Thursday, May 16, 2013

Leadville Training Trip Wrap-up: A little bit of hope and Winfield

Today was my final day to run out here Leadville before the big day in August, and it was a good one. I woke up feeling good. I was excited about the chance to access the climb to Hope Pass from the Twin Lakes area. The weather wasn't looking very cooperative, so I got moving earlier than I planned. I slurped down some "Super 8 Elixir" (nice call, Ginger, for coming up with that), grabbed a peanut butter bagel, and hopped in my sweet rental car and headed out. I was greeted by a nice view at Twin Lakes.

 On the way to the trailhead, I ran into a cool couple from Breckenridge and chatted them up looking for beta on the trail. They were out for a mountain bike ride but were happy to help out. They said that I'd likely get shut down by snow very quickly on this side because so much of it is north facing. They suggested I drive up towards Winfield and access the trail at Sheep Gulch. The idea being that the south facing side of the pass would have melted more. Armed with some new directions and a new plan, I happily said thanks and got moving. The weather was looking a little ominous.

The road to Winfield isn't exactly friendly. It was slow going in the rental. The last thing I wanted to do was get stranded because I broke the Chevy Cruze. I was really wishing I was in the Tacoma (aka: YD's mobile dog house). I arrived at the Sheep Gulch trailhead, looked at the clouds, and decided to get moving quickly. I was pretty stoked to be finally getting this crucial part of the course under my feet. My main goals for this trip were just to see how things were laid out and see how the altitude would feel. But, I was also really wanting to get a sense of how this crucial section would compare to the hills at home. I started power hiking up the climb, and was pleasantly surprised. It sucks. But it doesn't suck as bad as I thought it would. I am certain that it will feel a whole lot different with 50 miles on my legs, but the most important bit of knowledge was this: I live in a great training ground for the climb at Hope. It's similar to how it feels going up the Profile Trail at Grandfather. The gradient is similar and it's similar in techyness (that's an industry term. ha ha). I thought going up: I can do this. If I'm patient on my way to Hope, eat well, and hydrate I'll be OK. It was a huge confidence builder, especially since I still have months to train.

I made it just shy of halfway to the summit before the snow turned me back. Just over a mile in this is what I was dealing with:

I post-holed up to knees through a few sections before it finally just wasn't going to let up. Oh, and it was snowing. Just a little bit, but snowing. I decided that it was silly to keep going. I was slipping and didn't want to risk getting injured up there. I was a LONG way from any kind of help. It was as exposed as I've felt in quite some time, so I headed back down. I knew I could still get some decent miles in by taking the trail  all the way back to Winfield and then running the road back to the trailhead. Check out this view from the decent.

Amazing, eh? I got back down to the trail junction that goes to Winfield and enjoyed that section. It's rolling but mostly uphill to Winfield.

The clouds were looking worse and worse, and thunder was rumbling a little too close for comfort, so I kept moving and tried to push it down to the old town and the road. I was very happy to see Winfield when I got there.

It was starting to rain and getting cold. No worries though. I knew the car was just a couple of downhill miles away. I also know I will be a whole lot happier to see that place in August. It'll mean I'm halfway done.

All in all, it was a great week out here. I logged some decent miles, and I felt great doing it. I was able to figure out a lot about running out here, and I think I'll be able to put together a solid pacing plan based on what I did this week. This trip really helped me know for sure that I can have a great race. I'll need lots of help from my pacers and crew, but I feel good about it. Now, I'm all packed up and ready to head down to Denver in the morning to catch a flight home. I enjoyed the trip, but I am ready to be home! 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Clear trails in Leadville- Not the course, but it'll do

