Wednesday, February 27, 2008

San Francisco

I lived in San Francisco for two years after college and absolutely loved running in the Presidio, Golden Gate Park, Crissy Field and Marin Headlands. Last week I drove to San Francisco for an all-day meeting and made sure to leave early enough to get a run in. I parked at Crissy Field and as always I marvelled at the spectacular view.

The run was pleasant. I wound through the Presidio onto new trails. I meandered around to the Arguello gate and then back down to Crissy field. I rinsed off at the surf showers.Briefly, it was frigid.
From there I drove to my meeting, scrambling a bit to find parking, with a big smile on my face. The next time I get to run in San Francisco will probably be for the marathon in the summer.
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Northstar last weekend

This is what a snowstorm looks like after a day of cross-country skiing and two beers.

The snow was absolutely dumping Saturday and Sunday and the snow temp was perfect for snowball fights. It was next to impossible to walk through the village without passing through a pitched battle between friends or family members. I had to use my daughter's sled as a shield on more than one occassion.

Deep snow makes cross-country skiing even tougher than usual. At least it does for a low-lander like me. There was a guy from Reno who was ripping along like he was on ice. I felt more like I was running on a sand dune. It was a great workout nonetheless.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Uli's training log

Uli Steidl publishes his training log online. It makes for interesting reading.
Includes details of his 2007 North Face Challenge victories

What I find remarkable is that his training runs are seldom longer than 24 miles and yet he can blitz a 50 miler with 13,000 feet of climbling as in Seattle. The one exception was the 30 miler with Greg Crowther run at 6:18 pace (not a typo!)

A few observations:
  1. He is remarkably consistent with his mileage averaging 90 miles a week for 2007.
  2. He incorportates a lot of quality in his running schedule - at least the pace of the workouts make it look that way.
  3. He races frequently and is as competitive at 5K - 10K as he is at the marathon up to the 50 mile distance.
  4. He trains with the SU team.
  5. Diagonals!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Santa Monica photos from 2006

Thanks to Wendell some of my photos from last years race made it onto the PCTR Santa Monica Fall race page.

I pulled a Scott D. for the photo of the women running. They thought the idea of me running backwards to take their photo was hilarious. 

Friday, February 22, 2008

Week in Review 2/17-2/23

Mileage - not exactly.

Quality - one great workout -8 x 1/2 mile hilly repeats.

Summary - fighting off a cold.

Chance of redemption: I get to x-country ski tomorrow to my heart's content while my daughter takes a ski lesson and my wife snow-shoes. I might be able to fit in 3 hours of skiing! I'll bring the camera and take a few photos on during what I hope will be 20 miles of skiing. So stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Runner's Mythology Part 1

Receiving information about another runner's training can be a double-edged sword. It can provide helpful insights into their success and at the same time potentially send you down a destructive path.

Take high mileage for example. Learning that one runner benefits from 100 mile weeks might make another runner, like me, eager to work up to that type of weekly distance. Anecdotal evidence certainly shows that elite runners who run consistently high mileage perform at a higher level than those that do not. The renaissance of American distance running (its probably too early to call it that but I'm an optimist) is most likely due in part to emulating the altitude and high mileage training of elite runners in other parts of the world. But not every runner is built to run 100 mile or more weeks. Trying to build up to that type of workload may put a runner on a path to injury after injury, stress fractures, etc.

I always have to remind myself why I choose to train the way I do when I hear or read what other trail racers are doing. There is plenty of information on training practices out there on blogs and in interviews and bantered back and forth after races. Recently a series of comments from friends and competitors made me start thinking about high mileage again. Then I read Jean Pommier's excellent interview with Graham Cooper and read a few tidbits about Graham's training - low mileage and lots of cross-training. The best thing about the Internet is there is always fodder for any viewpoint! I would venture a guess that the volume of Graham's training, measured in duration of effort, is equal to that of most high mileage runners.

