Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Week Ending June 16

Mon - 8 miles (1,900') easy. Horsetooth North summit (85). Got out under a legitimately hot sun and felt good enough. Should be comfortable working in the 90s by Western States time, I'm hoping.

Tues - 11 miles (1,600') steady. Early morning loop of Bobcat with Mike and Danny. Worked the climb a bit, easy on the ridge and descent and then a pick-up for the last mile and a bit on the valley.

Weds - 8 miles (1,900') easy. Horsetooth North. Hot again, but good breeze kept things comfortable; same breeze that was destroying homes down south in the Colorado Springs-area Black Forest Fire unfortunately.

Thurs - AM: 11 miles (1,200') easy. Nice casual Indian Summer loop on Blue Sky with Sarah. Nice to have a good mist in the air.
PM: 9.5 miles (1,900') hills hard. Committed to a hard effort on Towers, but came up a bit short on the PR that I thought might be in the cards. Just didn't have the will to take it to that place when things started hurtingt. Splits were 2:55 to Towers Rd, 8:45 to Stout, 16:45 to Herrington & 29:45 to the top. Ran out of drive by the Carey Springs grunter, but happy to get up under 30 and to be less than 30 seconds off a PR in warm conditions.

Fri - Noon: 7.5 miles (1,900') easy. Nice easy cruise up Horsetooth in the midday sun. Felt good in the heat.

Sat - AM: 16 miles (4,400') easy. Triple Horsetooth (90). Did each of the three summit teeth via Southridge, Rock and Wathan. The summit was ridiculously busy all three times up, but had south and center to myself.

Sun - Noon: 13 miles (1,200') easy. To Redstone 3 mile with Milner loop. Picked things up a bit coming back on Redstone to get the run over with. I really wasn't much into running today. Mind was in total taper mode with many other things to get done at home. 13 miles all of a sudden seemed like an impossibly long way.

Total: 84 miles (17,200')

This was a predictably blah week. Legs were a bit off and my mind was already on taper vacation and just not that interested in running. I'll cut things down again this week, probably not running much more than 50 miles. Off to Toronto for work as I write this and not back until late Friday, so 50 miles might even be a stretch. In Leadville over the weekend, so there'll be some mileage there I guess. Just waiting for the fresh-leg magic of taper-week three right now. Out to Squaw with Stefanovic Tuesday night.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Week Ending June 9

Mon - AM: 8 miles easy (2,100') at Horsetooth. Legs were predictably lethargic after going hard on the weekend's descents, but just fine once warmed up.
PM: 5 miles (1,100') jog/hike. Ran down to the park to meet Dana and Alistair for a casual run/hike of the Falls loop. Three miles with 700' of accumulated vert, mostly all run, is not nearly enough to put a dent in my 6.5-year-old's energy. Mountains required.

Tues - AM: 8 miles (1,900') hill tempo. With Danny and Mike for the first installment of Double Workout Tuesday. Similar mid-level tempo effort to previous weeks, and a few ticks faster (25:23 - north summit, north gap). Gorgeous morning.
PM: 10 miles track. Found myself with a bit of time before the track workout this afternoon, so jogged five miles to loosen things up from the morning. The workout was 2k open, followed by 8x400 on 70 seconds rest. Warmed into the 2k with the first two laps at 6 min pace, then got after the rest of the workout: 6:55, 73, 71, 70, 72, 72, 70, 69, 69. 400s are definitely not my pace, so I was happy to be able to hang in the low-70s arena.

Weds - 10 miles (2,500') easy. With Stefanovic at Horsetooth. Nice and easy up the hill and across Westridge, then laced the Spring Creek descent on legs that just wanted to go.

Thurs - 11 miles (1,200') fast finish. Ran with the usual Thursday morning suspects (Lee, Eric, Sarah, Scott, Ziggy, Mike) for an Indian Summer out and back. Easy through the first seven, then a ratchet from Rim Rock and a further ratchet from the two-mile fence up to half marathon pace. Fast is feeling really, really good right now.
PM: 5 miles (1,500') hike/run with Alistair. The boy was motivated for a Horsetooth PR attempt, so we got after it a bit this afternoon. Alistair's PR was 57 minutes and change going in, but it was clear by the steps on the rock trail that we were going to crush that, so we reset the goal for 50 minutes, beating it by six seconds with a 49:54 top out. I wonder how long it will be before he starts crushing his old man on the hill? He still had tons of energy when we were done. He needs big mountains this summer, I think.

