Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Solid Few Weeks... Plus a Link to TNF 50 Preview

First things first, my training over the past few weeks hasn't been "stellar" but it has been solid. I have been able to mix in a good amount of climbing (short & long) with some faster paced runs. Other than having to fight a very weak cold over the past 5 days, I feel really good.. and I am ready to do battle with an amazing field at TNF50 this weekend.

With that being said, I am amazed to see just how deep this field is. Below, I have copied a link to a race preview that outlines just how stacked the race is this year. To add to this author's list, there are a good number of solid runners that he doesn't even mention (some noted in the comments to the article). It's going to be a wild race...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fun Turns into Pain & Misery.. then Relief

Part 1 - Fun: After a smooth (but early) drive to the Canyon, I showed up just after sunrise. I was pretty excited as I had a long day planned. My plan was to head down S.Kaibab to Phantom.. then follow the Kaibab trail over to Cottonwood Campground at the base of the N.Rim. Then turnaround and do it in reverse.  I have done this one several times and always find it challenging.

On my "jog" over to the SRim, I am feeling pretty tight. My right hip & left knee weren't too excited about the tough running ahead, but my hope was that they would loosen up over the course of the run.
When I got to the Rim, the first 1/2 mile or so was covered in about 2 inches of ice. Not wearing traction, I decided to take it VERY easy. I noticed some of the hikers were actually sliding down on their "bums". It reminded me of watching Polar Bears slide across ice and snow.. it was pretty amusing until slipped.. then I thought maybe their technique wasn't such a bad idea.. I was too proud to join them.. and my short shorts weren't conducive to a comfortable "slide".. so I just took even easier... I covered the first Half Mile in almost 10min.. yahoo!!..

The rest of the descent was a lot less exciting and I eventually hit the river in about 56min. Not too bad.
After a quick stop at Phantom, I started to make my way over to Cottonwood. Similar to all my long runs over the past month, I tried to keep the effort fairly tempered. I was flying along until about Ribbon Falls (couple miles shy of Cottonwood). At that point, my right hip flexor started to give me a bit of trouble.. Then about a half mile further, I noticed that my left IT Band wasn't too happy. Every time I lengthened my stride on a climb, it sent shooting pains up and down my leg.. uh-oh.. not a good sign. I decided to keep going since I was so close to Cottonwood.

When I got to the water stop, I filled up.. munched a bit.. did a quick stretch.. and headed back to Phantom. I made it from the River to Cottonwood in 1hr 5min.

About halfway back is when I slipped into.... Pain & Misery...

Part 2 - Pain & Misery:  So I am about 22 miles into a 33 mile day... and the last 7miles cover the most difficult portion of the course. Things don't look so good for me. The buzzards hadn't started to circle, but with each step, I kept wondering "how much longer will I get to run before my knee & / or hip tighten up to the point where I can't run".. Mile by mile went by and though my pace was fading, my leg / hip held up enough that I could continue moving forward.

As I approached the S.Kaibab ascent, I noticed my split from Cottonwood to the River was 1hr 6min. Now that I am to the final 7miles, I was really worried that I would have to hike almost the whole thing. Each time I took a climbing step where I had to push off with my left leg.. extreme pain would shoot through my legs. As always, there is only one way out of the Canyon... Climbing up.. so I kept moving forward, prepared for a long walk if necessary.

As I pumped my way up the Canyon trail, I decided to keep my steps as short as possible and just try to keep from over extending too much. This plan worked.. and every time I forgot the strategy, I was quickly reminded with shooting pain. Before I knew it, I was to Cedar Ridge (about 25min from my Car) and I had yet to walk a single step.. That's about the time I felt... Relief.

Part 3 - Relief: I hustled my way up the rest of the run and got to the top of the Rim fromm the River in a sluggish 1hr 30min. At the finish, I was overcome with a feeling of.... Relief. That run could have gotten ugly really quick, but I somehow got through it.. and actually other than the "tightness" felt pretty good. I am not sure what to take from that run other than I need to stretch a TON... I guess I gained a little humility and perspective as well. I realize that doing these longer runs is no joke... and that I have to be focused on all the small things during the week to make sure my body is up to running these longer distances... or.. maybe there is another explanation.. I am just a wuss and I need to suck it up.

Friday, November 11, 2011

November 11, 2011 - Busy Couple Weeks.. But Some Great Running..

Over the past couple weeks, I have been feeling really good.. It's the best I have felt since my summer training. My mileage has ranged between mid90s to low100miles / week, my pace in workouts has come easily, and I am recovering quickly. What more could I ask for.. Below I have highlighted some of my major runs during an intense 8day period....

Grand Canyon S.Kaibab Rim to Phantom & Back - This was a solid run. My focus was to keep it somewhat conservative all day. I didn't want to dig to deep on my first trip out. Despite, taking it easy I managed a 56min trip from the Rim to River. The run from the bridge to Phantom was very relaxed and took me about 15min round trip. On the run up, I once again focused on keeping the pace under control. Despite hiking behind a mule train for 7min, I made the climb out in 1hr 11min. That is really fast for me especially considering how much I tempered my effort. I hoped this was a sign of things to come...

A1 21miler -  This run is a fairly flat run for the first & last 7miles. The middle 7 is very rolling, but somewhat fast. I kept it somewhat subdued the first 7miles on the gradual uphill grade and averaged 6:40/mile pace. The next 7miles, I decided to pick it up a bit and kept each mile between 5:50 and 6:10/mile pace. My original plan was to "throw-down" over the final 7miles, but my legs were still feeling the Canyon run from a few days before. As such, I decided to keep the pace steady, but not too fast. I ended up closing out the final 7miles at a 6:20/mile clip. I was very happy with the effort.

Elden Up Over & Back from Buffalo Park - This run starts at Buffalo Park then hop on the Pipeline Trail, which is quite rolling, to Forces of Nature Trail.  This trail is a rocky, winding single track, which connects me to Fat Man’s Loop.  The footing is about the same as Forces of Nature Trail.  I then run to Elden Lookout Trail, which takes me to the Summit of Elden.  From the Summit, I head down Elden Road to the Gate, where I have water & gel waiting for me.  At that point, I turn around.. and do it again in reverse.  All in all, this run includes ~5,500 of climbing and  ~5,500 of descent… and covers about 28miles.  The trails range from super technical to smooth dirt road.  A great mix…. and a tough day of running.

As I started this run, my focus again was to keep the effort fairly subdued. The miles came very easily and throughout the run I continually beat splits from my previous runs on this course. The last 5miles I really pulled back the effort as I didn't want to "dig to deep". Eventually I finished the run in 3:48:05 (my fastest time about 1.5min). My splits were Buffalo to 1st Lookout Trail Sign 36:27, 1st Sign to Summit 34:37, Summit to Elden Road Gate 37:07, Gate to Summit 49:09, Summit to 1st Sign 28:05, 1st Sign to Buffalo 42:38.

All in all, I am feeling really good about where I am at right now. I just need to keep things on track through early December. It appears that the start list for the North Face 50miler is turning into a Who's Who of Ultra Running. I am really looking forward to competing with these guys.