Monday, December 29, 2014

The North Face Endurance Challenge SF 50 Mile

Some impressions from the North Face Endurance Challenge SF 50 Miler:

That was a hard race.  As my first 50 miler, the distance surprisingly didn’t bother me all that much; I kept a steady effort right to the end.  But two things caught me off guard and made this hard: the number of runners on the out-and-back sections, and the mud.  Lots and lots of gooey, squishy, shoe-sucking, slip’n’slide inducing, mud.  Many miles of it.  Maybe 20% of the course, or 40% of my time out there.  Trails I’ve been able to jog up and run down at full speed became slow, tiring negotiations in footing.

Around mile 33:
Hiking couple: How long is the race?
Me: 50 miles.
Hiking Couple: Jesus Christ!
Me: Nah, he’s not running today.  He’s smarter than that.  

SC is crazy fast.  He came down heather cutoff, chasing down DJ, shortly after I crossed paths with DL coming down--the latter of whom I thought was fast.

I ate much less food than I expected.  I just didn’t want it.  One and a half epic bars, half a kind bar, and about a slice of orange at each aid station, mainly to keep my stomach non-empty.  I upped the tailwind concentration to compensate, which worked great.  

I need better shoes for long muddly/techincal courses.  I have some that work great for short muddy runs, and others for long runs on drier days, which I was wearing, but nothing that was great for this course.  The mud was orders of magnitude worse than I expected too.

600 runners in the dark with headlights on open trails in hills is very surreal.  You see lines of headlamps flowing through the hills and large groups of glowing abstract shapes from all the retroreflective pieces on running gear.  

After finishing, I bailed faster than at any race, skipping the food/beer/etc.  I wanted to get back home to shower and rest more than anything.  I wasn’t even hungry, but I did force myself to snack on the drive home.

Recent running form practice made it far easier to maintain pace than at any 50k I’ve run.  It took conscious effort, but it made a huge difference.  

That was the slowest climb up Steep Ravine ever.  But I can’t think of a better place in Marin to hit a low point on effort.

Waterfalls!  It was the first time I’ve been running north of Pantoll Rd.

Only one unexpected muscle bothered me, the left tibialis anterior.  Everything else was expected and manageable, albeit annoying.  

It took half an hour of stretching to stand the next morning.  Then another half hour of stretching to walk.   

I can see why people move up even further in distance:  1) Night running was surprising fun and peaceful.  2) After mile 20, nothing really got any harder.  

Instead of counting miles, I was counting half marathons.  This dejected a few people I talked to, but I find it a lot easier to have fewer mental chunks of distance to think about.  

I finished in 14:09:26, way near the back, so I certainly got my value out of the day.  After the second pass through Muir Beach, where I fell back to only 10 minutes ahead of a cutoff after a very slow negotiation down Coastal/Heather Cutoff, I started mostly passing people on the last couple climbs.  I never hit a mentally hard moment, but saw a number of people in this last stretch who were really working hard to keep going.  The last couple miles were under my original target pace too (which was very conservative). Leaving in the shuttle, headlamps were still coming down the hill from the Alta aid station.

The course, after 4 changes, was 50.8 miles.  Muir wood was cut out after a bridge washed out.  A second Bunker/Rodeo Valley loop was added at the start to compensate. Old Mine was added in place of part of Coastal.  The ridge trail past Willow Camp was shifted up to the road.  Dipsea was replaced with Steep Ravine, which I didn’t find out until reaching the bridge where they split.    

Finishing a 50 mile race has been a long standing goal, since I ran my first 5k.  It took almost three years, and ended up being a long slow haul, but taking my time, both in the timing of the race and in my pace, was worth it.  The only real pain was taking my shoes off at the end.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mt Tam 50k

November, 2014

This was very much a training run for the North Face Endurance Challenge for me, and many people who ran this also ran the NFEC three weeks later.  But in itself it’s a gorgeous course.  Once again, I crossed paths with DL, who would go on to win.  

I upped the pace a bit for this 50k, compared to the last couple.  I kept it up climbing Steep Ravine, dropping down Ben Johnson, climbing back up the Lost trail, following along Pantoll Road, and dropping down the Dipsea to Muir Woods Rd.  Climbing Miwok up to Dias Ridge slowed me down a bit.  After passing through the Muir Beach aid station, we made the long climb up Heather Cutoff and Coastal.  This took more out of me than expected, and I slowed a fair amount on the last loop through Muir Woods.  

