Saturday, July 30, 2011

July 30, 2011 – Closing out July with a SOLID Week

Monday morning came and as I crawled out of bed, I was still having trouble walking to the bathroom.  My quads felt like hamburger… and that’s what running in the Canyon can do to you. Since I have been doing a fair amount of steeps, I was a bit surprised that felt like this.. but it goes to show you that nothing compares to the Canyon when it comes to pounding.

Despite the soreness, I ran my planned runs on Monday.  The hardest being the 10x800m portion.  Instead of hammering the workout, I just ran it a little faster than my goal Marathon pace of 5:15/mile.

On Wednesday, the soreness had converted to tiredness.  I was actually starting to get concerned that I was working my way into being over-trained.  I knew that my workout would be a perfect indicator of if I was just tired.. or if I was at a point where I needed to back off a bit and take a few easy days. 

The planned workout was a “Fast” run up Mt. Elden Road starting from the Gate.  This route is about 5.5miles and you gain about 2,500ft.  I knew if I worked hard and ran a good time, I was probably fine.. but if I worked hard and only hit an average or below average time.. then I would have to back off some..

Well, I charged my way up the road, and despite feeling tired, I knew I was on pace to run a solid time.  As I reached the summit, I looked down at my watch and breathed a sigh of relief… as my watch read 42minutes.. My fastest time.  The last 2miles the tiredness really held me back, but I was able to hold it together and run a fast time.  

Friday was my next “workout”.  My plan was to start at Snowbowl road & Hart Prairie Road.. Run the 4.5miles to the Weatherford-Kachina Trail junction.. then run the “Loop” – Weatherford-Humphreys-Kachina hard.. and then run the 4.5miles back to my car.  Total mileage is around 29miles… The route is very technical in most parts.  It starts around 7,500ft and you climb up to 12,000ft..  then come right back down.  This is a tough one..

My 4.5mile warmup to the trail head I took really easy.  I made it to the trail head in 35:53.  Then I started to work.  I pushed my way pretty hard up to Doyle Saddle.  The last few times I have run this there were numerous downed trees, but the Forest Service had cleared about half of these over the summer… Thanks guys!!.. This makes for a much nicer / safer run.

I made it to Doyle Saddle from the Kachina-Weatherford Junction in 48:38.. and it felt fairly easy.  Now I am at 10,500ft..  the air is noticeably thinner.. and it’s time to Hammer up to 12,000ft.

I push my way through the rocky trail and make it past the grown over sections.. now I am above treeline and closing in on the 12k point, which signals the end of the ascent.  I covered this section in 32:29.. and I am on pace for a pretty fast Loop.

I cautiously start to make my way down Humphrey’s trail.  This Rocky, Sandy, Root covered trail is very technical.. each decent my number one goal is to stay on my feet.  I decided from the start to take it very easy as I didn’t want to risk getting injured.  As such, I made it to bottom in 44:15.. this is about 6min to 8min slower than my average, but my legs were kinda tired and I just didn’t want to risk taking a fall.

I hit the Kachina Trail ready to roll.  My thought was to steadily build into the run and push the sections that I can.  With all the rain, this rocky trail now has grass & ferns growing over most of it.  Each step was a bit of a question mark.. would I step on a rock?.. would I step on a root?.. who knows..

I pushed pretty steadily through this section and got back to the Kachina-Weatherford junction in 49:19.  My total time for the Loop was 2:54:41.  Pretty much a tie with my fastest time ever on this course.  Always a good feeling.

Now I just have to run 4.5miles back to my car… I took this section very easy.. and good thing, because I was beat!!.. Honestly, I felt awesome for the first 3hrs 45min, but that last 20min was a bit painful.  I ended up covering the last 4.5miles in 34:41…

My total time for the entire 29miles was 4hr 5min 15sec.  Not bad considering the route.

Now the plan is to get recovered from a tough week… and hit it again next week.  We are a little less than 3weeks out from Day 1 of TransRockies and I am starting to get pumped!!.. Soon enough, we will be running our way through the Rockies.. Can’t wait! 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 23rd, 2011 – Back in the Canyon Again

Coming into the week, my legs were a bit flat considering my Sunday run was a steady to hard effort over 28miles.  The plan was to keep things rolling and hope by Wednesday I would get a little snap back in my legs before / during our Tempo Run.  Then we would need to recover quickly, because we were headed to the Canyon on Saturday for a Rim to Phantom & Back.

