Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Pikes Peak Ascent: One and Done!

I'm really glad to have finished the Pikes Peak Ascent last Saturday. It's been on my bucket list since the early 1980s, but being a specialty race (one that you have focus on for a number of months to the exclusion of 'normal' training) it never fit into summer racing.

A year ago today I got the job offer to move back to Colorado and I immediately planned on doing the Ascent in 2015. When I signed up back in March, I'd been on a roll for a year and felt confident of breaking 3 hours, thinking about the rule of thumb that a Pikes Peak time translates roughly to what you can do in a road marathon. I'd been around 1:20 for the half and 3:15 at Equinox--a tough marathon in its own right--so a sub 3 didn't seem out of reach.

I was wrong on that one.

Felt more or less great and raced well through April, but things caught up to me after the Greenland 25K trail race in early May. My legs weren't recovering from workouts and then I'd been stressed, with finalizing the move from Alaska and a number of other matters.

During May and June I put in okay miles (about 50 per week) but felt chronically tired. By June I started mixing in long runs and weekends at altitude. And in July I got up to 12,000 feet on several runs and over 13,000 feet a couple times. Ended running a solid trail race on the Barr Mountain trails (6,600 to 10,200) in mid-July. So all was heading in the right direction.

But a pinched nerve in my neck flared up the week before and after the trail race and it took 3 weeks for that to clear up, and only after intervention with anti-inflammatory medication and physical. All just in the final two weeks. July's mileage was adequate at 40-45 a week (but had planned for 60 or so). However, those miles were on a weekend warrior schedule, typically with a 13-16 miler at altitude on Saturdays and then 9-10 miles on Sunday. The rest of the week was recovery and easy runs of just 4-6 miles.

I was just glad to be able to line up in Manitou Springs, but with some readjusted time goals (3:00 to 3:15, but hoping for sub 3:10). However, on race day I woke up nervous! I could bare gobble down a bagel and banana that morning and had severe cotton mouth even after downing a quart of water. That mountain looke so huge, so daunting.

I started out cautiously over the first few miles, and seemed to be about where I had wanted to be, but had a rough patch at about 5 or 6 miles. Was optimistic at the Barr Camp check point with a 1:31 at 7.6 miles (roughly 3:05 pace). The next few miles went pretty well and I felt comfortable as one can be at 11,000 feet pushing on at marathon effort (albeit at twice marathon pace if you're on the roads).

Hitting the A frame at just below 12,000 feet was semi-surreal. We were finally above tree line. Like when you are at lake and people a mile away sound like they are close by, I could clearly hear when the leaders crossed the finish with all the sirens and cheering up above.

I would still have an hour to go. It was all switchbacks over and between boulders and I was no longer running much. Often it wasn't even power hiking, but just walking. For the last three miles I stopped looking at my watch and only focused on moving and finishing. I was getting dizzy and stumbling a lot.

Do not fall, do not throw up.

The last mile was pretty frantic but at 18-20 min pace! Passing and getting passed. Just finishing was one of the toughest things I've had to do in a race.

So 3:14, 73rd, and 3rd in age group. In the past 5 years that'd be 1st or 2nd in age group but there were a couple of very fast 55 yr olds in there (including a former U.S. mountain bike champion!). But the competition in this event is not about time or place as much as just getting up the mountain.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Humpbacked in August

Well, I guess I'm running Pikes Peak Ascent this weekend. Not exactly a ringing of self-encouragement.

I've been thinking about this one since I got news of word of the job transfer last August, and have spent the summer in preparation. I've done a lot of trail running (50% or more) and time in the mountains (every weekend since the first of June has included runs and substantial time at above 9000 feet, and I've climbed to 13,000 or greater several times. No 14ers though. Although I wish it was more, I should be relatively altitude ready.

However, last month some pain (sometimes significant) has developed in my back--between shoulder blade and spine and that has restricted training somewhat. July was supposed to be a big month with 60 miles a week or so in preparation of the race but I had to cut back to about 45. And then two weeks ago the pain radiated down into my left arm. At that point I figured it was time to see a doctor. Have seen two so far and they've had me on muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory meds. The former I couldn't stand the side effects, and didn't take much of that.

Geez, when it's way way off and  you've never even seen the trail you can dream big. Through most of the spring I was thinking that  low to mid 2:50s was a good goal (I put 2:56 on my entry), but I don't think I'll be anywhere near that. Based on my last minute entry at the Barr Mountain Trail Race in July, guess I'll be at Barr Camp in 1:28-1:35, which is more like territory for 3:00 to 3:10. And that's if everything goes right: weather, fueling/hydration, pacing, my back, and most importantly my fitness which as of late (starting in May) is somewhat compromised if not off. And of course there is the altitude factor itself. How will I feel at 13,000 feet after some 11 miles and 2.5 hours of climbing?

