Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekly Training Wrap - 1/23 – 1/29

This was a solid week for me.  I feel like I am getting my mind and body back on track. I broke in some new Red Kinvaras on Monday and Tuesday. Then I got my first two Treadmill workouts of the year when I traveled to Dallas. Saturday was a tough trail workout that I enjoyed a lot.

Next week I hope to get back into a little more regular routine. But some of that will depend on how much recovery I need from the Saturday trail run.

This week's big announcement comes from my wife: she is going to try and train for a marathon. That's right, training is all she's committed to. She hasn't signed up for the race yet. Her running friend has signed up for the Steamboat Marathon in June and training kicks off today. They are hoping to train together, and if it goes well, then Johanna will sign up sometime this Spring. If you've ever met my wife, then you know that she won't have a problem running it if she trains. She just needs to find the motivation to get out and run everyday, particularly in between now and Spring. I will say this, it's starting to get a life of it's own because she has been telling people :)

Day Miles Notes
Monday 8 GA Pace
Tuesday 7 Recovery Pace
Wednesday7 Recovery Pace with Hill Sprints on TM
Thursday 10Progression TM run
FridayRest x-training
Saturday 20 Frozen Front Range Marathon
Sunday 6 Recovery Pace
Total 58 About 8600 vertical feet gained

Frozen Front Range Marathon

I follow a very good blog by a fellow runner John Sherpa. Two weeks ago I noticed an entry on his site about some early season Fat Ass events. A Fat Ass event is an informal event/group run designed to keep runners motivated in the winter time. They are, by definition, unsupported (no aid) and minimally organized. The first event that caught my eye was the Frozen Front Range Marathon. In particular, I was excited about the elevation gain. The goal of this event was to hit six of the peaks in the Boulder open space and run close to a marathon length. If completed, it would net almost 10,000 feet of elevation gain. I don't get enough of that in my training, particularly early in the season. And, I suspected Nico would join me since it is right in his backyard. (I was right about that.)

The plan for the run was to start and end in different places. Everyone was to meet at 7 am at the Dowdy Draw Trail Head in Eldorado Springs where the event would end. We would leave a few cars there and carpool in the rest to the start line near Sanitas. As we congregated at Dowdy waiting for everyone to show up, we were FREEZING. It didn't really matter how much you had on because the wind was cold and just pierced right through. At this point, I was second guessing my decision to wear shorts (the only runner to do so). I don't think we ever really got totally comfortable with the elements all day. One of the runners I met was Bryan. He is a super nice guy and a talented runner.  More on that later. After waiting around for some stragglers, we just headed to the start line.

Once we arrived at the start line, we waited around a bit more. Finally, John said a few words and we were off up the Sanitas trail. One of the reasons that I wanted to do this "event" was to meet more ultra runners. After the start, my initial reaction was to remain with the group. But it became apparent that they were going to be SLOW due to a large variety in skill and experience within the group. Just a few minutes into the run, Nico started pushing toward the front to get some blood flowing and warm up. Bryan and I gladly followed him. And a fourth member, Brad, that none of us had met also joined the group. I was sort of hoping the group would catch us at some point, but that never happened. Fortunately, both Nico and Bryan are familiar with the trails and did a great job keeping us moving in the right direction.

About half way up Sanitas, we ran into another runner that had gotten confused because of the delayed start. His name was Todd (in green below). Todd kept up with us to the top and we never saw him again either. We later learned he didn't want to push the pace with us. That became our group of four for most of the day. In that group was a ton of talent and trail experience. I was easily the least experienced trail runner. And Nico was the only non-ultra vet. Brad (in blue) completed five 100 milers last year (Western States, Vermont, Leadville, Wasatch, and Ozark). Bryan (in black) has competed in several shorter ultras (including a phenomenal 8:35 at Leadville Silver Rush) and has a huge line up of races this year that includes the Leadville 100.

Top of Sanitas

After we stood around for a few at the summit, we started down. Brad and Bryan were screaming down the descent. Their trail experience and fitness were most clear right here. The trail took us by our cars at the start line and we stopped to take of some clothes -- it had suddenly become very warm. Then we headed up the trail for our next summit, Flagstaff. This section of trail was my favorite in the entire run. The grade was mostly runnable. The surroundings were heavily wooded. And, the trail was covered in a very fine powder of snow, but no ice. In fact, the powder was so fine that you could see the red rock coming through almost the entire way. John had placed three gallons of water near the summit as "aid" for us. However, he had done it the night before and it was frozen solid. No luck. We continued on toward Green Mountain.

