Saturday, June 2, 2018

Dress rehearsal for SD100, heat at last!

Next Friday I will be running the SD100, and it looks like the weather pattern this year is repeating what we experienced in 2016.  As in 2016, this spring has been very cool and wet; but  as of today, race week, the weather has turned hot!

In 2016, I ran SD100, well trained, but owing to the cool weather, I was NOT heat-trained... and I  failed to adjust my race plan to the reality of the 100+F temperatures on race day... I took it out hard and was incinerated and cramping from mile 25 until I dropped at mile 55.

This year, my training is not as deep as it has been in past years when I've run 100  milers.  Partly this is because I needed to work through a chronic achilles injury in the fall and early winter, and so I kept the mileage conservatively bounded;  and partly it was due to a demanding work schedule culminating in an intense work  trip to Zurich  in the third week of May.

Still, I got in some good mileage, with a major milestone being the Leona Divide 50 in mid-April; and while in Zurich I got in  a flat fast 30 miler, in 4:50,  along the Zurichsee On May 19:

Last week I ramped the mileage and got in 80 miles;  the Memorial day weekend mileage was 20/10/29, all mountain running, but it was wet and cold! I felt pretty good about the 29 miler, which I did in about 5:20, with about 6000 ft of climb and descent.  

 This week I got in some fast 10-milers on the Mt Wilson Toll Road, but there was no prospect of heat training with the marine layer and rain:

But yesterday the weather has changed!  I took yesterday off as my quads were pretty wrecked from all the fast downhill running last week;  instead I took a hike with my son, and then  rolled my quads (excruciating) to get the knots out.   Today's run plan was to  take an afternoon heat run up Mt Brown and cut the run to 14 miles if the quads were still flakey; and go longer if they were solid.  No worries, the knots were gone;  I focussed on practicing "sustainable" running, pushing the fluids and keeping both uphill and downhill pace in bounds of what I plan to do at SD100.  The run was lovely and I ended up extending to mileage to 22 with a dog-leg out to Oakwilde on the Gabrielino Trail. I finished feeling strong despite having eaten nothing;  in the course of the run I drank 10 bottles ~ 12-13 pounds of water and came home 6 pounds down;  but I felt like I could continue when I was done.

I'm looking forward to this year's SD100, I'll be running it with my pal Greg Frye and I consider it an experiment in heat and race management.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Jan 31, 2018: Dawn patrol on Mt. Wilson, with a blood-red blue super moon

This morning I got up a little earlier than usual to hit the Mt. Wilson Toll Road trail before 6am, in order to see the total lunar eclipse away from Pasadena's street lights.  Given that this was the second full moon of the month (therefore a blue moon), occurring at lunar perigee (hence  a super moon) and that the moon would be in total eclipse between 5am and 6am here is California (thus a blood-red moon) the folks at NPR had called it a blood red blue super moon.

It was worth seeing.

 The family had gotten up with me, the kids had taken a look and pretty quickly headed back to bed.  It was a bit hard to see it well with the street lights.  I downed some espresso, laced up my shoes and drive up to Altadena.  I was on the trail by 5:45.  The view from the shoulder of Mt Wilson was much better that from my home in Pasadena  but I couldn't get my aging iPhone 4s camera to focus given the lack of light.  By 6:20   the moon was out of totality and I was able to get a semi-decent image:
Lunar eclipse, 6:20 am , past totality
I continued fast hiking up, passing a lot of other folks who had gotten up early to hike the Toll Road to see the eclipse.  By 6:40 the dawn had progressed enough that the sky was turning light - I took this picture as I approached Henninger Flat:
Moon coming out of totality, 6:40am
From Henninger I ran up to the turn off to Idlehour, stopped and stretched, and ran back down at a  brisk pace.  It was a great way to start the day.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

June 2017 update

I have not written in the blog in some time. I last wrote in February at  a time where I was increasing my mileage in preparation for the summer racing season, focussing on SD100,  but encountering niggling little strains, and achilles issues.

I worked though the strains but really hurt my achilles on a run at the end of February.  I had to stop running altogether as it hurt quite a bit just to walk.  I let it rest and did a lot of heel drop exercises in March, and then some little runs, but it was still painful.  So I dropped from SD100 realizing that there was no way that I could get the proper mileage in to run SD100 right,  given the injury.

