Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dumb Ass 50K

It's sort of like a Fat Ass 50K only unplanned and stupid.

OK, so I actually did plan to run at least a 50K today. Astute readers will note, to the right, the date listed next to the Sequoia 50K in my 2009 Plans. I am not an astute reader. Apparently, not even of my own writing. That's where the "stupid" comes in.

My plan was to get in at least 40 miles on Saturday by repeating a stunt I pulled last year of running to the start of a 50K race and then running back to my car afterward. I did this at the Skyline Ridge race covering 49 miles in the process. This year I was going to do the same at Sequoia which starts in Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland. I'd never been in that park before, but I know the adjacent Redwood Park (also used for the race) quite well. Sitting with the trail map, I had worked out about a half dozen different options for pre- and post-race distance ranging from under 4 to more than 9 miles.

Being so familiar with the trails, I decided I would just play it by ear deciding on a final route based on how early I managed to get up and get myself there. I ended up waking pretty early and arriving along Skyline Blvd by 6:30am. I decided I would head out along my favorite Golden Spike Trail which hooks up with the West Ridge to cut all the way across the park. This would give me at least 7.5 miles including the route down to the race start. I'd printed out maps, but, as I often do, I forgot them at home. I figured by the time I arrived at unfamiliar trails, I would have course markings to help guide my way.

It was about half way along the West Ridge where I first began to wonder. I knew I was on the course, but saw no little colored ribbons. I thought that maybe they were just marking the course this morning. Perhaps I'd even bump into someone along the way. It wasn't until I ran right passed Moon Gate (and had to do my first backtrack of the morn) that I first became suspicious. From there, I was lost. Leaving Redwood, I had no idea in which direction the trailhead leading into Joaquin Miller lay. I ran one way, then the other only to finally confirm with a local resident that the first direction was, indeed, correct. By the time I found something that looked like a trail entrance, the race start time was already past. However, at this point, I was pretty sure something had gone wrong on my part. No markings. No Moon Gate aid station. Maybe the race was on Sunday?

I found the criss-crossing trails in Joaquin Miller quite confusing. They were beautiful, to say the least, but confusing. Despite the lack of any evidence of a race underway, I was still rushing around in a near panic trying to find where it was supposed to have started. The idea of taking it easy had been put temporarily aside. I eventually found the area, deserted as it was. I decided to take a short break and pull out my Blackberry to fire a quick message to Sarah at PCTR. She not only confirmed that I showed up a week early, but sent me the info copied right from this here blog. Ah well. It was an amazing day so I decided that I would just run as much as I could. Luckily I had my pack with me and at least enough electrolyte and calories for a few more hours.

I decided I would follow the path of the main race loop as much as I could recall and try to get in a full 31 miles after exploring this new park a bit further. I'd already logged more than 12 in my wanderings. So once I headed back into Redwood Park I would just have to head back to the far side of the park and could get the miles in by taking the long route back to my car.

In the end, I had a great day and managed my supplies very well returning too the car a half hour after slurping down my final 100 calorie gel. One extra little lap near the parking area rounded my mileage out to just over 31. It wasn't quite the 40+ that I had planned, but I did get an extra 1000ft of climbing beyond what the race listed and still finished in around 6-1/2 hours. Sure, that wouldn't normally win any 50K race, but, hey, I finished an entire week before anyone else!

Views of the wondering:

Satellite View

Street View

Elevation View

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Return to the hills

I ran with my mistress this afternoon. No, I didn't bump into Olga at yet another race. I'm talking about my long-time, on again, off again, tumultuous affair with one Miss Shawn Peak. She was quite angry with how long I'd been away and simultaneously tried to knock me over and give me frostbite. I tried to explain my absence, but she was in quite the gloomy mood. Her sister Allison looked just as angry so I passed her by and just went for a short trip to the Peak family Monument. I also visited their friend Sue Knoll who offered a bit warmer reception, but I really couldn't stay long as I had business to finish up with the Peaks.

OK, bad puns aside, I had great success with my first hilly trail run in more than 3 months. I started from my house and ran the roads up to the Stanford Ave staging area before heading up the Valley View Trail to Horse Heaven. I didn't actually hit Mission Peak right away, but headed straight over to my favorite trail that connects with Monument. I then went up to the main peak on the return before heading down the back side for a trip to Sunol and back. It was fabulous to return to my "backyard" trails. It was cold and VERY windy in parts, but the rain didn't arrive until I was all done. That always happens when I am prepared with my rain jacket. The only bad part was the inevitable 3.5 mile return home on roads. I always regret that bit when I chose not to drive. Maybe I should carry a pair of skates and stash them somewhere near the parking lot.

When all was said and done, the total was 27.35 miles with over 5400ft of climbing. My goals was to get do somewhere between 25 and 30 miles and I couldn't have come too much closer than I did. I wore my heart rate monitor to force myself to take the pace easy and the result was a nice 6 hours 13 minutes on my feet. The calf held up beautifully. The HRM really helped to keep me disciplined and I was still able to lose myself in the run especially on the downhill bits where I didn't have to worry about my effort level.

Strictly speaking, to follow Maffetone, you should not do any high intensity running during your base building and that includes hills. Basically, your heart rate is one of the best measures of effort and if you cannot keep it within the zone you are either running the hills too hard or are on hills that are just plain too steep. However, being as I am scheduled to do a 100-miler that includes over 28,000ft of climbing in just over a month, holding off on the hill training is not an option. My plan was to still keep my effort level fairly easy, keeping my HR in zone as much as possible. I gave myself a little extra room on the hills trying to maintain 150 or below. I knew that if I just let myself push it that I could still keep a reasonable average (it was 141-bpm for this run) since the downhills will make up for the uphills, but that isn't really in the spirit of base building. So, I set some rules for myself.

I did allow for an exception if a hill was simply too steep, I would ignore my HR, but switch to power-hiking. Even though it would sometimes raise my heart into the upper 150s, I know that it is crucial to work on hard uphill walking for my 100s. Experience has taught me that if I walk easy on the uphills in training, that come race day I will walk even easier (aka: very slow). I worked on finding a strong, maintainable effort on the hills and also focused on my breathing patterns to keep my HR in check. It didn't go too well in the first few hills, but by the time I was coming up from Sonol, I found a good rhythm. I also re-discovered my uphill shuffle and worked on transitioning between shuffle and hike as the incline changed.

All in all, I am calling it a successful return. I feel that I am on my way, but still need a few more good, long runs and some work on the very steep hills. Mission peak has a couple of short (.25mi or so) beasts that are like 30%+ grade. I am going to work out a loop that goes up these and down a smoother path to set up some repeats.