Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cross at own risk....

Another great week of training on my legs and I feel really good. Sunday was the end of a Build 2 week. It included 2 recovery runs, 1 track workout, one 2 hour 3A trail run, hill repeats of 2X45 minutes and a 6.5 hour trail run. All of the workouts were awesome and I felt stronger than the week before.

We did our hill repeats on Friday meaning one less day of recovery. We chose to bump them up because lots of folks had Friday off work and Beast and some other crazy folks were out at Dog Mountain doing loops for 24 hours. This is no small feat since Dog Mountain climbs straight up 2,800 feet in 3.2 miles. Each loop is 7.4 miles long and it's straight up and straight down. Since they started their quest on Thursday at 6PM we felt it was only appropriate to do our hill repeats on Friday morning on Dog. We would get to cheer them on and get the perfect workout in at the same time. Micheal, Cheri, Trisha and I headed out and when we arrived Stan Holman let us know the only two left standing were Beast and Anna. This was no surprise since they were on a mission! What a gorgeous day out in the Gorge. Views were going to be uninhibited at the top. I have my glute workout on Thursday's so I was anxious to see how they felt for the hill repeats. We all headed out for the first one and right off the bat Micheal was on fire and nothing but his dust was left behind for the rest of us. I felt pretty good but Dog is just a bit steeper than our other usual spots and my calves felt it. I was surprised at how fresh my legs were given the lack of a rest day and the leg workout but my recovery seems to be a hyper mode right now. I think that is a good sign. :) When we reached our 45 minutes we still had some hill left to make the summit. We continued on so we could get the view and the feeling of accomplishment from reaching the summit. Dog has two trails that connect at the summit. The steep side which is 3.2 miles long and the less steep side which is 3.7 miles long. We were using the 3.7 mile route for the repeats and we we reached the summit we chose to go down the same way. We felt it would be better downhill running. Number 2 was hard for me. For some strange reason my stomach was urky. I wasn't sure why but it was not pleased with me pushing hard. I actually thought I was going to hurl for a moment but nothing came to the surface. My second climb was not as stellar as my first but Micheal and gang rocked on both. Beast and Anna were on Dog #7 when we left and they were for sure going to get 8 in 24hrs if they kept moving. I was happy to see the email announcing they had indeed finished 8 laps on the Dog....Congrats!

Our 6.5 hour run was on Saturday and were heading up the PCT trail from Herman Creek on a quest to cross the Benson Plateau. Our goal was to cross and come down the Ruckle Creek trail. We weren't sure what kind of snow we would find but if there were tracks we would attempt the crossing. Susan and Steve started a bit earlier than Micheal, Darin and I. Our job was to catch them. We busted butt and found them at the top near the Benson. They scouted and turned to wait for us. It was a sea of snow and we were at about 3,700 feet. Not a track in sight, fresh territory and it appeared no one has attempted a crossing. Steve announces he's going for it and will use the contour of the land to find his way over. I have no idea what kind of endorphins we all had going because we didn't even hesitate and followed him. Now we are stuck because once in those spooky woods there was no way out. The snow was so packed down we weren't leaving tracks. There was the occasional post hole but no consistent tracks. We fanned out like we knew what we were doing. Soon it was like a game of Marco Polo out there. Lots of jokes and laughs at the situation we found ourselves in. For the record I would not recommend this unless you know the Benson like the back of your hand. Acting like we knew what we were doing we would occasionally come across a couple of slash marks. Slash marks are navigation system the forest service used to maintain. They would create what looks like burn marks on the trees. If there is one on both sides it is most likely an old slash mark. I might be wrong in this description so feel free to correct me. When we would find a couple of slash marks that looked like it was marking a direction we thought we were so cool just to have them disappear. The funniest moment of the day was when Steve found a mild (less than a foot) dip in the ground and announced it was the headwaters to Rudolph Creek. We all looked at each other in amazement since the word headwaters means "running water". There was nothing running and the dip wasn't deep enough to be noticed by most. He wasn't joking! Micheal turns and says, "If he starts talking about Santa's other reindeer we are in trouble". We all busted up with serious laughter but Steve was oblivious to the joke because he was serious. Susan and I almost wet our pants it was so funny. Continuing on with our Marco Polo like game on Benson we finally came to Ruckle Creek. A real running creek and that was the landmark we were looking for. The trail was just above the creek somewhere and we knew we were close. Before we knew it we were on the Ruckle Creek trail heading down. This is a pretty rocky steep trail and I really don't love running down it with a huge sense of accomplishment. Just as I was finding my downhill groove I clipped a toe and took a pretty good tumble complete with a total yard sale of handhelds, headphones and gels. The fall itself wasn't so bad but a rock jammed into my lateral tendon on my knee. I have a lovely robins egg on it now. As I laid there gathering myself since it really hurt I thought, "Come on....anything above the waist is fair game but not the legs...especially the knee....reallllllyyyyy???". I few bad words flew out as I cradled my shocked knee and viewed the immense amount of poison oak I landed in....nice job! Despite the tumble it was sweet to have made the crossing and be on our way. Epic adventure!

