Friday, June 27, 2014

Bighorn 50K

After last year's humbling (and demoralizing) experience on the Bighorn 50 mile course, I chose to step down in distance this year and registered for the 50K.  While it should come as no surprise, it truly is astonishing how much easier it is to wrap one's mind around 31 miles as opposed to 50.  My attitude this year regarding preparation and the race itself was much improved.

The key word in that last sentence is preparation.  I did not adequately prepare for last year's race.  This year, I drew up a training plan that began in earnest in April that focused on an increase in threshold training, climbing, and higher mileage weekends to go along with a tempered increase in overall mileage.  Formal workouts were primarily poached from Jack Daniels' marathon training plan, particularly his segmented threshold workouts which I feel mimic trail racing.  Climbing workouts consisted predominately of biweekly forays to Fort Collins to join in on Thursday evening Towers time trials as well as some jaunts up Pilot Hill and, more recently, a return to the Silent Trails course and my old friend, The Bitch (Death Crotch).  All told, I logged around 300 more miles by race day.

Monday morning Chris and I did a quick tune-up workout of 3x1200 at the Central High track.  3:59, 3:52, and 3:44 intervals made me feel like I was heading into the race in a good place.  After a couple of easy days, Chris and I drove north Friday morning, convening with the Frenchs in Sheridan.  The House of Fuller was quiet that evening with Josh, Jeff, and Nate on the 100 mile course with Cassie, Tina, and Jason G. in support.  Unfortunately, none of them would make it past the halfway point.  That was a common theme in the 100 this year.  The rate of attrition was high.

Jeff, Johnna, Chris and I hopped on the bus heading to the 50K start at East Dry Fork early Saturday morning.  It was shaping up to be a beautiful day in the Bighorns, though by the 8 a.m. start, the temperature was already rising.  A warm day was something I was not excited about, but I had my pack with plenty of water and made sure I stayed on top of the electrolyte pills.

On the bus up to Dry Fork.
50K start.
The 50K starts with a climb to the top of East Dry Fork Ridge.  Immediately, my calves tightened up on me.  I walked most of that first climb thinking, "Really?!  It's really going to be one of those days?!"  Jeff passed me and said, "Don't worry, your calves will loosen up once we get to the top of the ridge and it flattens out."  El Jefe was right.  Once we got to the top, the topography mellowed and I was able to open up my stride and get a little rhythm going.  Rhythm is the most important thing when running long distances.

View south from East Dry Fork Ridge.
Heading toward Riley Point.
We came off the ridge at Riley Point with a fairly gnarly descent through a marshy meadow that was hell on the ankles.  I went a little fast down that section and burned a little too much energy.  I just get so excited to descend.   I got into Cow Camp feeling decent.  I tried not to dilly-dally in the aid stations this year.  Of my 11:35 on course in last year's 50M, nearly an hour and half of that was spent sitting at aid stations.

The climb from Cow Camp back into Dry Fork still sucked.  That climb is a little deceptive.  It's not steep, but it is five or six miles of gradual uphill.  And by 10 a.m. it was getting very warm in the bottom.  I rolled into Dry Fork about 2:15 into the adventure.  I changed my wet socks and shoes, but was having some lower stomach cramping that convinced me to chill for a bit.  I spent seven minutes at Dry Fork.  That was too long.

I took it easy coming out of Dry Fork in order to get my stomach settled and hopefully find a rhythm again.  Once on the road going down to Upper Sheep Creek, I found that rhythm and kept it going over The Haul and down into Tongue River Canyon.  My legs were a little trashed by the time I pulled into Lower Sheep Creek.  I topped off my water and started the slog into the heat of the canyon.

Just out of Upper Sheep Creek at the base of The Haul.
Top of The Haul.  The flowers were out in full force.
Beginning the descent into Tongue River canyon.  The finish is about 10 miles away.
Another 50K runner and I traded places for the remainder of the race.  Once through the last aid station and on the road, I opened up and put a gap on him.  I ran well for a couple of miles before my wheels fell off.  The last two miles or so were miserable.  My legs were trashed from the descent and every step was painful.  The other runner caught and passed me with a mile to go, and I didn't have anything to counter.  I jogged it in for the remainder, crossing the line in 5:21:51.  I went into the race wanting to run around five hours, so I was pretty satisfied with the result.  After the race results were tabulated, I finished ninth overall and third in the 30-39 age group.  That was good enough to bring home one of the coveted Bighorn rocks.  It was a nice birthday present to myself.  31 miles for 31 years.  There is a nice symmetry to that.

