Sunday, July 24, 2011

Week Ending July 24th

Mon: am - 10.0 @ 8:09 (1,840'), pm - 6.2 @ 8:22 (660') -- Decided to hit the trails twice to start off the week.  The morning run was a hard effort with a decent amount of climbing through Pogonip, which included 3 x U-Con Trail hard up, moderate down.  The evening was pretty relaxed run on a short loop through Wilder Ranch.

Tue: am - 5.0 @ 7:16, pm - 11.3 w/ 3.55 @ 5:28 (960') -- Easy road run down West Cliff in the morning, then the weekly Aptos Trail Series that evening.  Got in a 4 mile warmup, the race, and a 3.75 mile cooldown.  Zero competition this week so I figured I would just take it fairly easy.  First mile was a 5:34, about 5 seconds slower than last week.  Mile 2 was a 5:37, which was a couple seconds faster than last week, so I decided to push a little from here on out.  Mile 3 came in at 5:24 and at this point I figured I would be pretty close to last week's time.  Finished of the last 0.55 miles in 2:44 and crossed the finish line in 19:21, 4 seconds faster than last week, with my nearest competitor about 3 minutes behind.

Wed: 6.2 @ 7:21 -- My legs were beat after a couple hard days in a row, so I ended up taking the evening off.  Just an easy run down West Cliff in the morning.

Thu: am - 16.2 @ 8:50 (3,250'), pm - 4 @ ~7:30 (No Garmin) -- Big day of running.  Morning trail run took me from Harvey West through Pogonip into Henry Cowell and back, including about 4 up and downs on the U-Con trail.  Solid run with a decent amount of climbing.  Left the Garmin behind for the evening run down West Cliff.

Fri: am - 11.2 @ 8:34 (1,320'), pm - 5.0 @ 7:33 -- Easy run through Wilder in the morning followed up bu another easy run down West Cliff.  Nothing too exciting to report here.

Sat: 29.6 @ 8:58 (4,750') --  I procrastinated this one for a while, but finally got out in the afternoon.  A beautiful day for running that truly reaffirmed why I love the trails so much.  I got a great vibe from everyone I crossed paths with on the trails this afternoon.  From hiker, to mountain bikers, to felt great to be out there in the woods sharing the trails with others, even though, technically, I was all alone.  Pogonip, Wilder, and Henry Cowell were all hit in today's run.  Fueling and hydration were perfect, although my legs were a little fatigued in those last 5 miles.  It was tough getting out of the river crossing at mile 26.  I could have easily called it quits there and enjoyed the cool river water, but I kept trucking on and finished her off strong.  Chocolate milk and ice bath for post-run recovery.

Sun: 10.7 w/ 6.0 @ 5:16 -- See previous blog post.

Total: 115.4 miles, 15hrs44min, 12,780'

YTD: 2,180.3 miles

I couldn't be happier with the way this week turned out.  Three really solid hard efforts, two big runs with a good amount of climbing, and a heck of a lot of "other" miles.  Really stoked with where my fitness level is at right now.  Bodes well with 9 weeks to go for Vermont.  Much needed cutback week coming up this week.  I will actually be heading home for some family time, so there will be no sort of climbing whatsoever.  I will still try and get in a couple hard efforts though, but the mileage will definitely be reduced.  Hopefully I don't melt in the heat.

Wharf to Wharf

The Wharf to Wharf race, labeled as "the best little road race in California", has been on my radar since moving to Santa Cruz.  It is a 6 mile race that runs from Santa Cruz's wharf to the wharf in Capitola, hugging the seaside for pretty much the entire course.  It sells out the 15,000 slots months in advance and always attracts a very competitive field.  Unfortunately last year I wasn't able to run as I had just ran my first 50 miler the weekend before.  While it really didn't fit into my plans again this year, I had received a comped entry for running on the Santa Cruz Track Club team in Boston back in April, so I figured I would at least go out and give it a tempo effort.  There hasn't been a whole lot of road running going on on my end lately, and the speed work has been pretty minimal, so I honestly had no idea what to expect.  To make things a little more interesting, the race fell on the tail end of a 116 mile week, including a 29.6 mile trail run the previous day.  This obviously kept my expectations pretty low, but the main goal was to just finish in the top 100, which gets you the free Top 100 jacket.  I figured that should be easily attainable.