Be healthy and have some fun. Those are my goals going in.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Stumbling into the Barr Trail Mountain Race

My plan for last weekend was to do the Colorado Springs 10K Classic, but I missed the start by 24 hours. Somehow I had convinced myself that the 18th was Sunday, not Saturday. No idiot, it's not 2014. I got up early and drove to the Springs with plenty of time only to find that no one was at the start line. No one. I quickly figured out my mistake and after a minute of fuming decided to do a 2 to 2.5 hour run on the Barr Trail in prep for the Pike's Peak Ascent next month.

I drove into Manitou Springs, parked, and saw dozens of runners with race bibs waking up the avenue toward the Cog Railway. A race?! I grabbed my stuff and headed to the start. The 12.6 mile Barr Trail Mountain Race was about to start. I was the last entry and promised to bring them cash after the finish.

The course is nothing short of brutal, starting at 6,530 feet and heading up a steep road for a half mile before it joins the Barr Trail. From there it was endess switchbacks for another 3 miles before it opened up a bit. I kind of went with the flow for a quarter mile but dropped into an easier pace for awhile before finding my hill rhythm some 10 minutes into the race.


I had a good group to run with and by 3 miles I was passing runners and gaining on others. Twice I got within seconds of the 2nd place woman (a 2:41 marathoner), but she'd pull away. At the turn around (1:19) I was about 21st place and a minute plus behind her. However, there were a dozen or so runners within 30 or 40 seconds behind me but I was confident that I could hold most of them off because normally I'm a decent downhill runner.

How wrong was that?

I felt fine for most of the first mile on the descent, but one by one--on the technical sections--other runners screamed by. We had a few rather open stretches where the trail was smooth and I could catch up (running XC downhill style), but as soon as it got rocky or gravelly I would slow down. By half way down the descent about 5-6 runners had passed and I kind of knew it was over. So I eased up and ran at a moderate effort--if not easy at times--because I did not want to fall. Zoom, zoom, zoom, they kept catching me from behind.

With just a kilometer or so to go two more runners were flying down the hill and I figured that I could hold them off, so I picked it up and prepared for the final stretch. Mistake!

They were only 10 or 15 meters back when I caught a toe on a rock and went flying head first down the trail. Scraped my palm, forearm, and hip. I was stunned and layed on hte ground for a few seconds. They asked if I was okay and I figured, yeah, okay enough, and they sped off. I lumbered up and did my best to get down the trail without anymore spills or getting passed.

The result was pretty discouraging, as I lost a good 8-10 minutes from the runners that were around me on the ascent. Other than bonking at the California International Marathon in 2005, I've never lost that kind of time in a race.

I dunno. I ran in road shoes, not trail shoes that might of helped a bit. But mostly it's obvious that I lack the technical downhill trail running skills.

Still hung on for 2nd in the 50-59 age group and I got a funky chunk of wood with BTMR branding and a US Coast and Geodetic Survey Marker (Pikes Peak ---> Elevation 14,115 ft) tacked on.

Speaking of 14,115 ft, that ascent next month is going to be tough. This is one I'm going to go for the experience as much as any competitive effort. Just finish it and enjoy the trek.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Crash and Burn at the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile

I should probably be filling in more often with training and such between races, but never get around to it. So here's a brief summary of training and races for the past two months

April 6 - 12, 44 miles with half marathon (1:22, 1st age 22nd overall)
April 13 - 19, 40 miles recovery
April 20 - 27, 50 miles mostly recovery
April 28 - May 3, 57 miles with 25K trail race (1:50, 1st age class, 5th overall)
May 4 - 10,  45 miles, recovery (very tired by end of week)
May 11 - 17, 58 miles with threshold reps; 5K time trial (blow up) and tempo
May 18 - 24, 50 miles with hill reps; hill climb time trial (felt off on TT)
May 25 - 31, 42 miles mostly recovery
June 1 to 7, 50 miles with weekend at 9000 ft altitude
June 8 to 14, 59 miles with 10 mile race (Blow up)

This shows that I've been on recovery or not feeling great for about two months now. It might be as simple as a couple rounds of massage therapy. Maybe something else. It has been a stressful period with lots of change going on in my life, including a move, house sale, kid graduting, now empty nesters in a new (old city), and dealing with that.

