Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Running races, summer 2016

With my primary focus this summer on unstructured adventures, the plan is to wrap all running races into a single post.

Note: these reports are written in large part for myself, and as such there will be a lot of personal ruminating, as opposed to inspiring writing about the race.  Also, note, I am a relatively slow runner.  Find someone faster to follow if you want more exciting front of the pack action.

Snowbowl 15k, August 6

I signed up last minute for the Snowbowl 15k.  With good knowledge of the course and reasonable fitness, my goal was to run a fast, even race and not blow up.  I also allowed a respectable taper, so there were no excuses for a bad race.  After the normal warm up and pre-race jitters, we were off.  To my surprise, the start was fast, and it felt more like a road 10k, so I reluctantly settled a little farther back in the pack than anticipated, chugging along right at anaerobic threshold.  There is only one big climb, and after the initial sorting, I slowly began working up through the pack, but was only able to pass five or so runners before topping out.  I started down just a few yards behind the phenomenally talented Ella Degrandpre (fastest 15 year old I know of, hands down).  While Ella put me to shame on the up, I was able to harness enough energy to pass her and push ahead into no-man's land.  About a mile out, I also passed Nicole Hunt.  I was pleased to maintain a 6 min/mile pace on the down, but it was not enough to pass anyone else before crossing the line in 11th place, 1.14.  A few calf twinges in the last mile were confirmation that I had pushed reasonably hard.

This race was a lot of fun.  I could have dug deeper and found a minute or two on the climb, but otherwise I felt good about my race.  Effort was right at anaerobic threshold for the climb (avg HR ~169), and hard enough on the down (avg HR ~164).  Equally important, I didn't have to stop for any of the myriad possible reasons (eating, sideache, cramping, peeing, tieing shoes, etc) the entire race, which hopefully offset any deficiencies in pushing to the limit.

Scout Mountain 60k, June 4

I returned to the beautiful trails of Pocatello in early June for another go at this runnable course.  My primary goal was to run an even race with a strong secondary goal of improving my solid time from two years ago.  The race went well.  A bunch of runners went out fast, but I started off at a reasonable 50k pace and rolled with a group, topping out somewhere around 10th place.  After advancing several spots by skipping the first water stop, I ran at a bright but still slightly restrained pace all the way to the first aid, then ran to the second aid with two other runners.  I ran into the 25k aid nine minutes behind my previous time, but feeling much better.  

The second half of the course is dominated with a big, beautiful and hot climb over Scout mountain.  It makes or breaks most runners' races.  My two fellow 60K runners took off blazing up the climb, and I them go, hoping for a fade on their part.  Sure enough, over the course of the next two hours, I would pass them as well as the 3rd place runner, who was suffering mightily in the heat.  My slower early pace start started to return dividends, as I still felt reasonable, which allowed much more uphill running, and no cramping on the long downhill to last aid station.  In terms of competition, I was in no mans land for the last half of the race, with 10+ minute gaps on both sides. While I was tired for sure, I was pleased to have enough energy in the tank to more or less hold the pace over the last 10k.  I topped out on the last climb gassed and with some minor calf, adductor and hip flexor cramps, but they stayed at bay enough to push reasonably to the finish, with one spectacular cartwheeling stumble to keep things entertaining.  I ran 6.41 over 60K with about 8,500 feet of elevation, which was a six minute improvement over my 2014 time.

As always, thanks to overall awesome all around person Luke Nelson for organizing this event, and for everyone from the community who pitches in to make it so enjoyable.  In addition to a good course, the low key vibe coupled with top notch support and execution make for an enjoyable event.

Training geek comments for future reference:
Overall, I continue to be satisfied with incremental improvement. While I could take more risks and probably find another minute or two along the way, I am gaining confidence in pacing and general race execution for a solid 50k race.  In terms of effort, I was able to push incrementally harder than in similar races last year.  I used a HR monitor and ran most of the uphills with my HR in the low to mid 150s, and ran the downhills in the upper 140s.  I tried slowly running more of the douche grade climbs instead of struggling to walk fast, which seemed to work, and I kept the pace comfortable/in check on the first few downhills.  Also, I took some time at aids to wage war on the heat, drinking extra water and soaking my head and shirt. I haven't had any desire to heat train ever (sounds awful), and haven't quite ultra-geeked out enough to get an ice pack neck band, but so far even minor attention to heat makes a big difference.

My training leading up to the race was different than in the past.  A sprained ankle only allowed me to start running about ten weeks out from the race, and the first two weeks were spent slowy ratcheting up mileage and ankle confidence.  Weekly spring running volume was comparable to past years, but I did fewer long runs, and did more quality and strength work, and ran more each day on average.  I am still following Mike Wolfe's training plans with heavy modifications for running and they have been great, especially for strength/stability/injury prevention work. Aside from a few quad banging top to bottom repeats on Sentinel, I generally favored moderate grades to get a lot of leg turn over.  While my cardiovascular fitness isn't any better than in the past, I don't think it has suffered, and I my running form and general muscular resilience are slightly improved.

Honestly, my biggest current worry is trying to figure out why my general level of energy has been poor for the past month or so.  I did get a little sick, but even before and after, I have been sporadically sluggish, struggling through some runs and feeling OK for others.  I am hoping energy levels will stage a major come back after a rest week of biking and skiing.

Superfun(d) 10k, April 23

On a very rainy Saturday put a big kibosh on our plans, so Leah and I showed up and ran the Superfun(d) road 10k hosted by Run Wild Missoula.  I did a minimal two day taper, but showed up feeling adequately rested for a decent performance.  Having never run a proper length 10k race, I headed out at a goal pace of 5.50 miles and just tried to hang on.  I was able to hold the pace for the race, although it was fiercer than I had hoped for over the last third.  I moved up over the first two miles, until I was running in the lead, which I held to the finish.  I don't remember my exact time, but it was 37 something, 5.50 mile splits.

Training geek comments for future reference:  I wore a HR monitor, and was surprised that I couldn't keep 'er higher than 170 - maybe I wasn't rested as well as I thought, or perhaps lactate threshold HR is lower than I thought.  For now, I'll just try to run lactate threshold sessions easier and keep tinkering.

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