Green Mountain is one of the more famous peaks in the area -- at least as far as I can tell from reading blogs. It is Anton Krupicka's favorite summit. Climbing up green was punishingly hard. It is a hard climb to begin with, but it was also on icy packed trails and the wind kicked up (probably 30 - 40 MPH with gusts). There were sections of trail there were less than a foot wide in the snow pack. Part of the way up we all stopped and put on our spikes/YakTrax. Brad did not bring any traction with him and would later express regret. We were rewarded at the summit with some reprieve from the wind and beautiful views.

The Summit of Green Mountain, our next Summit (Bear) is in the background.

The decent down Green Mountain was a definite change from earlier descents. Brad had been leading the charge and was now the laggard because he had no traction. The conditions on the next two peaks were horrible and he could not afford a misstep. We would push ahead and then wait to make sure he caught up. Finally we arrived in the canyon and found a stream at the base just before heading up Bear Peak. Nico, Brad and Bryan all filled their water bottles in the stream. Bryan carries a water purifier/filter that they all used. No more standing around, time for the toughest summit yet.

Once again this ascent was pretty miserable. In fact, I was freezing. At one point I became a bit concerned about my hands getting frost bite. Motivated by the miserable conditions, we pushed the ascent hard. Brad and Bryan led the charge again. We were able to get reprieve from the wind by sitting on the East side of the rock formations at the top. It was like two different climates: windy and horrible to the West and sunny and calm to the East. Sitting on the rocks at the summit I started to get REALLY cold. I was shivering and generally not in a happy place.  It was at this point I knew we were not going the full distance today.

Top of Bear Peak

Similar to our experience after Green, we ran down quickly to get out of the wind conditions. The further we got away from a summit, the more the trees blocked the wind. Brad was again struggling to keep up due to the poor footing. We reached a fork in the trail where the trail heads down toward Shadow Canyon -- where we would eventually go. It was obvious that down was the direction to go to get warm because it was both East and low. But first we had to continue up to the South Boulder Peak. Fortunately, South Boulder is a short ascent. By this point, I had my hands balled up in fists inside my gloves. I was hopeful that I wouldn't fall because I would not be able to break my fall without use of my hands. Not much changed at the summit of South Boulder Peak -- cold and windy!

Top of South Boulder Peak

We tried to rapidly descend off of South Boulder Peak and into Shadow Canyon. The descent was very difficult. It is extremely steep and designed almost like a stair case made of rocks and boulders. This descent would be difficult in good conditions, but it was down right insane with the icy conditions. At one point Nico fell and banged his knee. It didn't appear to cause too much damage, but I became extra careful after that. My YakTrax started bugging the hell out of during this descent. They were causing the front of my shoes to curl up and really squeeze my toes together. A toe on my right foot was digging into the toe next to it and cutting through the skin. I could feel it bleeding. To make matters worse, they only provided traction on ice (maybe 25% of the trail at this point). Anytime I was on bare rock, the sole of my trail shoe was a better option for traction because the metal coils on YakTrax just slid on the rock. I finally took my YakTrax off my right foot and ran the rest of the trail with one on and one off.

We had a rather lengthy wait at the bottom as Brad carefully made his way down. I took the opportunity to take my shoe off and do some trailside damage control. The toe that was digging had a long nail that was digging into the other toe. I ripped the nail off and put my YakTrax away. I was also getting low on fluids in my Nathan. The valve had been leaking all day and I had to run holding it up right to keep from losing all my fluid. Fortunately, John had left some aid in Eldorado (only a few miles away). Bryan decided to excuse himself at this point and took the shortest route back to his car, leaving only three of us and with only Nico knowing the way.

Once Brad rejoined us, we regrouped and headed out toward Eldorado Springs. Nico showed us a little informal trail that bridges the trail systems of Boulder and Eldorado Springs together. This reminded of the trails from The Sound of Music -- sort of grassy and rolling. During this section we finally got HOT and stopped to take off another layer of clothes. I was now in short sleeves and shorts. Suddenly, we popped out into Eldorado Springs and we immediately began looking for the aid that John had left. Despite detailed instructions from John, we never found it! In town, the Eldorado Springs Water Company has a faucet/tap where you can refill your 5 gallon bottles for 50 cents. There was a gentleman filling his jugs and Nico politely asked him to top off our water bottle. He did so, but not without a little grumbling and barking orders. 