The run was definitely not over though. We still had 3.5+ hours and decided to head back and make a loop on Nick Eaton Ridge. Again the steep 2 mile climb kicked my butt but I was happy to get it kicked. My legs are developing some great long term strength. I can feel the improvement which is sweet at this point. I feel like they are the strongest they have been in some years. Even after 6+ hours I was able to bust down Gorton which no leg fatigue.

This last week I logged just over 15,000+ feet of climb and descent. That's just above the 13,500+ from last week. My miles are cranking up into the 80's now. I still have enough quality in the week to bring my average pace just under 12 minute mile with all that climb. I like to see these kinds of numbers but my pace to be around 11:30 with this much climb before a 100M. I think I am getting very close. After the run I came home and enjoyed one heck of an ice bath. I got all the essentials together for the perfect ice bath. Ice (of course), tecnu, food and the phone. I even conditioned my hair while sitting there. :)

Next week 14 of us are heading the Grand Canyon for a double crossing and other trail adventures. We are going to melt in the hot canyon but I am so looking forward to challenge. Scott told me to treat this like a training race. I also got word today that I am number 1 on the Hardrock waiting list and they are sure they will have a spot for 5 more if we are still interested. I emailed back with a resounding, "YES"!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Records broke!

Black Saturday was record breaking on both the climb and the descent. 2005 was the first year I started working with Scott and it was the first year I ever thought I would be running up a hill in the Gorge. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. It went like this. Scott says, "I need you to find a trail in the gorge that climbs consistently for about 4 miles". My response, "That shouldn't be a problem". Scott replies, "It needs to be a grade that is less than 9% so you can run it". My reply, "Huh.....I am going to be RUNNING up it". With his general casual demeanor he replies, "Sure, you will be able to do it". Then he just moved on with the other items as if it was normal. I stewed and thought for days about how it would be possible to run such hills when power hiking them is difficult enough. Luckily friends who were familiar with every inch of the Gorge offered up two great trails that fit the bill. The first time out to perform the workout I felt so incredibly anxious like a kid on the first day of school. With my eager to preform personality, desire to not let down my new coach and most of all prove to myself that this was actually possible left my stomach in knots with fear. To my utter dis-belief it was possible and I was able to run up something I would have never considered attempting prior. It was so hard but it happened. That experience alone changed my whole perspective of hills and more importantly my own abilities. So it went on and Black Saturday became a staple of my training. It has to be one of most satisfying workouts ever. When I leave I feel like I have accomplished so much in such a short period of time and it's a true test of my fitness.

We had fresh blood this Saturday on PCT off Herman Creek and the 400 trail. Cheri joined us dressed in full black, smiling, excited to see some new trail and push herself on the hills. Steve, Micheal and I had 2X40-45 minutes which for me is the first clearing on that section of trail gaining 2200+ feet in 3.2 miles. Running up the trail was relatively comfortable for a threshold workout. I could feel my glutes from my weight training but other than that I felt pretty darn fresh. The trail was in fabulous conditions and it just felt awesome to be back out there again pushing my limits with friends. As we crested the climb for the very brief flat spot I knew I had a good shot at a new record. On the very last switchback and the clearing in site my watch flipped to 43 minutes. I touched the open view point in 43:39! My previous fastest time was 44:06. Since the object of hill repeats is to push the descents just as hard as the climbs I got re-focused and tried to let it rip. I reached to bottom in 24:37....at least one minute faster than any other time. I felt so IN IT on the descent, strong and in control. That was some of the best single track downhilling I have done in forever. The best part about the whole thing was I ready to do it again. I wasn't dreading it and my legs weren't jelly. The second ascent was harder and my legs has less spring but instead of willing the clearing to appear I got lost in the moment. I wasn't even wishing it end, for the pain to stop or the breathing to be easy. The goal of repeats is to be as strong as the first one. If you fail then you have pushed to hard on the first one. I reached the clearing in 44:05. A tad bit slower but I was still over joyed since again it was faster than my previous record. The crescendo of the whole thing was my descent at 23:50! That's a 7:27 pace on rocky single track....for me that's mind blowing. Olga???? What do you think? Your the downhill monster and you have crushed this trail before. We got in 5,630 feet of climbing on our 17 mile run. Now the bar is set pretty high but I am just thrilled to have made any progress on threshold workouts.