Like I said, yesterday was another long, 4 hour 25 minute trail effort with a decent amount of climbing.  I knew my legs would be dead for the race, so I decided to take my first ice bath in a good year and half to hopefully alleviate some of the fatigue.  It seemed to do some good, but I still knew that it was going to be tough to get the legs moving fast.  On the warmup on the way down to the start I was honestly thinking that I would run 5:30's, maybe even 5:40's.  After a slow 2.3 mile warmup with a few strides thrown in, I headed to the front of the masses.  This was the first year they have gone with chip timing and the start was an absolute clusterf#ck.  They just jammed everyone in there like a bunch of sardines, and as usual, most of the people that were up there didn't belong there.  A couple minutes later the shotgun went off and my competitive side took over.

Mile 1 - 5:18 -- Lots of bobbing and weaving, and it took a good half mile to find some room, but it quickly thinned out shortly after.  I was quite shocked at the amount of people that went out at sub-5:20 pace.  I started off at 5:30 or so in the traffic and there were a ton of people in front of me.

Mile 2 - 5:18 -- I am thinking to myself that this is way too fast and that I am probably going to pay for it later, but I am actually really surprised at how easy the pace felt, so I am rolling with it.

Mile 3 - 5:21 -- I can't believe how good I am feeling.  Breathing is normal and everything is under control.  Hit the halfway mark and begin to realize I am actually going to have a really good race.

Mile 4 - 5:16 -- Latched on with another runner in this mile and we would end up running together all the way to the finish.  We never spoke a single word to each other, but you could feel that mental energy flowing, as we pushed each other hard for the last 3 miles.

Mile 5 - 5:11 -- We are passing a ton of people at this point and the heavy breathing finally set in in this mile.  I honestly can't remember the last time I threw down a mile this fast.

Mile 6 - 5:12 -- Words were finally exchanged with one last mile to go and all that was said was lets get this sub-32.  We were easily running sub-5 pace for the first half mile.  Unfortunately I faded a bit in the last half mile and couldn't keep up, but was still able to finish off the last quarter mile pretty strong. 

Last .03 in 0:08

Official Results: 31:48, 5:18 pace, 29th overall, 2nd in AG
Garmin Stats: 31:47, 5:16 pace, 6.03 miles

Ummmmm, so yeah, that sort of came out of nowhere.  I guess I am in a little better shape than I thought I was.  And obviously all these hills are paying off big time.  This is a huge confidence booster.  On fresh legs, on a true 10k course, I would put money on a mid-31 finish time.  Of course all that doesn't really matter for my upcoming 50 miler, but it is good to know that the speed is still hanging around.  Great day, great race, great result.  I am a happy camper.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Week Ending July 17th

Mon: 11.8 @ 7:20 -- This was just meant to be an easy 7 miler, but I ran into a buddy around mile 5 and next thing I know it turned into close to 12.  Legs felt good, so I just went with it.

Tue: am - 5.0 @ 7:22, pm - 9.4 w/ 3.55 @ 5:28 -- Just an easy run in the morning down West Cliff, then headed over to Nisene Marks for the Aptos Creek Trail run in the evening, a weekly 3.55 mile race that I just found out about.  Not much of a trail run, as most of the race is on the fire road leading into Nisene, then 0.5 mile on some single track.  The plan was just to head out and run it as a tempo effort, which I will probably do as many Tuesday nights as possible.  The splits were 5:29, 5:39 (single track mile), 5:29, and 2:47 (5:08 pace) for the last 0.55 miles.  Solid effort that left me feeling like I am in better shape than I thought.  The turnout wasn't large, so I ended up winning by 20 seconds.  Run included 1.3 mile w/u and 4.55 mile c/d.

Wed: am - 5.0 @ 7:24, pm - 7.2 @ 8:46 (1350') --Easy run in the morning down West Cliff, then I managed to squeeze a quick trail run in just as the sun was setting...Lookout > Pogonip Creek Nature > Brayshaw > Spring > Rincon Connector > Spring > Brayshaw > Pogonip Creek Nature > Lookout.  I quickly learned that Pogonip is not the place you want to be running at near dusk...all the homeless people were out making their beds for the night.  