We had long since decided not to attempt Eldorado Peak for a couple of reasons. The first is that a good portion of the trail is unmaintained and required "bushwhacking" your way to the top. But the main reason was time. It was already after 1pm and both Nico and I wanted to get home. His wife was not feeling well and I had an hour drive home.  Instead of heading right, we headed left for the Fowler trail that would eventually zig-zag toward the car. The ascent was once again icy. We went up without putting traction back on. There was a gentle climb that was mostly runnable for me. Brad decided to make conversation and began telling us a rather long and funny joke about an elderly couple. Nico ran ahead to catch a photo of us coming through a rock formation.

Brad and I running on the Fowler Trail in Eldorado Springs

We crossed the mesa and found the Springbrook Trail. The wind was picking up again and we were pretty exposed. At least we were doing more running than hiking/power walking for the first time since Flagstaff. The initial section of Springbrook brought back memories of the last few miles of the Leadville Silver Rush because it was lightly wooded with a fairly well groomed trail. But, like the Silver Rush, I was getting tired and hungry. There weren't many obstacles in the trail, but each one was an opportunity to trip if you didn't pick up your feet. The trail eventually turned into an exposed prairie and I was ready to be done.

Near the finish, the Springbrook Trail in Eldorado Springs.

We descended another couple of miles in dirt, mud, and snow and finally made it back to the car. Garmin says the total was 20.15 miles with 6600 feet of elevation gain.  I would guess it was actually closer to 21 miles with 6800 - 7000 feet of elevation gain. Bryan has a Garmin 310xt and he was registering a half mile more than me before he departed the group.

John sent an email later in the evening summarizing the day. Many of the runners dropped long before attempting all six peaks. In fact, he was the only one to try, coming a quarter mile short, and he finished after dark. After him, our group hit the most peaks (five). We finished a little after 2 pm. It sounds like John was probably an hour (or more) behind us into Eldorado Springs.

I can imagine that reading this blog you would wonder why I like to do this. After all, some of it just sounds hard and my "report" probably doesn't seem very enthusiastic. The truth is that I love it. The adventure of it all is so different than my regular life and I learn a lot about myself on these adventures. Despite the sore muscles, bruised feet, and black toenails, I am ready for more! I have seen more of my native state in the past 12 months than I saw in my first 30 years. I won't lie though, I am dying for Spring/Summer trail conditions to emerge. Trail running is hard enough without dealing with so much wind and ice. During the run I consumed two Big 100 protein bars (they are about 400 calories each), 65 ounces of Powerade, and 20 ounces of water.

I am skipping John's next event, but may consider the Highline Canal 100K in March. He is going to run the Highline Canal from beginning to end, covering more than 64 miles. We'll see.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekly Training Wrap - 1/16 – 1/22

When last we left our hero... Alright, so I'm no one's hero, but it was kind of a cool introduction, right? Anyway, in last week's installment of my Weekly Training Wrap I indicated that I was in a funk. A week later, I feel pretty much the same in regards to the causes of this condition. However, I think I possibly underplayed the role of two factors.  The virus I developed at the end of last week really played mind games with me. It wasn't until I started feeling better that I recognized this. And, more importantly, the doldrums almost always get to me at this time of year. While I don't think I am depressed, I certainly struggle with energy and mood this time of year.

The larger question at play, what did I do about? The first thing I did is step back and look at the larger picture. As part of that process, I decided to revamp my training plan and put the focus entirely on LT100. The Colorado Marathon is no longer a goal race. Don't mistake that as me saying I won't give a 100% (or hope to PR), I just won't train with a focus on it. In addition, I took a week off of organized training to give myself a little mental break. I still had a good week, including a great trail run. It felt nice to do things at my own pace. Finally, I talked with several good friends to keep help me gather my thoughts and clear out the gunk. I am so fortunate to have a great group of running friends that put up with my constant analysis.