For the most part, I feel satisfied with the result.  I trained well and raced well.  As with all races, there are things I have reflected on that could have been different.  Or I could have made a different decision here or there.  The main thing I am contemplating is what do I actually need to carry?  I wore my pack this year so I could have all the water and food I needed on me so I wouldn't have to waste time at aid stations.  I was also afraid of the heat, especially after what happened on my last long training run down in Fort Collins.  I scared myself into thinking I needed more than I really did. The pack was too much.  My shoulders were brutally sore after the race, and I could move more efficiently without the added weight.  This ultra thing; it is a continual learning process. 

The southeast Wyoming crew ran well in the 50K.  We placed Chris 3rd, me 9th, Jason R. 10th, Jefe 11th, Nathan 14th, and George 19th, with Johnna bringing home a rock with a 28th overall/3rd in her age group run.  A great run in the Bighorns!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pilot Hill and Weeks Ending June 8 & 15

June 3 - 7M/:55.  Quick post-work run at Happy Jack on my way back over the hill.  Ridge-Headquarters-Summit loop.

June 4 - 7M/:50.  Warm-up to the Central High track where Chris and I did 8x400m with 40sec/100m jog rests.  Hit the quarters in 75, 76, 77, 75, 75, 73, 72, 67.  Felt good to run that 67.  Cool down back home.

June 5 - 6.5M/:50.  Relaxed morning run on the Greenway.

June 6 - 4.5M/:34.  Easy morning run around Western Hills.

June 7 - 19M/2:16.  Pilot Hill 25K.  I started off the quickest I ever have at Pilot Hill.  I usually take the first couple of flat miles easy to build-up for the climb.  Chris took it out with Clarkie on his shoulder, so I tucked in behind Nick and just tried to stay with them.  We had a southeast wind hit us in the face for the first miles which added difficulty.  By the lower aid station, I lost contact with Chris and Nick and decided to settle in for the climb.

2014 Pilot Hill start.
Taking things out.
Hungry Dogs and the boss.
I didn't feel great climbing, but I've felt worse, and I kept Chris and Nick in sight all the way up.  I did make my fastest ascent of Pilot Hill, 1:02:34, which is 1:01 faster than my previous best from last year.  A minute is a good improvement, but I was eyeing my watch hoping I might be closer to the hour mark.

Back down on a beautiful day.
By the time I started down, I had lost sight of the two in front of me.  With Nick and Chris up front battling it out, and me about three minutes behind by that point, I choose to relax on the descent and protect third place.  As I made it back down close to the bottom aid station, fourth place had been steadily gaining on me.  I wasn't feeling chippy at that point, and thought, "dammit, dude, don't make me work too hard to beat you.  Please?"

Thankfully, he didn't.  I did pick things up a little over the last mile to keep a 30 second cushion on fourth place.  My descent of 43:24 was 41 seconds slower than last year, and my finish of 1:45:58, while a course PR, is only 20 seconds faster than last year.  Overall, I am somewhat disappointed in this race.  I thought I would have a little more gas in the tank at the end.  However, this was not the goal race, and while I did begin backing off this week, the taper is for Bighorn, not Pilot Hill.

June 8 - 7M/:59.  Stayed in Laramie Saturday night so I could partake of the Pilot Hill after party (and Jefe's delicious beer).  Stopped at Happy Jack in the morning on my way home.  Sluggish and stiff run on Ridge-Headquarters-Summit loop.

Week: 51M/6:23

June 10 - 5.5M/:49.  Post-work run at Happy Jack.  Felt terrible.  Quick out-and-back on Ridge and Headquarters.

June 11 - 5M/:40.  Easy run on the Greenway.  