In the end if you are not getting paid to train and race than it had better be something you love and enjoy. I'm not sure what my life would be like without running and I don't want to have to find out!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Scouting the Skyline Ridge 50K Course

On the slate for Saturday morning (2/9/08) was a trip up to scout out the Skyline Ridge 50K course. The race is three weeks away and I was very curious to see the course that Chikara Omine blitzed to a 3:55 course record.
I was first in the parking lot at Skyline Ridge OSP. There were long shadows as the sun crested the hill.

The first part of the 23K section heads south and dodges in and out of the Tree Farm. It is easy to lose the trail in this section as it undulates steeply up and down.

Melting pumpkins and corrugated steel

The Ridge Trail crosses a number of roads, each with a barrier to cross. The Woodside 50K had trees to jump over and the Skyline 50K has it's own hurdles.

After running on the Ridge Trail in open meadows the trail turns slightly and plunges into the forest. Soon the trail turns steeply up and I found myself walking through tall douglas firs. I reached the top of the hill somewhat disapppointed with myself for not running this section and I turned around to do it again. A few miles further on, the trail suddenly passes through a gate and I popped out into brilliant sunshine with a breathtaking view of the Pacific. It is moments like these that make me glad to live in California and thankful to be able to get to places like these.

The run was not without its challenges. Those of you who have run the Skyline PCTR 23, 37 or 50K before might not recognize the intersetion in the photo below. That is because it isn't part of the course! I looked over the course description and the map before I departed and thought I knew where I was going. The trail signage was ambiguous in some places but to be honest I didn't committ to memory every turn on the course, nor did I carry a map. After many wrong turns I certainly have a great understanding of where the course doesn't go.

Evidence of Mountain Lions?

The 14K loop was equally spectacular. I left my water pack, shirt and camera in the car and ran the 8+ miles at a good clip. It is very runnable but with some slightly longer climbs than the 23K out and back section. Overall I found it hard to settle into a particular pace. I was discussing this with Ryan C. over IM last night and we agreed the course forces a runner to constantly shift gears. I think the competitor who can do this without losing focus will have a great race.
The list of entrants includes some familiar names and some relatively famous ones like Jon Olsen. I look forward to racing such another beautiful and challlenging PCTR course.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Additional Comments on PCTR Woodside 50K Race Report

The previous post prompted the following comments (thankfully sent in email and not published on this site...until now) from (so called) friends:

"Who wants to read about you winning? I want pics of pole vaulters. Where are your priorities man?"

In reference to Scott's photo of me climbing out of Huddart park, "You look like a 70 year old man!"

In reference to the photo of me standing next to Scott, "You look like an *%$## midget!"

In reference to my finishing time, "Don't you wish you had pushed a bit harder to break 4 hrs?"

Serves me right for forwarding the link.

These were too funny not to post.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

PCTR Woodside 50K Race Report

"Did you ask daddy how his race went?"
"Daddy, how was your race?"
"I won."
Her eyes go wide. "You won?" Long pause.
"You really won?"
"Yes. I was as surprised as you are."

I had three goals for Saturday's Woodside 50K, run a personal best, stay with the leaders until the climb out of Wunderlich park, and run to win or at least leave it all out on the course. In thinking about the Pacifica 50K two weeks before I realized I gave up on running for the win very early on in the race. I didn't want to repeat that mistake.  I didn't want to see the first place runner disappear into the distance and give up on catching him.

I was anxious for this race all week long and I wanted to get out fast to keep the pace honest and avoid getting dropped. Last year's race started at a blistering pace and saw Michael Buchanan and Richard Blanco disappear in the first few miles. Michael went on to run a course record, 3:57. When Wendell started the race I took off, expecting a bunch sprint to the first turn. Instead I ended up leading the first singletrack descent and the first half of the climb up to Skyline. 

Ryan Commons was right behind me but he was soon replaced by Scott Dunlap and Kevin Weil. Kevin was leading Scott and they finally caught me as the trail leveled out a bit before we hit the steeper fire road. Scott and Kevin were chatting back and forth and I admit to being intimidated by their easy conversation and apparently effortless climbing. Equally intimidating was seeing Beverly Anderson-Abbs running in fourth place. Kevin moved ahead of me and seemed to glide up the climb with his smooth stride. 

