Saturday, July 17, 2010

King of the Trail

When I entered the trail at Long Meadow I was ten feet behind two runners -- I dubbed them red-hat and mesh-shorts -- who were racing and pretending not to.  I held back and watched with growing amusement as the red-hat runner surged, only to be matched by mesh-shorts, and then mesh-shorts counterattacked, but red-hat hung tough.  By the time we reached Queen Hill, which has a vertical of 45', both runners were laboring noticeably.  At the crest of the hill, red-hat broke: his shoulders slumped and his pace slowed.  Mesh-shorts had, it seemed, "won."

I picked up my pace and quickly dispatched with red-hat and was gaining rapidly on mesh-shorts when mesh-shorts unexpectedly veered off onto a side trail right before Lookout Hill.  I had wanted to pass him with authority, to show him that I owned the trail, and briefly considered following him down the side trail just to make my point, but ultimately that would have cut my run short, and so I let mesh-shorts leave the trail without conquering him.

As I neared the top of Lookout Hill and its 23' vertical I was surprised to hear footfall behind me.  Red-hat was making a valiant effort to match my pace.  The topography was cooperating with him, as the next stretch around the lake had no vertical.  Red-hat nosed ahead of me and began to one-step me; no matter what pace I ran he ran one step faster.  I realized that breaking him wouldn't be easy.  I would have to grind him down.  To do this, I would use Breeze Hill and its 95' vertical as a weapon.

At the base of Breeze Hill, I began to run at a pace that I knew I couldn't sustain for much more than a minute or two.  I pulled ahead by one step but could not shake red-hat.  Fearing that if I slowed, red-hat would sense that my fast pace was a bluff and gain confidence, I continued to run at an unsustainable clip. When my body started to crack, I promised myself that if I could just maintain this pace until Midwood, I would allow myself to stop and walk.  We crested the hill together, and as we sprinted towards Midwood, I began to rationalize my defeat: I was dehydrated.  I hadn't slept well. The extreme amount of vertical I was running each week, upwards of 1000', was sapping the energy from my legs.

Seconds before I was about to slow to a walk, Red-hat turned to me and said he was going to stop and refill his handheld bottles.  "Nice run, man," he said.  We exchanged names.  "You were really pushing me there," he said.  "Are you training for anything?"

"I'm just trying to get into shape," I said.

"I'd say you're already there.  Have you done any half marathons?"

I thought this was an oddly specific question, so I answered it vaguely: "Ah, yes, there is one in a week or two around here.  I might do that."

"Queens," he said.  "I might do that one, too.  Well, nice running with you."

We shook hands and then he pulled off the trail.  I ran around a few more bends in trail and then leaned over and threw up three times.

I took the long way home, hoping to add mileage to my run, but I knew almost immediately that this was a mistake.  I was fried.  Miles later, when the trail merged with the road up by Grand Army, I vomited two more times and then forced myself to jog every other block, mostly because I wanted to get home so that I could pour myself a tall glass of water.  I was sopping wet with sweat, and even when I was running it wasn't much faster than a walk.  When I was a few blocks out off the trail I nearly ran right into the back of Red-hat.  He was walking with a slight limp.  His chin was on his chest.  He hadn't seen me, and so I immediately crossed the street and went down a side road.  I vomited one more time before I reached my apartment.

9 Weeks Out:
Saturday 7/10: Run 60min; 50' vertical (4.8M race)
Sunday 7/11: Run 50min; 50' vertical
Monday: 7/12: Run 60min; 150' vertical
Tuesday 7/13: off
Wednesday 7/14: off
Thursday 7/15: Run 10min
Friday 7/16: Run 60min, 200' vertical

Total: 4hr; 450' vertical

8 Weeks Out:
Saturday 7/17: Run 1hr, 35min; 1,100' vertical
Sunday 7/18: Run 1hr, 45min; 300' vertical; city hike 4hrs (10miles) and 108' vertical
Monday 7/19: Run 50min; 180' vertical
Tuesday 7/20: Run 60min; 150' vertical (track workout)
Wednesday 7/21: Run 60min; 200' vertical
Thursday 7/22: off
Friday 7/23: Bike 60min

Total for week so far: 11hr, 10min; 1,938' vertical

Monday, July 5, 2010

Barefoot Runners Never Get Injured

I recently agreed to be come a pacer for LEWIS who is running a 100-mile ultra marathon in the Wasatch mountains in Utah.
Pacers are allowed to start at the 39-mile mark.  As far as I can tell, finishing a 100-mile race takes 15 - 40 hours.  Apparently it is helpful to the racer to have company during the race, especially during the parts of the race that are run in in the dark using a headlamp, and during bear attacks, and during the last half the race when the racer is feeling exhausted and sleep deprived.

As you can see from this video, the Wasatch course has slightly more vertical than your typical local 5k.  If I'm going to be any help to LEWIS at all, I'm going to have to start running a few more hills and a little more distance.  I asked LEWIS how I should train, and his response made sense to me: "I think any way of just being on your feet moving forward for an extended period of time will be helpful."

So, from now until Sept. 10th, I will turn this blog into an Ultra Marathon Blog.  I've been reading other ultra blogs and apparently there are a few rules to ultra blog writing:
1. Always be earnest; take yourself very seriously
2. Reference the names of mountains and mountain passes
3. Use the word vertical whenever you can
4. Believe in your heart that people with a barefoot fetish never get injured
5. Have mild outspoken superiority complex over runners who run less than 50k races
6. Have mild unspoken inferiority regarding runners who can break 16 minutes for a 5k (Unless you are Anton Krupicka, who seems comfortable with is 5k abilities:" I mean, I’m not a very good runner. I mean, I’ve never even broken 16 minutes in a 5K, dude.")

Over the next ten weeks I will do what I can to honor the ultra blog rules listed above.

10 Weeks Out: (since the race starts on a Fri, I'll keep mileage on a Sat - Fri schedule)
Sat (7/3): Run 1hr 10min w/ 249' vertical; 2+hrs (7mi) of city walking; 262' vertical
Sun (7/4): Bike 1hr; 299' vertical
Mon (7/5):Run 30min, Bike :20min; 37' vertical [heatwave update: high of 99 degrees]
Tue (7/6): [heatwave update:high of 103 degrees]
Wed (7/7): [heatwave update: high of 99 degrees]
Thu (7/8): Run 50min, 138' vertical
Fri (7/9): Run 80min, 715' vertical

Totals: 7hrs, 10min; 1,700' vertical

Vertical stats from