Monday, March 28, 2011

Recovery, New Shoes, and Trail Maintenance

After running Chuckanut last weekend my legs were really sore. I took a proper ice bath the evening after the race and even took the recommended serving of Udo's Oil to try to help recovery. My Quads had it the worst from all of the pounding descents. They weren't as fried as they were after running Mt. Si in January thankfully.

I took Sunday completely off but I was back out for a run on Monday. I'd bought another pair of shoes a few days before Chuckanut and had been itching to try them out. I didn't want to run in them before the race out of fear of messing up my feet somehow. I'd been waiting to get my hands on the shoes ever since reading a review about them on Jason Robillard's blog a few months ago. The shoe is the Merrell Trail Glove. It's my first real barefoot style shoe. My beloved MT101 is a transition shoe with it's ~10mm heel-to-forefoot drop whereas the Trail Glove is marketed as a "barefoot" shoe with a 0mm drop from heel to forefoot. The soles of the Trail Gloves are made by Vibram of hiking boot and more recently Five Fingers fame. The shoe itself is really light at 6.2oz compared to MT101's 7.6oz and most road running shoes heading north of 12oz. The Trail Glove doesn't have much cushioning under the soles which makes you think more about where you're planting your feet.  With zero drop and no foam under your heels you have no choice but to run up on your forefoot in them. They're the next step in my transition from a heel striking to a mid-foot striking running style. With them being so different than any other shoes I've ever run in I was very wary of taking them out for a run pre-race.

Monday 3/21 (5.3mi, 49min, 9:15/mi)
My legs were pretty beat up from the race so I put on the Trail Gloves and took it easy heading out toward the Bridle Trails. It was interesting getting a feel for the minimal soles of the Trail Gloves on the dirt and mud along the corridor trail. They have a nice roomy toe box but a very narrow heel. The fit was snug with no room for my foot to move around inside the shoe, largely due to the narrow heel and the the excellent lacing system that snugs the upper around your foot. Putting the word "glove" in the name wasn't just clever marketing. They do fit like a glove which allow me a great proprioceptive sense and feel for the ground below me. The only downside of this is stepping on the occasional sharp rock that I wouldn't notice in a bigger shoe. The feel of running in these shoes was more than worth the trade off.

The route for the run was mostly the same as other recent Bridle Trail runs. I was running around on the East side of the trails and hit some of the short steep technical downhills to practice my fast descending. After all of the descending at Chuckanut that just trashed my quads, I wanted to warm them up with some more fast footwork. By the end of the run my legs were feeling much better than when I started. It felt great to get the blood flowing.

Tuesday 3/22 (5.6mi, 42min, 7:42/mi) I had so much fun running in the Trail Gloves on Monday that I did it again on Tuesday. Someone's horrible sense of time running a meeting at work meant that I only had about 1:15 to change, run, shower, change, and eat lunch. I still ran the same route I'd planned (Bridle Trails) but ran it about 8 minutes faster. I started out at just over an 8min pace and then picked up the speed to see how it felt to run fast in the new shoes. My splits dropped to 8:12, 7:26, 6:56, and finally 6:43. Only being 3 days after a 50K race, this surprised me somewhat. I got a childlike sense of enjoyment pushing a fast pace around the soft dirt trails in the minimalist shoes. As cheesy as it sounds, I did feel more connected to the ground as I ran. The increased feedback on how I was planting my feet was great. The only drawback so far of running in these shoes is the strain that I put on my calves because I haven't been running enough barefoot miles over the winter to prepare for the change in stride and form.

Thursday 3/24 (6.2mi, 47:37, 7:44/mi)
I chose lifting weights on Wed over running to give my legs a break. I have to remember that I'm still recovering from a race. (Maybe the ice bath and Udo's Oil really made a difference on Saturday). Thursday I decided to run my old Pro Club Loop. The route is mostly on sidewalk or asphalt so I went with the MT101 shoes for a little bit more cushioning and to give my calves a break. I started out easy and picked up the effort to a steady <7:30 pace for the second half of the route. I felt good but I could feel a little bit of tightness developing in my right Piriformis. So far tempo running in the MT101s seems to trigger the pain. I hope it's something I can find a way around through training or footwear.

