Defn: a human male displaying evidence of devolution - exhibits distinctive "caveman-like" tendencies. This man often dribbles in public places; cannot drink a beverage without spilling it on himself, the floor or someone else; may also run into objects like lampposts & bushes; has a definite "sloopish & short legged" running style that is slow and low to the ground, often resulting in the dragging of knuckles.

These throwback neanderthals, along with their questionable diet, should clearly be avoided.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

North Fork 50K race report

As I type this - I hurt, I'm tired, I'm sore.  I'm also not trying to wipe a huge smile off my sunburnt face.  I had a race today that worked out pretty darn well for me.

It was a cool 40 something degree start at 7 am but I decided to run shirtless because I knew it was going to warm up and I didn't want to have to carry anything unnecessary later in the race.

I positioned myself at the start beside a 50 mile runner that I knew from the last 2 Pikes Peak Marathons - who is a little quicker than me, but I figured he was going to start out sort of slower due to him running an extra 18 miles.  At the start, both 50K and 50 mile runners head out at the same time and run the same trail till almost 15 miles into the race.  As we rounded the 1/2 mile flat stretch at the start around Pine Lake I counted about 25 to 30 people in front of me.  I was hoping for a top 20 finish out of the 121 starters.

We hit the beginning of the first hill and immediately the 50 mile runner dude I was beside started walking.  End of my plan to stick with him.  I know that the longer I run without resigning myself to a walk - the better I do.  I suck at power hiking / walking.  I find it better to just keep shuffling at a slow and steady jog.  So that is what I did for the first 3 mile climb up the initial 1000' feet or so of the race.   Immediately it got warmer as we climbed up into the exposed burn scar area.

The climb wasn't too difficult as I hit the top still averaging near to 13 minute mile pace and feeling quite good.  I let people pass me without any desire to go with them, instead just maintaining a steady effort.  By the time I entered the first aid station at 4.3 miles I had settled in with a train of 5 other runners, one of which was a 50 mile runner, the others running the same race as me.

The next 5 miles was a down and up, 2 1/2 miles each direction, dropping 600' then going back up (a different trail 600'.  I was in the middle of the train of 5 others the whole way down and we shared a relaxed conversation and pace the whole way down.  I learnt the woman in front of me had run a 5:30 50K in Wyoming last year and so that gave me a confidence boost that I was hanging with her.

As we made the turn to head up the group stretched out and before long 3 had dropped off the back and it was just me and 2 others (including 5:30 lady).  The climb was long and yet it was steady and I just stayed as consistent with my effort as possible, after a while I gradually pulled away from the other 2. 

As we neared Aid station 2 we left the trail we were on to head across to it - about 1/5th of a mile to it, then doubled back to the trail we were just on - with the brief out and back I was surprised to see so many other runners in such a short amount of time, about 6 ahead of me and then about the same on the way back.

The next mile plus was a continuation of the uphill, albeit at a less vertical accumulation.  I passed a guy tying his shoe, then a guy who had stopped to pee, which made me realize I needed to do the same - so they both passed me again.  Then we began a meandering descent over the next 3 1/2 miles of about 1000' through some really pretty forest on awesome trail terrain.  During the descent I passed the other guys as well as several more runners - these had started an hour earlier, as permitted to do so as they were 50 milers who needed extra time on the course to avoid cut offs / dq's.

Half way down the descent the trail opened up into another burn area, allowing for nice views around the horizon of peaks - but also of the trail below where I could see for about a mile ahead - seeing 6 or more runners ahead at times.  Temperature's were also beginning to rise, but with that - a breeze was also picking up that remained the rest of the race, especially in exposed areas.  It was a welcome breeze that kept things tolerable, mostly.

Finally at the bottom of the descent was Aid station 3 and a refill of a water bottle.  14.7miles in and now a tough climb ahead.  I thought the climb was supposed to be in the burn area but it ended up not being so, which was good as it was a climb for about 2 1/2 miles and about 1000' feet of climb. 

