Saturday, February 13, 2010

I'm consolidating some posts from another blog here:

Trans Sierrra Double 3/2007
The 110 mile double trans-Sierra crossing is done. It was a very warm weekend that translated into very mushy snow which significantly slowed my progress. I started Friday morning and had to carry my skiis over melted out sections of the Tioga Road for only 1/3 of a mile though I did walk (very carefully) on the road for a few shorter sections.

The first 19 miles are generally uphill and by the time I hit the first downhill the snow was so mushy I had to keep my skins (things that attach to the bottom of skins that aid in grip on the snow--think velour with glue) on going downhill! Obviously my planned 4-5 mile per hour avergae pace was much slowed as it counted on zooming 10-15 MPH downhill! After 12 hard hours I had covered only 30 miles and dug my snow trench to sleep in for the night.

Morning saw a solid re-freeze and I was able to make pretty good time to where my sister Heather had skied 18 miles to meet me in Tuolumne Meadows. We elected to ski the ridge below Cathedral Peak and had a wonderful time. We camped in the meadow in cozy snow trenches.

I got up early to take advantage of the hard snow and averaged 5 MPH until nearly 1pm. After a long lunch (to patch blisters and dry out clothes and sleeping bag) it was a 2.5 MPH slog through slushy snow (inner tube and rubber ducky anyone?) up to Crane Flat. A 36 mile day got me to camp and a final 13 miles on Monday morning got me back to the truck before 11am. Thank goodness for another freeze!

It remains to be seen how delaying heavy running mileage affects Western States. My Wednesday night tempo run was aerobically harder than it should have been but I kept up 5:55 pace for the 8 miles.

We did a "double Diablo" Saturday--32 miles and 8500' of gain--and the time was good and effort didn't feel too bad. Now the more heavy running weeks begin in earnest. Hopefully I'm well rested and able to hammer for 10 weeks!

Zion and Bryce 4/07
Some of my favorite training runs have been exploring new places on long runs. I've done a Grand Canyon double crossing (46 miles) and run to the top and back of Muana Loa in Hawaii (40 miles to 13,000'!) as part of training. It fits well with my interests to see the outdoors while getting in a good run. Running on new and difficult trails are never as fast as running familiar paths, but I really love what I get to see and the experiences I have.

Last week our family was on spring vacation and visited Zion and Bryce National Parks. This was another perfect time for exploring two National Parks on trail runs. In Zion I paid for a shuttle but to take me from the lodge to Lee Pass in the Kolob Canyon area in the north. I ran the 36 miles back to the lodge in just under 10 hours (plus another 5 to visit Kolob Arch, Angel's Landing, and the Emerald Pools). The new green leaves, sandstone cliffs, panoramic views, and rivers made for an excellent day. I got a lot of pictures and really saw the backcountry geology and topography. I also found a short slot canyon (1/4 mile) on my run and took my family back to slither through it a couple of days later.

We then drove up to Bryce and I did a 37 mile run from the lodge in the north to Rainbow point in the south (plus the Riggs Canyon loop) and saw the (somewhat less spectacular) features of the Bryce backcountry. I was able to meet my family so didn't need to scoop water from any of the streams and was resupplied with Dr. Pepper, fruit leather, and Butterfinger bars. Mmmmmmm.

The week was capped by a late season snowstorm that trimmed the hoodoos of Bryce with Christmas decoration and made for some great family snowball fights. With six year old twins and a twelve year old a snowstorm makes for some pretty good entertainment!

I'd encourage you to get out and explore a National Park, Forest Service land, or Wilderness on a long run. Heck, even a fastpacking weekend can make for great training. There is nothing like the experience of surrounding yourself with nature's grandeur and knowing that there are few with the fitness to finish your trip in 3 days!

Sick/Skiing/Shasta/Ohlone 50K 6/07
Since the National Park Training Plan, I got some sort of 2 week flu which kind of blew my Mt. Diablo 50M race. I've run the 13,000' gain course in just over 9 1/2 hours, but his year it took 11 thanks to stomach problems that started a couple of miles beyond the starting line. I've tried to convince myself that the mandatory slow pace was something good as I didn't trash my legs. We'll see how this plays out.

I left right after the race (literally 2 hours later) for a three day ski trip in Northern Yosemite. I was dragging and fatigued the first day, neutral on the second and strong on the third. My ski partner and I (chief of neurology and my "boss"--how cool it that!) had good snow, though the ascent of the trail-less Little Slide Canyon was quite a challenge until we hit snow. Imagine 170cm skis with boots attached sticking out of your pack while you ascend a fir and manzanita covered canyon. The snow about 8000' was a BIG relief.