Friday 3/25 (2.0mi, 18min, 9:00/mi)
I ran two miles at an easy pace on the treadmill at the gym wearing the Trail Gloves. Just two miles to warm up and get the blood flowing before I lifted weights. I wanted to see how the shoes felt on a steady unchanging surface. They were pretty good and I liked how low the soles are but they didn't have as much feel as I thought they would. Now I wonder how it would feel to run barefoot on a treadmill. I should try it after work one day at the gym in my building.

Saturday 3/26 (3.5mi, 30min, 8:30/mi)
I only had half an hour for a run so I ran out to the top of the tunnel trail and back It was a bit muddy up there and getting pretty overgrown. The Trail Gloves felt pretty good on the soft dirt.

Sunday 3/27 (3.5mi, 31:30, 9:00/mi)
A rare two-run weekend for me. I didn't have time for a proper run so I grabbed a Cross Cut saw and some gardening clippers and ran out to the tunnel trail. I cut back all of the bush and branches that were overhanging the trail and in my way. I also moved a fallen tree that's been across the trail for the last two years. When it fell it landed between two pair of trees in such a way that it sat about 5 1/2 feet high across the trail. I've been ducking under it every time I run the trails and lately it's been slowly slipping lower. It was probably just under 5' high which meant that instead of slowing down and running under it, I had to stop and walk under it carefully. I sawed one end of the log off and the tension of the two trees that it was wedged between on the other side of the trail caused it to pivot to the side of the trail as if someone has swung it like a baseball bat. I had to be quick to get out of the way before it knocked me out of it's way. I did manage to bloody myself up pretty good with all of the thorny vines and whacking myself on the wrist with the saw once on accident.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chuckanut 50K race report

I drove up to Bellingham on Friday after work and checked into the Guest House Inn. I found the hotel online and the reviews weren't too bad. My needs were basic: somewhere to sleep that was close to the start and wasn't a dump. Other than loud kids in the hallway outside my room at 10:30pm it worked out nicely, especially at $60/night.

I set out my clothes and gear on Friday night and was in bed at 11pm. I slept with earplugs as I find they help me sleep more soundly. The consequence of the earplugs is that I worry that my alarm won't wake me up. I set four different alarms, three on my iPhone plus the hotel clock-radio. I made a mistake and set one of the iPhone alarms (as a calendar item) to go off at 3:40am instead of 5:40am. Oops. Luckily I got back to sleep pretty easily. When the next 3 alarms went off I got up, got dressed, ate a big bowl of cereal that I had brought and mixed up 2 flasks of Perpetuem slurry.

I packed up and drove the 3.5 miles south to Fairhaven Park. I found parking at a nearby school then walked over to pick up my race packet. With number in hand I had 45 minutes until the race started so I went back to the car to relax and finish getting ready. I put my race shoes on and filled my Nathan's bladder with a Heed/CarboPro/Nuun/S-Caps mixture. I walked back to Fairhaven Park for the start and had enough time to stretch for a minute before the horn sounded.

From the start in Fairhaven park the course heads South on the hard gravel paths of the Interurban trail. I started in the back of the pack so that I would be forced to keep a responsable pace for the first few miles. The runners around me were running about 9:30 - 10:00/mi pace so that's the pace I had to keep unless I wanted to start throwing elbows and push my way through the pack. The first few miles were on trails that I'd actually run once before on a trip to Bellingham in August of 2009. After 3 miles of gravel paths we got out onto a brief section of dirt trails along a creek. The field was starting to stretch out and the path wasn't so crowded through this section. I kept kept up with the runner in front of me and enjoyed the scenery. My plan was to hit the first aid station (6.1mi) in around an hour.

