Monday, April 21, 2014

2014 Robie Creek Half Marathon

1:21 (6:10 pace, 2400' climb, 1700' descent)
2014 Theme:  Killer Queen.  Queen themed music, signage, costumes and pageantry. Pretty cool.
2nd Place out of 2500 runners

Pre-race.  This crew has got me through some pretty crazy racing over the years.  
First mile.  A flattish sub-5 affair.   I am in 3rd and it already a 3 man race as the 2500+ runners spill out behind us.  I already feel my left calf tightening and it would be a battle to keep it from ripping the remainder of the run.
Photo: JOE JASZEWSKI Idaho Statesman
Mile 2 after the initial climb and it is now a 2 man race.  From here it is a short descent to the beginning of of the 6 mile climb on a dirt forest road, ever steepening to the summit.  On these short breaks in the climbing, it was clear that winner Markus had WAY more speed than me.  Geiger is a 30 minute 10k guy with a strong Collegiate XC and Track pedigree and last year ran Robie in the 1:14 range- as fast as its ever been run. Photo: KTVB Erica Deshner Cornwall

6 miles of climbing later at the top of the mountain (mile 8.4 in 56+ mins).  It is over 80F and into a stiff head wind.  I am now 2+ minutes behind.  I am surprised to see both feet off the ground and some semblance of running form.  I am in a world of hurt.  Over the top, I spent a minute or so speaking Captain Caveman gibberish to the horror of the EMT's and spectators looking on as I screamed down the hill, knees wobbling, slamming feet and running as fast as gravity could carry me. Photo by The Pulse Running & Fitness
Almost there. I split a 24 min down- just a tick over 5 min average.  Without a watch, I would have guessed some of these miles at more like 7 min.  I could not believe no one came for me.  3rd place was another 3+ mins back.  I look like a body builder compared to my late-summer build.  Big, oxygen starved muscles = cramptastic.  I can't believe I ran almost 80 miles like this at Western last year.
Finish.  1:21.  A half mile or so up the road, I was chased by a dog from his driveway.  He was a big short-hair showing teeth and he lunged at me.  I jumped him to avoid being bitten, curling into a ball as I flew over him.  While in my tuck, my right hammy seized completely and I was barely able to outrun him.  Earlier, I had jumped over a rattle snake. 
Photo: DARIN OSWALD Idaho Statesman
Fresh Race Rockers sans socks.  Just a nick and I bled like a stuck pig.  This was from breaking my stride with my right leg on the down hill to keep my left calf from going.  Sweet shoes at 7 ounces.  I will review these soon.
At the finish party with the winner.   Big neck bling.  Photo: KTVB Eileen Capson

Good beer and good friends at the finish.  Brandi, Katie and I hung out and took in the scene for hours after the race.  We were on one of the last buses out of there.  I partied as hard as my dehydrated body would allow.  No more treats until September.
Recovery hike on Brundage today.  I bumped into Irene and her goats.  This is "Barley," a horse-sized French Alpine Goat. They will be supplying an aid station somewhere in the backcountry at IMTUF 100 this year.  Maybe a new tradition like the llamas of Leadville.
Gear and Support:

SCOTT Split Shorts
SCOTT Race Rocker racing flats
VFUEL Gel packet at miles 4 and 7.
Vespa Ultra Concentrate 15 minutes pre-race
Breathe-Right nose strip.  I'm liking how these help me breathe.  No sponsor or anything, just digging the extra O2.
Pre-Race Chiropractic by Dr. Guy Jeppe of McCall Chiropractic/ Personalized Healing. 

Report Card

Pre-Race Fitness:  Cardio= B/B+.  Muscle and Tissues= C.  Weight= C.  Racing Specific Training Miles= D.  Heat Training:  D.  Coming in I had only covered 550 miles this year, with only 400 of those miles from running.  In those 550 miles, I climbed over a quarter million feet of vertical (average grade of nearly 500 feet per mile traveled).  That makes for pretty strong lungs but sorely lacking in preparation of the running tissues.  I have my standard lower leg issues that plague each December to July.  I was lucky not to tear my calf in the race.  As is customary, I carry my 6 or 7 extra pounds of winter weight until it warms up in July.  It was up near 80 deg F, which is very hot for me for April.  The snow just left the front yard and McCall is still a month away from any trails melting out.  I did some sauna sessions and some gym workouts with extra clothes- it still felt way hot out there.  Of course all of these standards are compared against my late summer/autumn peak numbers.  For April, I am way ahead of the curve.  All signs point to another year of solid growth and improvement.