Anyway, I came into Saturday's Garden of the Gods 10 mile race thinking that 1:05-1:06 would be a reasonable effort, and that I could take on anyone in my age group. So I worked through the race a bit (60 miles for the week), and took no rest days, but a couple easy ones on Friday and Saturday (55 and 45 minutes respectively).

Slept well overnight, but I felt off from the gun. Maybe another hit of caffeine would have gotten me charged. Splits were:

6:25 (mostly downhill)
6:58 (up)
6:55 (up mostly)
6:53 (up and some down)
7:16 (a lot of up, and really tough up)
6:42 (mostly down but not recovered)
6:50? (I just tanked by here, and fell back 20 seconds from the pack)
7:16 (I think that was mostly down!)

On the ups I was gassed, even though I was dialed back, and then I wouldn't recover over the top. At 4.5 I figured I could cruise for 30 sec, pick it up and drop the field within 2-3 minutes. But I checked my watch at 2 minutes past cresting the hill and was breathing hard. Meanwhile, they dropped me.

So. A recovery week. Plan on massage therapy this week. Maybe get a blood test. Considering recent events hopefully it's not thyroid or testosterone deficiency!

Despite having a meh race, I still got third to a couple of tough competitors--guys that you have to have a good day to beat--and an enjoyable weekend in Colorado Springs with my wife. We visited Manitou Springs and droveGarden of the Gods, and of course the run, the zoo, and hiked couple miles of Barr Trail following the race.

Pikes Peak is going to be a killer! (But if I'm going to go, then a run up that hill wouldn't be a bad way to do it).

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Greenland Trail Race 25K

I must be racing on residual fitness, or just air. Training-wise I haven't felt good for months now, since mid-late February. And every time I've raced since then it seems like the recovery takes weeks if at all. However, can't complain about the results.

I've felt pretty awful since Platte River Half Marathon last month, but did manage weeks of 40, 50, and 55 miles, which isn't too bad. Nevertheless, I haven't done a full workout in more than a month. Just run and once a week or so do some surges or pick ups. The closest thing was a 5 min hill climb in Boulder with BTC the other week, followed by some pick ups.

My first Greenland Trail race experience was decent to good. I scouted out the course last week and ran 14 miles out there, and got the gist of the rolling terrain and moderate (6900-7400 ft) altitude. Felt better as the week progressed, with a bit of fartlek training on Wednesday and Thursday and a real easy 5 miler on Friday.

Race day was about as good as it gets, low 50s at the start with a slight breeze and maybe 60 or 65 by the finish. The field didn't seem all that big, with fewer than 300 starters, and I tucked into 11th or 12th for the first couple miles. No one came up from behind and I just focused on keeping my breathing level moderate. By the third and fourth miles I started moving up, one by one, and I was in a surprise 6th place as we made our way up the hill between 3.5 and 4.5. I just kept steady and wove around the back of the pack 50K runners who had started 30 minutes before us. At the top of the hill 5th place Mike, another masters runner whom I've met the past couple races, was a good minute up, and a string of 4-5 were just a few seconds back. I focused on keeping a steady tempo on the long downhills back to the start-finish-lap area, and felt really good through there.

Was a bit discouraged to be more than a minute back from Mike at the turn-around (~7.5 miles), and still only 10 or 15 seconds ahead of the three or four. Felt like a sitting duck out there on the short-grass ecotone. I bided time by picking off more and more 50K runners, now mid-pack level, but it felt like my pace was flagging. Mike was pulling away it seemed and I was waiting for a train of runners to stream by. My legs and breathing didn't feel good. But as we ascended to about 7300 on the 2nd loop I heard no footsteps. Then the trails merged and people slalom from the 8 mile became quite annoying. Those on the left hand track invariably wore head phones, so I say 'on your left' before attempting to pass but they'd never hear me. So a lot of weaving and bobbing between tracks.

That was my major criticism of the race, having to pass hundreds of runners on the trail. A wave start isn't a bad idea but maybe make it based on expected pace based on 10K to half marathon results over the past year. Takes a little more work for the organizers, but at $70 a pop for an entry they can handle it.

By the time I reached the hill (4.5 miles to go) I was encouraged to moving up on Mike and to be past the most dense wave of of 8 mile runners, so passing was pretty easy. At the 2nd summit I was just a few seconds back from Mike, but he put the burners on so I just relaxed and let gravity do it's work while filling my lungs and legs with enough oxygen to hang on.