My timing was good as I hit the aid station in just over 59 minutes. I was all stocked up with food and drink so I didn't even break stride on my way through the station and on to a brief section of dirt trails going up the hillside and back down to the path that led us to the aid station. From there we departed the gravel and headed into the wooded Fragrance Lake trails. Almost immediately we started our first real climb and I took my first walking breaks going up the steepest sections. I burned myself out by the half-way point at Baker Lake last October so I wanted to take it easy on any tough uphill sections.

I was feeling pretty good and eating the Perpetuem slurry every 30 minutes. The trail was mostly uphill for the next two miles and then it was a series of rolling hills. We continued past Fragrance Lake and looked down on the Interurban trail that we'd run earlier. I came in to Aid station 2 (10.4mi) about 10 minutes under my 6hr pace estimate.

Again I didn't bother stopping for anything at the aid station. I was still feeling pretty good but beginning to feel the need to find a restroom. Luckily it wasn't urgent because there were no restrooms around and nowhere beside the trail that provided any privacy. The course headed South out of AS#2 and up Cleator rd. which is a fire road that climbs steadily for almost 3 miles. It's depressing to look up and see a long string of other people walking ahead of you. I mostly walked this section and took "run breaks" every few minutes to pick up the pace. My mile splits for these miles were in the 14 minute range. Near the top of Cleator rd I hit Aid station 3 (13.3mi) feeling good but my legs were starting to regret the climbing.

After Cleator I was pretty thirsty and the warming reservoir of Heed/CarboPro/Nuun on my back wasn't as tasty as it was a few hours before. I tried to chug a few cups of water at AS#3 but it was too cold to drink very fast. We turned off of Cleator rd. and headed down a dirt trail through a net-downhill section of the Chuckanut Ridge Trail. This part turned out to be very technical. Not much flat ground and plenty of narrow steep short descents that required full attention to keep from going out of control over the next 7 miles. There were also some fantastic views up along the ridge line of the surrounding valley and lakes to the East of the ridge. My training didn't prepare me nearly enough to keep a good pace over the technical trail with it's slippery rocks and rooted descents which required very precise foot placement and often a hand grabbing a nearby branch. I mis-judged one of the muddy off-camber sections on top of the ridge and took my only tumble of the day. Luckily I caught myself with my hands as I hit the deck. I was back up and running in a few seconds.

The up and down of the ridge really started to punish my quads. I was running the descents pretty well but the climbs slowed me to a walk. The weather was fantastic at the start, sunny skies and low-50s but up on the ridge trail it was windy and 10 degrees colder. By the time I hit AS#4 after 7 miles on the ridge trail my fingers were so cold that they were almost unusable. I'd only worn one pair of thin gloves and couldn't get my backpack open to refill the bladder inside. I had to ask one of the volunteers to help me. After he filled it I fumbled with the pack and managed to spill about 1/3 of it's contents trying to close it. The guy saw this and took pity topping it off again and closing it for me. This is the level of service that you're paying for at ultramarathons. Great volunteers. I had been good about eating every 30 minutes but I was getting tired of the taste of the Perpetuem. I had some soup and a few donut holes as I headed out of AS#4 a little behind on my 6 hour target pace.

Right out of the aid station was the toughest climb on the course, called "Chin Scraper." It wasn't just a cute name either. It was a little over a mile of narrow dirt trail that climbed almost 1,000 feet. My quads were starting to cramp in earnest from the pounding of the downhills which made Chin Scraper that much slower. I managed my worst mile split at this point, a 27:59 mile. The trail was steep enough that I almost needed to use my hands to help climb it. After reaching the top of the climb I was able to start jogging again on the now rolling hills. I arrived at the one on-course restroom at mile 23 but it was locked. I thought someone was using it but after a few minutes I knocked and never got an answer. Who closes a public restroom and why no port-o-potties!?

