Friday, February 28, 2014

Month in Review (February)

2/2010: 100.9 miles
2/2011: 111.3 miles
2/2012: 151.9 miles
2/2013: 137.8 miles
2/2014: 186.5 miles

Well, another month of training is in the books. I'm pleased with how it went, all things considered. My goal for February was roughly 35 miles/week, and I ended up running closer to 40 miles/week, with a 60-mile week thrown in while I was on vacation down in Florida. I very rarely run more than 50 miles/week-- even during peak training-- so that was notable. Naples, FL is flat, fast, and oxygen-rich compared to Leadville, that's for sure. Oh, and humid. Incredibly humid. I would return from early morning runs completely drenched in sweat. Running in the dry mountain air of Colorado is downright civilized in comparison!

Not Leadville.
February began with the snowshoe marathon as my first long run, and then I managed to get in another 20-mile run in Florida. (One took >5 hours, the other <3 hours. I'll let you guess which one was which.) I integrated some skate skiing into the mix early in the month, to keep things interesting. I resorted to the bike trainer 8 times-- usually when the weather was nasty or when I was recovering from a hard workout. The other statistic that jumps out at me is that I managed to run 7 runs longer than 10 miles in February. The way my training schedule tends to work is that the only run I'll run longer than 7 miles will be a 20-mile long run. I don't often run any distance between 7 and 20 miles. Just a quirk of habit, I guess. I'm sure more tempo runs around the half-marathon distance would be beneficial. I think I just naturally gravitate to hill workouts during the summer-- like the Powerlines, which is 3.5 miles up and 3.5 miles down (with 1,700 ft of vertical).

Speaking of which, the one area I wish that I was doing better in is vertical gain. Sure, I've logged plenty of miles. Last year, I didn't run more than 180 miles in a month until May. But, if we compare February of '14 to, say, April of '13, yes, I ran 10 more miles this February, but with only half the vertical gain. I find that the snow makes it tough to get in a lot of vertical around town. For plowed roads, you've got 7th St, 5th St, and Cal Gulch. All uphill, but nowhere near as steep as the trail options that are available in the summer. If you want something steeper you pretty much have to wear snowshoes and wade through thigh-deep powder. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not exactly, well... running. I'll be honest and confess that I've had "inappropriate" thoughts about giving in and joining the local gym just so I can use the treadmill. That would not only give me another pre-breakfast (too cold outside) or post-dinner (too dark outside) workout option, but could also help in the vertical department. (I know, I know... I should just suck it up and go snowshoe up a mountain.)

They say that the foundation of proper periodization is making your training look more and more like your goal race the closer to the race you get. So, I guess, I can rationalize all this by saying that now is the best time for me to be running fast(er) and flat(ter). As I get closer to Bighorn, my runs will get slower, hillier, and longer. A better match for the conditions I'll encounter during the race itself. With this in mind, I've started to experiment with incorporating a tiny bit of speedwork into some of my midweek runs. Mostly just a few short fartleks. Trying to hold a 6:30-7:00 min/mile pace for half a mile or so when the terrain is flat. (Don't laugh.) This is all very new to me. I've never tried speedwork before. Damn, it's hard. And humbling. But it's one more dynamic to keep things interesting during these winter months. Plus, if I'm not happy with my performance I can always blame it on the snow! Or the headwind ripping off of Mt. Massive. Or the altitude. Or...

The new version of the FluidFlex came out in February! I'll be ordering a few more pairs...
So, ultimately, I find myself feeling pretty confident in my early-season fitness going into March. The Salida marathon is only two weeks away, which is exciting to think about. On paper, I should be in better shape than I've ever been in at this time of year. How much better? Who knows? I'd really like to believe that another PR at Salida is possible. I've already glanced at my splits from last year's race and identified a few sections that I feel I could improve on-- mostly on the downhills. So, we'll see... 4:57:36 is the time to beat. I'd be happy with 4:45:00.

My goals for March? Pretty simple. 40 miles/week. And a long run every week. Let's hope the trails down in Buena Vista melt out soon! It's go time.

Monday, February 10, 2014

2014 Training Plan

So, I took some time to scribble down (metaphorically speaking) some training notes and goals for this year. I've been tossing a lot of these ideas around in my head (and in previous blog posts), but I wanted to write them all down in a single place for reference and (hopefully) motivation.