Mid-April I did a hike/jog around the Burton loop with my pal Greg.  It seemed to make the achilles feel better for a few days.  I repeated this a few times, doing hike/runs of up to 20 miles:  hike the ups, run the downs (slowly).  No daily runs, just these long hike/runs on the weekends.

Meanwhile, Greg entered the SD100  shortly after I pulled out.  Its great that Scotty keeps a wait list.  I think Greg got my spot!  So we decided I should  pace him.  Greg and I went to the SD course a couple of weeks ago and ran the Noble canyon section of the course out of Pioneer Mail, a 20 mile loop to Penny Pines and back.  Greg barely broke a sweat but I was worked!    I decided I had better increase my mileage.  So: Last weekend I ran 24 honest miles  up Mt. Wilson via the Sam Merrill and My Lowe railway, an old standby.  I did this routinely in just over 4 hours in 2015.  It took me 5 hours that day.  Today I did the same route but added a 2 mile out and back down the Toll road at the top to bring the miles to 28.   I felt fine up to the turnaround, file 14.    Heading back to the top of Wilson, I just couldn't get my breath. I walked the upper part, very steep, and refilled my bottles at the top.   Drank 3 bottles and sat for a while to collect myself.  The bad thing about  an Out and Back courses is that what goes out must come back!  Very committing.  So with no choice really and feeling like scat, I headed  down.  The run back was progressively more unpleasant as the heat and smog built up.  Ultimately I walked the last mile and a half as I was feeling dizzy and nauseous.  A good reminder that its good to actually TRAIN before running 28 milers in the mountains.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Crossing the "surf-zone" from rest to high mileage running

I've found that the most dangerous time for me with respect to running injury is while  transitioning from a rest phase to high mileage training.  Resting doesn't entail injury, and when I'm running high mileage I rarely get injured, but in the ramp transition  I have to be careful and watch for signs of incipient muscle strains, knee soreness, tendonitis etc.  I've come to think of this transition as the "crossing the surf-zone": Once I get the milage up above 50 miles/week I'm in "deep water" so to speak  and I don't get tossed on my ass by the breakers.  The body seems to have accelerated healing and strength which keeps injury at bay.

My mileage log since the start of the year shows this.  I've learned to back off when problems flair up and I've gotten in a few weeks in the 4-50 miles per week range...  with occasional rest days or a pair of rest days thrown in when hot spots develop.   I am just about out of the surf zone now,  but not quite.  The latest issue has been a flair up of my achilles of the left leg, which last bothered me after I got off crutches after my accident in 2014.  Lat week I ran in to my Pal Joe on the trail on my lunchtime run;  we added a few miles and ran a bit faster than I've been used to in my "surf-zone" training ramp.  Toward the end of the run the achilles let me know it was unhappy.  That evening it was sore and so I took a couple days off.  It was still iffy on Friday so I walked on Saturday;  this morning I elected to do a long walk up/ run down workout on the Mt. Wilson Toll Road to get some mileage in without overly stressing the tendon.   It seems to have worked, the achilles has felt fine all day since.

It does help to have various tools for the job at hand.  For todays run I donned a pair  of Hokas leftover from my 2015 season.  "I don't always heel strike, but when I do, I wear Hoka's".

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 final thoughts

Its new year's eve, 2016;  Today I ran for the first time in about two weeks, having gotten hit by a flu or cold that progressed into bronchitis.   I was laid out for a good two weeks.  I felt well enough today to give running a try despite the rain and I felt surprisingly good.  The run helped me clear out my chest I think;  I felt good enough to do a much needed core workout afterwords.

Looking back on my running in 2016, I certainly had some great runs training for SD100 and learned a lot working through the issues last spring associated with my hip injury.  Unfortunately SD100 was a DNF for me, the short explanation for which was that I disrespected  the course:  I went into a race with record 100+F heat with a fixation on time.  The mountains get the last laugh always;  it was a good lesson for me.