4/10ths of a mile from the aid station the course split for the 50K and 50 mile runners - I wasn't paying attention to the signs and went left, 50' or so along I had a panicked thought that I went the wrong way - I turned around and fortunately a guy was 20' behind me in a yellow shirt - I asked him if we were on the 50k course and he gave me a convincing "yes".  So, I turned back around and started heading up, and up, and up. 

This was a grind and immediately I went to a lower gear, but the thought came to me that this is what I had trained for, on the Falcon trail and Mt Herman especially, going up, keeping moving, keeping the effort steady.  I kept running, slowly.  But not walking.  I was not ready to walk.  Along a straight section I saw a guy ahead of me and determined he was about 1 minute ahead of me.  Someone to key off.  He was also not walking.  I lost sight of him as the trail took several turns, head down - keep moving, keep the effort steady.  A mile or more later I caught him, he was now walking, I eased slowly past him and tried to say something encouraging.

The climb continued, I kept jogging.  We turned on to the Colorado Trail and finally some change in terrain.  It was a mile of rolling hills up and down, then a section of up again.  It seemed this section was also home to a boatload of mountain bikers, about 20 of them, all coming from the opposite direction.  Several stopped to let me pass, several stayed right on the trail and I had to side step them.  I tried not to grumble but it got frustrating.  Finally I hit the high point of the course at about 8100' and knew it then lead to a long downhill stretch.  As I began the downhill I quickly came up on a lady runner and breezed by her, only to turn a corner and almost collide with some slow moving bikers coming up the hill. 

The next 1/2 mile was a rolling section including a couple of short uphill's before finally heading down again and into the 4th aid station.  As I stopped to get a water bottle filled and eat some food I asked the aid station volunteers where I was - I almost choked on a fig newton when they said I was in 5th place.  I told them that was not possible, I'm not that fast.  They said I was, but was also about 10 minutes behind the 4th place runner.

The next 3+ miles was downhill through the burn scar and with 700' of drop it was here that my quads started talking to me.  Then my stomach started to feel really tight, cramping like.  It actually hurt a bit and whenever I tried to get my pace going quicker I had to back off.  My mind was now in a bit of survival mode - I wanted to keep 5th place, not much chance of getting up any higher.  5th place!  Wow!  That would be a surprise.  I wanted it.

As I went downhill the trail had several switchbacks allowing me to look back and up amongst the burnt out forest.  I tried to but couldn't see anyone, which was good because that would have depressed me.  It was however tough to see anything but burnt tree stumps.  Who knew if other runners were actually there.  Finally the downhill ended and I came out of the burn scar briefly, to turn onto the trail alongside Buffalo Creek.  Alas it signaled the start of the last big uphill climb.  3 miles with 900' of climb.  The next 3/4 mile was a gradual climb and took me back to aid station 3 (now 5).  I stopped there for a minute and downed several cups of coke, some more fig newton's and had a good laugh with the aid station workers about one of them not doing anything.  They were giving him grief because all he was doing was sitting in the shade - so I told him to "do something useful and hold my empty coke cups" - that brought resounding laughter from the others.

On to the next climb - I ran for about a minute and then could not run anymore.  I was now 24 1/2 miles in and entering not only the toughest stretch of the race, but also my low point.

I walked for 2 or 3 minutes and then tried to run again, with a little success for a while, but the uphill was winning.  I had also been in the burn scar since the aid station and it was warm now.  That didn't help.  About 3/4 mile out of the aid station I looked back, hoping not to see anyone - instead I saw the same yellow shirt guy from 10 miles earlier - and he was running, I was not.  I don't know if he saw me but I saw him and it kicked me into gear.  I muttered out loud that I do not want to finish 6th, 5th sounds so much better and I managed to get moving at my slow jog pace again.

Before too long I left the burn area and entered forest again, walking on the steeper sections but rallying to run on the more gradual uphill's.  I kept looking back but couldn't see anyone, but my line of sight was much more limited in the forest.  I was running feeling like I was being chased / hunted.  It kept me moving.