I woke up feeling pretty beat this am. I don't think it had much to do with the altitude or the miles this week. 40 miles in 3 days is solid, but not really enough to leave me feeling beat down. I think I was just a little bummed about not being able to run much of the course. Add in a little bit of missing home and a lot of solo miles lately and motivation can get sapped a little bit. BUT, I've pretty devoted to the goal of having a good day on the course in August. I'm reminded of the difference between discipline and devotion. Discipline is instant and willing obedience to all orders (That's what my Senior Drill Instruction taught me). It's also doing what you know you have to do even if you don't want to and nobody is watching. Devotion is doing something out of a love for the actual thing. The love of the experience and what it means. This goal means a lot of things to me.  First, just lacing up the shoes and doing this race is a pretty big goal for me. I don't do a lot of races. I normally like to just do long runs with my buddies and enjoy the fun of suffering with friends. Leadville, however, has always intrigued me. It's always just kind of been out there as this thing that's supposed to be a really hard race-- a chance to really test yourself. I have no illusions of actually being competitive here in August. For me sub 25 will be a huge accomplishment. I just want to test myself, enjoy the scenery, and share a great day with the people supporting me and everyone on the course. I also really want to have a good day, reach my goal, and be able to add the Lville 100 to the list of things Always Brothers had done to honor our fallen brothers. I really hope to be able to raise the Always Brothers Banner at the finish. All those things got me up and out of bed this morning. A little Super 8- (not so super) coffee got me going. Then, I headed downtown to hit up Cookies with Altitude for a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel. Sitting in the sunshine chowing down on a killer (in lots of ways, right) breakfast sammich, reading a little Gatsby, and chugging some gatorade greatly improved my mood and motivation. I should have added a Red Bull to the mix. Don't know why I didn't think of that! I've been neglecting that sweet nectar lately.

Since the road to Mosquito Pass was still snowed in, I decided to hit the Mineral Belt trail to get my miles in today. I didn't realize it would be so pretty. The views were pretty spectacular, and I enjoyed looking down on town from the trail.

I also didn't realize the first 6 miles would trend uphill and hit 10,600. I was a nice surprise to get that much elevation gain in today. I hopped on the trail at 9,500, so that's not a bad gain for six miles.

 I did a lot of hiking for the first few miles. I was just feeling a little sluggish, and decided that it would be OK to work on the hiking uphill for a while. After the summit, I enjoyed the long, slight downhill grade back to town.  I added some miles around town to make sure I hit an even 14. Despite my early slow slog up the hill, I managed to make sure the overall average pace was sub 11:40. My avg HR for the day was the lowest of any of my runs out here so far, and that HAS to be a good thing. I didn't manage to beat the rain, and I got drizzled on for the last few miles. It was chilly today. The weather here is volatile. The day started out nice- sunny and warm. I saw some clouds moving in before I left the hotel, so stuffed a jacket in my pack. I would have needed it if I had stayed out much longer.

After the run, I stretched, showered, and chilled for a bit before heading down towards Twin Lakes to try to find the section of the Colorado Trail the course will hit to head up Hope Pass. I think I might have found it, so that will be on the menu tomorrow. I'm hoping to get in 10 miles and bag an even 50 for my four days of running out here. More than half of tomorrow's effort will, hopefully, be hiking a big climb. We'll see if I can actually find the trail. It looks like there are some twists and turns leaving Twin Lakes that could be dicey. Either way, it'll be a fun last day out here. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Leadville Training Trip Day 2 or In search of non-snow covered trails.