Thu: am - 13.0 @ 8:37 (4,270'), pm - 5.0 @ 7:29 -- Ummmm, so I think I found my new favorite, close to home training route this morning.  I knew about all the trails, but never put them all together because of a river crossing.  Well, I took the waist high crossing down on this day.  The route was Lookout > Spring > Old Spring > Rincon > Rincon Connector > Rincon Fire > Big Rock Hole > Ridge Fire > Pine > Eagle Creek > River > Rincon Fire > Big Rock Hole > Rincon Fire > Rincon Connector > Spring > Lookout.  I'm a little skeptical on the vertical, but it was very hilly regardless.  When I was out there I was guessing 3,000' or so, so I was a little shocked to see 4,200'.  I always thought Garmin Connect seemed pretty accurate, so not sure what to think.  Either way, great route and run.  Another easy run down West Cliff to finish off the day.

Fri: am - 5.0 @ 7:28, pm - 7.0 @ 7:18 -- Another couple easy runs up and down West Cliff.  Nothing too exciting to report here.

Sat: 30.6 @ 9:18 (6,730') -- Tennesee Valley > Miwok > Miwok Cutoff > Miwok > Deer Creek Fire > Dipsea > Coastal Fire > Old Mine > Matt Davis > Highway 1 > Dipsea > Steep Ravine > Old Mine > Coastal Fire > Coast View > Heather Cutoff > Muir Woods Road > Coastal > Miwok > Old Springs > Tennesse Valley.  Ahhhhh, my favorite place to run.  Didn't get the epic views on this day due to the cool, rainy, wet, and foggy weather (typical July SF weather), but it was still an epic run regardless.  Lots of ass kicking hills.  Nutrition was great and I felt a ton better this go round than the last time I did a similar, albeit longer loop.  I really wish I lived a lot closer to Marin.

Sun: 10.0 @ 8:48 (1,240') -- Wilder Ridge > Zane Grey > Wilder Ridge > Enchanted Loop > Eucalyptus Loop > Old Cabin > Wild Boar > Engelsmans.  Just an easy trail run to finish off a great week of running.  Legs felt really good coming off the long run yesterday.  Things are really coming together quickly.

Total: 109 miles, 14hrs57min, 13,590'

YTD: 2,064.9 miles

First 100 mile week in a long time, easily the most time I've spent running in one week, and probably the most vertical I've ever accumulated as well.  Still a little too much road running though.  I plan to hit the trails a little more this week, as well as add in another workout.  Finished off the week with a nice steak, a few IPA's, some ice cream, and a little Varsity Blues.  Perfect way to end it.

A few videos from Saturday's run up Steep Ravine....

Coming down Coastal Trail towards Pirates Cove...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Getting Back At It

Things are progressing well.  The mileage is back up there after 90+ last week.  I've even managed to get a little speed back in the legs.  Heck, I was out for an easy 7 yesterday evening when I ran into a buddy just a couple miles from home.  We decided to run a couple miles together on my way home.  Well, those couple miles turned into 7.  Obviously a good sign that my legs are handling the increased mileage nicely.

Back when I was in Vermont for the marathon in May I was able to join my good friend Troy for the weekly Catamount 5k Trail Series the Tuesday after the marathon.  I loved every single bit of it, and yearned for something like that back here in Santa Cruz.  Turns out I got my wish.  I was recently directed to the Nisene Marks Summer Trail Series.  While it doesn't come close to what Catamount has to offer in course variation, competitiveness, and organization, I definitely can't complain because it is free.  Unfortunately I would hardly call it a trail run though.  The majority of the race is on the fire road, with a half mile portion on some nice single track (I was told last year it was mostly single track, but too many people were having troubles getting lost, so they changed it this year).  And the turnout could be a little greater.  But I can't complain, because it isn't costing me anything.  I see it as a good way to get a nice quick little workout in every week. 

I wasn't quite sure what to expect competition wise.  I quickly pointed out my main two competitors.  The three of us went out at about 5:20 pace and I fell into 3rd place about a quarter mile in.  The pace felt pretty effortless and I hit the first mile in 5:29.  It didn't take very long for me to start reeling in the two runners in front of me.  I passed the second place guy shortly after the first mile.  Not a minute later I made my move on the leader and noticed we was breathing quite heavy, while I was completely under control.  He stayed on my heels for a bit, but right after we rounded the trees and turned onto the single track I really turned it on.  I put a big gap on him and knew I had this one in the bag.  Came out of the single track with a nice lead and hit mile two in 5:39. From there it was all cruise control.  Mile 3 was 5:29, with the final 0.55 coming in at a 5:08 pace, and a 19:25 first place finish.  All in all a solid effort, but no where near an all out effort.  Pretty happy with the way this turned out, as my breathing was under control and the pace felt pretty comfortable the entire way.  I guess I am in better shape than I thought.  I will definitely be back next week to defend my title.

