Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hell of NW Trail Run 10k

A friend, Aaron, sent me a message that he and Don G. were carpooling to a local trail half and 10k, Hell of the NW Trail Runs, a couple of weeks ago.  I told him I couldn't as I was working and honestly I didn't even have the urge to race at that point in time.  Then a nasty ice storm moved into the area and wreaked all sort of havoc on the course and all the roads approaching this hamlet in Coast Range delaying it a week.  When I heard the news my legs and brain had kind of switched gears--easing back into training after a short break is boring and it can be tough to get motivated to push things again--so the a little trail 10k suddenly sounded like a fun idea.

Don G. was still game for the half and unfortunately Aaron had to work.  So the two of us shared a ride down to Alsea, which is pretty close to the middle of no where.  We arrived to classic Coast Range fare (hills, huge trees, moss and MUD) amidst thunder showers and light rains.  We both knew very little about the event but there were lots of familiar faces in the crowd.

The half took off and with it slightly more than half of the crowd.  10 minutes later the 10k-ers took off.  There was not a lot of room before the course entered single track so I darted off along the river to secure a spot that was not directly behind someone on the first climb.  The climb was incredibly steep (as promised by the RD) and was quite slick, especially after being torn up by the halfers.  The top of the ridge came and the lead was pretty secure so I focused on gathering myself and not losing it while descending back down the ridge.  The trail flattened out at the base and then took a long gradual ascent up an ancient logging road made of very chunky quarry rock (awkward but at least in wasn't slippery!)  At an Aid Station 3.7 miles in the 10k racers turned around.  I stopped and took a cup of water and chatted with the volunteers.  Nice friendly people who no doubt got soaked!

It was a familiar route back towards the ridge but the course cut left instead of heading back up to the ridge top.  It chased the river through the woods in a meandering way.  One thing about flat trail is water doesn't run off so it was quite slick as were the wooden bridges.  Surefootedness was as much work as building speed but I love that stuff.  Keeps things fun!

I finished in 43:34.  I jogged around a bit and hiked down around the famous Alsea Falls.

Don G. came blazing in with a nice half time and 2nd place overall.  We ate brats from the nice post race spread they had.  It began to really open up and pour again so we packed up and got out of there.

Just the workout I needed and a cool new spot checked out.  Not a bad Saturday!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Recap-o-rama: 2014

The year's not over and I know I'll be doing at least one more little race in December at Shellburg Falls, but the October Trifecta which consisted of Condor 25k (3rd place - 1:49), Wilson River 50k (1st place - 5:23?), and Autumn Leaves 50k (1st place - 3:47) sort of wraps up the "season" for me.

I wanted to reflect on it a bit and get some thoughts down before it all becomes a blur only to be remembered by notes in the log and a stack of race bibs.

Earlier in the year in January I did a lot of  slogging/jogging.  I had completed a different Trifecta in Dec '14 and I was kind of hoping to do a flattish 50k back in Feb sometime and I thought I'd pile in some miles.  I couldn't get really excited about speed workouts or hills just logging pretty high weekday miles 3 days a week, taking other days totally off, and then going on 4-5 20-30 mile runs on consecutive weekends.  I don't know what the hell I was thinking in retrospect but I did enjoy some of those long runs during a slower time of year.

Feb and Mar I got really sick.  I think I had bronchitis or something as I was in raging cough fits on a nightly basis.  I think I slept on the couch for 20-30 days.  I managed to run Buck Mtn 6.5 mile, one of my favorite local trail races, and Monument Peak 10-miler and posted decent results.  But I was quite out of shape for both of them.  They felt incredibly hard and it was the first time I had repeated a race/course and posted a slower time than the previous year (Buck Mtn).

I don't remember anything to spectacular from April other than I had a new excitement for running post sickness.  I signed up for the MacDonald Forest 50k and threw my name in the lottery for MacKenzie River 50k (which was to be my goal A race of the season if I got in--which I didn't).  I started getting after the training in earnest despite a busy Spring shipping workload.  I actually ran only probably only 4-5 days a week but I had a purpose to each workout and was happy to be on the upswing.

