Monday, October 01, 2007

Kinda all over the place

Despite the joke about "Spring, late-spring, fall and the rainy week" we do actually experience some minor cyclical climate changes in the Bay Area. Yes, they are incredibly mild compared to what most parts of the country experience; certainly not the sort of weather changes that should keep one from going out of doors. There really is no natural reason to plan a break in one's racing schedule especially when some of our coldest months are what most would consider ideal running weather. However, the cloudy skies outside my window foretell the coming of fall and I foresee the closing of my ultra season. I've done quite a bit of racing this year and I look forward to taking things easy as we move into the final months with the holidays and the my son's basketball season on the horizon. Of course, it's not over just yet. Now that October is upon us, I have two big races to plan for this month. A sort of grand finale for 2007 with Dick Collins Firetrails 50 in less than two weeks leading to the Javelina Jundred two weeks after that. I am also signed up for the Quad Dipsea in November, but that is really just sort of the season capper; have fun and see all the local runners one last time for the year.

Run shuffle
I did my last long run before Firetrails last weekend. Not necessarily because I am planning a real taper, but because my running schedule has basically been dictated by all my other commitments lately. Between work, family, personal obligations and the shortening days, I have just been struggling to keep around 50mi/wk, shuffling runs around to fit in miles. This last week was a good example. I got my Tuesday run in by running to the Toyota dealership to pick my car up from the shop. Wednesday I ended up running into the evening under the light of a big full moon. Thursday I ended up bailing on my planned 8-9 miles first due to work and then stuff at home. I forced myself to pay penance by getting up early Friday and slothing through 4 painful morning miles before my 10.5 faster though hillier miles at the other end of the day. I did my long run on Saturday afternoon because I had scored first-row seats to the 49er game for Sunday and Saturday morning the cats had a vet appointment. Overall, I ended up getting some decent mileage in and the Fri-Sat combo of close to 38 total miles was enough for the legs to feel it. We have a road trip planned next weekend so this will probably be a lighter mileage week. Then, it is pre-race week for Firetrails which will be followed by recovery and prep weeks before Javelina. Let the fun begin!

The beginning and the end
As I mentioned above, I did my long run on Saturday afternoon. I decided to do the first part of the Dick Collins course and then the last section on the way back. As far as familiarity, this part of the course is actually what I know the best. However, I think the start and end sections of ultra races are the most important parts mentally. Most of my "problems" always occur in the middle, but I can't plan for when and where and just need to be prepared to endure. Running the early sections of the course was all about reminding myself of the right pace to set early on and remembering to take the initial hills easy. The first climb is fairly steep leading up to the Brandon Trail, but it is still tempting to want to run it and warm up. The first aid station comes pretty early, but is at the top of the climb and the next AS isn't until about mile 8 at Bort Meadows so if I decide to use just one water bottle, I will need to top it off there. For Saturday's run there is no water at the top of the climb and I have to do a little extra out-and-back to the Bort Meadows group campground for water. Since I had started late (3pm) and wanted to finish before dark, I told myself I would turnaround a little after 2 hours which would either be at the entrance to Redwood or, if I pushed a little, at Fern Dell.
I made it to Fern Dell, but was definitely feeling my legs during the grind back up to the ridge from MacDonald Gate. I was planning to take it very easy up this last climb and not burn myself out, but one of the young hikers I passed decided to charge up passed me afterwards. I gave him a "nice job" and reminded myself not to increase my pace, but after he could no longer maintain I think my subconscious kicked it up a bit to the peak. On the ridge I was going to take it easy and recover when another runner popped onto the fireroad in front of me from a side trail. I tried not to catch him on the ups, but I can't help myself when it slopes down. We actually ended up running together for a bit. He lives right off the trail in the hills and is just trying to get back into running again. His name was Alexander Mayer and he's a theoretical physicist currently working on a new book. He was only doing a short run, but he had a ton of running questions and I think I managed to inspire him to run more. I think if I lived in the hills right there that you wouldn't be able to find a day without me on the trail.
I got to Bort Meadows and re-filled the water bottle again. I actually hadn't drained it and was probably not keeping up on my hydration needs. I didn't actually think about it at the time or I would have downed some extra at the camp ground. I got distracted by another conversation by an older gentleman who was picnicking there with his family. He asked about my running and told me that he had heard of the race in this hills named after some guy. I told him about Dick Collins and Ann Trason before heading back out. It wasn't until I hit the Columbine trail and took a bio break that I realized I was WAY behind on hydration (like florescent yellow behind) and probably on nutrition as well. I ate some Clif Bloks drank half my bottle and decided I was just gonna have to put through to the end. In a way, it may help to have been in this state as the contextual effects of emotion on memory could make it easier for me to recall the final miles during the race in a similar mind set. At any rate, running the final miles is all about setting up the end of the race in my head. Remember where the last hills are; where I can push and where I need to cruise. If I am close to a time goal, I want to have a decent idea about how much longer until the finish so I can know whether I should go for it or just let it slide and enjoy the ride.