Sunday we went in search of snow and we found it. Not only did we find snow but the water crossing were swift, deep and cold. The first few we attempted to stay dry then we just gave up as Steve drove home the fact that Hardrock has lots of water crossing. Our plan was to head up the Herman Creek trail as far as we could go. We were willing to travel through snow if we could find our way to the PCT but if we couldn't follow a clear path we would turn around and on our way back climb up and over Nick Eaton Ridge to the cutoff trail and down Gorton Creek and back to the car. We got almost to Mud Lake before we were in a sea of snow with no place to go. "Where is that darn trail"? It was a pretty awesome sight to reach the opening with Tomlike Mountain in the back ground but absolutely everything was under lots of snow. It is melting but man after 3,100 feet it's still deep. Since we are having a much needed heat wave the snow was soft making for some funny post holing scenes. When Micheal found himself in this situation I was laughing so hard I almost hurt myself. Steve was no better off except his long legs stopped him from looking like he was suspended by snow. I got one good leg dump. This 5.5 hour run was not easy and the temperatures were hot. I was actually sweating like crazy and I never sweat. I wish I did but generally I am like a camel. Not Sunday though. I was soaked and it felt great. The 2 mile mile steep climb up Nick Eaton was hard on all of us but we made good time just to treated to some of the sweetest downhill in the Gorge (my opinion of course). After the short cutoff trail over to Gorton Creek we got to run down for 2.6 miles of pure bliss! This is one of our short hill repeat haunts and since we haven't been on it for awhile I forgot just how awesome it is to fly down this baby. It's a must do for Gorge runners. The strong finish to our 5.5 hour put some serious smiles on our faces. I think all three of us must have said, "Awesome Runs", more than 5 times each.

That ends a Build 1 week and my mileage is creeping up. I may hit near 100 on my peak week. My goal is to maintain this level of strength as I make my way through this first cycle of the Peak Phase.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Number 7!

Kris commented about my current blog laziness but it takes one to know one don't ya think...tee hee!

My recovery after Miwok was great. Last Saturday I had an M-Pace run and I have to admit it was hard. I ended up making all my numbers but it sure wasn't fluid. I wanted to quit at every mile but made myself keep going as long as I was hitting my 7:32 pace. I gave myself permission to cut it short if I wasn't able to run fast enough. Fortunately or unfortunately I kept making the pace so I had to finish it out. Sunday Micheal, Darin and I ran 2.5 hours in the gorge and within that run I had to do a threshold hill of 20-25 minutes. Micheal was nice enough to come out on Sunday even though he ran McDonald Forest 50K on Saturday. I was stoked to take him while he was down, leave him in the dust, make him suffer as he tried to keep up with me. Well...that didn't happen. I was so pissed running up to Devil's Rest working so hard and he was right there. Obviously he didn't work hard enough at McDonald! I felt much better and more comfortable in my stride on Sunday than I did on Saturday.

This week is a Build 1. Only 2 more training cycles before Hardrock and I am still down in the wait list......very sad face, humph! With 8 weeks left it's time to do Peak Training. That means long track workouts, long hill repeats and long Sunday runs. I love this phase but I know it's the hardest to maintain and manage. The fatigue, the food, the sleep and the mental sharpness to do the quality parts of the workouts are all key to making these 8 weeks pay off on race day. I also find this is phase where understanding the difference between good training fatigue and un-healthy fatigue is challenging for me. I so much want to do ALL the workouts to the FULLEST, not miss one and never give up. That sometimes gets me in a pickle. I have a good understanding of the fine line but that doesn't mean I won't cross it anyway just to make sure then WHAM!.....I am toast. I tend to either get sick or so tired I can't do the quality workouts like I should which in turn plays havoc with my confidence.

The track workout this week went so well I had to pinch myself when I got in the car. I suppose it's a good thing when such small successes can make your entire day. First off, Kris...aka (blog slacker) met me for the workout. She isn't running much, she hasn't been doing any quality running workouts but that doesn't seem to stop her. The incredible internal drive and competitive nature of this girl is something I would like to harness for some of my races. She will die before she lets you pass her. :) Sorry to call you out here girlfriend but it's simply the truth and a darn good quality that not many have. She dished a good bit of slacker talk during the warm up and how she feels fatigued from the 225 lb dead lifts (crazzzzzy stronggg) she did the day before describing her very heavy feeling legs. When it came time to sprint around the track she was running behind me talking! I thought for sure after about the 4th repeat I would have her broke down but no....she just got faster. I had to do longer intervals but in the 400 and 800 meters she kicked my butt. We had a blast and I begged her to come next Wednesday.