Even though I was suffering a serious case of DOMS after a crazy adventure with Don G. up at Elks-Kings and I had the Mac Forest 50k just a week or so out I contacted David Roche after he mentioned coaching in a blog post.  Turns out he's even more awesome than his blog posts and (boom!) I've got a coach with big plans for me just like that.

In the week or 2 prior to Mac Forest Coach Roche has me running shorter workouts that involve all sorts of shit I've never heard of.  I googled "fartlek" and "strides" before I confessed to him that I have no clue what exactly he's talking about.  He set me straight and we got on the same page in running lingo.  I was surprised to be grinding out hard hill repeats just a few days before a hilly 50k but he seemed to know, or I trusted that he knew, something I didn't.

Anyway, the Mac Forest 50k was done on a pretty low training build up.  This race falls at a bad time of year for me (March. April and May are crazy at the nursery!) and I've never had the perfect peak training for it but this year was even lower in terms of time on my feet and all.  I still managed to cut off 12 minutes off an already decent course PR.  I hiked (ok walked, hiking just sounds sexier but let's call it what it is) more than ever, ran the fast sections faster and definitely had a better time out there.  I felt good afterwards too (more on that later).

Next up was Smith Rock Ascent 50k.  Before that I was able to squeeze in an hr. on the track workout (for the Titus Van Rijn challenge) that David thought was completely nutty but it was kind of an eye opener for me .  I was able to somewhat easily run a 5:50 pace for 41+ laps, or 10.25 miles which was kind of cool to know and shaped my future running just having that gauge.  Almost all workouts between Mac and Smith 50ks were short and a lot more speed/strength oriented so I didn't know what to expect at the race.  I was essentially going at it with 10k training, or a lack of long hilly runs.  To my surprise a race that started out way too fast paced (but felt awesome/in control at the time) then faded in the back 3rd ended up pretty awesome overall.  I finished nearly 33 miles with plenty of elevation gain (4-5k') in 4:22, a personal best.  Again, I felt pretty damn good afterwards.

A bit later I did a 4 mile trail run in Miller Woods and won the sweetest prize ever.  A giant magnum of incredible Oregon Pinot that was awesome to share with friends and family later.  I am pretty sure that this was the only race Kattie and I did together this year, so that makes it special too.

The next race, a 10k on July 4th, was probably my proudest moment this year.  It's probably the least celebrated of the bunch (because it's not an ultra--people, even runner-types, always freak out about ultra distances even when they are just a few more miles over the marathon) but it was a big break through for me.  At a small town race with no glitz and glam just Boy Scouts on the corners guiding us around streets with mediocre scenery I finished a 6.0? mile course (came up short of 10k) in 32:49.  I held a 5:26 pace for 6 miles.  That was a good 5k pace for me or even a mile repeat time.  I was stoked!  I know that it's not earth shattering speed but it was new territory for me and a nice mental boost!

More flat training (definitely no long climbs) left me ill prepared at Dog Mtn 20k which I committed to on a whim.  The first lap was a blast and I secretly had a lot of fun in suffering through lap 2--which left me sore for days afterwards.

August was cool because I started to have some more free time and the training plan called for some longer runs.  Even these were rather short, rarely going more than 2-2.5 hrs.  I didn't get too far out of town as I had hoped to but I did explore some rad new trails close to home. 

The month of Sept was to be epic and started off right but plans to run insane trails through the Rockies while road trippin' with the family were thwarted when I smashed the shit out of my toe sweeping a portion of the IMTUF course on day 2 of the trip.  I ended up getting a big ol rest period instead of a final push for the October Trifecta.  I am still up in the air about the effects of that time off.  It's hard to say I benefited or lost anything there.  I think some of the longer adventure paced stuff would have been nice to have in the legs and certainly would have been good for the spirit/mind. 

While the Trifecta results were good I suffered a bit through parts of the experience and the times were not were I had hoped.  There is definitely room for improvement in all races should I go back.  All of thedownhills were affected in Condor Race due to residual toe pain.  The Wilson River is a tough one to judge with all that vert, mud and singletrack but I know I could have run faster in a few pockets/sections.  And, Autumn Leaves has a lot of room for improvement but I would definitely not do it within a week (or a month) of another long race: fresh legs needed for that kind of repeated motion on a flatter course.