Well, Wednesday came and Mike & I were staring down Lake Mary Road preparing for an 8mile Tempo Effort.  During the warmup, my legs felt pretty flat and my body was kind of tired, but I was sure I could work through it.  As we got started, the first mile was a bit rough and we only managed to run a 5:39.  When we saw the split, we didn’t panic, but we made an effort to push the pace.  For the next 3miles, we managed to hit 5:30pace.  Then coming into the turnaround, our pace slid.. not sure why, but we hit a 5:45…yikes!!..  Then over the next 3 miles we pushed the pace back to 5:30 and finished the day strong.  While doing workouts at 7,000ft of elevation, "comebacks" are rare.. So considering how I felt from the start and the fact that we were able to bring back the pace after a couple rough miles, I was very happy with the effort.

Now it’s time for some summer Canyon running..

Mike, Rob, 2 of the Run Smart Project Attendees, and I left Flagstaff at 4am.  Mike intelligently decided to drive fairly slow as each mile of the highway seemed to be lined with numerous elk.  You definitely don’t want to hit one of those guys in a Subaru Outback..

Soon enough we were entering the park and preparing for the trip down. Equipped with an 18oz water bottle and 2 gels, I knew I would be cutting it kinda of close in the hydration department, but with Mike & Rob going down with me, I felt comfortable taking the risk.  Had I been running solo, I would have definitely carried at least one more bottle.

At 6am, we were at the S.Kaibab Rim ready to launch… As we prepared to “drop-in”, we discussed how Canyon running reminds us of a scene in Point Break, where they discuss how “Big Wave Riding is a total commitment…. Once you paddle out, you can’t just call time-out and paddle back in”.. That’s how I feel about the Canyon.. once you run down, you can’t just call time out and cruise back in.. you have to run your way out.. plain & simple.

If that conversation wasn’t enough.. we were about 2 steps into the decent, when a group of “well-prepared” hikers said to us “Good luck!.. Are you guys sure you have enough gear???”..  Rob & I both responded with “I hope so”.

As we jetted down to the river, we could feel the sun pushing its rays on us .. and baking the rocks.  These rocks seem to soak up the heat and turn exposed sections into what feels like a giant oven.  At that point, we discussed changing the run due to the heat, but we eventually agreed to stick with the original route.

Before I knew it, we were at the river in 51min 20sec. Smoking fast decent.  My hope was that we wouldn’t pay too much for the quick pace on the way back up.. but only time will tell.  Rob then took the lead for the ~1.5miles over to Phantom and pushed the pace fairly steadily.  Once we got to Phantom, we filled up the water bottles and ate some gel.  Now it’s time to start running!!..

We steadily made our way back to the river.. and before we knew it... we are climbing.  My focus was on keeping the pace steady during the hot, lower sections and then pushing the section from Midway to the finish.  I was able to stick with my plan, but I have to admit the heat was making things tough.  As I looked over my shoulder during some of the switchbacks, I could see Mike and Rob keeping a fairly even gap between us.

As made our way up Midway, I noticed that Mike had closed 45sec on me and was only about 25sec back.  We kept this distance until the long flat stretch after Skeleton Point.  That’s when Mike swiftly closed the gap.  Up until today, I had been able to put quite a bit of distance on Mike on the “Steeps”.. so seeing him running so well was VERY exciting.  I kept thinking how much this is going to help us in Late August when we head to TransRockies.  

Coming into the uphill section into Cedar Ridge, we are pretty much stride for stride.  This exposed section was VERY Hot.. and it’s VERY Steep.  By the time I had hit Cedar Ridge, I was a little bit ahead of Mike.. and my legs felt like Jello.  Within one minute of leaving Cedar Ridge, I got a second-wind, and really started cranking over the last climbs.  I motored my way up the rest of the climb and finished the ascent in 1:15:37.  My time for the roundtrip from Rim to River & Back 2hrs 6min 57sec was a new PR for me.. and the good news is Mike was only 1min behind at the finish… and also ahead of my previous PR. 

On the cooldown back to the car, we worked the “rubber” out of our legs and talked about the day.  I swear there is something magical about the Canyon… when things go right, it leaves you with a unique feeling of accomplishment that few (if any) other runs can deliver.  I love that place.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

June 17, 2011 – Ending a Solid Week with a Hard 28miler

Well, another great week of training in the books.  My mileage was right at 110miles for the week and included 3 great “workouts”.  Monday was a solid Hill Circuit at Buffalo Park… Wednesday Mike, Rob, & I  hammered up Humphrey’s Summit Trail from the lower Snowbowl Parking lot to the Weatherford Trail Head (~3k ft of Elevation Change over ~ 5miles.. topping out at 12k).  For the climb, I ended up running my fastest time ever – 49:51.. then we hammered the way down the technical trail pretty good.. 37:58.  A great day’s work.

