Friday, November 18, 2011

Tempo Thursday

(Red Oak Trail at Eisenhower Park)

My schedule for yesterday called for a nice 6 mile run, with the middle 3 miles at tempo pace. I debated running before school, but then I checked the weather forecast and saw the afternoon temps were supposed to be in the 60s with clear skies. I couldn’t pass that up, so I rushed over to Eisenhower after school to squeeze in a run before dark and so I could meet the gang at Freetails afterwards. I jumped out of my car and hit the trail running, taking Hillview in a clockwise direction. I casually jogged up to the top, then hit Red Oak for a short extension before beginning the “fun” part of my workout. I crossed the 2 mile (warmup) mark of my run just before beginning the descent down Yucca, which can be a very fast and enjoyable drop. I navigated the little twists and turns, soaking in the scenery and the tunes coming from my iPod (one I had borrowed since mine had been stolen the day before). As soon as I hit the bottom, I immediately turned around to re-trace my steps. After climbing Yucca, I re-joined Hillview and found John Palmer running towards me. After a quick exchange of words and promise to meet up later, I continued the tempo run I was so enjoying, seeing 2 deer cross a few feet ahead of me. This was the first time I have ever seen deer at Eisenhower, so it capped off a great day. After reaching the 5 mile mark of my run, I backed off the speed and leisurely ran some more.

Upon hitting the parking lot, I chatted with several friends as we watched a boot camp session start nearby. Words can’t do it justice, but let’s just say it was fascinating and entertaining to watch. Yesterday was one of those days you wish you could run forever. The weather, music, and scenery all contributed to make those 6 miles magical. I just hope that feeling will continue over to tomorrow as I head to Warda, TX to run the Wild Hare 50K. I intend to “race” it, which means I’ll be trying to push past my comfort zone, something I have trouble doing in the heat and humidity (which is in the forecast for tomorrow). Regardless of the outcome, I will enjoy being out on the trails doing what I love to do.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

No Western States For Me

Western States is the granddaddy of all 100 milers. It’s the oldest and arguably has the most storied history. It’s the Boston Marathon of ultras. For the past 2 years I have put my name into the WS lottery, only to see others get drawn, leaving me pondering my summer racing schedule. I had the opportunity to pace/crew at Western States this past summer, and I was impressed by the pageantry, the buzz that surrounded the race, and the sheer size of the operation. Maybe it was this experience that changed my mind about running it myself.

After much thought, I have decided to not to enter this year’s lottery. I have several reasons for this. First, Hardrock is my #1 goal race – period. If I get into Hardrock, that will be my focus for the year. Second, my heart just isn’t into WS. Maybe it was my 2011 experience, maybe the thought of running in 100+ degree canyons. Whatever the reason, there are many races I’d rather do than Western. Even if I don’t get into Hardrock, I would like to spend much of my summer running in the mountains of Colorado. By running Western States, I would be eating into the best running time in the Rockies. Also, I can’t (with a good conscience) put my name into the lottery if I’m not 100% committed. If I were to get drawn and not run, I would be taking someone’s spot. I don’t want to do that. Instead, I’ll go play in the San Juan Mountains and watch WS on the Internet. Best of luck to everyone who applies.

(2011 Western States Champion Kilian Jornet at Foresthill - Mile 62)

(Crewing at the 2011 Western States 100)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Hallowed Ground

(Pictures don't do it justice. It curves around at the top for more fun)

Yesterday was supposed to be a gym day in which I worked on strength and other “fun” things. When Joe told me he wanted to change things up and do some hill repeats, I jumped at the opportunity. As I told him, a bad day running hills beats a good day in the gym! He had a particular hill in mind, one that I had never run before. It was relatively short (about ¼ mile to the top), but super steep, as steep as anything you will find in San Antonio. While not a “trail”, the hill wasn’t paved, so the pounding on my body wouldn’t be as great as some hills in town.

As I approached the area where the hill was supposed to be, I looked all over, searching for the one I was supposed to run. It didn’t take long to find it. Man, this thing was pretty steep. After warming up, Joe and I headed to the steepest section of the hill for some 10 second repeats, all out effort. My body is used to running longer repeats at a more moderate pace, so even though these just lasted 10 seconds, they hurt! I did 4 of these before the real workout started. After the short repeats, Joe found a nice-sized boulder on the side of the road (we estimated 65 pounds) for me to use in the next exercise. I picked up the boulder, carried it up the steep hill for 10 seconds, then dropped it and ran to the top of the hill, jogging back down for recovery. This was by far the most my legs have EVER burned. It sounded easy enough, but this was really tough. I did 3 sets of this before moving on to the next bit of fun, which involved me grabbing a rock in each hand, doing 5 pushups (on the hill), sprinting (with rocks in hands) 10 seconds, and repeating the process, 3 sets total. As I was on my last set, I noticed another crazy fellow running down the hill towards us. It turns out that this was Ultra Runner of the Year candidate Larry Pearson. Little did I know that I was on the hallowed ground used in training by Leapin’ Larry. His secret is out. After completing my final pushup/sprint combo, Larry and I chatted for a bit before he headed down the hill and I continued on up. I finished out with some more fun repeats, all of which I feel will help my race at Bandera in January and in the Rocky Mountains next summer. Although it hurt, I am really excited about incorporating more work on this hill into my weekly routine. Maybe I’ll see Larry again next week J

Monday, November 14, 2011

Are You Crazy?

(Trail 8)

Last week was an up and down week for me, full of several highs as well as some stress. What better way to relieve (even if temporarily) stress and clear the mind than to run with friends in Bandera. I met John at Tigermart early, and we headed out to Hill Country State Natural Area to meet Robert. We were greeted by cool temps, humidity, and lots of fog. We set off down trail 2, headed up and over Lucky’s Peak, then topped Cairns Climb and Boyles Bump, followed by a quick circumnavigation of Sky Island before heading back to our cars. Robert left us here, having only wanted to run 12 miles, while John and I headed out for more. John was hoping to log a little over 20 miles and wanted to run some of the “flatter” stuff, while I needed to get in 6 hours (close to 30 miles) and chose the hillier sections. We bid each other farewell and took off.

I ran 1.5 miles down the road to the group lodge, where the Bandera 100K starts. Wanting to run a couple hours at a faster “tempo” pace, I charged down the trail, headed once again for Sky Island. Having already run 14 miles, I was pleased with how my legs responded to the increased effort. My goal was to push the pace, run more of the uphills, and get a feel for the course. I felt really good until I crested Ice Cream Hill. That’s when the sun reared it’s ugly head. The fog lifted, the clouds parted, and any trace of a breeze disappeared, replaced by clear blue skies which would have been nice were I not running another 3 hours. I dropped down off Ice Cream, jolted over to Nachos, and began the sneaky climb up Trail 7. After what seemed like forever, I popped out on the road by headquarters and linked up to trail 8, another uphill climb. By now the sun was out in full force, and I was cooking. I stumbled and staggered onwards toward Chapas, where I took the road back to my car, filled up my bottles, and ran another 4.5 miles. There were lots of people on horseback on the trails yesterday. Many I saw more than once, eliciting the usual questions of “how far I am running” and “am I tired?”. One guy thought it was absurd that anyone would want to run for 6 hours, asking me, “Are you crazy?”. Maybe I am. Overall I had logged over 29 miles in 6 hours. More importantly I got to scope out more of the 100K course, making mental notes of what sections I can run, where I can push, and what I need to run again in training. I also got to take a nice mental break from all the stresses life throws our way. Even if the relief is temporary, things seem so clear when I am running. I am able to solve all of life’s problems. Nothing else matters.