After a half mile of running through deep shoe-sucking mud, the course started down a 3 mile descent leading runners back to the Interurban trail to re-run the first 6 miles of the course in the opposite direction. I didn't think I could wait any longer for a bathroom so I started looking for a secluded spot along the side of the course where I could take care of business. After another half mile of looking I climbed down the side of the ridge and went behind a large tree. I'm not counting this as a Gingerbread Man. I looked for a bathroom over the previous 10 miles before punting.

After the pitstop I put on my iPod and started picking up the pace on the descent. The first song on my playlist was "Lose Yourself" by Eminem which has the perfect tempo for running. It's about 180 beats/min and easy to keep cadence with. I started feeling really good and at mile 24 had my best split of the day (8:34). My quads were still sore but I was able to ignore it for the most part during the descent.

After the trail flattened out I pulled into the final aid station (which had also been AS#1), chugged some flat soda and had a few bites of food before heading off for the flat final 6 miles. My legs were doing okay and I was holding about 9:00 - 9:30 miles. This included stopping to walk for a minute every mile and stretching my quads and IT bands. I knew that the chance for a sub-6 hour finish had passed by this point to I put it out of my mind and just tried to run as much as I could and enjoy the last hour of my race.

The last 6 miles went by faster than I remember them going by in the other direction earlier. Before I knew it I was almost back to Fairhaven park. It felt great to see the finish line and hear my name called as I crossed the timing mats.

Saturday was the 19th running of the Chuckanut 50K. It's usually a pretty competitive race but this year quite a few big names in the world of ultra running showed up. This lead to both the Mens and Womens course records falling. For the men it was 2009 & 2010 Ultrarunner of the year Geoff Roes, and for the women it was world 100K road champion Ellie Greenwood raising the bar. I kept with my middle-of-the-pack strategy and only saw the elite runners as I was eating my lunch at the post-race awards ceremony.

I stayed around for the awards to see who had won and to talk to some friends that I saw at the race. I thanked the Race Director Krissy Moehl for putting on such a great event and even found myself chatting with Udo Erasmus from Udo's Oil who were sponsoring the event and wound up giving out $1000 after both the course records fell. Talking to Udo was very interesting. He's very knowledgeable and can talk your ear off about oils and nutrition. He kept telling me to take more free samples. Nice guy.

I hit Dairy Queen and Starbucks for a treat and some caffeine before sitting down for the 3 hour drive home on sore legs. It was a great race but the logistics surrounding it (hotel, long drive, traffic, race selling out quickly) means that I probably won't be doing the race again soon. With so many 50K races held in the Pacific Northwest I want to try as many of them as I can. I didn't care so much for the 10 - 12 miles of gravel roads, but otherwise the course was very nice. I just wish that my training had gone better and I was able to get more hill running in before the race. Also, as I type this 4 days after the race I've had zero Piriformis pain. Nice!

The stats according to my Garmin:

Dist: 31.4mi
Time: 6:26:26
Avg: 12:33/mi
Alt: 11,827'

Just as an example of how bad my Garmin 305 is with altitude, it only registered ascent/descent data for the last 18 miles of the race (?) and came up with nearly 12,000'. I don't swing my arms very much when I run so I don't know where these numbers are coming from. If I had to guess I'd say the course had about 5,000' total climbing.

Gear: It was in the low 50s and sunny so I wore shorts, a Craft base layer, and a long sleeve shirt. I started with a wind jacket but took it off about 7 miles into the race. I should have left the jacket in the car. I wore a thin pair of gloves but I needed two. I don't know why my hands get cold on long runs but I keep forgetting that it happens. I wore my Nathans 2L hydration backpack and filled it with food and my phone/keys. I ran in a new pair of New Balance MT101 shoes and loved them (as well as my Dry Max trail socks). I had a little bit of soreness under the ball of my left foot for a few hours after the race but otherwise my feet were happy and blister free.