Race Exectution:  A-.  I raced hard, didn't settle.  I believed until the end that I would catch him and win.  I wanted to compete head to head.  But, I learned in the first mile that if I did not run my own pace, my calf would have ripped and I would have blown up in that heat.  So, I gave what I had.  I believe I can run the course as much as 5 minutes faster and will try to prove it next year, using what I have learned.

Fun: A.  I tried hard and enjoyed the experience completely.  Half Marathons are infinitely more stressful to me than a 100 miler.  That is the point.  Get out of your comfort zone and get better at running faster.  I was happy to not feel too anxious or nervous before the race and had no regrets after.  Total fun. 

Health: B.  My calf is really sore and tired, but no long term damage.  In the past few weeks, I tried to get some faster miles in before the race. That caused the calf tissues to stress, as I am accustomed to for April.  Thankfully, we have another week of snow in the forecast, so I am hitting the ski slopes some more.  That should get me back to normal and ready to resume a slight mileage uptick.  Nothing crazy until July.

***Toughest in the Northwest- Unless you count any actual trail race, ultra race, track meet, etc.  It's tough as far as your standard corny road races go, but only the "toughest" if you decide to make it that way and run to your limits.  Regardless of it's "toughest" status, it is Idaho's classic race.  It sells out 2500 plus bibs in minutes.  I will be back for more.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Once A Runner...

Once I was a runner.  A real runner.  I breathed and lived for the pain and glory.  But I was just a child and the weight of my world was too much.  By age 11, I lost the fire and wanted to be a normal kid doing normal things.  I wanted to be average.  So, I broke my Old Man's heart and quit running for 20 years.

Over the years I looked back at these experiences with bitterness, as if I had lost most of my childhood. It was a source of strife with my father that drove a wedge between us.  The struggles we had over my quitting are among the most trying times of my life.  It brought out the worst in us.

However, as the years passed and in spite of my disdain for running, it kept it's hooks in me.  There is just something about it.  A few times a year I would sneak out to explore some back roads or obscure atv trails near my home in Ohio.  During these outings I could feel it tugging at me.  By the next day, the soreness and exhaustion reminded me why I left it behind.  In the end, it wore me down and won me back.  Once I found mountain running, it was all over.  It is simple and pure.  It scratches so many itches. 

Recently, I dug up some old photos from boxes in the garage.  I knew what I would find, but I wanted to remember it and feel the "weight" again.  It is amazing how happy it made me to relive those times.  The regret is gone.  Now I know...I had not missed out on anything.  I lived those days fully.  My days as the prodigal runner were a gift.  My father's greatest gift.  The gift I cherish every day, 30 years later.

Rob DeCastella, fresh off his Boston marathon win.  I was 7 and star-struck.  This guy was devilishly handsome and charismatic.  He had the perfect running career- great at every distance up to the marathon.  He held the Marathon World Record from 1981-84.  Meeting Deek was a life-changing moment for me.  He was the most influential runner for me, along with Jim Ryun. 

10yrs, 3 months old.  5 miles- 29:53.  My old Nike Duelist flats weighed 2 oz!  I was 4'9"

8 years old.

August 1985.  I was 6 and the Old Man was 35.  Hard to believe I'll be 35 next month.  He had just quit smoking and drinking and we had just taken up the jogging fad.  Back in those days, if someone saw you running, they would pull over and ask you if you needed help or just scream and throw things at you.

My PR's from the old training logs I dug up:
Age 9- 5:18 mile.  39 min 10k.
Age 10- 5:05 mile.  5 mile 29:53. 37:56 10k hilly.  10 mile 63:07  hilly.
Age 11-  17:13 5k on a hilly xc course. 4:56 mile. 2:14 800m.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bro Time

My BFF Nick came to visit from Colorado.  We caught up on some video gaming, steelheading, sushi slaying, and Lobo chasing.  Most of all it was just great to catch up and shoot the shit with someone I love.  I have been living a pretty isolated existence of hardening myself for the rigors of running 100 miles in the mountains.  My Brandi is a constant source of strength and the person that I rely on for my sanity...but some guy time is still important.  I have let many facets of life slip through the cracks of fatigue and the grinding rhythm of training.  It is fantastic to have great friends that don't turn their back on me because I disappear for a while.  Nick is a solid guy- a Firefighter/Paramedic and true Renaissance Man.  He has been with me through every high and low in my life since we met in the 9th grade.  I owe him so much.  He will be captaining an aid station for me at the McCall Trailrunning Classic, next time I see him in July. 