After what seemed like an hour since the last aid station, I got to the final aid station and downed some more coke and fig newton's.  3 1/2 miles to go, almost all downhill.  Time to trash the quads.

My time had slowed but I was well ahead of my previous 50K race pace still (5:42:12) which at 31:18 miles was an 11 minute avg per mile.  Between the 5th and 6th (last) aid station my avg had dropped from 9:45 to 10:15 - not great, but still well ahead of a PR.

3 1/2 miles down and it was way down, the steepest sections of the course, dropping about 1100'.  My stomach was tight again and my legs were achy to say the least.  But I managed to push.  I was running again in burnt, open areas on switchbacks that allowed me to look back and thankfully not see anyone pursuing me nearby.  A mean uphill stretch of 1/4 mile uphill at mile 31 reduced me to walking it - but then back to the steep descent.

Finally back to the lake and on to the finish.  I was ready to be done and finally I was, at 32.18 miles and 5 hrs 21 minutes and change.  I had run an extra mile than my first 50K - but was 20 minutes ahead.  I was warmly greeted at the finish line with confirmation of 5th place overall and 3rd in the 40 to 49 age group.  Note: the winner was 43 and crushed me by about 65 minutes.

I was and still are thrilled with the results, a little irked that I suffered on the big climb out of the 5th aid station - I will use that for future training motivation.  But for now and the next several days and more - time to rest, recoup and eat ice cream.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

50K Training Week 16 - A look behind and a look ahead at race day

So last week was the last week before race week.  40 miles on tap, covered over 3 runs.  The goal was less mileage on the week, but with equal or more tenacity / effort on these 3 runs.

Monday (6/16) did a Double Herman.  It's not that I've got these double 8 mile loops dialed in, but I have overcome the mental barrier of completing a lap, looking up 1600 or so feet and saying to myself: "do I really want to climb that thing again"?  Now I don't think much about it - or glance up - just keep on moving.

Monday's effort was a little sluggish - still feeling the effort of the 27 miler the Friday before, nevertheless I was able to do my second fastest double lap - (3:35) - just a couple of minutes off the previous best time.  I was hoping to beat that and in fact get below 3:30 for the 16 miles and 4680' of gain - but instead just put in a solid effort.

Wednesday I decided on a progression run for my 10 miler on Santa Fe Trail.  Started at Northgate and went up 5 miles and back.  First 2 miles at 9 min pace, next 2 at 8:30, next 2 at 8 min, next 2 at 7:30 and then a challenging 7 min pace avg for the last 2 miles.  I managed to pull it off and was pleased and a little surprised I could eek the last 2 out on rolling terrain.

Friday:  Back to Falcon Trail and using the .6 mile B-52 connector trail to get on to the trail / loop proper - I had ambitions of trying to get a new PR in for the 13 mile loop.  So I set out way too fast and ended up falling short of a new PR - but not too shabby in hindsight.- sans a PR.  Still ended up with a lap time of 1:51 which is fairly decent for me, better than almost all other efforts.

On to this week and just 20 miles to run prior to race day.  By now I can't really gain much , if anything before race day.  But I decided on Monday to see if I could put in a race day like effort on Mt Herman.  That and just to see how decent of shape I am in......

As I type this - on Wednesday - 2 days after the Monday effort - having just run an easy paced 8 miler today and feeling quite sluggish throughout - I know Monday's effort was bordering on too much.  But with that being said - I should be fine by Saturday, and will do a super easy 4 miler tomorrow to stretch out the legs a bit more.

