Monday, February 25, 2008

Hill Repeats

Well, I think my strategy of simply resting the body most of the week and focusing on the weekend actually worked. I managed to rid myself of the bug and got in as much running as I could fit in the last 3 days.

Thursday I tested the health with 3 miles on the treadmill walking at 12% incline just under a 4mph pace. I followed that with an hour of yoga. My original plan for this weekend was to attempt four repeats of Mission Peak. However, between weather and time constraints, I knew that I was not going to be able to fit in a single long run. I didn't want to try to run through the heart of the big storm that was coming and my son had a basketball game and his 16th birthday this weekend. I decided I would simply head out to Mission Peak whenever the schedule and mother nature allowed and do as hit the peak as many times as I could.

By the numbers, I ended up touching the top 5 times over the course of 3 days, making 4.5 repeats of the full climb which added up to a grand total of 32 miles and over 9500ft of each climbing and descent between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening. The best part is that I felt good the whole time and could have done more had time and conditions allowed. Here's the details.

Friday 3:30pm, 2X MP - 14mi, +/-4300ft
My original plan was to do repeats of my 8 mile, figure 8 Loop, but given the recent rains, I knew that the Peak Meadow Trail would be very muddy and slippery. The last time I ran that route after a rain my ITB was sore from sliding around on the uphill. I also knew that the final bit of the Eagle Loop would be a total mess as the trail gets little use and would likely be ankle deep mud. I decided that I would stick to the main Hidden Valley Trail that has enough gravel to not get too muddy. I would include the Eagle Trail around the back of the peak to make 7 mile "Lollipop Loop" repeats. The overall mileage would, of course, be less, but the elevation gain for the distance would be higher overall with each loop being over 2100 ft of climbing and descent.

My first loop went well and I kept a pretty strong pace; much stronger than I would have had I been planning more than 2 loops. I hit the peak in 58 minutes and completed the whole loop in about 1:25. Not exactly a sustainable pace, but since my run would be spread out over the weekend some increased intensity would help fill the gap. I definitely slowed it down on the second loop, reaching the peak in 1:02 and finishing the last stretch in the dark which really slowed my downhill for a loop total of 1:35 and right around 3 hours for the full trip. I wore my heartrate monitor and was able to confirm something that I have always suspected.

On my second trip up I was heading up one of the steeper hills doing my normal shuffle/jog at about 18min/mi. My HR was staying around 152. I decided to drop it to a power-hike and my pace dropped to 20min/mi, but my HR went up to 154 and stayed there. Just to be sure, I returned to my shuffle and just as my pace dropped, my HR did too. Not sure what to say about this other than that I am simply more efficient at that slow shuffle jog (aka "the shlog") than I am at powerhiking the hills. I have been working on my walking pace and it is possibly that some of this is due to transition and getting the breathing pattern right once I am at the new pace. However, I also actually feel like I am working less when I'm shuffling. I would simply give up on walking and decide to shuffle all the time, but I think my calves would probably explode over the course of a 100-miler.

It was dark on the way down the second time so my pace was much slower. While normally a slower pace would translate to an easier run, on the downhill here it actually meant more impact and a harder run to me. Being a natural downhiller, I usually let the pitch of the trail set my pace. However, when I can't see, I obviously need to be more cautious which mean more breaking on the legs. Also, I have found that it also means that I get much more of a core workout as my stomach muscles are always engaged with those careful foot placements. Just before the bottom I saw what I thought was a hiker coming down a side trail with a flashlight. Then, suddenly the light was next to me. I have occasionally seen hikers who see a runner and decide to try running downhill. However, even at my slower pace here, they don't normally catch me. It turned out to be another runner. It was a guy named Radu whom I have met out on Mission Peak a few times before. He is a wicked fast runner who generally does runs out to Rose Peak and back. He would likely be one of the top ultra runners in the area, but he chooses not to race as he says he doesn't like the injuries that come with pushing himself too hard. We chatted a bit at the parking lot, before heading out.

Saturday 9:00am, 1X MP - 7mi, +-2140ft
The sky was clear Saturday morning even though the brunt of the storm was scheduled to come in later that day. I hit the trail again getting up as early as I could without sacrificing too much of the rest that I knew would be important to keep my body healthy. I was happy to find that I wasn't too sore at all and things loosened up after the first mile or so. I will say that heading up that first mile was tough as I was trying to focus on finding the easy maintainable pace trying to trick my mind into thinking it was in the middle of a long race. Also, the wind was picking up as the there was a pretty serious storm headed our way for the afternoon. I felt good though and kept a reasonable pace hitting the peak in just over an hour (1:01). I am generally lazy on weekends so don't much get up the peak in the morning. There were a lot more runners out there at this time of day than in the afternoon (meaning more than one). I saw a few coming down as I headed up and others heading up as I was coming down. Near the bottom I saw local Will Gotthardt just starting up the hill with young speedster and ultra newbie Ryan Commons. This 26 year old has been tearing it up lately at the PCTR 50K races. I said hi to Will and wished them luck with the weather.