Oh yeah, almost forgot...I signed up for the Vermont 50 this evening.  So there it is folks, the next big one on the calendar.  I will lay it all out there now and say that the main goal of this race is to secure an automatic entry for Western States next year.  That will require a top two overall finish.  I definitely have my work cut out for myself these next 10 weeks, but I am fully up for the task.   I felt that switch finally click on yesterday's run.  The determination and focus is back.  I am ready to crush this thing.

Monday, July 11, 2011


As most of you know, the date today is July 11th, or 7-11.  What some of you may not know is that this date means free Slurpees at 7-11 in celebration of their birthday.  Nothing better than an ice cold Slurpee after a long run on a hot summers day.  I know I will be hitting my local 7-11 up for my free Slurpee later today.  I suggest you do the same.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Week Ending July 10th

Mon: off -- Celebrated my independence by not running.

Tue: 14.3 @ 7:56 (1,333') -- Engelsmans > Wild Boar > Old Cabin > Eucalyptus > Enchanted > Baldwin Single Track > Ohlone Bluff.  First run back in 8 days.  Felt ridiculously out of shape.  Took about six miles to actually feel decent.

Wed: am - 5.0 @ No Garmin, pm - 7.0 @ 7:21 -- Just a couple of easy runs on the roads.  Went "naked" on a few runs this week.  trying not to get too caught up in pace on my easy days.

Thu: 11.0 @ 6:34 -- Run included 7 x 3:00 fartleks.  This was actually probably the second or third workout I've done since Boston, and it went surprisingly well.  Paces ranged from 5:05 to 5:39 on the fartlek portions.

Fri: am - 5.0 @ No Garmin, pm - 8.2 @ 7:16 -- Another double of just easy runs.  Nothing much to say about these runs, just trying to get the mileage up there.

Sat: 17.0 @ No Garmin (~2,800') -- Aptos Creek > Split Stuff  > Aptos Creek > West Ridge.  Another Garmin-less run.  Took it nice and easy.  A lot slower than I would normally run this loop.

Sun: 27.4 @ 9:00 (4,320') -- Aptos Creek Fire > Split Stuff > Aptos Creek Fire > Aptos Creek Trail > Big Slide > Aptos Creek Fire > Ridge > Aptos Creek Fire > West Ridge > Aptos Creek Fire.  This run really kicked my ass on the tail end of the big week.  Funny, in the many, many miles I've run in this park I've never been on the Aptos Creek Trail because of a sign saying the trail was closed past the earthquake epicenter.  Ended up talking to some people hiking out and they told me that someone had rebuilt that part of the trail that was washed out, but you just had to use some ropes to climb some steep sections.  Wish I had known about this route before, because there was some ass kicking vert (at least for Nisene) that way.  My legs were definitely feeling it about 20 miles in.  Took a nice fall around mile 21.  A little blood and a lot of dirt, but came out of it pretty unscathed.  Ran out of water in the last couple miles, so definitely felt good to get back to the cooler in the truck.  All in all a solid run capping off a solid week after no running the previous week.

Total: 94.9 miles (9,250' - only tracking the trail mileage)

YTD: 1,955.9 miles

A few pics from today, but there was more running than picture taking.....

The sign says it all.  I'm glad I wasn't trail running out here on that day in '89.
You know it is steep when there are ropes to help you up.
So green, so lush.
This guy definitely seemed lost.
Post-run pic.  Desperately in need of a shower.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hardrock 100

The next big 100 mile endurance run is about to kick off here in 6 hours or so.  The Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run, arguably the most difficult 100 mile course in the country (maybe in the world), is a loop course that runs through Southwestern Colorado's San Juan Mountains.  For those of you that don't know, this is the epitome of endurance.  The course contains 33,992 +/- of elevation.  Yes, that is 67,894 feet total!  Of course all that ascent and descent takes place at an average elevation of 11,000 feet as well, with the high point being 14,048 feet (Handies Peak).  All in all it crosses 13 major passes through in the 12,000' to 13,000' range, starting in Silverton and traveling through Telluride, Ouray, and the ghost town of Sherman, and of course finishing in Silverton.  Each year they change the direction of the course to run opposite of the previous year.  According to the website, "the run is a salute to the toughness and perseverance of the hardrock miners who lived and worked in the area."

