31 March 2014

The Art of Race Planning

"When spring came, even the false spring, 
there were no problems except where to be happiest." 
- Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Garden of the Gods from Section 16
Oops, I did it again.

I may have let my racing enthusiasm get the best of me for the second year in a row. After taking about a month off of my monster 2013 season, I’ve been easing back into training since January. Problem is, with my season kicking off with Salida two weeks ago, I’m not quite where I need to be fitness-wise. My
achilles and hammies were sore for about a week after Salida and now that I'm recovered, I'm tapering (sigh). 

For the next few months, my races/runs are spaced 2 - 3 weeks apart, so I’m spending most weeks either tapering or recovering. It’s hard to improve my fitness when I’m stuck in that cycle. I’m also more prone not to recover well as I’m anxious to resume normal training, as I discovered after Salida.

So, I’m doing what I can to maintain my fitness and if possible, improve it when I can. Once Bighorn pacing is done (or Hardrock, if I pace there), I’ll work to improve my 50 mile fitness so I can feel better prepared for my hundo in September. Since my season will be ending in October instead of December this year, I should be in better shape when 2015 racing begins in Feb/March.

The weather's been great the past couple of weeks and the trails are drying out nicely. Got back out to Pueblo for a long run as well as Section 16 this past week: 

With my first ultra of the season coming up on Saturday. I’ve been pouring over race reports to get an idea what running in central Kansas is going to be like. I’ve been warned that this course is not flat. I’ll be running up and down rolling hills the entire day. If the forecast (partly sunny, light wind, 40’s – 60’s) holds, then we won’t be contending with the heat that they've had in prior years. Wind can be a problem and there’s no shade on the course. Also, we can expect sand, some short, steep climbs and several water crossings, two of which may be around 3 ft deep. Extra shoes and Drymax socks will be in my drop bag.

Though I’ll be taking it real easy in the first half, I expect the second loop to be another lesson in pain tolerance. I expect to be out there for 12 hours, so I’m gonna be hurting, especially this early in the season. It’ll be good mental training as I get ready for my R2R2R run at the end of April, which will certainly put me in the pain cave at some point.
My boy. Just because.
In other news, I had a FABULOUS 24 hours in Denver this past weekend with J-man. It was the first time we've been away together since the kids were born. Thanks to my running pal Sheila and her huz for watching the kids so we could enjoy some couple time. My friend Tammy had given us a free hotel stay so all we paid for was food. Speaking of which, it was all awesome. We had ate sushi appetizers at Taki Sushi (our fav was the “Sex on the Beach” rolls), had Belgian beers & fried food (don’t miss the beignets!) at the Cheeky Monk and afternoon tea the next day at The House of Commons Tea Room. Best 24 hours I've spent ever. Love my guy.
My favorite food
Our beers of choice
Love of my life
The other thing going on this weekend was the infamous Barkley Marathons – five 20-mile sadistic loops in what is considered the toughest 100 mile race in the world. As of last year, only 14 had completed all 5 loops within the 60 hour time limit -- an astonishing 1% finishing rate among the 900 or so that have tried. It's dubbed “The Race That Eats Its Young” and even seasoned Hardrockers and thru-hikers are given a dose of humble pie and felled after the first loop. Those of us not there follow the race on Twitter (#BM100) and even then, the info is sketchy at times. 

This year, the race started at 6:45 EST last Saturday morning and the conditions were lousy – rain, wind, snow, sleet and very cold at night. While I only checked a couple of times while on my Denver date, it was clear that the indomitable Jared Campbell (2012 finisher, Nolans 14 finisher and overall badass) was on his way to becoming the second 2x finisher after Brett Maune. By the end of loop #2, he had dropped everyone. Only four people completed the fun run (3 laps) in under the 40 hour cutoff. 

Just now, we got word that Jared made it to the yellow gate in a total time of 57:53. Amazeballs! Any time someone finishes a 100 miler, it's an incredible feat. But those that complete Barkley or Nolan's 14 in under 60 hours are in a special category of badass. Most ultrarunners don't have the mental fortitude to suffer for that long. Congrats to all the braved the course, got after it and finished as many loops they could. 
The Beast in blue (Photo: Barkley Marathons Doc Film)
And a quick shout out to Joe Grant and Jill Homer who participated in the White Mountains 100 this weekend, held in interior Alaska. Joe ran to a first place finish in an impressive time of 17:05 (course record) and Jill used the excellent course conditions to finish on her fat bike in 11:30. Awesome work!

Happy Trails,


17 March 2014

2014 Salida Marathon

"Good judgment comes from experience 
and experience comes from bad judgment." 
-Mark Twain

Distance: 26.2 miles 
Elevation: 3,546 ft
Time: 5:52

My second running of the Salida "Run Through Time" Marathon didn't go as well as I'd hoped, but it was still a great day both on and off the trails. The opportunity to run through the San Isabel Nat'l Forest with a bunch of my UR friends was one I have been looking forward to all year.

I was looking forward to this race for two reasons. One, it is my season opener since I skipped out on the Moab Red Hot in Feb. I train to race and I'm happiest when I'm racing, not training. I love the energy, support and camaraderie that I get from racing and if I could afford to do it, I'd do it every other week instead of a long training run.

