Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tahoe Rim Trail

Let’s call this an altitude training run.  I headed out of Brautovich Park (I'm probably spelling that wrong) and headed north along the Tahoe Ridge Trail.  It started at 7831 feet and gradually climbed to 8450 feet over 5 and half miles.  I ran it out and back, turning back near the Sierra Canyon trail.  I hiked a number of the uphill sections, as I wasn’t at all acclimated to the altitude.  I’ve hiked part of this section before, but this was my first time running it.  With the exception of Tough Mudder, which is more of a series of short running bursts with lots of much longer breaks, this is the first time I’ve been out running over 3000 ft.

The trail was gorgeous.  Hence the motivation to write this.  Part of what I love about this area is that everything is larger in scale.  There’s few notable small rocks plants are trees, everything is impressive in scale.    There’s a great view across Lake Tahoe for most of this section of the trail, and patches of snow here and there made or a great mix of color. 

It was also cold and windy, definitely a 7m day in some places (i.e. gusting well over 30).  Being late November, I saw only four others out on the trail, two mountain bikers and two dog walkers.  Despite my overall slow pace, I think I was faster than the mountain bikers.  

The altitude was challenging, I was backing off a lot to stay away from feeling light headed.  I ran a lot of short uphill intervals, and by the end of the run I felt much better.  I should find a race here, but I'd need a lot more altitude training.

Lake Chabot 30k

Bonus race!

I.e. it wasn’t in my longer term plans, but I signed up for Coastal’s Lake Chabot 30k to get more experience at the greater-than-half distance.  And because the weekend was free except for a backlog of housework.  And because there’s no wind right now.  And because I just wanted to run another race in what was looking like a five week gap.   And because I like running Chabot.  And it turned into a really good personal race in the end. 

I hadn’t trained specifically for this race, but wanted the distance experience.  My last two 30k’s were “just finish the damn thing” races, since I was waiting out a foot strain and nursing it during those races.  Which meant walking long stretches just to back off the running impact.  That less-than-stellar history, combined with a (relatively) not difficult course, had me expecting a 30k personal best.   

The drive in was gorgeous.  I took the Pinehurst and Redwood Roads down, since I had extra time, watching the sunrise over the hills.  It was chilly at the lake upon arriving, a backup reservoir that’s been around since the mid 1800’s.  The course was a 13 mile loop and a 5 mile out and back with a loop at the end.  I’ve trained here a couple times and ran to here from home once, so I was looking forward to the course.

I started deliberately slow, feeling a little sore from starting back on strength training the week before week, and my last two 30k’s still haunt me a bit.  :-)  I backed off on them for a while to get endurance at the half distance back up, and just recently moved back up past 13 miles.  At the start, we looped through the picnic area and headed out on the paved lakeside trail.  It’s a nice warmup with small hills that are just enough to get me out of the we-just-started-and-i'm-not-quite-awake fog.  Then there was a short hill on a small loop a couple mile sin; I walked part of it to avoid muscle cramping, as well as having better long term speed when power walking up longer hills.  I powered through the downhill--yay for my recent focused hill training.  

We then crossed the rather bouncy bridge, always fun, and then continued along the lakeshore to the first aid station near the top of the next hill.  Having these at hill tops makes for a great psychological break.  The next part of the course was rolling hills, which followed some switchbacks before turning north and up a valley.  This stretch was my favorite part of the course, as it was more secluded, with trees overhead.  The course turned around and went uphill to another aid station.  

Heading out from here, we ran along an exposed ridge with a number of mountain bikers and hikers.  The day had warmed, and I was sweating hard, but ran well through the hills along this ridge.  This eventually dropped onto a path along the west shore of the lake, again with small rolling hills.  My uphill speed here dropped quite a bit, and I had people passing me uphill who I would then fly past downhill.  And again.  And again.  I came into the end of the first loop, the half marathon point, feeling strong, grabbed a couple snacks at the aid station, and headed back out for the second loop.