Photo: Blake Wood
Just to get a sheer idea of how difficult this course is, the cutoff time is 48 hours.  Yes, a full 18 hours longer than Western States.  In fact, the average finish time is 41 hours, which is also longer than most 100 mile cutoff times.  The race begins at 6am, so anyone over 40 hours will see the sun set twice before making it back to Silverton.  Sub-30 is considered a very solid time on this beast, while only one runner has ever broken the 24 hour barrier.  Course records are held by Erik Skaggs, 23:23 in 2008, and Diane Finkel, 27:18 in 2009.  The funny thing about this race is that there is no finish line to signify the completion of the race.  Instead runners must kiss the Hardrock, a large stone with a painted picture of a ram's head on it.

Photo: Bill Geist
Photo: Klas Eklof
This year is shaping up to be a great race up front as well.  Considering the lottery to get in, this is easily one of the best fields assembled for this event.  There could be 10-15 potential runners that could break the 30 hour mark if everything goes right tomorrow.  Five time champ Karl Meltzer will be tough to beat with his knowledge of the course, but Dakota Jones has youth and speed on his side.  Not sure how well recovered Nick Clark is, but I also wouldn't put it past him to pull off an impressive double so close to Western States.  Of course there is also Chorier, Grant, Hart, Campbell, Darcy Africa, Finkel, Callahan, and a few others that are more than capable of pulling out the victory.

Photo: Klas Eklof

Photo: Klas Eklof

As you can see this race has sort of piqued my interest since I first heard about it.  Funny thing is that it is so damn intimidating, yet so damn intriguing.  I definitely need to get that first 100 under my belt before even fathom attempting something like this though, but it is definitely on the list.  Although I have absolutely no idea how you train for something like this if you don't live at elevation.  I guess that is all part of the challenge though.

These videos will give you a solid idea of how crazy difficult this course is, what kind of challenges the runners will encounter tomorrow, and of course the insane beauty that will engulf each and every one of them on their 100 mile journey....

For now I will be enjoying the race from behind my computer screen. Look forward to following the wonderful coverage from all day tomorrow.  One of these days I will throw my name in the lottery...and one of these days I will be bagging those nasty, monstrous peaks. :-)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Back Is Back

Some of you may know from my Facebook post that my back went out on me last week.  I had the most painful, swollen knot right under my right shoulder blade.  It popped up out of nowhere and put me down for the count.  It was painful to walk, much less move my head side to side.  I've never had anything like that happen before and still have no idea what would have caused it.  I ended up taking the Monday after Western States off and this mysterious knot popped up Tuesday, in turn sidelining me that day plus Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  I had a couple big runs planned for over the weekend, but for some reason just lost all motivation to get out the door.  So my little back flare up ended up turning into 8 straight days of no running.  Easily the longest streak since I broke my toe back in September of last year.  Not a big deal though.  If my body doesn't want to run, then I am not going to force it out the door, especially when I am not really training for anything in particular.

Good news is I righted the ship today, but boy did I feel out of shape for the first 6 or so miles.  Ended up getting in 14.3 miles at Wilder Ranch, as well as a little sunburn my shoulders.  It was an absolutely beautiful day to be on the trails.  It definitely felt a little harder than it should have, but I suppose that is sort of expected after an 8 day lay off.  I guess that is a good sign that it is time to get my ass in gear.  Sometimes I just need a good wake up call like today.  It happened back in November for Boston, so hopefully this is the spark I need under my butt to get back to crushing a couple workouts per week.

A few pics from the last 6 or so miles from today's run.  Pretty flat compared to the first 8 miles, but the views are unparalleled.

The Baldwin Loop single track down to the ocean.

A small stint of beach running.

Up on the bluff over looking the beach.

Hidden little beaches all up and down the coast.

As flat as it is, it really is tough to beat the Ohlone Bluff Trail.

These guys were just chilling and were gracious enough to let me snap a quick pic.

Love these rock formations.

Five miles of bluff running.

These guys didn't even budge when I saw them on the way back to my truck.

And I received some even better news upon returning from my run...I came in second place in the 2011 Western States prediction contest, just one point behind the king and know all of WS100 (and of course my good friend Chad Silker's coach), Andy Jones Wilkins.  I predicted both of the winners correctly, as well as nailing my picks for Clark, Semick, and Kimball.  Looks like that nets me a free pair of Montrail shoes, as well as a pair of Mountain Hardwear shorts.  Heck yeah!  Certainly made my day.

With that said I leave you with a song that has been stuck in my head all day.  Till next time....