Enough review, on to conclusive thoughts:

The whole year's training in general involved less running but perhaps increased intensity.  I am not a numbers guy but I am certain that I spent less time running.

The style of intensity was different.  Whereas before I would crank through track workouts once a week and maybe get a little tempo in here and there, I was now doing more interval type stuff on a pretty regular basis, like 2-3 times a week even if it was a short part of the overall workout.  And hill repeats!  Not just going out for a hilly run and checking off the "hills" box but running up (often at a hard pace) and down little hills by my house.  Some of these were "bounds" style workouts but most were time based repeats (often in the range of 60-90 sec).

Running slightly less has had some different effects on my training.  Perspective changes when you know there is nothing huge looming on the weekend (like say a 24, 26, 30 mile run or 3.5 on up to 5 hrs. at "ultra" pace, which I always want to do but rarely have time for anyway) my approach to weekday workouts seems to be push 'em a little harder if it feels good.  Also, with the long runs being in the 2-2.5 hr range they can turn into a mellow tempo paced effort instead of constantly saving energy (or craving the car ride out of there).  Sometimes an hr and half or more into a relaxed trail run a big hill would come up and I would just light the thing up just for fun.  That's what running by feel is all about to me.

I also have a tendency to go at it a bit harder when I run alone which I have done way more than yrs past--and almost all "intense" workout days.  I have been focusing on controlling this a bit the past month or so as I believe a recovery/easy day should be deliberately done at a slower pace and not entirely based on feel.  I've gotten into troublesome, or more injury-prone, territory when all the days seem to be at a similar pace (when easy is too fast and hard is too slow--even though it feels hard!).  This year I learned that where I run and what music I listen to can help with slowing the pace.

I mentioned it a couple of times in the review but something has changed this year with regard to recovery.  I don't know if it has to do with the workout plans (consistency, overall shorter workouts, etc.) or if my body's increased experience as a runner (coming up on 3 yrs of regular running) is finally manifesting in a physical way beyond better race times: but the time it takes to recover from hard efforts and long efforts has shortened immensely.  I used to hurt quite badly after a hard race and I often felt like I was going to pass out for up to an hour.  Soreness would linger for days afterwards.  Now, I can run faster, and I often still feel like I laid most of it out there, but almost immediately I feel great.  Sure I walk slightly robotically for a bit and try to avoid stairs but with a day or 2 it's almost like nothing happened.  I still give myself the necessary time off but it's something I've noticed this year.

The last of my yearly conclusions has to do with attitude.  Increased experience in running has definitely contributed to a boost in racing confidence and improved attitude.  It's more fun than ever to nervously toe the line and take off with the front pack--as long as it seems somewhat reasonable--and just see what happens.  I don't have much (or anything) to lose so if it doesn't go well who the hell cares?  No one, nobody!  My family still loves me and I still love myself because you what?  It's just running!  Maybe there is something wrong with me but I've actually had a lot of fun just sort of rolling with the punches that often come late in the race while employing this "racing" vs. "pacing" strategy (or lack thereof!).  I'm not a really competitive person when it comes down to it but it sure is fun to push the limits of the body and see what the training was for.  Coach Roche has a lot to do with this attitude adjustment.  I wouldn't say that he necessarily endorses the race attitude/philosophy I am talking about here but he doesn't really oppose it either.  He's a genius pep-talker/typer whose always beaming with positivity (like swearing, "YOU'RE F------ AMAZING!" in pride/happiness) and its been awesome to have that kind of encouragement on my side.

So, that's the season wrap-up.  If you are still reading, may the Lawd God have mercy on you!  I wrote it and it's all about me and it still seemed a bit like purgatory must feel.  You're awesome and I really appreciate you caring about my running so much!  I can't wait to hear about your running or whatever it is that turns your adventure crank.  Here's to a good holiday season!  We are coming up on my favorite time of year!  Weeknight partying/drinking beyond 1 to 2 glasses (social alcoholism) is totally acceptable!  Junk food everywhere!  Cornucopias, pilgrims, trees slowly dying inside the house, lights, elves, reindeer, and Baby Jesus!  YES!