The other equally important reason I love racing is being able to catch up with friends and acquaintances that I hadn't seen in 6+ months. I spend so much time training on my own that I get downright giddy at seeing my peeps. This year, I knew that I'd be seeing Sheila, Steve & DebBurch, Katie, Matt, Joe & Nick. I probably chewed their ears off, but I couldn't help it. I was thrilled to see them, talk shop and shoot the bull with 'em. I love ultrarunners!
Friday night dinner at Boathouse Cantina with the Peros
Last year, I ran with a head cold that was moving into my chest. I felt lousy the entire time and we had "weather" to contend with. This year, the weather was better (except for the periodic wind gusts) as well as the course conditions. With the speedwork I've been doing all year, I expected to better my time from last year. I did, but by a lousy 3 minutes. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Sheila and I snagged a cheap room at the Great Western Lodge and met up with Steve before heading over to the race start. While I was hanging out in the Steamplant, I ran into ultrarunning's biggest fan, Bill Dooper. I introduced myself and told him I was happy to help send him to Western States this year as part of a fund-raising effort orchestrated by a couple of runners in Fort Collins. He was obviously very touched by the generosity of the UR community. First pico-celeb meeting of the day: check.
Sheila, Steve and I at the start
We got off to a chilly start with blue skies and scattered clouds. It's relatively flat for the first couple of dirt/paved road miles then the gradual climbing begins on single track. I determined to run as much of the climbs as possible in an effort to season my legs a little better now that hillwork is a part of my weekly training. I really enjoy this section of the trail with its runnable climbs and occasional techy sections that add to my enjoyment of it. I leapfrogged with a gal named Brandi who wore the coolest skirt that shimmered in the sunlight. Made me happy every time I saw her, which was several times during the race. She then went on to put the hammer down and finish a solid 30 min ahead of me. You go girl!
Somewhere around the 3 mile mark
Brandi and her awesome shimmer skirt
I knew that at the 8 mile mark there would be a 5 mile climb up a dirt road to the turnaround point at approx 12.5 miles. I walked the whole thing last year; this year I ran it. That would be my undoing at the end of the race, looking back. Even though I felt fine at the time, things began to unravel about 10 miles later.
Passed a gal from Alaska on the road section
The deceptive thing about this course is that when you hit the turnaround point (the highest point of elevation) and start to descend, it's easy to think that your climbing is over. It's not. While the climbs are short, they tend to have snow and poor footing. The half-mile climb around 20 miles was particularly demoralizing last year. Since I knew it was coming, I resolved to power hike it and it didn't seem as long this year. 

The other thing that's deceptive is thinking that you'll make up time on all the descents in the second half. Wrong again. Unless you can bomb down technical, rocky descents like one of the front runners you won't be moving as fast as you'd hoped. I have yet to get a negative split from this course and to do so would require some smart pacing and better downhilling skills than I currently possess. Gotta work on that.
The 7-time Salida veteran I leapfrogged with
Clouds moving in
By the time I got to the final 4-5 miles of runnable trails, I couldn't get any turnover, despite the descending. That's when I knew I may have pushed too hard on the initial climbs. Last year, I was posting 9 mpm on those trails; this year, I couldn't get below 11 mpm. I should have done a walk-run combo on the road climb to preserve my legs for a faster finish.

I think I may also have been in a pre-bonk state at that point. I was taking a V-Fuel Peach Cobbler gel every 45 min. During that last hour, I started feeling a little lightheaded and having trouble willing myself to faster turnover. Perhaps because I pushed so hard I should have taken one every 30 min instead. Oh well, live and learn. 

So while it wasn't the best day I've had out on the trails, I learned some important things as I'm pushing myself more this year. I know what pace I can sustain comfortably for 26, 31 or 50 miles. Now that I'm willing to be sustainably uncomfortable in order to improve my times, I'm still figuring out how to listen to my body and adjust my effort accordingly. It's a delicate science it seems to find that line of running to your potential and not blowing up. I do it better when running less than 5 hours, but clearly need to figure it out for the longer races.
I guess it was an ultra after all
Afterwards, I headed over to the home of a family friend of Burch's where a bunch of us gathered for a fabulous post-race meal put on by his parents (who are awesome, just like their son). Now THAT was fun. Usually, I only get to chat briefly with the runners at a race. Getting to sit down and hang out for hours was definitely the highlight of my day. Besides catching up with the FoCo folks that I met last year I met a few others I only knew by name. What a great bunch. I managed to get my lodging squared away for Quad Rock as well as Run Rabbit Run while I was there (thanks Cat!). I mean, who offers something like that when they hardly know you? Ultrarunners, that's who. Just one of the many reasons they're awesome. 

Marsha, the lady of the house, is from Memphis and once I heard her accent, I fell into my old Nashville drawl instantly. I spent most of the 90's living there and it only takes a little inspiration to resurrect my twang. Love that gal and hope to see her again next year. 
Dooper, Burch & Katie
Nick (#2) and Josh (#1) were only 5 secs apart at the finish
Last year and this year's winner, Josh Arthur, laid down an impressive time of 3:06:29 with Sir Nick just 5 seconds behind him. Wowza. I couldn't come near that time on the Chicago Marathon course, let alone in the mountains. Respect!

Speaking of Josh, he happens to be a rep for V-Fuel, which is the gel I've been using since last summer. It's the only one I can stomach that doesn't make me want to spew. I like Peach Cobbler the best, but they do have other flavors. He gave me a 20% discount code of JCA20 that you can use to order online, so go to their website and try a sample pack. They just added a few new flavors like Maple Bacon, Cool Citrus & Fudge Brownie.

As if this weekend wasn't awesome enough, we celebrated my daughter's 4th birthday with a gaggle of princesses and purple cupcakes. I love that girl. Being a mama and runner is pretty damn awesome. Life is full and it is good!
After taking it easy for the next week, I'll be gearing up for the Rockin' K 50 Mile with speed and hill work as it will be a faster one in Kansas. Another chance to work on pacing and snag a 50 mile PR. Giddy Up!

Happy Trails,