It flattened and I kept pushing. I thought I'd be about 1:50:20 and didn't throw in a huge kick, ended up 1:50:01 chip time in 5th. Technically 2nd masters but got credit as masters winner because 2nd overall was 40 and he was the open race runner up. Very encouraging, and a bonus was that I checked the archive and that's the fastest 50+ time ever on this course for the 25K. Won a pair of La Sportiva shoes for the effort and look forward to trying them on!

Overall this is a decently well-run event. I'll give it a 4 of 5. They could add another aid station and do something about the wave start to keep the trail more clear. But it's a good site and they have a good system. Not so keen on the finisher medals for everyone in a race shorter than a marathon, but I'm old school. Collecting a number of those things and not sure what to do with them.

Next race is Garden of the Gods 10 miler in mid-June.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Top Age Graded Results at Plate River Half Marathon

I'm a couple weeks late, been a very busy and hectic time, but here are top age grade scores from the Platte River Half Marathon the other week. Colleen De Reuck's 1:21:17 is a state record, 1:40 faster than what she did last fall at Rock 'n Roll Half in Denver. An outstanding time! The men's 55-59 age group is deep, with 4 of the 7 that were above 80% in that group.

91.74 Colleen De Reuck (50) 1:21:17
86.35 Andrea Espinosa (52) 1:28:33
86.19 Roger Sayre (57) 1:22:37
85.58 Dan Spale (58) 1:23:58
82.83 Kyle Hubbart (58) 1:25:43
82.00 Jerry Reif (50) 1:21:39
81.65 Jay Survil (56) 1:26:25

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bouyed by the Platte River Half

After a hectic couple of months it's nice to return for a blog entry. Although I'm pretty sure this is pretty obscure, so far under the radar that mosquito would make a bigger blip on the screen. Makes Northern Lights seem like the big time.

The Platte River Half has been a race that I've wanted to do for more than a decade. I was injured when it first started and then moved to Alaska for 10 great years and more or less (excluding the injured year of 2010) a solid comeback.

So training the past two months has been solid, going about 50 a week with some okay workouts and just one race, an 18:18 5K (2nd masters and 1st in age) last month in my old hometown of Fort Collins. But the past two weeks of work, and life in many respects, have been wracked by deadlines and stress--hate it when work gets in the way of fun! But running has been my release, and I've enjoyed runs on up on North and South Table Mountain, Mesa Trail, Deer Creek Canyon, Waterton Canyon etc.

So I didn't know what to expect on Sunday. I did the proper cut back and looked at the calculators, which rather incredulously indicated that I was in 1:24 shape. But but, I ran 1:19 last year at sea level I whine to myself.

New year new altitude. I still thought a 1:21 or 1:22 was possible.

Hey they put on a great race for the Platte River Half Marathon. Something everyone, fast course, it's certified, a good field, great post-race block party. Can't say enough good things about this event.

The day dawned warm with a bit of a breeze from the south, it was noticeable on that half mile stretch in Littleton before we headed onto the bike path. I'd planned to run 6:20-6:30 for the first 2 miles and then drop into the 6:15 range once we got the downstream running path for nearly 10 miles. However, my mind kept pushing me to want to go 6:10, which I'd do but feel myself breathing hard so I backed off.

Had a good age group battle going from about 4 to 8 miles with Dan from Runners Roost. He reeled me in and we ran together for another mile or so, and then he surged but I held back with the group until just before 8. This time I surged and one other guy went with me, and we were off toward the finish.

I felt solid through 10 (1:02:26), but just let up a bit to get a drink and that guy had 30-40 meters. Mike, another masters runner from the Roost came up from behind so I just focused on those ahead. I picked off a couple more, but one or two went by. The stretch from 10 to 12 was tough. The wind had shifted into our face and it was flat/straight on a detour through the streets rather than on the bike path. I was hurting through there and had to concentrate to keep going. The stretch on the 8th Avenue viaduct was slow on the climb and I was feeling it bot didn't lose much ground. It was a relief to get to the crest of that long bridge. I started surging off and on to the finish. Hit 13 on my watch in 1:21:15, but that was almost a quarter mile from the finish.

Crossed in 1:22:37, 19th overall and an age graded 86.2, an altitude PR. That felt good, but then again 50 yr Colleen De Reuck up ahead by 80 seconds took the age grade award with a 92%. That was fast!  

And did I say the party was great! I had fun for a couple hours--after tracking down my bag which had inadvertently been picked up by someone else--and then rode back on the Light Rail to Littleton with the Runners Roost crew.

Did it. Had some fun. Met my goal and beat the calculator. So what's not to like about all that? Hope to be back in the future.