Back to this past Monday and while I am still suffering a bit today..... I am still quite stoked about the run on Monday.  The weather was perfect and I was feeling really good as I set out.  Previous best lap PR was 1:39:50.  Previous Summit PR (set at a different time) was 33:45.  I started out for the first 1/2 mile of gentle climb at a measured / moderate effort, then the approx. 3/4 mile climb up almost 1600' began and I went to work and pushed as much as possible, even managing a jog on a few of the less steep sections.  Turned out a new Summit PR of 32:30 - a full 75 seconds off the old best and an immediate confidence boost into the run.  Still had 6 3/4 miles to go.....

I kept working hard, trying not to crash as I went down the other side of the mountain and connected to the Limbach Canyon trail.  I kept pushing as I tried to keep a sharp mental focus throughout and managed to keep up a solid pace, under PR time. 

Surprisingly there were several groups of hikers out early in the morning but I managed to navigate around them and with 2 miles to go around the front traverse of the mountain I realized I was not only well within beating the old PR - I was within reach of crushing that time and setting a new PR.

I pushed, hard, legs were complaining now - more than they have in a long time - but I was determined to succeed.  And I did - taking exactly 5 minutes off the old best - the new PR for the 8 mile loop with 2300'+ of gain now sits at 1:34:50.  A huge confidence boost going in to the race this Saturday.

And so we come to this coming race day on Saturday - without wanting to sound overconfident - I am really pleased with how well I have trained and are really excited for the race.  I have put in a lot of miles, way more than ever before for any other race.  In fact, my year to date miles are over 700 miles more than last year to date.  Way more than double.  The extra mileage per week has really helped with fitness and endurance.  I also expect that my strength has increased with a boatload more vertical.  I sit nearing almost 140,000' for the year so far  - 90,000' more than this time last year.  My Mount Herman runs have really accumulated the vertical, Falcon Trail on the Air Force Academy has been a valuable and close training ground too.

So, I have banked the work, I think I have figured out fueling and hydration - in essence: eat a lot, drink a lot of fluids and if I start to overheat or over-exert - then back off for a bit.  The weather forecast for Saturday looks favorable - mid to upper 70's which is warm but not intolerable.  The course has 4600' of climb, some of it quite exposed to the sun apparently so I will need to run smart and take advantage of the (apparently well stocked) aid stations.

I don't really have a time goal.  First priority is to finish, I will be a little irked if I don't go under 6 hours and would ultimately like to beat the time I set for my only other 50k last September (Devil Mountain Ultra) of 5:42:12.  Maybe a 5:30 finish time?  I really don't know because I don't know the course.  I guess I will find out and will look to enjoy the run throughout.   I'm excited for the opportunity and grateful for good health and good fitness going into it.

Friday, June 13, 2014

50K training week 15 - measured efforts bring favorable results

Starting out the week with 3 weeks till race day.  On the schedule that I had mapped out for myself I was chasing 50 miles in only 3 runs.  Each run with a purpose of chasing more than just miles.  Training: yes.  Results: more so.

Sunday and Monday: off - Monday was not by design, life happened.  In a nice way, hanging out with my kids is awesome and I had the opportunity to do so in the morning before off to work.

Tuesday: In hindsight an extra rest day after a tough few days last week really helped this days effort.  Also contributing was perfect weather.  Started out in the low 50's and warmed some, but not to the unbearable point. 

On tap....a double Herman, 16 miles and 4600' of gain over the 2 laps.  In the forefront of my mind was to try to run at a steady, consistent pace.  A measured effort that if I ran to the purpose would result in a new PR.  I also wanted to make sure a fueled and hydrated well.  Lap 1 went really smoothly and I made the traverse up to the Summit and then over the other side felling great.  Through Limbaugh canyon it was nice to see things getting green and really coming to life, including wild columbine flowers in patches.  Lap 1 completed in just a few ticks under 1:45.  It was about a minute slower than where I wanted to be, but I was feeling good. 

My PR for 2 laps I had set about a month ago, 3:32:40.  To beat that would take some work - the make or break was going to be the next mile up 1600' to the summit.  By this time it was much warmer, I took a minute to refuel and hydrate up and got to work.  All the while trying to move at the steady effort rather than push too much.  I summited and realized I was still on track to get close to 3:33.  But with over 6 miles to go there was still a lot of work to do - a focused effort needed to be in place.

