24 February 2014

Taste of Summer

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me 
there lay an invincible summer."
-Albert Camus
One of the great things about being married to a mountain biker is that he is able to scout out trails for me on his weekend rides. About a week ago, J-man headed down to Lake Pueblo State Park with some friends and found the trails to be dry as a bone. Using a link to the Southshore trail map found at the bottom of this page, I set out to run them last Wednesday. 

Lots of shale on the trail

Tumbleweeds were a problem in the slot canyons

Lemonade. The perfect post-run beverage
Chocolate almond butter that must be purchased in expensive little packets due to my gluttonous tendencies.
The weather was perfect -- started out around 45 and got up to 60. I'm totally out of the habit of wearing sunscreen so I got a little color in my 3 hours out there. The climbs weren't terribly steep or long, so they were good training for my final PPRR Winter Series Race last Saturday. 

Speaking of which, I once again improved on my performance for this final 20k (12.5 mi) race and managed to cross the finish line ahead of 40 other runners in a time of 2:11, avg 10:32/mi. My best pace was an 8:06 when I sprinted to the finish in the last half-mile. 
As usual, I was conservative in the first half and able to keep a fairly consistent pace throughout. My pace slowed a little as we were bombarded with fierce headwinds when we got out of the wooded areas about halfway through. The climbs in this race weren't steep, but they could go on for 2-3 minutes and I ran them all. Those who were walking the climbs ahead of me were reeled in. 

I wondered if some of the "walkers" would end up passing me later, but none of them did. I generally go by my breathing pattern (indicating my HR) to determine when I switch to walking/power hiking in an effort to save energy. These climbs were pretty gradual compared to what I encounter normally on the trails. I guess it's all on your perspective. A road runner may not see them as being easy like I do, hence the walking.   

I'm really glad I did this Winter Series. I'll probably plan to do it every year to work on speed. It's well organized and the volunteers are great. It's a great value too. For $55, I got to run four races and received two beer glasses and a pair of arm warmers. Sah-weet!
With snow scheduled again for tomorrow, I was glad I could get out on the track for my speedwork today. Now that I'm up to doing 10 sets of Yasso 800's, I decided to change it up a bit and do mile repeats. I did four sets, a with 400 meter recovery between each. 
Mile repeats aren't so bad with this view
Now that I have a base level of fitness, I'll continue to change the speedwork up a bit and add hill repeats. I'll have over 3k feet of climbing at Salida so I need to get my legs used to a bit more than they have been so far this year. With mileage going up as well, the training's getting real. The spring racing season begins in three weeks -- booyah!

Happy Trails,


15 February 2014

Taking it to the Streets

Love is not an affectionate feeling, 
but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good 
as far as it can be obtained.”
-C.S. Lewis
My nemesis
Today, I got to revisit my 85 mile journey at The Bear 100 last fall. Meaning, the conditions that I encountered that effectively slowed me to a crawl came back to haunt me on today’s long run. After getting hit with several storms that dumped quite a bit of snow of our trails and having them partially melted, the conditions were awful. Primarily, I dealt with shoe-sucking, gooey mud in the first 90 min, then packed snow that was iced over during the next 30 min, then mostly runnable trails for the next 30 min and finished off with about 30 min of road running as I rerouted myself back around the mud to return to my car.

I was hoping to do a 4 hour run, but with conditions as they were, my actual running time was 3:07. With the mud sticking in large clumps to my shoes, I had to take several breaks to de-clump them so I could “run” normally (losing several screws in the process). The snowy sections were a welcome relief, even if they had an icy layer on top. My screws seemed to work ok on them and fortunately, I made it through without falling.

I was thankful that I got to open up my stride and do some real running in the last hour. Between the 2,200 ft of climbing and the faster downhill running , I felt like I got a decent workout.  But I’m getting tired of dealing with these conditions and with the looks of things, it may be a week or more before things improve.
Nightmares of The "Snow" Bear
Pikes Peak was shrouded in fog
This was a welcomed sight after the mud

Section 16 beauty
Time to run!
Ran down this too!
My paved trail led me through the graveyard
I’m going to look at taking my long runs and hill climbs to the road for now. I do have several long dirt/paved hills which would be good training for Salida and the R2R2R run I have coming up in March and April. It’ll bore me to tears, but at least I won’t feel like I’m wasting time on my workout dealing with 4-6 inches of mud or picking my way up an icy slope.

Sounds like conditions are perfect for the Red Hot 55k tomorrow. Can’t believe it’s been a year since I ran my first ultra there. I was thinking about it on my run today and what a great day it was on the trails and how many amazing adventures I’ve had on the trails since then. I wish I could be there tomorrow, but alas, finances prohibit. Can’t justify paying over $100 for a 34 mile race when my 50 milers cost less than that. I need as much bang for my buck right now, so it will have to wait.
Enjoyed a nice, quiet Valentines celebration with the family tonight. Everyone got chocolate and we enjoyed chocolate cupcakes while watching “Chicken Run”. I love my family and feel incredibly blessed to have them in my life. As much as I love ultrarunning, I love them more. I look forward to having them join me on a couple of my races this year and making them even more special.

When Harry Met Sally is my feel-good, laugh-out-loud favorite romantic comedy. My favorite line is uttered here, by the incomparable Billy Crystal. Enjoy!

