Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Continental Divide Trail Run

Sunday morning, it was clear and 40 degrees as I prepared to drive up the valley to Steamboat and partake in the annual running of Ski Haus' Continental Divide Trail Run, a trail race from the bottom of Fish Creek Falls to Long Lake and then up the backside of Mount Werner via the Mountain View trail and finishing at the top of the Gondola.  Roughly 100 people lined up at the start and, as the final race directions were given, the mood was fun yet focused.  My goals for the race were to run under 2 hours 20 minutes and/or be first Masters.  I wanted to run hard to gauge where my overall fitness was going into Run Rabbit Run in three weeks.  That said, I went out with the lead pack of runners and decided to try and run my race "from the front" instead of starting slower and gradually trying to build speed as the race went on.  Of course, that only lasted about 5 minutes into the race as the trail started climbing up the canyon for about 1000' in the first mile.  I managed to keep the speedy Harry Niedl in sight all the way to the top of the first climb but there was no way I was going to hang with the rabbits longer than that.  I felt good though and continued running all but the steepest uphill sections. 

The morning air was nice and cool and it felt really good to be running hard up the rocky canyon trail.  Flecks of gold leaves decorated the otherwise green canopy.  I reached the Second Falls in 30 minutes and felt like I was right on pace to make 2:20 but it wouldn't be easy to hold on.  Mercifully, the trail begins to even out and there aren't any steep climbs after the Second Falls.  A few, short tough ones but after conquering those, the trail opens up and a beautiful alpine meadow is revealed.  Even in a dry year like this one, there was still a little water to cross.  After that meadow, there was another short section in the trees before we crossed another meadow and began the gradual ascent to Long Lake and the junction with the next section of trail, Mountain View.   During this time, I talked a little with the runner behind me, Stephen Castle from Ft. Collins.  Stephen had been chasing me up the canyon and breathing HARD the whole climb.  I thought he was pushing too hard and was going to fade but he just kept crushing it.  He actually apologized for breathing so hard but it didn't bother me a bit.  I just told him he was killing it and doing a great job.  I gave him a brief synopsis of the rest of the course and he was really cool and gracious.  Just before the first aid station, I was able to pull away from him just a bit and I made the turn onto Mountain View ready for the next 6 mile grind.

At the aid station, I was down to half a bottle of water and had fallen 5 minutes behind where I thought I should've been.  I filled the rest of the bottle with Gatorade ate a little gummy, chewy looking thing and took off on Mountain View determined to run as much of it as I could.  I've run this trail many times now and it is almost never very forgiving.  In this direction, it is a gradual, 6-mile climb up to the back of Mt. Werner.  The trail is mostly smooth single track but there are just enough rocks to trip you up if aren't paying attention.  Not long after getting on the trail, I got passed by one runner (Paul Datsko) who seemed totally relaxed and in control of his effort.  He was just steady plugging and I gave him an 'attaboy' as he passed.  He commented that he had to take advantage of the ups because he wasn't a great downhiller.  I just called after him, "Maybe I'll catch you on the downhill.  Probably not."  (I didn't.  But I might have if the race had been another half mile or so.)  About a minute behind him, I heard Stephen closing on me and I could tell he was going to pass, too.  He was still breathing pretty hard but I could tell that he was getting used to this extra gear and was going to fly up Mountain View.  He passed, gracious as ever, and soon caught and passed Paul, too.  Killing it!  I hung behind for another mile or so but soon found myself running up the trail by myself.  I was moving pretty good through the pine forest, thanks to a couple of downhill and rolling sections that were smooth enough trail to get a good leg turnover going.   The trail just continued on and on through the forest.  Another runner, kindly passed me with a couple more miles left to go to the summit and I tried to hang onto him as we power hiked some of the last steep climbs.   The guy kind of looked like Leor Pantilat, so I imagined for a moment that I was racing one of the fastest ultrarunners in the country, and had a little laugh to myself about that.  Then, reminscent of Leor, he left me in the dust.   About 3 minutes after losing sight of "Leor", I made the last bit of ascent to the top of Mt. Werner.  My watch read about 2:10 and I didn't think I had two 5-minute miles in me but I was still super stoked and ready to slay some downhill.   In hindsight, my 1:05 split for Mountain View is the fastest I have ever run that trail in the uphill direction.

Next year, the race organizers are going to reroute the race so that runners descend to the Gondola via single track trails.  So on this running and, I guess for the last time, the course finished with a 2 mile run down Storm Peak Challenge, a dirt road with tons of "baby head" sized rocks.  My first few steps down the road were a little unsteady but I soon found a rhythm and started working gravity for all it was worth, running about as hard as I thought I could for two miles and 1000+ feet.  I checked the switchbacks ahead of me for someone to chase but didn't see anyone until the final 3/4 mile.  I tried hard to close the gap but couldn't reel him in more than a couple hundred yards before the last quarter mile climb up to the Gondy.  I pushed the last uphill and sprinted for the finish line under a bluebird, cloudless sky.   As it turned out, I did have two 6 minute miles left in my legs and I ran strong all the way to the finish and completed the course in 2:22:51. Not quite hitting my time goal but good enough for 9th place overall and 1st Masters.  I finished feeling good despite pushing hard the whole race and my legs felt surprisingly unaffected once I was done.  I jogged a cool down for a few minutes after I finished and I even considered running down to the base area. 