As I've said before, with the Bighorn 100 looming in June, April and May will be the most important and challenging months for me. I'm basing my training this year off of my previous year's training (which I feel went extraordinarily well), just pushing things up about a month; trying to take what worked and making small improvements when I can. Consistency is the key.

Even if my training goes perfectly, I don't think I'll be in quite as good shape this June as I was last August, but hopefully I'll be pretty close. Regardless, I'm very excited for something new.

In other news, last night I set a PR for the most pieces of pie eaten during a workout!

December Plan

‘12: no real training.

‘13: Races: Ha!

25 miles/week. Survive the holidays. Diversify training: add in snowshoeing.

(Mixed. I didn’t quite get in the mileage I wanted. No big deal.)

January Plan

‘14: Races: None.

30 miles/week. Nothing too crazy. Just exercise every day. Two flat long runs. Snowshoe a lot. The two long runs will easily push me over my mileage goals for the month.


February Plan

‘14: Races: Leadville Snowshoe Marathon.

35 miles/week. Again, nothing too different. Exercise every day. (I missed a lot of days in ‘13 due to sickness and travel.) Two long runs (the same number as in ‘13). One of which will be the snowshoe marathon and the other one will be in Florida. Take advantage of Florida vacation to put in a hard training week. (Lots of flat tempo runs.) The timing for the Salida Marathon (3 weeks out) is perfect. Skate ski to stay motivated.

(So far, so good.)

March Plan

‘14: Races: Salida Marathon.

40 miles/week. Nothing too radical, but careful planning for long runs will be required. I want to get in a long run every week. (4 or maybe 5 long runs?) That should get me more than enough miles for the month. Looking at April ‘13 for comparison, my long runs were all easy. Only 2,500 ft of vertical each. The CPTR course (x2) and around town. The Grand Canyon was the only exception. (And who knows how good a workout that really was due to the stomach flu?) Perhaps a snowshoe up Mt. Elbert near the end of the month? A PR for the Salida Marathon would be nice, of course. And a confidence boost for my early season training. Not sure I can really get a lot of vertical midweek in town. Up to Adelade, I guess? Maybe a Mosquito Pass snowshoe? Black Cloud gets me 1,200 ft vert in 10 miles. Fri: Blackcloud + Sat: long run would be a good combo. Hopefully BV will open up as a weekend long run possibility. If not, another flat/fast 20 to Halfmoon Rd might be required. Historically, my first training run in BV was: ‘13 3/7, ‘12 3/23, ‘11 3/1, ‘10 2/27. So, there’s hope, but-- damn-- we have a lot of snow right now.

April Plan

‘14: Races: None.

45 miles/week. This will probably be the month that will be the most difficult for me to hit my training goals. There’s just a lot going on and conditions will still be snowy in town. I want April ‘14 to look like May ‘13. ~225 miles, 27,000 ft vert. Except, I want more vertical on my long runs. I was only getting 3,500 ft vert with each long run in May last year. So, maybe 30,000 ft vert total for the month as a goal? I won’t have to taper like I did in May ‘13 because I have no races in April ‘14. I’ll need to take advantage of high vert midweek runs (1,000+ ft vert). However, with Christina in the field for a week, it will be tough to get in adequate miles. There’s also our family vacation to Fruita/Moab… I will probably have to take a few midweek days off from work to get in my long runs. Maybe throw in some two-a-day workouts? Maybe I can get some vertical doing sections of the Colorado Trail + 14ers down near Salida? I also kind of wanted to do some speed work in April prior to CPTR. That would not help with the vertical, though. Maybe total vertical shouldn’t be the emphasis for April… Sure, maybe get in 1 high vert long run, but the rest are my normal spring long runs (CPTR course, Clear Creek Road, Twin Lakes, etc.). I could tack on Midland Hill for more vertical during my BV long runs… Fri: quality + Sat: long run will be important.

May Plan

‘14: Races: CPTR 25, Quad Rock 50, Sage Burner 50K.

50 miles/week. I want May ‘14 to look like June ‘13. ~250 miles, ~50,000 ft vert. Racing in warmer climates will help (BV, Ft. Collins, Gunnison). I have 3 back-to-back weekends of racing planned. I only need to go on non-racing long runs twice. Memorial Day weekend will be my final uber long run (Mt. Elbert + Mt. Massive: 26 miles, 10,000 ft vert). Due to all the racing, and the warmer weather, my May goals actually seem more doable than my April goals.

June Plan

‘14: Races: Bighorn 100.