This week is going to be a little different as I am traveling a few days and hope to participate in the Frozen Front Range Marathon on Saturday. The FFRM is a Fat Ass group run that will allow me to meet other ultra/trail runners and get a good long run with vertical into my early season training. I'm excited for it -- hopefully the weather holds up.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 10 Deer Creek Trail Run
Tuesday Rest
Wednesday5 Recovery pace
Thursday 8GA Pace with hill sprints
Friday4 Recovery pace
Saturday 18 Long Run
Sunday 7 Easy pace
Total 52 About 4900 vertical feet gained

Monday, January 16, 2012

Deer Creek Canyon - MLK Day

After struggling with a bit of motivation this past week, I took the opportunity with a day off to do a little trail running. I went up to Deer Creek Canyon to get some views and some vertical (1900 feet)! The run was gorgeous, but the trails are in dicey shape. I really needed my YakTrax for about one-third of this run. But the rest of the trails were just fine and I feared the dry, hard packed surfaces would cause them to snap. I certainly didn't want to stop and take them off every half mile. So, I went without them. The downhill was the worst. Normally I try to make up some time running downhill, but it was impossible without risking a major wipe out. I still had a great time -- but just had to settle for a little slower pace.

Here is the run in photos:

Running up the Meadowlark Trail I stopped to take this photo of Southern Jefferson County (Chatfield is in the distance).

Here is a view up the Plymouth Creek Trail as I continued to ascend. You can see that the trail here was mostly snow packed. About one-third of the trail was snow packed, one-third was ice, and one-third was dry dirt or mud. I really only needed YakTrax for the ice portions.

Another shot of Southern Jeffco from the Plymouth Mountain Trail. I love how it is from "darkness into the light" -- sort of the theme for the day. The only winter running gear that I wore was a long sleeve shirt -- I stupidly forgot my trail jacket -- and I was plenty warm for the most part. My hands were a touch cold at the end.

This was the kind of descent that was nasty because of the ice. The worst part was that the it also slopped to the downhill side (duh!), so the thought of falling down the side of the mountain was a bit freaky!

Another photo of the snow packed conditions on the Homesteader Trail. Fortunately the snow was packed nicely and there was no worry about post holing or even rocks on the trail.

This has always been one of my favorite spots in Deer Creek Canyon (along the Homesteader Trail). I absolutely love how this trail winds down into the forest and all the green in the background. I could have stood there and stared for an hour. Maybe that's just because I was tired...

Here is an example of the dirt packed trail. This was great to run on. My new Brooks PureGrit trail shoes are made for this kind of terrain. They have super soft rubber that grips dirt and rocks nicely. I suppose they helped a bit on snow and ice as well.

At the end of the Red Mesa Loop, my final loop, there was a fallen tree across the trail. Of course I hurdled it at 9 miles per hour (yeah right!). Cool photo and a cool way to end. Somewhere along this trail I ran into a group of hikers that were of European descent, they gave the way to me and then started clapping. Not sure if they were applauding my effort or teasing me :)
The only thing left to do after that was survive the 2 mile decent on a sheet of ice!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Weekly Training Wrap - 1/9 – 1/15

"The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself" -- Unkown

I had a bit of a rough week. And, really, I've hit a bit of a rough patch in my training. Why is it a rough patch? I don't entirely know, but I have a few theories. The most prominent thing that strikes me is that I have trained for nearly 52 weeks now with little down time. What little downtime that I've had has been just enough to resume feeling like my old self, but not enough to really recharge my batteries and hunger for more training. Other factors that may be contributing to my slump include my stomach virus, winter doldrums, and taking my races and training a bit too seriously. If you follow my blog (or know me personally), you know that I tend to do that last one quite a bit. From time to time, I think we lose focus of why we actually do the things we do and need a fresh reminder. This feels like one of those times for me.