Fortunately, I wised up and decided it would be more fun to kick it at the finish and spent the rest of the morning talking it up with other runners and locals who had come up to cheer on their friends.  The post race food, drink and company was great and I got to meet a few other Steamboat runners that I didn't previously know.   Probably the most fun I had though was chatting it up with Stephen Castle after the race.  The hard-breathing, hard-charger from the Front Range delivered a 2:20:48 run despite being, by his own admission, woefully unprepared for the gnarly course.  (Stud.)  Unfortunately, we were both losers when it came to the post race raffle.  I may never win a race but by golly, I'm going to win a raffle prize one these days!

I'm very happy about how my race went and I think I proved to myself that I am fit enough to give the 100 a good effort.  I have no idea what kind of finishing time I could expect to run and coming up with a pace schedule feels a bit daunting.  Still, I'm ready to get it done.  Mostly because I am tired of waiting and, in many ways, tired of training.   Not that I really did a stellar job in my training.  I could've logged more miles.  Or maybe SHOULD have but I still feel good about the running I did do this year and how my prep races went.  I just started losing motivation to train as Katy's pregnancy progressed and I wanted to spend more time with her.  I kind of feel like I ended up doing kind of a half-assed job of both...well, I hope not but it's  hard to split what little time you have between all the things you want to do and the things you need to do. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Weekly Summary: August 6 - August 12

8/6 - Rest.  Wanted to run but got shot down by the wife!  Ha!

8/7 - 6.0 miles.  1:00:xx.  1300'v.  Stagecoach Mountain - Stagecoach.  Hard effort climbing up to The Beach with trekking poles and back to the house.  Then, dropped them off at the house and ran another 3 miles down to the fire station and back on dirt trail.  Pushed the effort the whole way.

8/8 - 7.3 miles.  1:12:xx.  500'v.  Stagecoach.  Easy paced evening run from dusk til dark on the road down to the lake and a couple miles of trail. 

8/9 -  6.76 miles.  :52:45.  500'v.  Stagecoach.  Quick run down to Elk Run Trail and a few 7 minute miles on dirt before climbing back to the house. 

8/10 - Rest.

8/11 - 13.55 miles.  3:34:08.  2910'v.  Black Mountain Trail to East Fork Trail just nouth of Round Lake.  Woke up at 4 a.m. and got to the trail head at Sheriff Reservoir just before 6 a.m.  Looked like it might rain so I waited a few minutes in my truck before deciding to just go for it.  The run started out great and I felt great climbing up into the mountains at dawn.  It was a little bit cloudy but I really didn't think the rain would come.  I ran a couple hours up trail and found a nice spot next to a creek to eat some food (a clementine, some bread with Pocket Fuel peanut butter on it and a Salt Stick tablet).  I sat on a rock, admiring my surroundings and suddenly realized that I should just turn around and spend a little time at home with Katy.  I missed her very much.  I packed up and started back when I felt a drop or two of rain.  I looked northwest and saw rain and suddenly felt a little panicked to get back since I was now climbing back up to some exposed areas.  It eventually began raining steadily on me as I hiked up the rocky trail but it wasn't a complete deluge.  I got pretty wet but after a half hour or so it let up and I started back down towards Sheriff under clearing skies.  I had fun and made it back home by 11 a.m.  I walked around the neighborhood with Katy for about 45 minutes then spent a little while clearing some branches from a couple of trees we had cut down earlier in the week.  That afternoon, I drove up to Clark to meet up with Jonny B, Christian, Paul and Brady and a couple of other people, at a favorite camping spot out on Greenville Mine Road to watch a meteor shower that evening.  I ended up deciding to treat it all as a training day and stayed on my feet (and even did some late night hiking with the dogs) most of the night.   The sky was clear and we saw some really amazing meteors!  I fell asleep in my sleeping bag staring at the stars after a great 20-hour day.

8/12 - Rest.?

Uh-oh.  DNF'ed another training run!  I haven't quite mastered the long, wilderness training run but I'm still happy with the time I've been getting on my feet and the quality of my shorter runs.   It's just logistically difficult to run in the mountains for several hours and I just don't like spending that much time away from my wife during her pregnancy.   Anyway, it's almost taper time so my plan from here until September 14th is to run hard this week, finishing with the Continental Divide Trail Run next Sunday, August 19th (my sister Sommai's birthday!), where I'd like to got under 2 hours and 20 minutes.  After that, I will just put in 3 weeks of easy running and get plenty of rest leading up to race day.  Simple. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Weekly Summary: July 30 - August 5

7/30 - Rest.