Later in the summer I took an extended break to allow things to heal up from about 4 years of pretty solid training.  I took the time saved to spend with my family, and I worked, a lot, on some theoretical physics problems that an old friend and research collaborator had asked me to look at.  It was fantastic, rewarding work, of a kind I haven't done for fifteen or so years and I'd forgotten how much I loved that sort of  work.  It was also as difficult and consuming as ultra running and just as rewarding, if in a different way.

Having started running again the last few months the break seems to have paid dividends;  I am running in the minimalist Merrells again without any toe issues and the achilles and hip are solid.
I'm looking forward to 2017 and I plan to enter the SD100 lottery for a shot at correcting the mistakes I made last year.

Happy new year to you, reader, and best wishes that you achieve the goals you set for yourself in this new year!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Bear encounter in Monrovia Canyon Park

Today on my lunch time run I had to cut my run short due to a bear encounter.  Having just entered Monrovia Canyon Park from the Sawpit Wash  trail, there were two bear cubs walking up the road about 50 feet in front of me.  Just ahead of me, maybe 20 feet, there was a gap in a chainlink fence through which mama bear was just ambling...I stopped, backed up slowly, then more quickly, then I turned around and ran back the way I had come.

Just yesterday I had read an article on a bear attack in New Mexico on the iRunFar website.   A runner had the bad luck to get between two cubs and their mother bear.   Good timing.  I'm glad I was slow today as it kept me from winding up between the mama and her cubs.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 2016 recap

After about a week of dead rest, this morning I got up and did a 20 miler up  Mt. Wilson:  Walk up, run down, total time 4:18.  I felt pretty good.  I had taken most of the week off as a dead rest to allow my left calf to heal after pinging it the previous week running on a treadmill in Wuhan China.

July started off well as I had gotten in some great running while on vacation with the family visiting various national parks in Utah, Colorado and Arizona.  I  had a great 28 miler on July 2 to prepare myself to pace Greg Frye at the the Santa Barbara 100 on July 8-9.  That Friday night I drove out to Santa Barbara and up into the mountains, arriving at  Cold Spring Saddle around 10:30pm.
Cold Springs Saddle, mile 30 at SB100

Greg came through a bit before midnight.  Seeing him off I drove down a rutted dirt road in my Honda (not recommended) to Romero Camuesa, mile 42, where I caught a catnap before waking up at 3am to get ready to pace.  We left the aid station around 4am and had a great run together down to the 50 mile turnaround.  Sunrise was awesome:
Greg Frye running through the dawn at SB100
The trip back to to Romero  was a steady climb and it was getting hot.  Finally clearing Romero we hit single track on the route down to Montecito.  The single track was great but quite overgrown with nettles and poison oak -- despite the heat I was glad to be wearing long pants and a long shirt.  We hit a fire road and did some fast running down to the aid station.  From there, as the heat and humidity built, we started the long ascent back up to Cold Springs.  This climb seemed to violate certain laws of physics as it just seemed to go on forever-  and Greg was clearly suffering although not giving voice to it.  His stoicism and determination was an experience to witness and I am glad to have been able to be a part his run as his pacer.

Greg's pal Jonathan took over pacing duties from Cold Spring while I got lost on the twisty backcountry roads trying to get to the next aid station.  I finally met up with my family at White Oak, where the boys and I had a dip in the Santa Ynes River while waiting for Greg.  We just got out of the water when Greg came through.  Helping him with some hot spots on one foot, we then headed out for dinner and returned to the course to see him finish.

The following week I flew to China for business.  Extreme  heat and humidity kept  me indoors for most of my running and I got in a couple fast 10ks  on the hotel treadmill.  On Thursday morning I got up to do a treadmill workout but was pushed for time. I cut my warm-up short and started running fast after only walking about 5 minutes.  Unfortunately I got a knot in my calf about 2 miles into the run and had to cut it short.  I rested  the next two days, and back in  California went out on Mt Wilson last Sunday-  but that calf knotted up again about 5 miles in.  I turned around and ran back which aggravated it further.  A walk on Monday and a short run on Tuesday convinced me that I needed to rest completely and focus on trigger point work with a foam roller and a tennis ball.  This seemed to have worked as I had no issues with the calf on my 20 miler this morning.

I've been considering ramping my mileage and running something in September, maybe Kodiak, however this plan is contingent on my work travel schedule and takes second priority to getting out with my kids to have some summer fun.