June 12 - 9M/1:05.  Met Chris at Central for a 30 minute tempo run down and back on the Greenway.  Kept the cruise control on 6:00/mile pace.

June 13 - 4.5M/:31.  Quick run through Western Hills.  Legs loosened up finally.

June 14 - 11M/1:33.  Conservative Silent Trails loop with Chris.

June 15 - 7M/:55.  Cool morning.  Hit a Ridge-Summit-Secret-Forest-Aspen-Pole Creek loop.  Felt good for parts, not sharp or coordinated going down Secret.

Week: 42M/5:33
YTD: 1070/148:20

This week is easy.  Hay is in the barn for Bighorn.  I'm getting excited.  It will be a great time visiting with friends while running through beautiful mountains on my 31st birthday.

*Photos: Wendy Perkins for High Plains Harriers*

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Week Ending June 1

Mon. May 26 - Left Jackson around 11:30 and spent the afternoon driving back to Cheyenne.  I was going to go for a short run when I got home, but I was starving and three nights of sleeping on the ground left me a little sore.  I chose to eat and chill instead.

Tues. May 27 - 8M in 1:04.  Easy run up at Happy Jack on my way home from work.  Trails are still sloppy in some places but are drying out quickly.  I ran out Ridge Trail to Headquarters/Overlook, out Browns Landing and in on Summit.  I generally despise running in the evening, but I want to start getting on the trails more (running the Greenway everyday is not the best training for 32 miles on mountain trails), and it's very easy to stop at the Jack on my way back over the hill.  Plus, it allows me an extra hour of sleep in the morning, and rest has become a pressing issue lately.  I'm old and tired.

Wed. May 28 - 11M in 1:16.  2M warm-up, then 8x5min at tempo pace with 30 second jog rests in between, 2M cool down.  I felt like I struggled on the last one, but I covered seven miles in the 40min of tempo.  I am satisfied with that. 

Thurs. May 29 - 5.5M in :45.  Quick out-and-back on Ridge/Headquarters/Overlook.  My calves were trashed from the previous day's workout.  Something about the Merrell flats I've been using has a tendency to destroy my calves.  I thought I had been getting used to them, but I guess one week off from using them for a workout or two brought me back to ground zero.

Fri. May 30 - 5M in :39.  Quick and easy morning run on the Greenway.  Calves are still pretty tight.  Lame.

Sat. May 31 - 10.5M in 1:30.  Silent Trails loop in the morning.  My calves were still a little tight, so I took the course conservatively.  The Bitch is still there in all its glory, but the long runs and Towers time-trials are certainly helping my climbing.  I am now mediocre at it.  But still pretty bad.

January: 169 (20:48)
February: 108 (14:32)
March: 200 (31:15)
April: 208 (25:37)
May: 270 (40:19)
Year to Date: 954 (132:31)

Sun. June 1 - 24M in 3:52.  Chris and I once again went south for the last true long run before Bighorn.  We went out Blue Sky, then hopped over the hogback via Rimrock Trail to Coyote Ridge, came back up-and-over, then out to Devil's Backbone and back in on Blue Sky.  

Blue Sky Trail.

Coming up out of Coyote Ridge Natural Area on the Rimrock Trail.

I refuse to participate in anymore of Chris's selfies.

Around the Laughing Horse Loop on the way back, mile 17 or so, I started to overheat badly.  The temperature had risen past 80F during the run, and the 80% humidity, coupled with a stifling lack of air movement (first time in my life I begged for wind), made for a suffocating few miles.  Most of the trails there are completely exposed, so we found one small shady spot on the trail and sat for a second.  I popped some endurolytes and ate the rest of the salty snacks I had.  

Avoiding heat stroke.
I cooled off in the shade for a bit and then hiked a mile or so down the trail to a small stream crossing which was thankfully in the shade of a large cottonwood.  I soaked my hat and shirt in that beautiful cool water and was able to pull it together for the last few miles.  And as is the ritual, Chris and I went directly to the nearest Chipotle for calories in burrito form.

Week's Total: 64M (9:06)
Year to Date: 978 (136:23)

*Photos: Chris Schabron*