Lessons for next time:

Consistency in training
More hilly trail runs (Mt. Si)
Wear less clothes but pack extra gloves
Keep working on my fueling strategy.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A forced taper for Chuckanut

Last week felt pretty good. I hit all of my runs and had a solid 16 miles Sunday on the trails with a good bit of climbing. This week was not quite as fruitful.

Monday: (6.1mi, 56:30, 9:15/min) I just wanted to get out for a recovery run after Sunday's miles. I gave the Cascadia 6's another try rather than the new MT101s, mainly because the trails were muddy after the rain last weekend. I took it easy and even avoided the hills in the Bridle Trails for the most part. My Piriformis felt better than I thought it would after Sunday's run. It was a good start to my taper period for Chuckanut.

Unfortunately I started getting sick on Tuesday. I went to the gym for some light cardio and to lift weights. I felt okay but I knew that a cold was coming on. I could feel it starting to tickle my throat Tuesday morning and by Tuesday night I was coughing and stuffy. I didn't run the rest of the week and I'm using the cold as an excuse to rest, take naps where I can, stay hydrated, and not over-eat. I think I can be over it by the time I line up in Bellingham next Saturday morning. As long as I'm not feeling much worse than I am today I should be able to get through the race before the time cutoffs with enough Sudafed. It's incredibly annoying to get another cold, I'm not sure if the kids are bringing it home from school or if the cleaning people at work are licking my keyboard at night.

I don't expect to get any running in next week but if I kick the cold soon I'll give it a try. Other than that I'll be driving up to Bellingham on Friday after work and facebooking / twittering my results when they're in.

I think realistic goals for the race based on my less-than-stellar training buildup are:

A: 5:59:59
B: 6:29:59
C: Finishing

I can't see doing much better than 6 hours based on the course and my health and training. I'm going to stick with Perpetuem slurry and Heed / CarboPro as my main fuel with a gel here and there if I need more than that. My stomach has been handling the Perpetuem really well lately. Also, now that I'm taking probiotics every night I haven't had the Gingerbread Man problem at all. Look for a write-up next week after the race.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The one about getting a new pair of shoes and really liking them.

Monday 2/28 (5mi, 46min, 9:12/mi) After a long run on Sunday my legs were a little sore and my right Piriformis muscle was hurting. I wanted to get an easy recovery run in but I wasn't up for running in the cold and rain so I plodded away on the hamster wheel for an easy 5 miles. I was a little out of breath running just over a 9:00/mi pace due to Sunday's long run. It was good to shake my legs out a bit.

Wednesday 3/2 (6.3mi, 56min, 8:57/mi)
After cross training on Tuesday I ran out to the Bridle Trails and looped around the interior. The weather warmed up a little on Wednesday but while I was running in the middle of the forest it started raining pretty hard and then turned into hard hail. My Piriformis was feeling a little better after all of the stretching I've been doing for it. I took the Cascadia 6 shoes out for another run and they felt better this time than the last few runs I've had in them. Maybe they needed to break in a bit.

Thursday 3/3 (2.0mi, 19min, 9:30/mi)
I warmed up on the treadmill before lifting weights. I set it to a 10% incline and ran two slow miles uphill. It was pretty tough to keep the pace at that incline and it ended up being quite a good warm-up. Prirformis was still a little sore.