Fri - 30.5 miles (9,100') long and hilly. Got up in altitude a bit this morning for a fun, if somewhat slow outing with Mike. Parked at the Cow Creek trailhead northeast of Estes Park and ran north on the North Boundary Trail in the northeast portion of RMNP for six miles towards the North Fork of the Big Thompson. The NBT has three decent climbs on the way to the North Fork into and out of a couple significant drainages. The first two are sharp 600-700 foot affairs, with the third being a steady 1,300 climb over not much more than a mile and a half. Once you top out on the narrow ridge there, it's a fun net-downhill contour to the North Fork intersection with compelling views across the valley to Signal Mountain. We headed upriver from the intersection to take the Stormy Peaks connector in hopes of picking up the long-unmaintained Stormy to Signal trail. We of course missed the turn and ended up way too high at the Stormy Peaks backcountry camping area, so retraced and eventually found the trail, which is now not much more than a game scratch. We gave it 20 minutes or so before giving up on the trail, losing it repeatedly to snow banks and general not-there'edness, choosing instead to bushwhack to the Signal - Stormy ridge and follow that east to Signal Mountain (11,200'). The 'scwacking took a ton of time and I think both Mike and I were working harder than expected, having not been above 10,500' for a sustained effort in quite some time. After finally gaining both Signal peaks, we set off down Bulwark Ridge, happy to find that the worst of the tree carnage from the previous winter had been hit with saws. There are still a good many trees blocking passage on the upper reaches of the trail, but the going was good enough for us. Once past the worst of it, the cruise down to Dunraven was a ton of fun. From there it was five miles back upriver to the NBT, and then the last six miles back to the car. Felt good enough on this run, with plenty more in the tank once done.
West off Signal Mtn
Been a while since I've been in the Alpine. 
Sat - 21.5 miles (2,800') steady. I woke up feeling pretty good, but decided to get some work done around the house before heading out in an effort to run through some midday heat. The sun ended up being a bit in and out unfortunately, so I really wasn't that uncomfortable despite the mid-80 forecast and exposed nature of the route. Jogged down to Bobcat Ridge and then ran a steady ascent of Ginny and a tempo-like effort on the ridge and DR descent. Kept it steady in the valley and also on the five mile climb back home. Really pleased with what my legs gave me for this run after yesterday's effort, and also with how quickly three hours / 20+ miles seemed to fly by. All good signs.
PM: 3 miles (700') easy with Dana on the Falls loop.

Sun - 8 miles (2,200') easy. Horsetooth North. Original plan was to run to the Bellevue Bean to meet my parents and family for brunch by way of Horsetooth and Arthurs, but just didn't feel like putting a third long run in. I reconciled the poop-out with the fact that the previous seven days had been 140 miles with just a bit south of 30,000 feet of vertical gain. Jogged up and lingered on the summit a bit to reflect on the training I had put in for this year's running of the Western States 100, and felt good about taking it easy and beginning the taper a day earlier than planned.

Total: 120 miles (25,200')

This week was a good capstone to the Western States training block. It was my highest mileage week of the year and I finished it feeling strong and positive. The week had all of my major training principles packed in there: consistency, speed, threshold, hills and endurance. Those, in my opinion, are the necessary training ingredients for success in mountain ultrarunning. There are of course other pieces of the puzzle to figure out with regards to race execution, but if you have those basic building blocks in place over a good three- to four-month period, I believe you'll see great results.

And now begins the taper. I'm a strong believer in taking a more gradual taper than most. I always take this first week of the taper as more of a traditional cut-back week (75 percent of volume) and then follow up with two weeks of significantly reduced mileage and a real focus on being fresh for the start line - alway erring on the side of 'less is more'. I only do a proper taper once a year and I enjoy it every time. Cheers to that!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pilot Hill 25k, 2013

There's never much fanfare at the Wyoming races, which is a big part of the reason I love going up there to race. Runners congregate around the start, chat for a bit, maybe run a few miles to warm up, then go about the business of running hard for a few miles before swapping stories over a few cold beers and then heading home. Simple. The 2013 rendition of the Pilot Hill 25k (the 37th), a race I have now run four times in the last five years, was no different.

The days leading up to the race here on the Front Range had been exceptionally windy, and closing in on gale force up on the high plains at 7,200 feet in Laramie. Race morning came, and while the winds were significantly lighter in Fort Collins, the trees were still shaking a good bit as I was drinking my early morning coffee. This meant the Laramie trees were being blown sideways, I thought to myself as I got in the car. The weather transition, quite comically and quite literally, always seems to happen as you cross the state line driving up Highway 287. For today's transition, we went from strong winds to stronger winds and from partly cloudy to ominously dark.