Over Nick's right shoulder is a huge her of elk- just 200 yards away.  A nasty, windy, sleety day of hunting. 

Nick and our Guide Jess with Nick's wild steely.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Excercise Practice: March 30 to April 5, 2014

Sun 3/30: Boise.  13mi, 2500'.  Robie Creek Tempo.  Start at beginning of dirt.  Climb 5 miles to Adalpe Summit, fast back to truck.  Started 1 mile easy.  Then progressive tempo to summit arriving in 35mins (7min avg pace for the 2000' climb).  Few fast miles back down at 4:45 pace.  Met Brandi and went back up with her easy and back to truck.

Mon: 3/31: AM1- Brundage Skin and Ski 2x.  3100'.  Easy effort for 29 min climb splits. 

Tues: 4/1:  AM1- Brundage Skin and Ski 2x hard, 3100'.  Tempo effort first lap 25:50- 160 max hr.  Second lap was 27 min with each tenth of a mile my watch was set to beep- alternating easy and hard efforts.

AM2- Gym.  Sauna 15 mins.  Bike 30 mins.  5 mins easy, then 8 x 1min hard/ 2 mins easy.  Cranked the 8 mins very hard out of saddle on max resistance, getting HR up to 165- hard for me on a bike.  Strength, core and mobility work after.

Weds 4/2:  Brundage Skin and Ski 2x 3100'.  26:10, 30:40.  Went out hard on first lap and fizzled up high due to hard day yesterday.  Need to be more patient and ease into the workout smarter.  The problem is that there were other skiers on the hill ahead of me and I wanted to pass them.  I need to race soon.

Thurs 4/3:  Rapid River easy/long 5000', 2:30 mins,  16 miles.  Felt flat all day.  Took it easy and cut it shorter than the planned 4 hours.  Up to McCrea Cabin, then up some more to snow line.  Back easy with Brandi to J Jones Grave, then picked it up to 8 min pace last 5 miles.

Fri 4/4:  AM1- Brundage Skin and Ski 2x Easy.  3100'. Splits 29+, 30+. 
Am2- Gym.  Bike 30 mins intervals.  2 mins easy/ 2 mins hard.  Cranked hard out of saddle on the new spin bike at max tension.  Did 5 reps of 2 mins hard.  Then, did mobility and strength work, and hit the pool.  30 mins in pool.  5 mins easy, then 20 mins of 30 secs hard/ 30 secs easy.  Finish with 5 mins easy.  Went very hard.

Sat:4/5:  AM- Brundage Skin & Ski 2x, 3100'.  Easy effort.  4 inches of fresh meant brilliant and effortless skiing. 
Noon- McCall Track session with Brandi and Mo.  3 miles total.  Easy running several laps with 1 harder kilometer thrown in- 3:08.  Went home and tried to watch basketball.  Total fail.  3+ hour nap.

Totals and Recap:  51 miles, 23,000' vert.  Skiing is still good with new snow still piling up and urging me out into the dark mornings to get the freshies.  2 weeks until Robie Creek Half Marathon, but I still feel like the skiing is my best bet for training in the long term, so I will ride that gravy train until the snow fails me.  Probably stay in the pattern a while- skiing every day, doing a long run, tempo run and my faster work on the bike/pool intervals. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hell's Canyon Run and Training Update

Hell's Canyon Run

Post race beers with our friend Hannah and her bird dogs.  This terrain is typical of the entire canyon- allegedly the deepest in the continuous 48 states.
Brandi and I went down to the Snake River a few hours north of our home for a nice gathering of like-minded runners.  We got on a jet boat and were transported 25 or so miles up Hell's Canyon to fend for ourselves to get back.  This is a low key event that wishes to stay that way, so you will have to track it down through the appropriate channels if you are interested.  Instead of hyping it up- I'll do what what ultra-blogs do best- hype myself up!

