Friday, August 27, 2010

New Territory

On Saturday, I crossed over 1720 miles for the year. For most ultrarunners, this kind of mileage is peanuts. For me, that number represented my total mileage for 2009, and the most I had ever run in a year.

I began 2010 with a simple & loose goal of running 2010 miles (38.6 mi/week) by years end. I knew my training for 2 ultras would set me on a path of much higher volume, but now it looks like I'll hit that mark by mid October.

My long run this weekend was 25.5 miles on the HR trails. This was the first time I strung together all three trail systems that are connected by the Douglas County East-West trail. There are no big climbs, but plenty of short ups and downs and all but 1.6 miles were on trail.

At mile 19, I downed my first ever can of Red Bull as an experiment. I felt fine after drinking it and it may have even calmed my stomach a bit. I'm sure my body enjoyed the sugar and caffeine. Does anybody else drink it during long runs or races? Did it help or hurt you? The stuff is not cheap, but I could see having it in a drop bag for later in a race.

Monday, August 23, 2010

2010 Pikes Peak Marathon

No head injury here! Just an attempt to cool down!

The night before the PPM, the fam went out for a huge feast at Maggiano's courtesy of a sweet gift card I got from work. It was a perfect carb load where I felt full, but not bulging at the seams.

I woke up at 4:00am and was on the road with coffee in hand by 4:30. I drove through Castle Pines in order to get to I-25 and proceeded to run over a raccoon. He/she scurried across the road and I didn't see it until it was too late. Not a great start to the day! Don't worry, I didn't stop to administer CPR. It's just that I don't like killing animals that aren't in the category of mice, spiders or mosquitoes.

I got down to Manitou in the typical hour. It was dark, but the registration tent was lit up and staffed. The lady I checked in with started to put my wristband on my right arm. I stopped her and said "that's the arm I wear my watch on, so could you put it on my left?" I got back to the car and realized I didn't have my watch! Who goes to a marathon and forgets to bring their watch?!? I was frazzled thinking about how I was going to know my pace and keep on track for taking gels on a schedule. With no other option, I simply embraced the added challenge of running by feel.

Once the race started, I made it my goal on the Manitou and Ruxton Ave stretches to work my way up so I was towards the front (first 100 or so runners) when we hit the dirt. I didn't want to get stuck behind many of the runners that started hiking the W's. This was a somewhat risky proposition since this is how many people blow their race early on. The risk paid off as I got locked into a group that kept a decent, sustainable pace.

The sun was already beating down on the W's and I was sweating profusely. I took some comfort in knowing it would be much cooler as we climbed up the peak. Twice on the ascent I asked aid station volunteers for the time. Their responses let me know I was on pace for about a 3:10 ascent. I felt good, but also could sense my effort to get in more running above treeline was going to leave my legs in a rough spot when I began the descent. The wind above treeline was strong. I'm guessing the gusts were in the 30-40 mph range. That felt great when you rounded a switchback and had the wind at your back. But when the next turn was into the wind, it felt like someone had their hands on your shoulders and was pushing hard to stop your forward progress.

I made it to the summit in 3:12 (good for a 10 minute ascent PR). Given I didn't have my watch to make pacing adjustments along the way, I was quite satisfied and was excited about the prospects off starting down.

Last year, I really struggled with the downhill. My hope was that I could cruise down and run most of it. I did run most of it, but there just wasn't any speed there. Maybe it's my size/weight, but I just can't seem to let loose and fly when on technical or semi-technical trails. I was scuffing some of the rocks/roots and that served as a warning sign that a fall was not that far off if I wasn't careful.

So down the hill I went. I got passed by several people, but it wasn't nearly as demoralizing as last years flood of runners that went by. I got into a groove and while the ache in my legs increased with each mile, my fueling along the way kept my mind sharp and in the game. No bonk this year!

With about 4 miles to go, I came upon a spunky 50 year old guy that had just fallen...for the 4th time! He was scraped up everywhere but his face. I stopped and gave him some water, helped him up and made sure he was okay. He seemed more concerned about the time than his injuries. Yes, he didn't have a watch either! I simply told him to take it easy as it was more important to finish the race in one piece. I ran ahead, but guess who came flying past me in about 3-4 minutes! It was crazy and I thought for sure he was going to succumb to fall #5 at the rate he was going.

The heat buildup on the descent was quite unpleasant. I heard the forecasters say this weekend was going to be the second hottest of the summer. Well, from Barr Camp to the finish, there were several sections of the course that felt like I had just entered a sauna. Running with my handheld was huge. On the ascent, I only drank about half between aid stations. But during those last 6-8 miles, I probably drained it completely twice...and still drank a cup at the aid station.

When I hit the W's, I was right behind a guy that was running at a safe pace. I was tempted to pass, but the ache in my legs told me to just hang with him until Ruxton. He told me we were on pace for about a 5:30 finish. We chatted for about 5 minutes and with about 1.5 miles to go, he said his watch read about 5:15. That was all I needed to say farewell and crank up the speed. I blew through the final aid station and flew down the last stretch of trail before popping out on Ruxton. From that point, I just left everything I had on that road. The spectators increased and their cheering kept a smile on my face.

