Friday, June 6, 2014

Month in Review (May)

5/2010: 238.4 miles
5/2011: 192.2 miles
5/2012: 216.5 miles
5/2013: 223.6 miles
5/2014: 237.7 miles

Well, the hay's in the barn, as they say.

My training for the Bighorn 100 wrapped up last weekend with the Turquoise Lake Half Marathon on Saturday and a pre-dawn ascent of Mt. Elbert on Sunday.

This year, the half marathon was a "heavy" half marathon due to the south road being closed due to spring flooding and the risk of mud/rock slides. The race was rerouted along the north road where it rejoined the original course at Mayqueen. The north road is hillier (+500 ft) and longer (+2.5 mi) than the south road, so it was quite a different race than previous incarnations. While my calves felt a little tight/weak on the initial uphill, I maintained a reasonable pace during the climb and then I really hammered the downhill into Mayqueen. I believe it was the first time I logged a sub-7:00 min/mile during a race in my life! And I definitely set my 5K PR (all downhill, of course). After running steady on the uphill, I began passing racers on the downhill and for the rest of the race on the trail around the lake. The single track was a full-blown obstacle course this year, with raging streams-- one so swollen that a rope was hung up to help ford it, plenty of mud, deep puddles, and a handful of downed trees which forced off-trail detours through the woods. When all was said and done, I crossed the finish line, gasping for breath, in 13th place. 1st in my age group. (I guess all the other 40 year old Leadville runners were at Melanzana's 20th anniversary celebration in town!) I was pretty happy with the result. I gave it an honest effort. It's hard to compare my time to my PR on the normal course last year, but my average pace was only 20 seconds/mile slower than last year. I'd say that's pretty good given the extra vertical, distance, and especially the challenging trail conditions. (Last year I came in 19th place and 3rd in my age group, for what it's worth.) I think I ran the uphills a little stronger last year, but I definitely ran the downhills much, much stronger this year.

I woke up at 2:45am the following morning and made my way down to the South Elbert TH with my friend and neighbor, Mike. I haven't really climbed any serious mountains yet this year, and I wanted to summit at least one 14er before I began my taper. It was great to have company, and Mike and I chatted away as we hiked up the mountain in the darkness. (Mike's running Bighorn this year, as well.) There was very little snow until we reached tree line-- and only one or two short sections where post-holing was a concern. Above tree line it was all snow, but it was practically concrete. It had snowed a tiny bit the night before and the wind began to pick up and blow swirling clouds of snow into us. Clouds still shrouded the peaks, and coalesced and broke apart in dramatic fashion. As we neared 14,000 ft, the sun finally emerged over the mountains to the east, creating a beautiful orange glow in all the chaotically blowing powder. The wind was fierce, and it was uncomfortably chilly at the summit, but well worth the struggle to get there. We quickly turned around and gingerly made our way back down to the shelter of tree line. There were a few exposed snow fields that I wished I had my microspikes for, but slowly kicking steps worked just fine. Another trip up Mt. Elbert complete. I'm lucky to live so close to such amazing mountains. I really should take advantage of it more often.

Ever since Sage Burner I've felt a mild tightness/soreness in my left Achilles tendon. I never felt it during the race itself, but it surfaced shortly afterwards. It's never gotten so bad that it affected my gait while I was running, but it can definitely be quite stiff in the morning after a hard workout. I kept an eye on it, applied ice, and hoped it would quietly disappear. But, of course, running the half marathon and then summiting a 14er didn't help. Finally on Monday, I called it quits, stopped running, and scheduled an appointment with the local physical therapist. After grilling me on my training history, analyzing my gait, flexibility, balance, and strength, she agreed with my amateur assessment that basically I overworked my calves with all my racing and my sudden jump in vertical in May. After jabbing some acupuncture needles into my calf (and electrifying them!) to activate trigger points, she assigned me some exercises to perform during the next couple of weeks leading up to the race. Mostly calf flexibility and strengthening routines twice a day. After the initial soreness, my calf has responded well and is loosening up and healing. My Achilles tendon is happier and I rarely feel it any more. I've gone on a couple bike rides since, but that's about it. And biking is pretty much all that's on my plate until the 100. I'll go for maybe three or four 5-mile shake out runs during the next week or two, but that's about it.

So, it's a pretty hard taper as far as my tapers usually go. Normally, I'd go for a final 18-mile long run two weeks out from a 100. Instead, I'm going to bike up Independence Pass tomorrow. I'm just trying to take it easy and stay loose. It's frustrating to come down with an injury so close to a big race, but I'm fairly confident I should be able to fully recover by the 20th. I'm just being extra paranoid.

I'm excited for Bighorn. It's absolutely crazy to be tapering in June! It feels so strange. I'm so used to my taper-in-August routine. I'll be volunteering all day at the Venir Aid Station next week for the Leadville Marathon. I've run it every year for the last four years. It'll be strange to be on the sidelines, but fun to still be involved in the race.

I'll close with some pictures I took two weeks ago on my last long run down Clear Creek Road to Winfield. It was a beautiful morning, and it was good to return to Winfield. My first time back since the Leadville 100 last year. Spring has finally sprung in the mountains.

Hope Pass!

Mmm... 1,200 vertical feet/mile!

On course!

The split to the old jeep road down to Winfield.

Far more talented climbers than I.

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