June will be: taper, race 100 miles, and then recover. I’ll run Native Lake (18 miles, 3,500 ft of vert) 3 weeks out. Then a 10 miler the following weekend. Then Bighorn 100. Fill early June with lots of power hiking leading up to Bighorn. No hard downhills. Try to run every day, just get slower and shorter as Bighorn approaches. Take care of knee. Stay loose. More power hiking and biking for recovery after Bighorn. Due to the race, and all the hiking for taper/recovery, I will probably match my ‘13 levels for total mileage and vertical for the month, I think.

July Plan

‘14: Races: None.

An easy week at the beginning of the month, for sure. More power hiking. More biking. Continue to recover. Maybe run (not race) the Silver Rush 50 if I’m feeling good? That would be 3 weeks after Bighorn. Then two weeks of quality training (probably do Hope Pass at least once, if not twice) and then my taper for the Leadville 100 begins! Due to Bighorn recovery, I will not be able to match my monthly totals from ‘13.

August Plan

Races: Leadville 100.

Same as last year. Taper, taper, taper. Then race Leadville. Goin' solo: no pacers this year. 5-10 minutes slower to Twin Lakes, hydrate better, make improvements over Hope Pass, both out and back (goal: 3:30 each way), and from Mayqueen to the finish (goal: 3:00-3:15).  Finish strong. Another PR would be nice, of course, but I'm doubtful that I'll be in better shape than last year. Most importantly: just enjoy it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Leadville Snowshoe "Marathon" "Race" Report

Despite piles and piles of fresh snow, and cold temperatures on race day, Smokey put on a great, friendly, low-key snowshoe race. Just the kind of race you'd want this time of year. Very fun, low-stress, and challenging.

There was so much new snow on the golf course, where the race began, that it couldn't be groomed. Instead, the night before, some folks packed out a narrow, single track trail leading to the "mini-powerline" climb and up onto the road around Turquoise Lake. From there, they managed to groom a track following the road all the way to Mayqueen. The road conditions were still very, very soft and slow and so it was decided that the marathon distance would be cancelled. There'd be a 10K option and a half marathon option, with a single aid station at the 5-mile mark. (It was an out-and-back course, so you'd hit the aid station twice.) Those crazy enough to dare, could run further around the lake, and turn around whenever they wanted. My friend, Craig, and I were the only two runners to do so. Personally, my goal was to get 5-6 hours on my feet. I'd just keep running until the 3-hour mark and then turn around. Carter Summit (where the 100 MTB course pops out onto the road) seemed like a good, logical goal. It was the high point of the course.

Though all the new snow dissuaded most of the Front Range folks from making the trip up to Leadville, a good contingent of locals showed up. I'd say 20 or so. The start of the race was comical, with no one wanting to lead the way. I fell into second place as we followed the deep, narrow single track through the woods to the lake. It was very slow-going, with most racers-- including myself-- barely able to run. Despite the brisk 16F temperatures, I started overheating a bit, and my sunglasses fogged up around mile 1.5. I couldn't see anything, and was happy to step aside to fix the situation, dropping back behind a long train of racers. It took me an hour to reach the the top of the "mini-powerline" climb-- the 3-mile mark! I had to laugh.

Things sped up a bit on the better-groomed lake road, but not by much. It was still soft enough that I sinking into the snow with each step. During the week, before the storm, the lake road was like concrete and I was able to snowshoe along at a blazingly fast ~11:30 min/mile pace. Now? More like a ~14:00 min/mile pace. Patience was the key. Given the fact that I was just out to run for 5-6 hours, regardless of speed or distance, I didn't really feel like I was racing. It felt more like a relaxed, group run. When I reached the aid station, I chugged what remained of my energy drink and refilled both my bottles-- plus grabbed a third for good measure and threw it in my pack. Smokey informed me that Craig had continued on and was aiming for Carter Summit and told him to tell me to hurry up so that he wouldn't be out there all alone! I told Smokey of my plans and he promised he'd leave the cooler there with some water for me on my return trip. Off I went.

I waved and cheered for the other racers as we crossed paths near the turnaround. I continued on, solo, slowing climbing up the road to the summit.