Tomorrow is Black Saturday! I'm scared. We are heading out for our 2X45 minute repeats on familiar territory. So.....I have numbers and I will know my fitness level. Sunday is 5.5 hours of gorge running in 86 degrees! We are going to cook but I can't wait. I am still itching my nasty poison oak from Miwok and my patches look like a skin disease. All that rain, evil oak and sticking clothes made for some serious itching. I actually woke myself up the other night scratching....yuk! It will be nice to see the sun and feel the warmth on few consectutive days.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My 17:36 minute mistake!

How do you run Miwok 100K 4 times and take a wrong turn 2 out of 4 runs? This course is really well marked and there are lots of runners so in order for me to take a wrong turn I had to be in some special place in my head. I think that deserves a some sort of special award! Yes, I did it again....

The race went really well despite my mistake I ran strong all day. It started with an uneventful trip to Sausalito and an early rise at 3:15 a.m. Due to the parking restrictions Bill and I and our type A ways needed to be sure we had plenty of time. We pretty much succeeded in being almost the first car in the lot race morning. I got lots of time to relax in the car and watch the pending weather. It was going to be a wet day but that was perfect for me and I wasn't bothered a bit. I felt right at home except it was pretty muggy and warm when we started. The beach start at Miwok is special and this time the sand was wet meaning very little if any sand made it's way into my shoe. I started pretty conservative and as we made our way on the long road climb we started spreading out. I could have easily run the whole road but chose to be good this year and save myself a bit. I still made good time and arrived at Tennessee Valley (11.9) right on my schedule. I started out with a tank, my shrug sleeves and a vest. I lost the vest at Tennessee Valley but chose to keep my sleeves tied around my waist just in case. Folks were peeling layers big time since it wasn't raining yet and it was pretty muggy. The skies were ripe for a dump though. Bill was ready as always thinking I should be faster.....silly man. The race does another good climb on a dirt road which is mostly runnable for me but some of it is too steep requiring me to walk. Making my way to Muir Beach on time was great. I really tried to open up on all the downhills and make the most of them. The rain was beginning to fall but it was more like a mist amongst the thick fog. It wasn't cold but by this point everyone was wet from the dew anyway. On my way to Pantoll it started to rain for real and the temperature dropped a bit. I untied my shrug and put it on. It was still warm enough but the rain had a bite. The winds were picking up as well and on the open sections it felt cold. All the folks who left their clothes at Tennessee Valley looked cold and their skin was red. We were all soaked. At Pantoll Bill was bundled up like he was going skiing so that meant the air temp was not as warm as us runners thought. I chose to stick with the clothes I had on and would see him at Randall (mile 35).
I was quick in the aid stations barely breaking a step which was nice and helped me gain some minutes here and there on my 11:28 pace chart. My goal was 11:15 and I was smack dab in the middle of my pace chart and my goal. I felt good about this and my body was ready to run. All the Miwoks I have run have been warm. Too warm for my PNW blood. I always seem to suffer on this next section to Bofax. We run across the beautiful fields full of wildflowers and the occasional wild turkey. Today the fog, rain and wind kept the views of anything hidden. The trail here is narrow and generally full of day hikers but not today! I don't remember seeing a single person other than a runner. The weather kept them all home. However clear the trail was of people it was full of mud. This mud is the slippery stuff! No big deal for me....again I felt right at home. The winds were pretty nasty blowing rain at the side of your face. I pulled my headband over my ears. I made good time to Bofax but I was so wet. My clothes were stuck to me like spandex. Not a good look and my shorts kept falling down I had to tie the inner string tight to fight the weight of the water. The rain was not letting up and everyone was either bundled up or wearing very little. I was still in my shorts, tank and shrug. I wasn't cold but I was certainly wet. This next section to Randall is a mostly a dirt road. It rolls along a neat forest and is generally good running. The puddles from all the rain were everywhere and many times crossing the whole road. Most of the time there was a bit of room on the side to avoid submerging your foot into the water but it was annoying. The puddles seemed to grow in number as I went along. I was still right in the middle of my pace chart and goal when I got to Randall. Bill was waiting and I fueled up and he asked me if I needed a dry shirt. "No, I am fine"! I left with intentions of starting to push hard. I ran as much of the road back up as I could focusing on pushing my pace. I was making good time. Now on the rolling road heading back to Bofax the rain was relentless and the puddles were much larger. The sides of the puddles were mostly gone or so trampled and muddy I chose to stop trying to avoid them. Being a true PNW runner I went right down the middle. Some of them were so deep my knees got a nice cooling treatment. Since this is an out and back sections we see all the folks behind us. Nearing the end of this forested section I headed straight through a large puddle. Little did I know the puddle was rather deep taking my shorts down half way. I dropped down like I hit a sink hole. Fortunately I got them pulled back up before the folks behind me got a shot of my back side. I just rolled my eyes in stupidity. Sometimes I truly don't know where I come up with these bright ideas. I was soaked anyway but now I was super soaked.