I woke up feeling good this morning. No ill effects from the altitude or yesterday's leg stretcher. I grabbed some Super 8 coffee (did I mention that it's not so super?), and headed out in search of the trail around Turquoise Lake. I jumped in the rental car and rolled out to the Sugar Loaf Dam where  you can access the trail that takes you to May Queen.
 The lake is still frozen and, sadly, the trial is still covered in snow. I drove out to May Queen Campground to get a feel for what the aid station will look like and to try to find the start of the next section. The campground was mostly free of snow, but all of the surrounding trails were still buried. I decided to head back to town, stop in the Leadville Race Series storefront to get a map, and then pick out a section to run today since the snow was harshing my chi on running the first leg. I also wanted to try to get a better idea on how to find the elusive "boulevard" stretch that I found out I wasn't actually on yesterday. I got a map and some beta on how to find Mosquito Pass, which I heard is a good facsimile of some of the bigger climbs on the course. I have pretty much given up on running most of the actual course since it all seems to covered in snow. I haven't totally given up yet. Now that I have a good map, I'm going to head up towards the Fish Hatchery and try to find some access to the higher sections tomorrow afternoon. I'll run in town somewhere first and then hope to do some hiking up there later. I brought gaiters. Sooooo, anyway. I decided I'd run 10 miles along the lake on the road, and then hit Mosquito pass after for 8 miles or so of climbing and descending. The run along the road was scenic and I got 10 miles in feeling good the whole way. I walked some of the hills because I figure I'll be walking most of the uphill sections on race day. I was happy with an 11:30 avg for the ten miles since it had some good elevation gain.
 You can see the snow still piled up on the sides of the road. Once you get off the road, there's lots of snow in most places.
 I drove up to the area for that climb on Mosquito pass, but I got shut down by snow again. My little rental car isn't exactly good for this kind of exploring, but no worries I'm just here to get used to running at altitude anyway, so I drove back to town, refilled my hydration pack, and jumped on the greenway loop and knocked out another six miles. I felt pretty good the whole way. As I got about 3 miles out of town, the clouds started threatening to dump some cold ass rain on me. Lucky for me, the 3 miles back to town were downhill. I ran my fastest miles of the trip and felt pretty solid. I beat the rain back to town, and I was happily stretching back in my Super 8 palace as the rain pelted the ol' rental car down in the parking lot. Check out these clouds and the view from the last few miles today.

With two good running days under my belt out here, I'm feeling good about running at altitude. I have been able to maintain my normal pace on the flats and downhills. The climbing is a little bit of a different story, but I don't think this race is going to be about speed. It'll be a test of patience and will. I think I can handle that. I'll step up the hill training at home and work in some more hiking to get those muscles ready. But, before that, I have a couple more days out here to get some good training in-- snow or no snow. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Training in Leadville Part 1

I had a smooth travel day yesterday, and made it to Denver in time to have lunch with my Uncle and Aunt. It was great to see them. It's been a couple of years since we've been able to hang out, and it's always great to see my Godfather. We talked some baseball and football (he's a Broncos fan, so I had to bring up the Ravens ha ha ha). After lunch, I made the trek from Denver to Leadville. I was pretty tired when I rolled into the Super 8, so I made taking a quick nap a pretty high priority. Then, I took a little walk downtown to see the sights and start getting used to being at 10, 200 feet.

All in all, I felt pretty good. I had a little headache when I got to town, but that could easily be explained by not sleeping well Thursday night and getting up at the crack of dawn to get to the airport. Either way, a little Vitamin I, a lot of water, and a nap took care of it.

I woke up this morning and hit the continental breakfast (The Super 8 needs to tighten up its breakfast game), and took a walk downtown in search of some maps to plan my run for the day. Cookies with Altitude in Leadville has their coffee and donut game in solid order. I was stoked to get some good coffee and chomp a couple of tasty donuts to get the day rolling. After that, I did a little more sightseeing before lacing up the Hokas.

The views from town are incredible. Mt. Elbert, Mt. Hope, and Mt. Massive dominate the skyline. Looking up at Mt. Hope is a little daunting. I'll have to climb that sucka twice. Shiver! It'll be a nice little sufferfest. But the key will be not to think about that. The only step that matters is the next one- not the one you have to take in 10 hours or the one you took 4 hours ago. Little chunks. Like we used to say in Boot Camp: "Just take it Chow to Chow and Sunday to Sunday." Breaking things in to little parts and being in the moment will get you through.