Taking advantage of the downhill's and trying to stay steady on the climbs paid off.  With 3 miles to go I realized I was not only under the PR pace, but had a shot of getting under 3:30.  The last mile has some stinkers of rolling uphill's that really sap the energy so it took a lot to keep moving.  With 1/3 mile to go and all slightly downhill I dropped the hammer and was able to really gas it.

New PR of 3:28:50.  Taking almost 4 minutes off the previous best, negative splitting lap 2 by 1 minute which to me was even more satisfying.

Wednesday: rest day.  Felt quite good though.

Thursday: Greenland Trail - my 8 mile 1 lap nemesis in that I have tried to break 60 minutes there so many times, my best is about 40 seconds shy of it.  I woke that morning to light rain and a grumpy wind coming from the South.   The first 3 1/3 miles is uphill, heading South.  Not only did I have no chance to PR - it was a miserable first few miles.  I decided to just keep moving and get the first bit out of the way, go moderate for the climb up Kipps Saddle to the high point of the trail - then take advantage of the last 3 miles of downhill with the strengthening wind at my back.

The last 3 miles I rocked out at 20:02 - really pushing it at a surprising pace.  The overall lap time was an unimpressive 63 minutes, but I took away the last 3 miles as encouraging.

Friday: Another nemesis run on tap - Double Falcon.  Two 13 mile laps on the Air Force Academy trail.  I had not run this year in much in the way of hot weather, today was different, especially because I got an hour later start than I hoped for.  The AFA had some event taking place that prohibited access to my normal starting point at the parking lot to the North of the Football stadium.  Instead after driving around to several guard gates and getting nowhere I parked at the B-52 bomber near the North entrance, finally found the connecting trail - an additional .6 miles to get to the Falcon trail - I jogged across to it and then started my 2 laps.

My nemesis, so to speak is the second lap each time I have tried this - each time when I have gone counter clockwise I have bonked, overheated, wore out, burnt out, fell out.  Today I had more fluids, more fuel and more of a plan.  It was simple: measure my effort by a steady manageable pace, drinking and eating frequently and try not to overheat.

My goal for lap 1 was a 2:05 ish time.  But I really wasn't too concerned about the time, I rather was more focused on just managing to keep the effort level steady and consistent.  Lap 1 ended up being 2:03:40 - a little quicker than I wanted but I felt good and with the temperatures climbing I knew lap 2 was going to be a slow bake in the heat.

With the first 2 miles of the lap being a climb up the ridge overlooking the golf courses - in laps gone by this has been my undoing, or overdoing (heat-wise) - depending on how you look at it.  The mindset of just keeping moving at a steady effort seemed to pay off.   I was slower than lap 1 and I knew it, but I got up feeling okay, energy and body temp wise.

I was encouraged and kept moving, reaching the Stanley Canyon high point of the loop with what was a little less fluids than I realized would be necessary with the increasing air temps.  It would be a bit touch and go to have enough to make the last 7 1/2 miles.

I decided to ease back off the effort to try not to overheat and not be too parched.  That helped with fluid consumption.  The climb up the Fire station hill was a brute as always but I made it without walking.  Problem was at the top of it I was down to about 4 ounces of fluids - with 4+ miles to go.

I was on track time wise to beat my previous best 2 lap time (4:15:10) by several minutes - but was faced with a need to pull back the effort even more in order to finish at all.  A steady mile of downhill helped but then 2 grinding uphill's knocked me back.  The one by the stadium kicked my butt. I made it to the top but immediately felt off - I had experienced this overheating / dehydration before.  I walked for a minute and downed the last mouthful of water. 