Then came Sunday.. Mike and I decided to run 28miles steady on the A1 Forest Service Road.  We decided to do the 7miles out to the Wing Mtn Loop.. then run the 7mile Loop twice.. and then head back.  With some deadness in our legs we pushed our way through the first 7miles which is mostly uphill in a steady 47:17 (6:45/mile avg).  This pace actually felt pretty comfortable, but we still had 21 miles to go.. so I was just hoping that it wasn’t too aggressive.  On top of that, the Wing Mtn Loop has a Heart-Breaking climb over the last 1.5miles that seems to suck the life out of my legs and sometimes my spirit. 

As we make our way around the Loop the 1st time, we settle into a solid 6:15/mile pace.  We were able to easily carry on a conversation, so I felt good about the pace.  We held this pace for a majority of the Loop, then we rounded the final turn and headed toward “the Hill”.  As we powered our way up the hill, I could feel all the spring fall out of my step.. and the enthusiasm sucked out my soul.  A short while later and it’s over. In a matter of seconds, we are back on track.  A good sign.. The time to recover from the Hill was pretty quick… We finished the loop in 44:59 (6:25/mile pace)…  Now it’s time to go around again.

We quickly dove back into the 6:15/mile pace.. and made quick work of the first 6miles.. We made our way back to the Hill at a good clip and were now ready to climb again.. this time, it felt a little harder.. but after charging through it.. once again, I was able to make a quick recovery.. I ended up closing the 2nd Loop in 45:06 (6:26/mile pace)… Now it’s time for the 7mile gradual decline back to car.

This last section went pretty smoothly.  It started raining on us pretty hard, which was actually kinda nice.  Other than a slight side-stitch, the miles seemed to fly by and before I knew it, I was only 2miles from the finish.  At this point, I decided to pick up the pace a bit.  My side-stitch started to grab pretty hard as I increased the effort, but I grunted and pushed my way through it.  I closed my last couple miles around 5:50/mile pace.. and ended up covering the last 7miles in 43:26 (6:12/mile pace).  My total time for the 28mile run was 3:00:53.

A great run.. a great week.. With each week like this, I am feeling more and more confident about the races coming up.  The work isn’t done.. but it’s nice to see things moving in a VERY positive direction.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

July 09, 2011 – Keepin’ it Rollin’

As the first week of my Chicago / TRR training comes to a close, things appear to be on track for some solid late summer / fall races. 

This was my first official week training with Mike and it definitely beats running solo.  Not only do I find myself pushing the runs harder, it has also been less draining mentally.  Knowing that you are going through this “journey” with someone else just makes it easier…plain & simple.

We started the week with a wicked hard track workout… 3x1mile ; 3x1000m ; 3x400m.. On Tuesday, I ran from my house up the Mt Elden Single Track Trail that parallels the Road up to Sunset.. around to Brookbank and back home.. This covers about 16miles and includes about 3,000ft of climbing.  Wednesday we hit Lake Mary Road.  My legs felt like tubes of toothpaste, but I was able to run the short 6mile Tempo right at 5:30pace.  Thursday I took it pretty easy and just did a long flat trail run.. Friday we came back and ran “The Loop” around Humphreys.  This is one of my favorite runs in Flagstaff.  With weary legs we made the ~3,000ft climb / descent over the 20mile course, which tops out at 12,000ft, in around 3hrs.  Not my fastest time, but a solid run considering the previous amount of work put in.  

Definitely a solid week of work… We just have to keep it rollin’ and I believe good things will come in August & October..

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 02, 2011 - Running Steady

For the past few weeks, things have been going really well. My focus has been to increase my leg speed with some lower volume speedwork while keeping my weekly miles in the 90miles/week range.  I felt like I was really lacking in this area after being so trail / long run focused for the past 6months.  In addition, my teammate for TransRockies, Mike Smith, just finished running a low 2:21 marathon in early June, so I want to make sure I can at least keep up with the guy.

These past few weeks have gone better than I could have expected.  Each week consisted of short/fast repeats & Double Runs on Monday; Long Runs &/or Double Runs on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; Longer Repeats or Tempo Runs on Wednesday; and a +3hr Run on Saturday.

I kept all of my track work at 4:50/mile or faster. My Tempo Runs were at 5:30/mile or faster. My Long Runs, I was able to recovery quickly enough from the weeks work to run really steady. - - Remember, I am training at 7k ft, so all of this stuff is no only harder to complete.. but also harder to recover from than it is at sea level.

With all of that being said, I am VERY ready for next Monday.  That is when the real training begins.

Here we go!!

On a personal note: During this 3 week period, we welcomed our 3rd Little Boy to the Wolfe-Pack.  He & Mom are doing great.. and he has been a real joy!!