Saturday, April 13, 2013

Vert Test at Rapid River

27.5 miles, 10,000' gain/loss.  See those little jagged teeth on the first and last 7 miles of the run?  That is the beauty of Rapid River- constant, very steep ups and downs and poor footing. 

My #1 key to gaining fitness last summer was to be able to run ANY hill I encountered at a heart rate that was sustainable for 100 miles.  I keyed on hills with portions over 20% angle and from 6000' to 8500' elevation.  On my long runs, I stayed in granny gear- for me that meant 12-14 minute miles and heart rates 145-150.  For shorter runs and tempo efforts, that meant 9-12 min miles and heart rates around 165-170. No matter what, I never walked or rested on a single hill last year beyond May.  Before May 2012, I had to walk many of the steeper hills for lack of leg and cardio power.  Just part of the progression I guess.  Perhaps just expansion of the imagination.

I have had precious few chances to run on truly extended, steep uphills this winter.  McCall's mountains are still around 2 months from being runnable.  Thus, I make the 40 mile drive to Rapid River as often as I can with Brandi.  Not only is it warmer and sunnier, but it starts at only 2200' which means you get to run uphill forever.  The trails are melted out to around 6000' now, which makes for some great and gnarly climbs.  Once the window opens past 4000', several huge climbs materialize up to 1500' gain per mile.  Some of the steepest trails anywhere.

Yesterday, the plan was to climb up the East Fork of Rapid River about 7 miles to Wyant Camp, then try out my granny gear on the Wyant Creek and White Bird Ridge Trails until the snow line was reached.

Wyant Creek Trail 3200' to 6000', 3 miles.  I hit the snow line and downed trees at 6000'.
White Bird Ridge Trail 3100' to 5000', 3.5 miles.  I reached the Trailhead at the top- no snow.

I managed to run the whole way with minimal suffering at a sustainable effort of 10:30 average pace.  This, in spite of holding back on every flat and downhill section to avoid damage to the shins.  Very happy to feel like I am hitting my stride.

Coming down from Whitebird, I was a little bonky from the effort, but I was instantly refreshed by a can of ice cold cola and a nice campfire shared with me by awesome father/son antler shed hunters Joe and Ryan. Instead of the final 8 miles spent suffering, I cruised easily and found a nice tempo to the finish.  Thanks a million guys.  Trail magic!  I picked a lousy day to not carry the camera, as the views from White Bird were incredible.  That view of the Seven Devils could be mistaken for the Tetons!  Next time.  Brandi snapped a few good ones.

The River picking up steam as the mountains above melt out.    
Brandi's self portrait.
Ponderosa Pine.  I love how the vanilla scent of the Pondos grows intense as the temperature rises.  Mix that scent with that of dry, granite dust and it reminds me of Yosemite Valley.

Finishing up and showing teeth.  Not because I'm hurting...but because I was really psyched up to be running hard  after  all that tough climbing.
Orange and Robie wait for us to arrive home.

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