I finished my loop in about 1:28 and managed to beat the rain as well. I didn't have time for any more as Freddy had a basketball game and so I needed to head home. As I was coming into the parking lot, though, I noticed a woman walking down the trail caring a microphone on a big boom. It seemed an odd thing to be taking on a hike so I asked her what she was recording, figuring it was some sort of scientific thing or something. It turned out she was interviewing Ryan as she is doing a paper on "hitting the wall" or some such. Interesting. The rest of the day was spent watching basketball and watching the storm come in. I felt good still, but was determined not to risk anything by running in the rain. In fact, even on the runs I had done, I was bundled up a lot more than I usually would be for the weather. Two layers with my REI Taku jacket on top. While it meant I sweated a bit more, I chose to remain warm and then change into dry clothes immediately after completing the runs.

Sunday 4:15pm, 1.5X MP - 11mi, +/-3220ft
Sunday we spent shopping at the Valley Fair Mall with Freddy and his friend. Afterwards we went for an early dinner/late lunch at an Italian restaurant on Santana Row. It was pretty good food, but Chicken Cacciatore and a glass of red wine aren't exactly the best pre-run fueling options. Ah well. After dropping Freddy off at his girlfriend's I headed back to Mission Peak once more. I knew I didn't have time for 2 full loops so I planned to do one and then add some miles. Heading up, I again felt good and was keeping a better pace than I expected especially since the trails were much muddier after the rains on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. I hit the top right around an hour. It was quite misty up at the peak, but overall the weather was warmer than I expected.

With plenty of time, I decided I would add some more hills heading down the backside of the Peak Trail fireroad to the intersection with Mill Creek Road. It is about a mile, but is almost as steep as the front side so it would be a good workout. Unfortunately, my dinner caught up with me about 1/2 way down the hill (and about 1/2 mile after passing the outhouse). I had to make an emergency pit-stop before heading back up. Note to self, rich food and hard running, not good. As I reached the intersection again at the saddle I checked the watch and saw that it was not quite 6pm yet so I decided I would make one more loop to the peak. However, as I headed around back, the weather started picking up. The rain picked up from a drizzle, and the mist became denser and denser as I approached the peak. I tried to keep my legs moving as it was also becoming quite cold. By the time I started to head back down the visibility was near zero. It was going to be one slow trip to the bottom. I could definitely feel my quads getting there work in as I gingerly negotiated the steep downhills.

Between the mist, the rain and the growing darkness, it was like running blind. It was kind of a spooky environment, but it was also very enjoyable. I took my time getting down enjoying the final run of the weekend and the feeling of fitness that had returned. About half way down the hill I could see the lights of the valley starting to appear. Below the mist the rain let up and the temps were not nearly as cold either. The final mile or so was very enjoyable and reaching the final bottom exactly the type of the sense of accomplishment that I have been missing.

Even without a single long run, I feel like I am pretty close to being back on track. Running multiple trips was certainly not the arduous run that a full 4X MP run would have been. However, it had its own unique challenges. Starting the second and third trips was definitely good training to get pacing and effort levels set when already a little tired or sore. Also, I my overall average pace was higher than it would have been had I done all the trips in one go. This was a trade of higher intensity over extended effort. I can image that a forth trip in a single day might take as long as 1:45-2:00 for the trip with a lot more walking on the way up. While I still need to test my overall endurance level, I definitely think I got in some needed hill work. I will be doing close to 50 miles next weekend at the Skyline Ridge 50K doing extra miles before and after the official race. Based on how I feel after that, I will make a decision on whether or not I want to request an earlier start time at C2M. Right now I am feeling like sticking where I am and simply challenging myself however that could just be the afterglow of being excited to be back to doing some "real" running.


olga said...

Good hill training and yes, lets see how the 50 looks to make a decision wise:) Best to you!!

angie's pink fuzzy said...


miki said...

I'm interested in your your power walking vs. schlogging progress. I feel the same way in that the schlogging seems to be slightly less painful and less strenuous for me than power hiking. I figured it was just practice and/or maybe technique in my case as I have a tendency to go on my toes instead of my heels. But I hear you.

Good luck with the 50 this weekend. Hope I run into you.

willgotthardt said...


Good to see you back at it...we cruised down to 3-Peaks antennas then out to Sunol/back focused on race pace climbs...great day, finished a few hours later just before the rains came.

Running the 14K at Skyline Ridge Saturday (as I have WTC 50K the following week), then working the Vista Point A/S until early afternoon, so I'll see you there.

Will G.

willgotthardt said...

[Hello Miki]