High fives with screaming spectators were a plenty heading into the finish!

I crossed the finish line in 5:24:04 and collapsed into a chair. One of the volunteers asked if I wanted a bag of ice on the back of my neck! YES...and my head too!! My head was so hot it felt like it was going to pop. They also setup a carwash style sprinkler and between the ice, the spray of water, and sitting with my legs in the refreshing creek, I cooled back down quickly.

I could have stood under this spray for an hour. So refreshing.

The creek running through Soda Springs Park is an awesome place to "ice down" your legs.

Final thoughts? Man, this is a tough, tough race. Straight up & straight down 7800' is no joke. It's easy for me to get down on myself for nit-picky things like not running certain parts of the course better, but Tanya has done an excellent job at searing into my brain just how fortunate I am to have the ability to even compete in something as challenging as Pikes. Last night, she kept saying..."you finished the Pikes Peak Marathon in 54th place! You're an elite runner!" Haha! While the "elite runner" part is not true, her point is well taken.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

PPM Update

Cruisin' down Ruxton Ave. Trying to hit a sub-5:30 finish.

It was a great day down on the peak. I snagged a new PPM PR finishing in 5:24:04. It was a windy ascent and a toasty descent. Had a great time hanging out with Jim after the race. He was fresh off completing his first Doubler (PPA - 2:54, PPM - 5:11) and bagging two AG awards in the process. Also met Matt who nailed a 5:30 on his PPM debut.

Give me a day or two and I'll post some more details.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

PPM Thoughts

My wife took this picture one night in May. We brought the kids up to Daniels Park to climb around on the rocks and I got lost in a gaze at a snow-covered Pikes off in the distance.

Fast forward to the PPM in just 3 days. I'm ready to go and hope my improved training this year will produce a solid race. I ran a 5:47 last year and think a time closer to five hours is realistic. Breaking five hours would require a perfect race and I'm not focused on that since I'd rather go hard, but enjoy whatever the outcome is. The PPM is too special to get wrapped up in whether or not I meet a specific goal. I know I will run well and smart. I've learned a lot in one short year. Time to go have fun in one of the most amazing races in the country.

On the PPM website message board, several people have been posting about their building excitement. One guy wrote, "It's like being a kid the night before Christmas all over again!" Well, in three short days, we get to open the BIG present!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Columbine Lake

One week out from Pikes and I had zero running miles on tap for the weekend. Instead Scott & I took our oldest daughters on their first (of hopefully many) backpacking trips.

It was just one night in the Indian Peaks Wilderness at Columbine Lake. We hiked three miles in with about 1000' of elevation. Not a bad climb for two seven year olds! And not bad for the two dads carrying 50+ lb packs!

This pristine lake sits right below the Divide and is surrounded by wildflowers, live pine trees, and interesting rock formations.

So for this weekend, running was gladly put on the shelf and a wonderful experience with our girls was had.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Leadville Night Run

I accepted an invite from Patrick on Friday afternoon to join him, Leila D., and a bunch of other LT100 runners for a run from the Fish Hatchery to Leadville (23.5 mi.) on Saturday night. Patrick is pacing Leila for the final 50 coming up in two weeks.

Except for Patrick and I, all the runners were competing in the LT100. So why go run with them? I've been kicking around the idea of running it next year and I haven't been able to wrap my head around the idea of running at night. Or should I say "through" the night. I figured this experience would give me a taste of that part of the challenge.

About 8 of us started around 8:30pm and cruised up the powerlines and over Sugarloaf Pass in about an hour. We came upon a few other groups and were way ahead of our expected 5 hour finish time. Then the first burst of cold rain hit. Since we were around 11,000', the wind helped make the rain chill us all quickly. It only lasted about 10 minutes and my body heat warmed things back up quickly. The second round of rain then came and lasted about 20 minutes while we were running a fairly technical stretch of trail. It's hard enough deciphering rocks & roots at night, but make them wet while raindrops filled the light from the headlamp and it became treacherous. I never quite recovered from that drenching and remained cold and numb for the rest of the run.

Overall, the actual running wasn't so much a problem for me. My trouble came when the time on the clock started approaching 11pm and 12am. I was tired and craving sleep and that became a huge mental struggle for me....well, I guess a physical one too. I walked most of the last two miles with a runner name Chris. We were both done for the night. We chatted a bit, but also walked in silence, letting our brains rest while soaking in the stillness of the night. We finished in downtown Leadville at 1:30am.

The run was great prep for Pikes in two weeks. It also was excellent practice for remaining sharp and focused while running technical trails. I feel like I've improved in this area over the last month or so. I also gained an immense respect for the task of running through the night. This run was invaluable to bring reality to this piece of the equation for making a decision to run the LT100.

Not much planned between now and 8/22. I want to get to the start of the PPM rested and ready. My goal is to drop my time to as close to 5 hours as possible.