Ohlone 50K went well--I finished the 8500' gain course in 5 hours--somewhat off my still standing course record of 4:39. I've got to be honest about that "course record". The course was changed in 2001 and Dave Scott's much faster times on the shorter course are still the "real" course record.

I had a very satisfying Memorial Day training weekend. We ran 51 on Saturday--Robinson to Driver's Flat in about 9 running hours. The elapsed time was over 10 hours due to a 30 minute stop in Foresthill for soup, ice cream, and ice cold Dr. Pepper and a 20 minute swim in the American River near the finish. We ran 22 on Sunday--Sliger Mine Rd. to the finish which took under 4 hours. A 55 mile bike ride on Monday finished out the peak training week.

Last weekend three of us climbed Mt. Shasta and it's sister cone Shastina (via left of heart route, Whitney Glacier, Cascade Valley) in a day. With lightweight gear, Kahtoolas and running shoes it took just over 5 hours from the parking lot to the summit. On Sunday we ran in Castle Crags state Park. I surprised "the boys"--Lee McKinley and Troy Howard--with the 4th class ascent of Castle Dome in the middle of our run. Those trails were sweeeeet and just asking to be hammered! Hammer we did!

Now it's time for some heat! Since the weather isn't cooperating I've pulled out the heavy winter tights, shirt, jacket, and ski hat and hit the sauna. Today's sauna visit (40 minutes at 170F) was pretty miserable but with the jumping jacks, yoga, bench step ups hopefully there will be some carryover for the presumed heat of Western States. We're doing a double afternoon descent (with one ascent) of Mt. Diablo with full winter gear in the mid-80's temperatures tomorrow to help with the heat and keep the legs ready for Western States loooooong quad-trashing descents. Usually I'd do a double Diablo (32 miles, 8000' gain) but this is the year of easier training! I'll probably do my double Diablo on a bike on Sunday.

Hopefully I can keep down the energy sapping anxiety that usually starts two weeks before Western States (or any long/important race) and peaks with a night of poor sleep the night before the race. Thank the gods when the gun goes off!!

Western States July 2007
Western States is done and with my 9th finish I'm all teed up for my tenth silver finish. The goal of 10 finishes has weighed heavily on me since I embarked upon it after my 5th or 6th finish. It sometimes seems like I'm running two or three Western States (with the thoughts of races and years to come) on race day. I'm happy I achieved my goals--have fun, run as fast as I comfortably could, get my 9th finish, and be uninjured, but I'm disappointed I didn't set my goals higher.

I've semed to have lost some motivation to train and race hard. Perhaps it's the increased family or work demands, or a lesser importance that comes after 12 years of hard racing. However, with less committment comes less reward. I find that running serves as a metaphor for my life and that when I'm a bit down on running, my life doesn't look so good either. I either need to find a different metaphor to live by or find the motivation to commit more to ultrarunning.

Andy Jones-Wilkins recent 4th at WS 100 and win at the Vermont 100 has temporarily filled me with motivation to "train hard or go home". Hopefully I'll continue to find the inspiration to make long-distance running a motivating part of my life.

Outdoor Techniques 10/07
I'm recently back from a week long advanced trekking course in Montana's snowy and cold Autumn. We practiced some very advanced techniques of navigation and lightweight travel. The map we were given was low resolution (1:100,000K), devoid of trails, lake and peak names, and had a third of the area whited out. The idea of "white space mapping" is to triangulate prominent points off of your map from known areas and use them to establish location (again by triangulation) in the whited out areas of the map. Travel is determined primarily by what you see in the field and not what is on the map.

We traveled very light--I never carried more than 25# despite temperatures in the low 20s. This included clothing worn, the absolutely necessary snowshoes, tent and food. We cooked over wood fires using a specialty titaniuim stove called the caldera cone and started our fires with flint and steel.

It's very different than running an ultra where the course is marked every 1/4 mile with a ribbon and supplies are available hourly at aid stations. It's an experience that brings you much closer to the outdoors and wilderness ideal. Grizzley bear tracks crisscrossing our path in the snow gave a strong argument for humility.

My fitness as an ultrarunner was powerfully apparant. I climbed ridges and peaks after the group arrived at camp to triangulate our position. I was able to hike ahead of the group and scout route options. Usually these were good ones............

If any fit ultrarunner is interested in a more wilderness focused outdoor experience, I offer my experience to help them acquire the gear and techniques needed to enjoy this type of trip.

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