Instead of finishing less than 1/2 mile later at the parking lot though I had to get back to the B-52 connector trail, 1 1/4 miles away.  I shuffled, stumbled and made my way forward, and felt myself getting really wobbly.  By now the temperature was in the mid 80's.  It was not an easy way to grind it out.  Finally I was done, 26 miles and somehow a new PR - admittedly by only 30 seconds.  Lap 2 was 2:11 exactly.

The next problem was the .6 mile walk back to my car.  That was a slow one.  I purposefully took my time to make it and recuperate as much as I could.  Back at the parking lot some ladies were having a picnic and I pitifully begged some water from them.  They were very obliging.

An afternoon of swimming with my kids at the apartment swimming pool has helped the recovery and now I look forward to my second to last week of training.  40 miles on tap in 3 runs.  Still will be keeping up with a higher effort on these as I back off the mileage but keep up the work.  Race day is getting closer.  I'm thinking about it more often now too.  Not anxious yet, but that will come.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

50K training week 14 - a week of adjustments

At 4 weeks out I had just finished my longest week of miles ever: 75.  This past week was the beginning of my taper - a 4 week taper that is likely not really a taper but rather some less weekly miles, combined with some focusing runs.  This past week and next, the goal was and is to back off the overall mileage, yet to run with a more defined "race specific" purpose. 

In reality - not run just to run and accumulate miles, but to get some quality runs in, in "tired mode" - as I will be on race day.  So for the first 2 weeks of this last 4 week block I was hoping for 60 miles in week 1, 50 in week 2.  Then for the last 2 weeks to really back off the miles to get the legs to feel fresher.

This past week didn't happen like I had planned, but it still was productive I think.   Next week will hopefully be more productive - but that is for next week's post.  Back to this past week.....

Monday: planned on doing a 26 miler, Double Falcon, counter clockwise - my troubling direction to run.  Couldn't make it to start, instead I had to start earlier in the morning due to time and family constraints.  Did a 15 mile moderate tempo run on Santa Fe Trail.  Started at Northgate and went South 7 1/2 miles - almost to Woodmen Rd - at a comfortable 8:30 per mile pace.  Mostly a slight downhill, some rollers along the way.  Turned and came back at a more honest effort of 8:20 pace.  Admittedly it was only 10 seconds per mile faster but  the accumulating miles combined with the gradual upward direction made for a required increase in focus and effort.  Was a good run.

Tuesday: 3 miles easy on open space trails behind my apartment.  Then got some good swimming pool time in the morning with my kids.  My legs liked that - a lot.

Wednesday: 16 miles.  Double Herman.  Was a warm morning even with an early start.  Lap one was a solid effort of exactly 1:45 - in hindsight I worked a little too hard and as a result that showed on lap 2.  Lap 2's climb back up the 1600'+ to the summit was a slow, hard, slog.  The rest of the lap was just trying to hang on - ended up with a 1:52 second lap.  Still a decent time but slower than I wanted to be.  3:37 overall for the 16 miles and 4700' of gain.

Thursday: tried to get back to the Falcon Trail for a lap - was denied entrance due to expired license tags.  Oops.  Surprisingly I made it from the North entrance to the AFA, down to the DMV and back in just over an hour.  Didn't have enough time for a lap of Falcon, so opted for nearby Fox run park.  I got 3 laps in there.  Each lap just over 3 miles and 330' ish of gain.  Lap 1 and 3 I did in 28 minutes, lap 2 in 27 1/2. 

Friday: finally got on Falcon trail.  Got there tired so my goal of a 2 hour lap seemed out of reach.  Went counter clockwise and after the first 3 or 4 miles I began to get my legs back and felt stronger.  Felt good for several miles.  As the last couple of miles came around fatigue and some tough climbs caught me - but I still managed a 1:57 lap - that felt good afterwards.

Saturday: 4 mile recovery, easy run at the open space trails behind my apartment.  Just to unwind and bring the week up to 60 miles.

So, a decent week, making good with what I had.  I certainly had some experience in running on tired legs, especially Thursday and Friday's runs.  Hopefully they will hit the right bank.  Next week: a focused 50.