The second loop was 5 miles, repeating the first portion of the half course.  My legs were notably more tired this time along this part of the course, and I walked one more uphill stretch.  On the way back along this loop, the 50k leader was on his way out for his last loop, as well as 50k runners starting their second loop.  I ran the last mile or so hard, wearing myself down to the finish, which I’m happy I was able to do at this distance.  I crossed the finish line and bent over breathing hard for a bit.  After resting with a beer and some snacks, I felt my legs getting stiff, despite stretching, a sign that I pushed myself well.  The post race snacks were great, with the grill serving up sausage and burgers being perfect.  Everyone also received a finisher’s medal here, which was a pleasant surprise.  

Overall I really liked this race.  Unsurprisingly, I did get a new personal best for a 30k at 3:12, and placed 19 out of 33.  The irony is that, with the (far) easier course, this also beats my 25k time from last month.  And being close to home, I think it’s one to repeat.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Marin County Tri

Last week I took part in the Marin County Triathlon.  I signed up for this one mostly for endurance experience, in that I wanted to get an Olympic distance tri in before the end of the season, and before getting into more serious training for next spring’s 70.3.  I set a rather modest goal time and beat it, although many more people were well ahead of me.  It seemed to be a rather serious-into-tri crowd.  

It started psychologically very early, given that it was almost November and daylight saving time hasn’t switched over yet.  The water in this part of the bay, north of the San Rafael bridge, was significantly warmer than in SF, which was a pleasant surprise.  The swim was good; most of my wave was ahead of me (see note above regarding the crowd).  It was out and back along a buoy line, but with a long enough swim out to avoid too much of a buoy-turning pile-up.  I kept a strong but sustainable pace, never feeling tired, and finished in 31:35, which is six minutes better than my normal open water pace at decent distances.  

I felt stronger after this swim than Malibu, but with literally cold feet after the swim that took a long time to warm up, stalling transition a bit.  Then the bike ride really got me.  There were a number of longer downhill or flat stretches, interspersed by small but decently challenging hills.  I hadn’t slept much the night before, which I think combined with a generally busy week to hold back the rest of the day.  Each hill for the first two thirds of the bike course were pulling back my speed quite a bit, and my legs just weren’t cooperating beyond a certain effort level.  The third loop was much better; it almost felt like it took a long time to just warm up in this race.  I finally finished the 22 miles in 1:41, about 13mph.  Far from worst, but far from best.  And my feet were still cold after this.  Big takeaway for the next course like this: hill training.  Everything else was good.  Except I dropped my chain once, but I I had it back on pretty quickly, before the volunteer nearby could make it over and help.  

The run was a double loop, with a two big hills and two small hills.  The hills felt good, but the flat sections just felt slow.  My quads were tired from all the hills on the bike course, so I just wasn’t getting stride length up where it normally would be.  Otherwise it was good, and somewhat warm and sunny at this point.  Finished the 10k in 1:01:17, slightly below the goal for this race and eight minutes below my best 10k time (which would probably better now, given that I haven’t run a 10k since before I started any speed training).  

Anyway, to finish the number juggling, it was 3:21:37, pretty far down compared to what I think I could do on a better week.  But it wasn’t a race for time, more so for experience and to have fun, which I did.  I felt better at this race than at Mailbu, so the longer rides have paid off.  The views were of the bay the whole time, which was great, and warm pasta at the end has to be the best post-race snack I’ve had.  The crowd, while seemingly serious, was friendly, and the race was a lot of fun.  This would be a good one to come back to.  Time to plan a bunch of hill rides through the winter.

Partially Tentative schedule for the next few months, all running:
Coastal Lake Chabot 30k: Nov. 9
Berkeley Half Marathon Nov 24
Inside Trail Woodside Ramble 35k Dec 15
Brazen New Year’s Half Marathon Lake Chabot.  Maybe both.  Still deciding.