Experiment of one ... sock
I've mentioned on numerous occasions that my feet are my limiting factor. I don't get blisters luckily, but I do get occasional plantar fasciitis and sometimes toe and ball of the foot pain. The thing is, it is generally much more common in my right foot than my left. I have been thinking that this is quite possibly due to my right foot being the smaller of the two. I think it is about 1/2 size less based on how trying on different shoes has always felt on the two feet. I have been wondering if a lot of the problems are due to (or at least exacerbated by) my right foot sliding around in my shoe more than the left. It certainly never feels as secure and I often find myself cinching up the laces to try and secure the heal before long downhills. So, I thought, why not try a little extra padding on that foot? Before my run on Saturday, I put one Injinji toe sock on my right foot before putting on my normal trail socks. It definitely felt weird at first to have different amounts of padding on each foot, but I have to admit that the right foot was definitely more secure in the shoe than usual. In the end, I think I have to call the experiment a success because I never really noticed any issues during the run. It wasn't a perfect test since I already had some minor pains in that foot to begin with, but they were certainly no worse at the end of the run than at the start and there was no new problems springing up. I will do some more runs like this before I fully declare the problem solved, but it is definitely looking promising. So, if there is anyone out there in need of a bunch of left-footed toe socks, please let me know.

Looking forward
While many people I know are already planning next season I just can't do so this early even if some races will fill up and limit my options. I submitted my application for the Western States lottery so that could (about 15% possibility) greatly effect my planning for next year. Other than that, I don't know. There are a few races I want to do that I didn't do this year. I have an invite for a spring Grand Canyon R2R2R that is very tempting. I am also considering setting some early season time goals; possibly even doing a road marathon to set a more reasonable PR and then try for a sub-5 50K someplace and maybe a sub-9 at AR50. I am thinking that December I will focus on more cross training, strength and speed work. I know that there is a very big correlation between speed and weight and the holidays are deadly for a sweet tooth like me. I think after Javelina I will give it some serious thought, but for now it is still 2007 and it has already been my best running year by a long, long way.


matt said...

that is a great idea with the sock, steve. i recently started to notice the same kind of nagging pains in the toe and ball of my right foot. i hadn't considered trying the injinji as a liner and i might have to give that a shot on some of my midweek runs before the weekend.

as a mostly trail runner/ultrarunner, do you feel it is important to go out and tune up your road marathon PR time? i thought that was interesting and have been thinking lately about the role of an occasional marathon in training/confidence.

thanks for the great post, steve.

willgotthardt said...


The saddest part of this post was that in hindsight you probably had a better time at the vet than at Monster Park the following day.

Best of luck at Firetrails...I'm working AS duty at MacDonald/Big Bear Gate, see you there. [PLEASE NOTE: There will be (bee?) no hives allowed beyond that point, you'll have to release the swarm early].

Will G.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

you're doing jj100!!! I'll be there!

Eudemus said...

Matt, I can't take total credit for the sock idea as I remember someone else telling me that they use the injinji as a liner sock with a thin outer sock. However, I think I am the only one who only uses it on one foot :-).

If I decide to go for a road marathon PR, I will definitely alter my training some. I obviously don't need any sort of "build-up" period, but would definitely add speed work and include some form of real taper before the race.

Eudemus said...

Will, yeah, I think my cats could have run a better offense than the Niners did on Sunday. We still managed to have fun and enjoy the day sitting in the first row, it just wasn't much of a football game.

I'll see you at Firetrails and don't worry, I already stashed my bee hives at key points along the course. What? Did you think I was actually training out there on Saturday ;-)

Eudemus said...

Angie, yep, I will be there at Javelina barring any unforeseen incidents. See you there!

Brad said...

Nice recap of the year. I was out on the Firetrails course Wednesday. I didn't notice any bee hives (good job hiding them), but there were a lot of deer out and about.
I've been having right foot pain since RDL. Seems that my right foot is bigger than my left. I just might take you up on the left sock offer.

Sarah (PCTR) said...

It HAS been quite a year for you, Steve! And it's been fun for us to be able to see a bunch of your successes (and falls and stings) in person and to read about the rest of them here.

Thanks, as always, for the great post, Steve. Looking forward to seeing you and Will and the rest of the folks at Firetrails!


miki said...

Please do not leave any hives near the start or finish or near the Fern Dell AS please.

And I think that road races force you to think of speed more than trails. One of my previous goals for this year was to concentrate more on that. And now Mt View has just built a track near me so I have no excuses. Well, on second thought, I do have an excuse right now...

Great year Steve, and it's not even over yet!!