Thursday, January 31, 2008

2008 vs 2007

2007 was for me what coaches with a losing record call a building year. I ran five races and performed ator above my expectations in only two. I ran a PR at the 2007 Woodside 50K. I truly enjoyed my first San Francisco Marathon and while I didn't run a PR I ran faster than my goal for that race. My focus was primarily the marathon and my training was designed to support that goal, lots of mileage, track workouts and tempo runs.

Especially in the last six months of the year when I was building up to Cal Int'l Marathon I never felt smooth or efficient when running at or faster than tempo pace. The spark wasn't there and I couldn't quite understand why. I was running the miles and crushing myself with workouts from Jack Daniels marathon training program. My speed and endurance improved somewhat over the year as evidenced by my performance at the San Jose Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon (1:24:11), nothing to write home about but better than I was running in the Spring. Despite some hard earned improvements running just wasn't fun. Slogging it out day after day isn't what I love about running. I love the feeling of gliding around the track or over the trail with each footstrike light and quick. I love the exhileration of acceleration but instead I felt like I was running through molasses.

2008 rolled aound soon after a disappointing run at Cal Intl Marathon. A I said earlier I would sooner forget that race. I spent the month of December and early January thinking hard about what to do differently. There were lots of threads waiting to be woven together into a cohesive plan for the new year.

Here are a few of those thoughts:
1. I run better when I'm cross-training.
2. Training doesn't make you faster. It is the recovery period that makes you faster.
3. Racing frequently can pay big dividends (from a fitness standpoint).
4. Road-racing doesn't make me happy.
5. The race I enjoyed the most in 2007 was the Woodside 50K.
6. Taking my running to a higher level would require a holistic approach.
7. My training needs to be more consistent.
8. My training needs to be sustainable, not one week that is so hard that I need to take the next week off.
9. Meticulously prepared training schedules often work against me and I need to be more flexible day to day and week by week.
10. And so on...

Slowly these threads drifted into recognizable patterns and I arrived at my plan of attack for 2007. Instead of creating a detailed training schedule I created a sustainable "model week" with a goal for the month such as "hill-climbing strength and power". I oriented each workout around this goal. I added cycling and weight training back into my regime. I renewed my focus on core strength. I scheduled my workouts to maximize recovery and sleep in between harder days. All this was to support at least one to two races every month in 2008.

Two races into 2008 and my first goal is already met. Running is much more fun! I'm no longer running under water and while I'm not always running on a cloud I can feel the spark is back. I'm looking forward to the rest of 2008.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Woodside 50K Entrants

I'm having a really hard time concentrating on work or anything other than the PCTR Woodside 50K coming up this weekend. Every time I look at the list of race entrants I see another stellar name capable of charging the course to a great time. Bev Anderson-Abbs, Ryan Commons, Will Gotthardt, Scott Dunlap and the course record holder Michael Buchanan are all entered as of today. There might well be other contenders for the top spots that I'm not aware of and I am (literally) on the edge of my seat thinking about it.

If I'm going to try to run more of the PCTR Ultra series this year I'm going to have to compartmentalize my running obsession so that I'm not so distracted at work. Everytime Google Reader shows a new entry in my browser I pounce on it hoping it is a running blog I subscribe to. I want to wrap myself in all things running.

I even use to do some pre-race stalking of the competition. It's illuminating (and at times deceptive) to see what the competition has been racing recently. For example, Michael Buchanan, seems to have run slower in 2007 than he did in 2006 in the Quad Dipsea. But without a detailed race report with weather, list of competitors and other factors to evaluate performance the data is interesting but not predictive. According to the results I found Michael has a marathon PR of 2:32! The value of sites that aggregate race results is to help you know who to watch out for. Mr. Buchanan was already on his Mtn Bike starting his next workout when I finished the Woodside 50K last year. Enough said!

Part of my excitement is generated by my desire to race against myself on a course I know very well. I ran 4:13 at the Woodside 50K (and only got fourth!) last year. I look forward to setting a PR and getting a reliable measure of my fitness and the early results of my new training regime. For now, it is time to relax, focus on the last details of my race plan and to start (calmly) visualizing a fast, successful race.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Pre-Race Report

Sunday morning, during a brief respite in our brief rainy season, I ran the PCTR Woodside 35K course as a preview for next Saturday's race. I was greeted by a coyote in the Huddart parking lot and saluted by half a dozen bright yellow banana slugs along the way. I also surprised a squirrell coming into a turn and it jumped straight at me in panic before turning in mid-air to escape. Too much excitement for me when I'm cruising along at a light tempo.

The course was, as expected, wet but still fast and not too muddy. There were about five more trees down on the course than I remember from October. Will Gotthardt and Ryan Commons were out scouting the course as well and seeing them put a spring in my step, anticipating another good race Feb. 2nd.

I'll see how long I can stay with Mr. Commons. My guess is he'll be able to run at or below four hours on that course and I'll be happy to draft as long as I can. I'm also looking forward to racing with Scott Dunlap. I've enjoyed his blog for some time now and certainly would like to thank him for the excellent interviews he's posted with trail and ultra-running luminaries and up & coming athletes. His blog is a great resource for the running community.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Pacifica 50K Race Report

Just finished the PCTR Pacifica 50K a few hours ago. Hats off to Wendell and Sara for yet another spectacular race. They should teach courses on putting on races. They are that good.