Pic: Nora Testerman 
At the start line by the sand flats on the eastern edge of town, the weather concerns were actually muted somewhat with dropping wind strength and temperatures that while cold were certainly preferable to previous renditions that had been a touch on the hot side coming back down off the hill. I recognized Nik Deininger on the start line, a former UW cross country runner who'd beaten me by a couple of minutes last fall at the Silent Trails 10 miler, in addition to some of the usual suspects from home. Sam Malmberg was after the top-of-the-hill premium, I knew, so I was surprised to find myself running solo after just a half mile on the flats.

My pace felt way more controlled from the start than last year, when I'd been chasing Mike Hinterberg (who'd taken off like a just-released caged animal) while trying to hang on to Scott Foley, a much more talented runner than me. At the 180-degree turn this year, a mile and a half in , I was able to see that I'd built a 20 meter lead without really trying. I was surprised, but figured Sam, Nik and the rest of the chase pack were just biding their time waiting for the climbing to begin. I got my head down and continued on, feeling somewhat ridiculous so far out in front by myself.

The climb is not an aggressive one, with just 1,600 feet of vertical relief to cover over six miles, so your foot has to be on the gas the whole way up. The splits from my Highgear suggested that I was running a touch faster than last year, but with the quarter mile added to the ascent portion this year my goal of a sub-60 summit seemed unlikely (versus 1:00:07 last year). Nonetheless, I felt strong the whole climb, if a little clumsy on the rough and trail-less limestone sections and the rutted fields, and rounding the corner under the communication Towers of the Pilot Hill summit the math actually looked good for a 59:xx turn. I threw back a quick shoulder check and saw that Nik was far enough back that I was comfortably going to get the summit first, and indeed I did in 59:24. I stopped briefly to chug a cup of sports drink then took off like a man possessed for the return trip down the hill.

The somewhat bleak top (note tree being blown sideways). Pic: Marie-Helene Faurie
From a training perspective, the descent is the reason I run this race. Yes, it is only 1,600 feet down, but it is decently technical and long and fast enough to be a solid quad workout just four weeks from Western States. Baring disaster, I knew I wasn't going to get caught as I have consistently registered the fastest times coming down in the four years I've run the race. My Highgear splits were beeping in the 5:20 to 5:30 range, which meant Nik would have to be running low 5:00s to be gaining. Given the nature of the terrain, I knew that was unlikely, but I kept my foot on the gas to make sure.
The early stages of the descent. Marie. 

Cruising into the finish on the last two miles of the gently rolling sand flats, I needed to hold just 6:30 pace to dip under 1:40, a target that I had initially considered unlikely. But, as it turned out, I came in a good bit under at 1:39:14, over three minutes faster than last year.

This is a huge boost to the confidence as I enter the final stages of preparation for the showdown at the end of June. There is no better feeling as a runner than that of fitness and preparedness.

Thanks as always to Jeff French, Pilot Hill RD, for managing the proceedings, brewing up the post-race bevvies and generally ensuring a fun time for all at the incredibly reasonable price of $25 (a dollar per kilometer). There aren't many racing deals better than that out there. A second lunch (after the post-race spread from Turtle Rock Cafe) with my parents, wife and kids at Altitudes Chop House (and Brewery), and it was back down 287 into the glorious summer sunshine of Northern Colorado. A good morning.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Week Ending June 2

Mon - 4.5 miles (1,500') hiking. Horsetooth north summit with Alistair, Stella, Sarah and her kids. Up in approx 59 mins, which is another good push for Alistair, but he's hungry for a new PR when we're solo on the hill. As always, the Stella on the back dynamic was quite the workout. No time for much else, so reconciled the day as a recovery day after a big weekend.