7/31 -  6.17 miles.  1:05:33.   400'v.  Stagecoach.  An easy and much need run to decompress after a full day of moving equipment to the new shop.  Over the past 2 weeks Bob and I have been relocating the business, which is no small feat.  Today, in particular, was a hot day and we began moving the larger shop equipment.  This run felt like one of my longest this year as I was on my feet the entire work day.  Route was from the house, down to the lakeshore and about half a mile of trail before turning around and running back uphill to the house. 

8/1 - Rest.  Completely whooped after another day of moving.

8/2 - 6.27 miles.  :56:39.  400'v.  Stagecoach.  Almost the same route as Tuesday but with a little more pep in the legs.

8/3 -  4.41 miles.  :45:02.  400'v.  Stagecoach.  Waited until the sun went down so that I could run in the dark and practice running with the headlamp on.  I ran about 1.5 miles on the road and then cut through the sagebrush to get down to Elk Run Trail next to the lake.  My depth perception was playing tricks on me on the trails.  It's a strange feeling running on trails in the dark.  Even with a headlamp, your vision is so limited that you have to slow down and be careful of your footing, even on a wide trail like the one by the lake.  From past experience, it's even stranger in the woods, when the trail is rockier and every sound coming from the darkness is like something stalking you.  Funny thing this evening was that I didn't make a wrong turn until I got back on the roads.  I should do a few more night runs before RRR.

8/4 - 17.45 miles.  3:48:14.  2750'v.  Sarvis Creek Trail.  Attempted to run Sarvis Creek from end to end and back and failed miserably.  About 45 minutes before my run, I took a 2.7 fl.oz. dose of Vespa CV-25, an amino acid supplement that is supposed to help athletes metabolize body fat.   For fueling, I carried 1.8oz. packet of Pocket Fuel Almond Butter, a couple Clif Shot gels, three SaltStick capsules and a clementine.  I also carried a 20 oz. water bottle and a SteriPen  Adventurer to purify water that I would be refilling from creeks and streams.  There were several groups of hikers on the early portion of the trail, which was nice to see, and I hiked and ran the first 800' climb in the first couple miles.   I reached the wooden bridge crossing the creek (around 3 miles) in about a half-hour and felt really good as I continued another mile up trail on the portion I had run a couple months ago.  I noticed alot of cow piles on the trail (this area is Wilderness Area but apparently Open Range for ranchers, also) and it made me nervous about getting water from the creek but I figured that's why I have a water purifier.  Around the 6 mile mark, I had run through a couple of open meadows and it was getting close to noon and warming up pretty good.  I finally stopped at the creek for a few minutes to refill my bottle and then continued back on the trail.  About a mile later, I ran into 3 people who had come in on horseback from the Buffalo Park end of the trail and were having a little lunch.  I surprised them by coming down the trail solo and I stopped to talk for a couple minutes.  They were visitors from Arizona and said it had taken them 2 hours to ride to that point.  By now, I was sure that I wouldn't make it to Buffalo Park but I continued on, waded through Sarvis Creek and started a climb for another mile until I reached 9000' elevation before deciding to turn around.  Originally, I had thought the trail was about 8 miles end to end but I pulled out my map, determined my location and figured that it was actually 12-13 miles.  I definitely didn't have enough food to make the trip so I turned and ran the downhill through some pine trees until I hit a creek crossing where I stopped to refill my water bottle again.  Here, I saw the threesome again, this time on horses, and yeilded the trail to let them pass.  At the creek crossing, I filled my bottle up, yet again, and stopped to take a couple photos.   I ran the next 3 miles at an easy pace on some technical single track, mostly because I was feeling the heat and lacked energy, despite eating all my Pocket Fuel, the clementine, one gel and all my SaltSticks.  I passed a family I saw earlier with about 4 miles to go and looked forward to the bridge where I would dip into the creek again, refill and cool off.  In the last few miles, I was thankful to be in the trees and hiked the short climb from the bridge and ran the last 2 mile downhill portion feeling pretty drained.  Once I made it back to my truck, I pounded a warm Gatorade and ate a banana, and while tired, didn't feel exceptionally bad.  I drove about 15 minutes to get back home and shortly thereafter my stomach turned and I promptly vomitted before I could get in the shower.   Demoralized, I climbed into bed and napped for an hour or so before I finally felt a little better and was able to eat dinner.   

8/5 - 2 miles.  Walked with Katy.  Man, it's hot.  Legs felt a little stiff.

Weekly mileage:  36 miles.

Moving the shop was a real pain early in the week, rough on my back and made it tough to even want to run in the evening.  I decided to do the night run on Friday to 1) reaquaint myself with running in the dark and 2) run on somewhat tired legs before my Saturday long run.  I'm not sure what caused my problems on Saturday.  It could have been the heat, the Vespa (first time I've tried this product), accumulated fatigue,  contaminated water or any combination these things.  From my Wilderness First Responder training, I'm inclined to rule out water contamination since I did purify my water and it usually takes at least a few days for waterborne illness to show up.  It's also possible that I didn't stay hydrated enough for the weather as I held back on drinking early in the run.  I'll try the Vespa again on next week's long run to see what happens.