The course was a challenging set of loops. We started with the 20K and 30K racers and that helped to push a strong early pace. Ryan Commons (50K ) and Will Gotthardt (50K) set the pace for the first three miles and then Jason Wolf took off on the last stretch of the Montara fire road. I was close to Will and Ryan on the way to the summitt of North Peak but couldn't keep up with them as they rocketed the descent. I found it hard to believe that anyone could go that fast down the rocky, off-camber singletrack section but they did it. I was only a turn behind them (50 m) when I took a wrong turn and lost about 40 seconds hoofing it back to the course.

I thought for sure I was out of contention for first and second place but good hydration, fueling and tailing a fast 30K racer was all I needed to catch up to Will G. Ryan C. was at least 10-15 minutes ahead at this point and it looked like fourth place was 20 min back so Will and I ran conservatively up to North Peak on the fourth loop. I knew what a strong descender Will is so I thought if I could stay with him to the last lap maybe I could put enough distance between us on the last climb that I might squeak into second place.

As it turned out when I started the descent and tried to mimic the nimble steps and blistering pace Ryan and Will demonstrated on the first lap, it worked! Soon I was alone on the last climb. I was haunted by the possibility that Will was just behind me, lurking out of sight. I tried to push the pace and as luck would have it, I finished second behind Ryan Commons. My finishing time was 4:52:53, just about ten minutes behind the victor and new course record holder.

I had a great time chatting with Will, Ryan and Jason Reed at the end of the race. I look forward to racing with them again in the future.

What went well?
-Hydration - I drank a full 20 oz of sports drink every 6-7 miles.
-Fuel - I ate a gu every 40 min
-I washed my legs with dishwashing detergent to get the dirt and poison oak off when I got home

What didn't go well?
-I somehow managed to get poison oak on my face (cheeks, eye, ear) and neck. I probably got it when I took my shoes off and then scratched my face in the car on the way home.
-Four days after the race I needed a cortico-steroid shot, prednisone pills and salicylic acid to get the rash under control. Lesson learned - Just becuase I didn't see the tell-tale "leaves of three" doesn't mean I didn't come in contact with poison oak.

I'm really looking forward to competing in the PCTR Woodside 50K February 2nd. It is one of my favorite courses and we don't have to battle the 17K or 35K crowd on the way out and there's usually only a few that I see on the way back. Should be fun!

Monday, January 7, 2008

30 Mile Trail Run at Point Reyes

Point Reyes is a gorgeous place to run. The terrain is varied. There are countless trails, many of which are singletrack. We were staying 45 minutes away in Bodega Bay for New Years and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do my long run in this beautiful national seashore.

I started at the Bear Valley trailhead and headed south on the Rift Trail. The trail was slick and muddy from recent rain. I had to skirt a herd of cows as I headed through the meadows in the rift zone. The pond (below) was just getting the first rays of the sun as I passed by.

Rift Trail in the morning mist

Just south of the pond was a stream crossing. There was no bridge as the stream is probably no more than a trickle the rest of the year. But at this point it was about a foot deep and eight feet across. Stepping stones were well submerged. Not wanting to run the next twenty miles with wet feet I dragged some logs over and made it across. About a mile later as the trail crossed through the middle of a meadow the trail looked like this with no way around it.

I despite best efforts to keep the feet dry I ran straight through. 20 miles later my feet were just about dry!

The Rift Trail led to the Texteira trail (not sure I spelled that right) which climbs up out of the rift valley up to the Ridge Trail. The forest here is very lush and the light meanders through the tall trees. The lower branches of the Douglas fir trees are all broken off (high winds?) making the forest bright and open. Running in between the shoulder-high vegetation that makes up the understory felt like running through the pews in a cathedral.

The Ridge trail connects to PaloMarin and the Coastal Trail after about a mile of running on the road. I was hoping for a place to fill up with water at the parking lot at PaloMarin but no luck. I had enough in the pack to make the distance but it never hurts to have a little extra.

On the Coast Trail: Allamere Falls junction

The Coast trail is dramatic with awe inspiring vistas and ever changing scenery. The name , however, is a little misleading. You'll spend as much time climbing in and out of canyons out of sight of the ocean as you will on the cliffs overlooking the waves. No complaints from me as there were plenty of beautiful sights inland as well.
Pond on the Coast Trail (inland)

Local Fauna

At about twenty-six miles I reached the Bear Valley trail where it hits the Coast trail. With only four miles to go on a very forgiving trail I picked up the pace to make it back to the cabin for lunch.

View from near the Bear Valley/Coast Trail intersection

View Route at link below:

2008 - A year to remember

Time to post the 2008 race calendar.

PCTR Pacifica 50K 1/19
PCTR Woodside 50K 2/2
Big Sur Marathon 4/27
SF Marathon 8/3

Most likely:
PCTR Ultramarathon Series - I'd like to see how I well I can do in this series. There always seems to be a battle for first place in the PCTR runs but the gap between first and eighth place is often 45-60 minutes. I'm hoping consistent placings will help my place in the overall standings. That is if I can handle running one or more 50K's a month!

My first race of the year is this weekend and while I plan not to run too hard it will still be a good test of fitness.