Pics: Mike H, who jumped out of the shrubbery, camera at the ready, just below the rock.
Tues - AM: 8 miles (2,100') hill tempo. Week two of Double Workout Tuesday kicked off with a 25:40 run up Horsetooth (Rock/nth gap) in the early AM with Mike. Per usual, Mike got out quickly, so I settled in behind and waited for him to slow down. We were 5:00 flat to the bench, which is about 20 seconds off PR pace, but 20 seconds quicker than I've been doing these tempo runs, and then we settled in and slotted into our respective efforts. Legs were a little unresponsive through the first mile, but happy once settled in. Effort felt reasonably moderate, so I was happy with the time. Back via Wathan.
PM: 10.5 miles track. Round two of Double Workout Tuesday comes 11 hours later at the track. On tap tonight was 800 open (5 min standing rest), then 4 x 800/300 with 100 jog after 800 and 400 jog after 300. I warmed up with three miles for this one to see if I could work out a bit of the gunk from the morning, but I was still having to work hard to get the legs to turn over as we got going. The first 800 felt terrible, but the next four came a little easier and felt reasonably comfortable, although I had to push in places to bridge up to Ben and Brian to stay on pace. Track was ridiculously crowded, which meant lane two, sometimes three, on many of the turns. Splits: 2:37 (5:30 standing rest), 2:34 (w/ 0:36 100 meter jog), :57 (w/2:46 400 meter jog), 2:34 (:40), :56 (2:41), 2:32 (:42), :56 (2:49), 2:35 (:44), :55.

Weds - AM: 8 miles (2,100) easy. A very easy jog up the hill with Stefanovic on a foggy, wet and somewhat cold morning. Erskine sighting (with Quad Rock Tee on) just under the rock for another two squares filled on my Horsetooth Bingo board. Back via Wathan.
PM: 5 miles (1,100') slow. Falls loop. Could have probably hiked this one quicker - super tired legs for the first couple of miles.

Thurs - AM: 11 miles (1,200') easy. Blue Sky / Indian Summer out and back with Lee, Mike and Brian in very pleasant running conditions: wildflowers are off the charts this season. Didn't feel much like pushing at all this morning, so kept the pace super easy for the first 7, and then notched a bit from Rim Rock and then a bit more from the two-mile fence, but a nominal tempo effort at best. Had the upcoming Pilot Hill race in the back of my mind the whole time, and with the legs still feeling groggy it was an easy decision to keep things in check.
PM: 6 miles (600') easy. Jogged out some stiffness on the valley trails from Sodeberg to Arthurs and back. Decided against a run up Towers for the usual Thursday TT as there was nothing to be gained with my legs feeling in need of rest for Pilot Hill on Saturday. Layered up in winter gear to try and get a bit of a sweat going.

Fri: 7.5 miles (1,800') easy. Very easy Horsetooth north summit via the north gap (79). Super breezy out. Legs were still a bit lethargic. Layered up again, but it's just not that hot out yet.

Sat: 17.5 miles (1,600') race. Pilot Hill Classic 25k. Another year, another win and another PR/CR (1:39:xx). Really quite happy with how this one unfolded, and pleasantly surprised to wake up with legs that were ready to go. Although a small-time race, this has served as my pre-Western gauge of fitness for two of the last three Junes, and fitness looks good. Results.

Sun: 28.5 miles (5,800') downhill work. After steamrolling down the unpredictable footing at Pilot Hill yesterday, we got on Storm Mountain Road for an entirely predictable uphill/downhill session on one of the more prominent ridgeline high points in the foothills to the west of Fort Collins/Loveland. Started out a bit sore and grumbly from the day before, but the legs were soon warmed up despite the pedestrian pace Mike and I were maintaining. I put Mike in charge of navigation, considering he's been up this route before, and predictably enough we made a wrong turn not far below the scenic Galuchie Park at the base of the grunt to the summit. Total detour was a bit over a mile, which allowed Alex and Abby to catch up, fortuitously allowing us all to share the wonderful summit together. Just a beautiful, clear and windless day out; a breath of fresh air after the whipping wind frenzy of previous days. I took off on the 9.5 mile descent back to the car, maintaining a comfortable up-tempo pace despite a bit of quad soreness from the day before. Turned around and jogged back up to the Longs Peak View pull-off at 4.5 miles or so and then ran back down fairly casually. Fun morning out on the hill in just beautiful early summer conditions. Attempted to sit in the Big T afterwards to cool the legs a bit, but the snow melt was way too cold for me. Lasted 20 seconds tops.

4.5 miles up the hill you get a fantastic vista of Longs. And, yes, those are knee-length socks. 
Summit shot w/Alex, Abby, and Mike. All pics: Mike.
Total: 106.5 miles (17,800)

All signs seem to be pointing in the right direction at the moment. Fitness checks are looking good, legs are feeling strong, and the mind is in the right place. I'm thinking I may just have timed the Western-States peak right this year after missing it by a good month last year. Starting to feel quietly confident about the summer ahead with the work just about done.