I went there to run hard in the sun...and I did.  It felt awesome after a winter of 30 minute miles and -10F.  No joke on that.  The trail is over-grown with bunch grass and cacti, with a rock under almost every step.  I was very pleased to find each smooth section to be pacing 5 low.  But around every hairpin corner was a momentum killing techy section or another short/steep grinder.   Just when you got going, there was something to slow you down.  Nevermind much of the race punishes a simple stumble with a fatal plunge over a cliff into the raging and icy Snake.  The thump of a military Chinook chopper could be heard prowling above the angry waters looking for a body from a rafting trip.  A scary reminder to run smart.  I planned to keep it reasonable until the 8 miles to go point, where the bigger hills start and continue in your face to the finish.  It was great to feel strong as I pushed up the final steep hills with energy to burn, finding my way back to Pittsburg Landing in 3hrs 15 mins.  My watch registered 4200' vertical gain.   A perfect early season workout in such a beautiful setting. We hung out a while and chatted as our friends old and new came along to join us at the finish. Sitting on the tailgate drinking beers and telling tales of pain and joy.
B finished strong in just over 5 hours.  Photo: Yadi Spangenberg
Ultimate Direction Jurek Grip Handheld and Essential Waist Pack
1 VESPA Ultra Concentrate
15oz Water
2 VFUEL Gels
SCOTT MK4 (discontinued road shoe)


On the training front, I have been doing very little running.  I have kept it to no more than 2 runs per week.  That said, I am in far better shape and health than I have ever been at the end of winter.  Perhaps better overall shape period, as some stout PR's on training runs have fallen at low heartrates.  Here is a typical training schedule that I have followed since December 1, after taking November off of exercise completely.

Running: 2 days a week with a few days between each run.  20-30 miles and around 7,000-10,000 vert total.  One short and intense (5-10) miles at tempo pace or broken into intervals of differing lengths and intensities, sometimes on the treadmill, always on a steep grade.  The other run is a 4 hour mountain run usually at Rapid River with no calories or water over 18-22 miles and 5,000-8,000 feet vert.  The long run can include surges on the hills if I felt strong and some off-trail hiking on very steep slopes where the elk live.

Skinning/Skiing: 2-4 times per week  3,000-12,000 per session.  My standard is 2 climbs at Brundage at tempo effort totalling 3,100 vert over 2.1 miles in 25-28 mins each climb. On easy days, instead of a short/easy run, I go up to the hill and keep my heartrate low and do 28-30 min climbs.  A few days this winter, I did big volume climbing- going 4-7 hours at a slower pace and racking huge vert.

Cross Training:  Approximately 2-3x per week, I go to the Aspen Club in McCall for my cross training.  Usually one of these sessions involved a few of the things below, sometimes after the workouts above.  Once a week (minimum) I wear lots of clothes and sweat a ton.  Fun and gross.
  • Deep Water Running (DWR): Early in the winter, I did lots of pool running with an emphasis on maximal effort for short intervals.  I have phased this out, but will come back to it at any time if I need high intensity work with no pounding.
  • Gym Bike: Once per week I do a session of all out 8 x 1 minute work reps at max resistance, out of the saddle, with 2 minute rest intervals.  I also did recovery sessions of 30 minutes.
  • Stepmill.  The mill is money for racking vert.  At a good clip, I get around 4,000 feet of gain in an hour.  I mixed this in for some bonus vert when I didn't get to the ski hill. I usually wear a 6-10 lbs pack for this.  Generally a few plates in my AK race vest.
  • Treadmill.  Besides running hill intervals (10-15% slope),  I frequently walk on the treadmill with a 6-10 lbs pack at a 15% incline at 4-5mph.  Do this for an hour and you will see it is a great workout.
  • Strength/balance/mobility work.  Huge emphasis on balancing things out in my hips and core this winter.  Every day, usually twice.  Early in the winter I did circuit classes 2-3x per week with zillions of squats, lunges, pushups, planks, etc.  However, this quickly builds too much muscle, so I stop this after a month to focus on more functional and subtle moves.  I like to impress the meatwad beastmen with some Jane Fondas, superstizzacked into some sick clamshells.
  • Plyometrics.  Jumping, leaping, bounding.  No more old man ultra jogger.  I used to be fast when I was 10.  I want it back.  Key moves are broad jumps, high box launch jumps, 1 leg high box jumps and the dreaded 1 leg hop up a big stairwell at the gym.
  • Sauna.  15-50 mins before and after training.
So, why not just run?  Anyone who has read any of my whiny ramblings from winter and spring would know that I am not able to stay healthy with the brutal cold and harsh surfaces I have near home.  My pattern since starting running a few years ago has been injured shins all winter allowing no quality training December to July.  My goal is to avoid the huge down time that each season has lost due to these injuries.  With a bigger base of training volume, but no damage, I should be stronger as the local trails come into shape and my running takes off.  This will build to a natural peak in late-August for a romp through the Alps.