Friday: 3/4 (7.6mi, 55min, 7:18/mi)
I got a new pair of New Balance MT101s (green this time) because my first (black) pair are starting to wear out already. I ran with the new ones for the first time Friday on a loop through Redmond. It was about half on sidewalk and half trails. I feel that the MT101 works really well on both surfaces while not being an expert on either. I ran down to Grass Lawn park, then up the Old Redmond Road hill. I noticed that I was keeping a pretty good pace in the low 7's even heading up the hill. It's been a while since I've run any kind of tempo (the run out to Target on 2/16) and my legs felt good at a faster pace so I tried to keep it up. I pushed it going up the hill and over the top out to the cut-over trail that took me out to the power line trail that bisects the Bridle Trails. I wasn't gutting myself with the pace, it felt sustainable for maybe an hour to 90 minutes at most. The trails weren't too muddy so there were only a few spots where I had to run along the extreme edge of the path to get around puddles. I stuck to the inner trails again and came out by the corridor trail. I kept the pace up and tried to ignore my complaining Piriformis over the last mile and a half before I got back to work. My splits were all between 6:50 - 7:24 with an outlying 7:54 through the toughest part of the Bridal Trails. It was a great run with temps in the high 40s and no rain, fantastic conditions for this time of year. I love those MT101 shoes.

Sunday: 3/6 (15.9mi, 2h 25m, 9:09/mi)
This was my last chance to do a long run to prepare for Chuckanut. After running 21 and 24.5 miles the last two Sundays I decided to run a med-long trail run to see what kind of pace I might be able to deliver on race day. I drove out to Pt. Defiance park so that my entire run could be on the trails. I'd run here once before almost a year ago but I was following a friend who knew the trails pretty well. I didn't pay attention at the time of how the trails were laid out. I was prepared this time with a great color map that I found online and enlarged, re-oriented in Photoshop and printed out just the way I wanted. Yeah, I left that on the printer at home. The other thing that I forgot that ended up being important was two band aids for my pinkie toes. I sure love the New Balance MT101 shoes but the toe box is too narrow for me and will rub my pinkie toes raw if I don't tape them up in these shoes. It took about 2 miles for the pain in my right pinkie toe to start. After the run it was pretty badly abraded.

I headed out from the car and quickly found some trails that I remember walking in the past and followed them to see where they could take me. I saw that there were signs at most of the trail heads that had either a circle, triangle, or square on them. I recalled from the map sitting at home on the printer, that the trails marked with a square were the outermost loop. I picked square whenever I had the chance and found my way around some really nice slightly muddy trails but many times when the trail would cross a road there would be no indication of where it picked up on the other side. Sometimes they'd lead you into an open grassy area that you had to cross before searching for the connecting trail marker to continue on. I ran somewhat of a loop but didn't want to be so rigid with my route so I just started turning onto other side trails where the path looked good or went uphill. After about 90 minutes I started to recognize the trails that I'd already run on and was getting a feel for where I was in the park. The good thing about running at Pt. Defiance is that it's a "Point" (triangle shaped) and 2/3 of it is against the water. Almost all of the roads are one-way going in a CCW direction. This makes it really easy to find your bearings when you need to.

I felt pretty good during the run other than my pinie toe. I kept on top of hydration and food. I made my Perpetuem slurry again but used coffee instead of water to mix it. The coffee didn't provide as much flavor as I'd hoped. I thought I'd get a really strong coffee taste, but I mostly tasted the Espresso Hammer Gel I added. Between the Slurry and a pack Clif Bloks I kept well fed and my energy never dipped according to my mile splits. The link below goes to an animated image showing the path I took today. I was all over the place. It was a great run and I feel much more confident about Chuckanut than I did a month ago when I was just coming back after being sick.

pt defiance run

Notes: I forgot to turn my watch back on somewhere in mile 3, hence the one mile jump. I went back to the car at mile 10 for my gloves. My fingers were really cold.

In other news, February was a sub-par month for mileage. I missed the first 8 days of the month ill. I managed a little over 100 miles due mainly to the 21 and 24 mile long runs the last two weekends. It's been really cold and rainy here so I only managed a staggering two miles barefoot (well, in my socks).

February numbers:
Miles: 113.7
YTD (as of 2/28): 247.1
Barefoot miles: 2
Runs: 14
Total time: 17h 12m
Avg/run: 8.12
Avg pace: 9:05/mi