At Bofax I was in and out. It was getting cold now. Out of the forested area and back onto the fields. Every year this has been a rough patch for me. It's hot, open and HOT! Well, not this year! I certainly was not having any ill effects from heat. The mud in this sections was so much worse now then earlier. All the rain and runners had created a Hagg Lake mudfest. That was not big deal but the sideways rain and wind was cold and I was feeling it. I knew I still had a long stretch before getting to Pantoll and was starting to shake a bit. I had a brief pity party thinking why didn't I get a heavier shirt from Bill. Every time the wind would come up I growled or moaned. I felt bad for the guy behind me but then again he probably couldn't hear me because the wind had roar of it's own. After my very brief pity party I decided to use the cold to my advantage. The faster I ran the warmer I would be and the faster I ran the sooner I could get dry clothes. This worked. I actually had moments of disconnect with my body...it was pretty powerful to me. To be able to not feel something awful and turn the situation into something of value was cool. I don't remember being able to do that before. I got to Pantoll (mile 45) faster than any other time by over 12 minutes! My legs were blue and it freaked Bill out. He helped me get a dry shirt on since my hands were not working at all. I left Pantoll shivering. It was a nice downhill section but it took me nearly 20 minutes to warm back up. Now down off the ridge line the temperature was warmer because the wind was being blocked. I think I could have run much better down that hill if I wasn't so frozen but I still did well. At the bottom we begin a traverse up some switchbacks to HWY1 aid station. This section took me 2 minutes longer than I expected but I still had a shot at 11:15 and I knew I was good for 11:20 and no slower than 11:25. At HWY 1 I waisted no time and headed out with some coke. After about 3 minutes the road makes a sharp left turn. Too focused on my goal at the sharp turn I see a pink ribbon on a trail post. I go straight up the trail. It's steep and I think hmmmmm....this doesn't look familiar but I am idiot with trail memory. I hear voices but with the dense fog you can only see for about 10 feet. I continue the climb and I know it's not right. I get to the top and look down and see the road with pink ribbons. I knew I had went the wrong direction. I was pissed, thought for moment on what to do? Run down to the road or back track. I had to back track or I would be cheating. I hit my watch and keep track of my time. It took me 17:36 to get back to my mistake. When I got back there I look to the left and see a sea of pink ribbons. I was so focused on the right side of the road and that one pink ribbon I didn't turn and look left. I beat myself up for about 2 minutes then got back in the game. It actually made me run quite fast at this point. I was hell bent and started laughing at myself because it really does take a special kind of tunnel vision to take a wrong turn at Miwok. When I got to Tennessee Valley Bill was worried. The poor guy had walked half way up the road wondering what happened to me. Since the last time he saw me I was blue and shivering I had him all worked up. When I told him I took a wrong turn his sympathy went out the window and the wild turkey he spotted on the hillside trumped my story and he was gone to get a picture.

From Tennessee valley home it's only 3.7 miles. A 2 mile climb then a blasting downhill into the finish. I ran as hard as I could. Coming in at 11:43 was not what I had planned but given my error I am pretty happy with my run. There are a few things I did right on this race. I didn't get any blisters! I kept my head in the game the whole day. I ran has hard as I could never giving up. I let go of my mistakes and turned them into fuel. I should have taken clothes at Randall and I should have NEVER made that wrong turn. I got lazy with marking since it's so well marked. Big lesson for me in that. There is a ton of poison oak on the course and when I got done I scrubbed and scrubbed my whole body with Tecnu....even my face. I knew with the wet conditions it was all over me. I ended up with quite a bit. 3 huge patches that actually look like burn patches now. The evil oil stuck on my wet clothes made for some nice flesh eating. It was an amazing weather day at Miwok. I would have never expected it to be so rainy but I think that helped me have a great run.

Vegas was a blast and I recovered really fast. Bill and I actually did 2 workouts while we were there. That probably helped my recovery. We sat at the pool and soaked up the heat, got over stimulated with all the Vegas roar and slept in! It was so fun.