makes much more sense to me now. Nice. Some new exercises and stretches coming into play.

I hope it's warming up on Antelope Island. We will be there very soon!

Week Summary 2/24/2013

Hot Springs Walk: 3.0 mi (+83 ft); 13:49 pace
Ditch and Deadtruck OB: 8.3 mi (+823 ft); 10:53 pace
Mexican Dam OB (Tempo): 10.4 mi (+197 ft); 8:50 pace
Chocolate Factory OB: 4.7 mi (+271 ft); 10:05 pace
Centennial to Deadmans Loop: 17.1 mi (+3,394 ft); 12:34 pace
Gold Dayton Loop: 6.6 mi (+579 ft); 10:33 pace

Weekly Totals: 50.1 mi (+5,346 ft); 9:15:04 on trail

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A little recovery time...

I followed up the fun of the American Canyon 50K with a week of nice and easy runs without a focus other than simple recovery, working out the kinks of last Saturday's nice effort. Looking for some variety and a bit of varied terrain, I visited some trails I had not been on in a while due to snow-cover. I started with some rolling hills between Goni Road and Centennial Park, visited the gradual and steady climbs of Ash Canyon, and finished with some muddy trails north of Virginia City.

We had a big Carson Area Runners group for Saturday's cruise in Ash Canyon. I went a bit faster than my target but it was such fun running with the group; we were even joined by some cross-country guys from Carson High.

I also visited Kevin at Ascent Physical Therapy to work out some kinks and begin some long-term maintenance. Because he is also a local race promoter (Winter Trail Series) and pretty avid runner himself, I thought he might bring good insight to keeping the engines in good condition. So far, I'd say, it seems like a very good idea. Kevin's scar-tissue tooling was brutally successful -- I got some bruising from that helpful torture. His initial evaluation was interesting and ended highlighting that my right-side hamstring  response (and long ago injury) to my ever-so-slightly titled gait might be influenced by my left leg being slightly shorter than my right. We very cautiously added about 4 millimeters of drop to my left shoe (a small wedge) to see if the hamstring changes its response. I'm a little concerned about altering my gait at all so we will be monitoring this closely. My runs since then, adding about 4 millimeters of heel-to-toe drop to my left Bondis, have been very comfortable. Good, so far. But does this really amount to a big difference on varied trail terrain when the legs are constantly working at different "lengths" and strides?

Now begins the move toward the Buffalo 100. The training schedule looks mean and I'm looking forward to getting into it. The weather's been beautiful lately, but the forecast is conspiring a return of the snow. Here goes.

Week Summary 2/17/2013

Ash Canyon Shorts: 3.0 mi (+453 ft); 10:38 pace
Goni Hills East: 6.4 mi (+1,055 ft); 11:19 pace
Ash Canyon and V&T: 11.2 mi (+1,258 ft); 10:15 pace
Seven Lasso: 6.0 mi (+718 ft); 10:45 pace

Weekly Totals: 26.6 mi (+3,485 ft); 4:43:07 on trail

Sunday, February 10, 2013

American Canyon 50K Report

1st Place (M): Aaron Summerhays 4:16:05
1st Place (F): Erin Lostracco, Scottsdale, AZ 5:01:42

Darren: 10th, 4:53:49 (a PR for 50K with real hills).
DCraig: 32nd, 5:39:17 (PR 50K)

As the week ended in blustery, bone-chilling snow squalls, I looked forward to dropping to the west-side and starting the race season at the American Canyon 50K. Because this early season race is all about training for the year's 100s, I got up at 4 AM (the common pre-100 wake-up call) and was soon on the road to the starting line at the Auburn Overlook Park in Auburn, California. I stopped in Reno to pick up Darren, in route.

You could not ask for better starting conditions -- cool clear sky, slight breeze, and a relatively (for February) dry trail. The 50K event had 103 entries accompanied by a smaller contingent in the 25K and 15K, and the combined group clustered around Harlan Reymont RD for the 8 AM start. In the early morning chill, my hands were frozen but I was comfortable in shorts and a couple short-sleeved capilene shirts. We expected it to get much warmer as the day progressed; in the end it worked out perfectly.

I scooted out near the front at the start, but let the speedy boys and girls move by me and away. Darren slipped by me in the first mile as I maintained a tearful focus on the descent to No Hands Bridge. For some reason my eyes fill with tears on descents, especially on cold days (but not uncommon in any temperature; I'm not sad or nothin', I really don't understand it), and in the fast-moving group on the early single-track I had to concentrate on each step until the trail opened up. It was a little nerve-wracking; I didn't want to hit-the-dirt with the pack all around me.

I hit No Hands Aid Station (AS) at 4.3 miles in about 35 minutes, a brisk start but a pretty easy-going downhill. I grabbed a GU and skipped right through the AS.  Soon after, I met up with David from Napa as we began the climb to Highway 49, taking the "shortcut" as the 50K split from the 25K. Prudence from Tahoe City caught us on the climb and we were soon at the Highway 49 AS at 1:05 about 7 miles in. I had already begun my fuel regimen of one gel every 30 minutes and my single hand-held 20-oz bottle was now empty. I would stick with two gels and 20 ounces of water every hour for the duration; this was augmented by a little Coke and a few potato bits at a couple aid stations.

As we dropped down along the American River, David finally mentioned that he's been enjoying some sub-5-hour 50Ks and would turn it on soon. He was great to talk to, but I knew then that maybe I was going a bit fast given I was running with him and Prudence, although both claimed to be out for some training this early in the season. It wasn't long before they pulled away and I entered the nice solitude of long-distance trail running.