What does it all mean? I think it means that I need to take it easy for a bit, perhaps even take some time off. Additionally, I think it means that I need to refocus on my goals and what I love to do. My goal is Leadville Trail 100. And what I love to do is run long, preferably on hills and trails. So I'll spend a little less time time obsessing about MP miles and a little more time trying to find ways to get out on trails. And, I think I'll take two weeks off of formal training to regain a mental edge. That doesn't mean I won't run. It just means that from day-to-day I'll do what I want to do, not what a plan tells me to. Somedays I may just turn off the alarm clock and go back to bed. Maybe I'll even do that everyday for two weeks! Maybe I'll gain ten pounds ;)

The other big news of the week is that I signed up for the San Juan Solstice 50 mile trail run. This is a gnarly trail run often considered a shorter version of the Hard Rock 100. It takes place in some of the most beautiful mountains in Colorado (San Juan Mountains). With nearly 13,000 feet of climbing, this run is a perfect tune-up for Leadville 100.  Here is a sneak preview of the course:

Day Miles Notes
Monday 11 GA pace
Tuesday 10 GA pace with 8 x 30 sec Fartleks
Wednesday6 Recovery with Hill Sprints
Thursday 111 x 4 mile hill repeats
Saturday 6 Aborted LR - illness
Sunday 9 Easy pace
Total 52 About 3700 vertical feet gained

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekly Training Wrap - 1/2 – 1/8

This was my week on the new marathon plan.  On the whole, I would call it a success.  Since I have been keeping a base close to 50 miles, the entirety of the week did not feel all that challenging.  But, some of the individual runs felt challenging.  What I really like is the constant changing of pace.  It has forced me to change up some normal routes (to seeker flatter areas to run) and keeps my attention focused on shorter segments of time.  It keeps me mentally engaged in what I am doing and not so worried about "just getting it over with".  I am looking forward to some of the more challenging long runs later in the plan.

I have been struggling with some alignment issues in my back and causing a bit of knee and ankle pain.  A trip to the chiropractor has me heading the right direction again, but I may go one more time next week just to be sure.  I've also amped up my core training and stretching again.  Both seem to help keep me in balance.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 8 Fartleks 8 x 20sec @ 3K
Tuesday 10 Easy pace
Wednesday5 Recovery with Hill Sprints
Thursday 9GA pace with 4 x 800
Saturday 14 Fast LR pace with 1200' gain
Sunday 5 Easy pace in fresh snow
Total 51 About 3600 vertical feet gained

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Weekly Training Wrap - 12/20 – 1/1

What a great week! I logged a pretty good chunk of mileage celebrating the great year. It began with a fun hike in Boulder on Boxing Day and peaked with a final long run with Jen and Jon. I have been off of formal training for nearly a month. Next week resumes planned training for the Colorado Marathon in May. And I scheduled a half marathon, Platte River, as a tune-up in April. While I technically finished my training plan for the next 18 weeks, I am sure I will change my mind a few times.

I feel compelled to discuss my training plan since the topic has been discussed quite a bit with the new year and Spring marathon plans.  I have settled on  using a plan designed by Brad Hudson.  Before getting into my logic, here are a few highlights about how Hudson likes to train:

  1. Lots of hill work to strengthen legs and prevent injury
  2. Varied pace runs (ladder intervals, Fartleks, progressions, etc...)
  3. Progression from general training to specific training
  4. Constant variation
So why did I pick Hudson?  The truth is that there isn't much magic to it. First of all, I have done a Pfitz cycle already, granted it was cut a bit short because of other races. But still, I want to try something new to keep the stimulus to my body rising.  Second, I like Hudson's philosophy on hill running. It happens that I live in a hilly area and it is convenient for me to play to my home field advantage. Finally, his plan looked a lot like my Arizona buddy Steve's plan and he's having a kick ass training cycle. That's it. Again, no real magic, but I think it will work well for me. If nothing else, the constant variation will keep me from getting bored!

And one last topic worth noting is miles per week. A fundamental decision in any training plan is how many miles you are willing to run. Naturally the miles dictate how many times per week you run, and can impact fatigue, injury and burnout. While any coach will tell you that more miles generally helps to expedite fitness gains, you also have to play to your strengths. Some of us battle injury and cannot take on too many miles.  Many of us have too much going on in life to over commit to running. The limiting factor for me came down to the reality that the Colorado Marathon, while important, is not my goal race for the year. And I don't have a lot of time to recover after the marathon before starting a rigorous training plan for the Leadville Trail 100.  With that in mind, I opted for a conservative 55 mile per week plan. I need to stay fresh and versatile as I work towards my "A" goal for the season.

Day Miles Notes
Monday 11 Bear Peak 3200 Vertical
Tuesday 7 Easy pace
WednesdayRest x-training
Thursday 11GA pace
Friday6 Recovery pace
Saturday 17 Easy pace
Sunday 5 Easy pace
Total 57 About 6500 vertical feet gained