At this point the race moves from narrow single-track in a mixed forest up to a fire road cut through redwood trees and douglas fir. The trees loom tall, their tops lost in the canopy. The road does its best to reach the tops of the trees as it climbs steeply in this section. Kevin kept moving fast and as we crested the hill Ryan took off on the descent. I had flashbacks of two weeks ago and went with him. 

I skipped the first aid station and tried to pick up the pace after we crossed Kings Mountain Road. Only Kevin was behind me. This next section is just under six miles of rolling hills from Huddart Park to Wunderlich paralleling the ridge-line. I was feeling a bit spent after the climb out of Huddart and I hoped to refuel and keep it together until the next big climb. Kevin Weil moved into the lead and his long smooth strides looked effortless. Ryan was just behind us, and soon Scott Dunlap joined us again and then flew by us with a very polite, "Do you mind if I pass?"

He swears he is still in the "aerobic" stage of his training and that he hasn't done any speedwork since the Fall. I found that hard to believe as I watched him slip farther ahead into the enveloping mist. The trail in this section is covered with a soft moist carpet of redwood needles that cushions your steps and dampens the sound of each stride. Around a few more corners and Scott was gone, vanished into the lead. This was exactly what I promised I wouldn't let happen but when Kevin offered to let me by to chase after Scott I declined. The Woodside 50K race starts or ends on the climb up out of Wunderlich park. I clung to the hope that we could catch Scott on the climb.

As we climbed up to the second aid station at Bear Gulch, Kevin opened up a fifty yard lead. I filled up my bottle and took off after him. I seemed to be catching him on the steeper sections of the descent through storm thrown branches, rocks, roots and puddles. But when the trail flattened he would speed up. I finally caught him and we ran together for a while until the climb started.  I was right behind him for a few strides and then he loped away up the trail, until he was a full switchback (100 yds) ahead of me. 

I started to feel better and better as the climb progressed. The refueling worked.  As we climbed back up to the Redwoods out of the Eucalyptus forest I saw Scott. I caught the comet and as I passed him he mentioned something about his hip. Only after the race did I learn he caught his foot on a root and went down, injuring his hip. Scott hung on to third place and ran a personal best despite the injury.

Everything came together on that climb. My legs felt light and I was accelerating with each turn. Running felt effortless. I reeled Kevin in until we were running side by side. We came over the hill to the Bear Gulch Aid station (thanks to the volunteers who braved the cold and wet!), filled up our bottles and set out for Huddart. I wasn't sure what to expect at this point. I kept repeating "run to win", "run to win" until the back of my neck tingled. I thought I could run with Kevin until the last downhill and try to lose him there -a risky strategy. It turned out that as we ran over that roller coaster of a trail Kevin fell back until I couldn't see him around the bend. 

I skipped the last aid station and tried to get my legs to turn over faster on the descent to the finish. The "descent" includes about a third of a mile of gradual climbing which feels just super so late in the race. I started to look at my watch to see if I had a chance of breaking four hours and concluded that was unlikely but worth a shot. 

I finished in 4:02:10, thanks to great competitors like Kevin, Scott and Ryan who pushed all the way. The Woodside 50K gets more competitive every year as evidenced by the eight runners who finished under 4:25 including myself, Kevin Weil, Scott Dunlap, Beverly Anderson-Abbs (blazing fast 4:15 course record), Ryan Commons, Michael Buchanan, Will Gotthardt and Alan Abbs.

One of the best parts of PCTR races is hanging out at the finish and chatting with other runners over a bowl of chili. Saturday was no exception. 

Pictures below:

Michael Buchanan after the race - he's as fast as he looks!

Kevin Weil - Mr Smooth Stride with Bev Anderson-Abbs in the background
TC - in great need of a bowl of chili
Scott Dunlap and I

Nothing like a big hug from my wife and daughter after returning from a race to put the final touch on a great day. My family has always been very supportive of my training and racing and I just want to say thanks!