For today's jaunt, I decided to run from town and check out the first leg of the course. I cruised down 6th Street, hit McWethy, and then wandered my way to the Boulevard. I wasn't sure I was on the right track, so I stopped and asked some nice folks who were putting up some firewood for next winter. Side note: winter isn't over here. They call it Spring, but it's a lot like "Spring" in Boone. Still cold! Hell, it snowed on me twice yesterday, and I woke up to flurries this morning).  People are are really friendly, and they don't look at you like a freak when you're out training for a hundy. People here get it, which is very cool. Anyway, I cruised down the Boulevard heading out of town and enjoyed some slightly downhill miles that I knew wouldn't feel that nice on the way back to town. My legs felt great, and I'm pretty happy with how my lungs were holding up. I keep cruising towards Sugar Loafin' Campground. Once, I got there, I wasn't sure of where the powerline was, so I just wobbled around for a mile or so to be sure that I'd hit 10 miles before I got back to town. I'm hoping to get a better race map from the folks at the Leadville 100 shop in the am. My legs felt great on the return to town. The long uphill grade wasn't steep, but I felt it. I did feel stronger once I was headed back to town though. I was able to maintain pretty close to my normal average pace at a normal effort level, so I'm really pleased with that. Big confidence booster for race day. All in all, it was a good warm up day. If I feel good in the am, I'll push it a little harder and run a longer stretch. I'd like to find the route to the May Queen aid station and be sure I get to run all of that. It'd be great to do an out and back on the first leg tomorrow. That would make for 26ish, which would be a great day. We'll see how I feel- and how the trail looks. It may be snowy. We shall see.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A solid week and a strong finish

Another week of training is in the books. This week was my first 50 mile week since Rocky, and my legs are feeling great. I made each day count, and knocked out a little over 50 in 4 days of work. I started with a good 10 miler on Monday and followed it up with to good 7s on the hills on the house loop. Saturday brought cool weather and light rain- perfect conditions for the New River Marathon in Todd. I treated the race like a normal long saturday run. Figured I'd go out, cruise the flats, hike the climb, and cruise into the finish planning for a 4:15 to 4:30 time.

It was an early start to the day. When the alarm went off at 5:15 and it was raining, I was cursing my decision to do the marathon instead of just running one on my own later in the day. But, Ginger got coffee going and was in awesome Crew mode getting me fired up to get in a good run. It was chilly at the start but so pretty out in Todd. I had some good friends to run with, and I spent the 13 just running along, chatting with them, and meeting new folks on the course. I even ran into a guy from Linconlton who grew up with a couple of my buddies from the Recon days. Pretty cool, eh? What a small world! I think his name was David, and it was his first marathon. He ran along with Elissa, Andrew (another first timer), and me through the first 13 miles. As the road kicked up and we got into the big climb, Andrew slowed down and Edawgy, David, and I powered up the climbs in ultra mode (hiking). I felt great going up the climb. All the hill work has been paying off. We flew down the backside of the climb and then settled back into a 9:15ish pace for the next few miles chatting away and enjoying the scenery. It's worth mentioning here that I was wearing the Hokas since most of the course was on the road. They were fantastic! My feet felt great and my legs weren't feeling beat up at all. Those things are worth every penny I spent on them.

At mile 20, I looked at my watch and figured out that I could PR and get in under 4 hours if I picked up the pace. So, I decided it was a good time to stretch the legs and get a little hard effort training. I kicked the pace up and started running 8-8:40 miles for a while. That felt good so I started trying to stay really close to 8. My lungs were feeling great, and my legs were feeling even better so I kept it up and started picking people off along the way. As I got into the last mile, I knew sub 4 would happen, and I kicked it into higher gear. I was happy to see Ginger and YD at the finish. I'm always so happy to see them!

 So, I blazed through the finish line to go say hi.

 I even got to see my buddy Bobby Cordell at the finish. Our friend Julia was there too--with cookies. You know I LOVE chocolate chip cookies! Ginger had a big smile and a protein shake all ready for me, so I was a happy guy!

It was a great day, and I'm pleased with the way my legs felt on the flats and the climbs. Check out the negative splits here. The rest of the day was spent hanging out with good friends. Ginger, as always, made sure I had everything I needed, and seeing her at the finish was some awesome motivation. After we rolled back to Boone and ate some pizza, we chilled out for a while before going to a dinner party with some of her peeps from work. Dinner was awesome, and we even had time for a nice little hike to stretch the legs out. All in all, it was an awesome day! So, another good week of training has come and gone. I'm feeling ready for a week of training in Leadville. I think it'll be cold there. It's been snowing, so checking out the big climb at Hope Pass might be pretty interesting. Stay tuned for a report from Colorado.