I felt good on the climb toward Maine Bar, though a couple guys and gals passed me. I hit the half-way point at just over 2:30 and was soon at the Maine Bar AS after a nice cruise on some beautiful single-track. This trail is really top-notch. The muddy spots increased as the day thawed, even becoming tacky later on, but there were relatively few bogs to navigate. Most of the time it's easy contouring almost perfect oak and pine forest trail -- some sun and lots of grove-like shade.

I took a first S-cap just after Maine Bar at Mile 17 or so. The steady gradual down-hill with occasional small rises allowed me to keep a pretty good pace, but I was soon looking forward to some hiking at Goat Hill, a stiff bump in forward progress about halfway from Maine Bar to Highway 49. The climb starts at Mile 21 and climbs about 400 feet in a half-mile or so. (A nice obstacle at Mile 90 of Western States!).

And then I kicked a rock for no good reason and the slight stumble and correction marked the beginning of some mild hamstring cramps. I was fine if I didn't make any lateral motions and, in general, the cramp wasn't too bad, mostly expressing itself as a twinge at any transition from downhill to uphill or vice versa. Anyway, my pace became more erratic as I approached the Highway 49 AS. The course has a few more stiff little ups-and-downs prior to the highway so that was expected. And Darren and I had expected some difficulties at Mile 22 given that that was our longest outing of the season prior to this. Not surprisingly, or as self-fulfilling prophecy, Darren too ran into some cramps at Mile 22. But as Footfeathers commented later, "Anyone running a race this early in the year better not be peaking and better have some issues later in a 50k."

Still, it was good to begin the mind games that keep forward momentum, slow as it might get at times. The downhill to No Hands was actually pretty good. Happily the twinges had subsided and there was no unexpected fatigue in the quads or ITs, excellent. Let's hope that pattern continues.

I pulled off one of my shirts at No Hands and began the climb to the finish. I was surprised that I could keep a pretty good pace on the gradual climb, only hiking on the true steeps. Checking my watch, I was happy I was going to set a nice PR and be below six hours in a 50K for the first time. Finish lines are always fun, of course, and it was great to climb to the grassy finish and finally catch up with Darren.

Great to be into the new season, and regardless of, or because of, the challenges that ultras present, it's just plain fun. A 27-minute PR reflects the success of discipline and training combined with more experience, along with a growing desire to be a bit more competitive. In similar and speedier fashion, Darren's outing was his best 50K time since Folsom Point, an event without much climbing. A good sign for good things ahead.  It's what we do...

GearPatagonia Software; Injini socks; La Sportiva Crosslites 2.0; Garmin 310XT; at least 11 GUs  and 4 S-Caps; one 20-oz handheld. Oakley shades, courtesy of Bikes and More, Winnemucca, NV.

Week Summary 2/3/2013

V&T Grade OB: 5.1 mi (+268 ft); 9:49 pace
Edgewood Loops (CA): 5.0 mi (+643 ft); 9:40 pace
EF Treadmill: 2.9 mi (+0 ft); 10:21 pace
American Canyon 50K: 31.6 mi (+5,007 ft); 10:43 pace

Weekly Totals: 44.6 mi (+5,919 ft); 7:47:30 on trail


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ready to Begin...

The American Canyon 50K is less than a week away, and like any good training schedule, the past couple weeks have seen some great focus and some relaxing breaks. I cycled between some good Tempo and Long runs, learning to Walk (an important workout), and skipping a few days to handle some work.  

Also in the mix was a great weekend when all the Young Mountain Runners gathered at Sorensen's Cabins below Hope Valley. We were snow-bound and didn't get any running in, but we had a 3-hour snowshoe on the beautiful Saturday. It was a great time talking running and horses and planning the logistics of a trail and equine season.

The trails are starting to clear up a bit but super-icy spots remain and the gravity-sucking mud bogs are expanding. But, hey, it's only the first of February, we can't expect too much more. 

Might have had my best training run of the season at Prison Hill with the Carson Area Runners yesterday. We had pretty large group (looks like we are all getting antsy for the trails to clear), and we cruised the single-track of the North Loop (a true favorite) after circum-navigating the southern flank of the Hill. Nice to keep a sub-10 pace for the two hours. I hope it feels that good next week!  Let the season begin...

Week Summary 2/3/2013

Mexican Prison OB: 7.9 mi (+1,242 ft); 11:30 pace
Centennial Loop: 4.4 mi (+595 ft); 10:31 pace
Whites Creek OB: 5.8 mi (+673 ft); 11:01 pace
Prison Hill Loop: 10.9 mi (+1,580 ft); 9:48 pace
Ophir Grade OB: 6.1 mi (+677 ft); 9:51 pace

Weekly Totals: 35.0 mi (+4,768 ft); 6:21:37 on trail
JanuaryTotals: 150.3 mi (+12,445 ft); 30:32:54 on trail

Week Summary 1/26/2013

Nimbus OB (Folsom Lake Area): 6.0 mi (+54 ft); 10:04 pace
Nimbus Walk: 3.1 mi (+45 ft); 13:48 pace
Empire OB: 3.7 mi (+15 ft); 9:55 pace
Carson River Flats (Tempo): 8.7 mi (+65 ft); 8:49 pace
Sorensens Snowshoe: 5.4 mi (+1,261 ft); 22:23 pace

Weekly Totals: 27.0 mi (+1,439 ft); 6:41:46 on trail