The week prior to the race, I had obsessed over the weather forecast and what exactly I should wear. I experimented with different combinations of clothes on shorter snowshoe outings during the week, finally settling an outfit that provided a lot of waterproof protection below the waist, and lots of breathability above the waist. You kick up a lot of snow while snowshoeing and it coats the back of your legs all the way up to your butt-- especially in powdery conditions. If you're not careful, you also work up quite a sweat and can quickly become drenched if it can't evaporate. A recipe for hypothermia. Now, on a shorter, hour-long outing this isn't such a big deal. But I definitely wanted to be comfortable out there for 5-6 hours. I swore to myself that during the race if I ever felt too cold, too hot, too sweaty, etc. I would stop and immediately address the situation rather than stubbornly pressing on. As it turned out, I only had to make one or two minor adjustments during the entire race. I had guessed perfectly and was surprisingly comfortable. Three (!) layers of gloves/mittens and four (!) layers of wool shirts turned out to be perfect!

Though slow, the course was beautiful in all the new-fallen snow. It was very peaceful being out there all alone. I never resorted to my ipod, and just soaked in the scenery and let my mind wander. As I approached the summit, around the second meadow, I could feel the snow getting softer and softer. I guess because of the increasing elevation or perhaps because of the terrain and the prevailing wind? I could easily see that continuing much further would require more and more effort. Craig and I hooted and high-fived as we crossed paths near the summit. He had about a 20-minute lead on me, I'd estimate. That felt about right as Craig has handily beaten me in every single race we've ever run together. The man is a beast, with a Leadville 100 PR of 22:38. He's training for the 100 again this year, going for his 6th finish. It'll be great to be out there racing with him again. If I run an absolutely perfect race, maybe-- just maybe-- I could conceivably catch him around mile 80. Doubtful!

After more-or-less climbing for 9.5 straight miles, it was refreshing to finally be able to turn around and run downhill. I hit the summit at almost exactly 3 hours. I felt tired, but good. I was getting down enough calories-- icy maltodextrin slush!-- and wasn't feeling any knee issues. The descent went relatively quickly-- emphasis on relatively.

Sure enough, there was the cooler waiting for me. I restocked my bottles, and headed down the last section of road. Right near the top of the powerlines, I ran into two friends, Becca and Chris, who were out cross country skiing around the lake-- a much more sensible mode of travel! We stopped and chatted for a bit, and then I pointed in the direction of the finish line and grunted, smiling, "Beer that way!" Sliding down the steep powerline section of the trail was fun. The course was basically an 18" wide, 24" deep chute. It was definitely packed down better in the return direction, as now ~20 racers had packed it down going each way. I was easily able to negative split the final, flattish three miles of the course given the better snow conditions. I crossed the finish line alone, the last racer to finish for the day. I was spent, but happy. Smokey was the only one left at the finish line, cleaning up. I was very grateful that he had hung around and waited for me. He served me some homemade soup in my finisher's mug and we chatted about training and reminisced about last year's 100. (Smokey and I were neck-and-neck up to mile 94 and then he pulled away and crushed the final 6 miles beating me by 17 minutes and 22 frickin' places! Simply amazing.)

Today's race? 5:37:38. 18.99 miles. 2,406 ft of vertical. Basically, the equivalent of a double-crossing of Hope Pass with only a third of the elevation gain! Ah, snowshoeing...

It's not really as steep as it looks...

All-in-all, it was a fantastic day. Quintessential Leadville. I probably won't be on my feet that long until I run the Quad Rock 50 in May!

A big thanks to Smokey for organizing such an awesome, local event. It was fantastic training for February. And congrats to everyone who showed up and raced, no matter the distance!


Really, I try not to obsess about gear, but I wanted to record exactly what I was wearing for future reference. I felt it was perfect for the conditions. The only piece of gear that I have reservations about are the shoes. Despite having run multiple 100s in the older MT101s, I'm not a fan of the MT110s for long runs. I thought the cushion of the snow would mitigate their rigidity, but the ball of my right foot was definitely sore afterwards. There's just something odd about their fit. It almost feels like there's a lump in the sole of the shoe. I wanted a waterproof shoe, which I why I went with them (at half price), but I think next year I'll try to get some kind of waterproof overshoe/bootie for my normal Montrail Fluidflexes... I could also go hardcore and screw my running shoes directly to the snowshoe platform (so no straps are required).

The Icebreaker shirts are definitely trendy and expensive, but I love 'em. I run almost all my races-- summer races included-- in one or more of them. I just wait until they're on sale, and only acquire one or two every year.

Conditions: 16F, partly cloudy, 5-10 mph winds, very soft, new snow.