Happy Trails,


12 February 2014

Wednesday Wrap Up

"There are plenty of difficult obstacles in your path. 
Don't allow yourself to become one of them." 
-Ralph Marston

Headed out today for my first training run on trails since my last one 12 days ago. As I started out for a 2-ish hour run today, I encountered ice for the first two miles or so. At first I questioned whether or not it was prudent to continue on. I had my screwed shoes on, but that doesn't seem to help much on sheer ice. I just slowed down and tried to find as good of footing on the side of the trail as possible. 

I figured that my chances of getting my heart rate up to my MAF zone (136-141) may be difficult. If you're not familiar with the Maffetone Method of low HR training, MAF stands for Maximum Aerobic Function. My two long runs and bike trainer sessions each week are done in this low HR zone to develop a better aerobic base. I was afraid that this run, while keeping me in the fat burning zone, wouldn't keep my HR up near the top of this range as I'd hoped. 

What I found was that the ice gave way to muddier & drier sections of trail that gave way to packed snow. I was glad that I stuck with the run I had planned as it ended up feeling like I got a fairly normal intensity workout over more than half of the run. The snow provided the difficulty needed to monitor my intensity and keep my HR within the zone. You never know what you're gonna get when you head out on the trails, so it's worth keeping at it a little while before giving up because of less-than-ideal conditions. No workout is a waste, some just may not yield as high of dividends than others. You just take 'em as they come and make the most of it. 

One of the better sections of trail
Oh deer
The bottom of a muddy 90-second climb
It's hard to see my splits looking pathetic in these conditions. It's hard not have to hold back over slick spots to avoid injuring myself. I am so anxious to get out on dry trails and get some good turnover and not have to expend more energy to propel forward or keep myself upright. I keep reminding myself that if the intensity is there, it's doing me good, even if it takes me longer to cover the distance than it would in June. But with Salida a little more than four weeks away, it does get me nervous when I can't seem to find a "proper" trail to run on. Here's hoping that the 40's - 50's over the next 10 days can clear and dry out the trails. For now, screws and spikes are still in order.

I've been meaning to mention a product that I've been using for the past few months that has made a HUGE difference in how I feel during and after a run. Chafing is the worst thing that I deal with in running -- mainly where my sport bra and hydration pack rub. I've tried Vaseline, Body Glide, Bag Balm for underarms and inner thighs, but they don't work for the bra areas. I started using large band-aids -- which do work -- but can slip around once they get soaked from sweat. 

I asked my friend Meghan what she uses to combat this problem and she pointed me towards this thin, self-adhesive medical tape, which I found on Amazon:
I put a couple of strips in the places where my sports bra or pack rubs and voila, no more painful chafing. No more yelping in the shower afterwards when water hits the chaffed areas. It's been a God-send, so I thought I'd pass that little tidbit along. 

This is funny. Not that I'll ever have to do this to anyone. Enjoy!

Happy Trails,


09 February 2014

Snow Days

Every mile is two in winter. 
-George Herbert
The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicted that this winter would be snowier than usual, which is proving to be true based on the three previous winters we've experienced here along the Front Range. Last I heard, we are at 125% of normal snowfall. Prior to this year, we'd cleared the snow from our driveway three times in as many years. This year, the count stands at eight.
Speed shoveling as cross training
I had a long run scheduled the day after we had four inches of snow fall with several more predicted during the run. It made for a beautiful and challenging 13 miler. I wondered if I should have brought snowshoes as I was pulling my feet through 6 inches of powder about halfway through. This trail is not particularly scenic, but covered in snow, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I had it all to myself and it was magical. At least for the first three hours... 

Along with much of the rest of the US, our temps have also recently plummeted below zero and hung there for several days. Last week, I’d finally had enough. I cashed in some guest passes at local clubs and took my workouts indoors. Ran my Yasso 800s on an indoor track, got a little hill climbing on the Stairmaster and logged a couple of runs on the treadmill. Strangely, I didn’t find it tedious. I had my tunes blaring and the TV to distract me and just knowing I didn’t have to bundle up and deal with the crap outside left me feeling quite content.

I usually hit my limit with winter around this time, knowing full well that here in Colorado, our big snows tend to come in March. Already, I’m dreaming of dry & dusty trails and the relative simplicity of dressing and gearing up for my runs. 

The Almanac had this to say about the spring:

April and May will be drier and much warmer than normal.

Yes. Let’s hope they’ve got that right too.

I did manage to get out for a snowy run at the third PPRR Winter Series race. I put screws in my shoes thinking that may be sufficient, when what I needed the first half was crampons. Oy vey.
Screwed Shoes
The five miles out to the turnaround was covered in wet, rutted snow with the consistency of brown sugar. Within minutes, my ankles were hurting and it wasn’t long until that discomfort spread all the way up to my hip. I was expending so much energy to keep myself stabilized that I was running 13:20s the first half as we made our way up the gradual uphill to the turnaround point. 

As temps increased and 189 people trampled on the trail twice, I began to pick up a little speed for the five miles back. The gradual downhill had me averaging 10:45s as I began to open up my stride a little more. While I still felt some sliding, the trail was smoother on the way back. At the start of the race, I placed myself in the back and slowly worked my way past 16 people, most of them in the last 4 miles. Finished in 2:01 and feeling quite tired after running hard, especially in the second half. The last mile clocked in at 9:22, as I went for a fast (for me) finish. Three down, one more to go before the real race season kicks off in March with the Salida Marathon.

I'm a big fan of acoustic music and a sucker for any with a piano player. One of my favorite Americana bands to listen to on long, easy runs is Seattle's The Head and the Heart. Their self-titled debut album is one of my desert island albums. Enjoy. 

Happy Trails,