The final climb really slowed me down; about 20 people passed me on this climb and the subsequent run down Dipsea to Stinson Beach.  When there’s less than 100 runners, that’s fairly significant.  After the fact, I realized I’d never had a climb of that size at the end of a 50k.  I finished in 7:49:10, at 84/90.    

Parting thoughts: 
* This race was entirely strength bound; picking up the pace early cost me later.  It’s seriously time to fix that.  
* Lots of Strava PR’s on various segments, except that last loop.
* The faster pace was more than comfortable for about 20 miles.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Rocky Ridge Half Marathon

October 2014

A half marathon with ~4000 ft of climbing.  I’m in.  I was debating it, since I had a goal to race less to allow for more effective training, and it was between two 50ks that are 4 weeks apart.  But there was too much good about it: Las Trampas, crazy climbing, and compulsively finishing Brazen’s ultra half series.  

It turned into a long, slow, hot, steep day.  The trails were gorgeous, especially the first half, and the second half had some of the best views in the east bay.  Somewhere in the last climb of the first loop I slowed dramatically on a very steep portion, and the long steep climb into the second half went the same way.  But it’s finished.  In well over three hours.  This would be a good one to come back to--it's close, hard, and has all my weak points in it.  DL and JB ran this too--we've been crossing paths at races a lot lately.

Written Dec. 2014--catching up on all of this fall.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Oregon Coast 50k

October, 2014

There was a line in the sand.  I don’t think I’ve seen an actual starting line marked in the ground at a trail race before.  But we were starting on the beach.  It was raining, the wind was blowing; it would be a headwind on the beach for the first six miles.  And we started.  

The run on the beach was magical, in a way.  Something about the mix of rain, wind, surf, running through drainage streams across the beach, and seeing the large group of people running down the beach made this really unique.  I love running in “bad” weather—far more so than in anything sunny, warm, or dry.

I kept an easy pace—this would be a 50k, and my right calf was still tight from a bee sting on a run in Redwood Regional park the week before.  This would leave my strength off balance for the day.  But I was here to get out of my element and see a part of the west coast I’ve never seen, so I took this is stride and set out to enjoy the course.  

We climbed up onto a gravel trail that passed a number of resorts.  PL and MC were out and cheering, watching from right outside the room we had booked; I don’t think I’ve ever had a course pass this close to where we’re staying—only 10 feet from our door.  Along this whole stretch, many people cheered from patios and porches on the coast.  

I stopped at the first aid station, which would be the eventual finish, and changed to drier shoes.  The course passed a couple miles through Yachats, and then made a decent climb through gorgeous, peaceful coastal forest.  The rain backed off and turned to mist/fog interspersed with sunny moments, all under trees.  Along the top, there was mud, where I I was way out of my element, since I’ve only had a few rainy runs in the bay area over the last couple years, given the drought we’ve had.  The course opened up to a great view near the Cape Perpetua lookout, and then it made a fast downhill to the second aid station.

After a short flat stretch through forest just off the coast, the course started a long climb up the Cummins Creek Trail.  I mixed in uphill running and fast hiking here.  After backing way down on pace and finally hitting a consistent 50k effort at my last 50k, I wanted to bring back uphill running at this distance.  There was a small aid station at the top, which was great, since I was drinking a lot of water on this course.  The long uphill effort was rewarded with a long downhill run on forest-covered single track.  

Passing through the last aid station, we crossed back over the first hill.  The downhill was steeper than I’m used to this late in a race, and my quads certainly felt it.  After running back through town, the finish was back on the coast, where we had sun, an awesome view, pizza, music, and beer.  PL and MC made it out to the finish, and we met a number of great people, staying quite a while.  And I won a bottle of wine in the raffle.  Finish time was 7:23:24, slower than I expected, to no surprise.  But this was an awesome run on a great part of the coast, and definitely my favorite 50k. 

Coastal 50k

September, 2014

Once I saw the course map for this, about a year ago, I knew I had to run it.  So I signed up for it forever ago, sometime in late 2013.  In part to force myself to get my distance up to 50k so I could run it.  I did that, finishing three other 50ks in the spring before taking a couple month racing break.

The race started with a long bus ride from Rodeo Beach up to Stinson Beach.  I like arriving early to races at Stinson, usually to get a coffee and take a walk on the beach, but there wasn’t time for that this time.  And then we started.

At the three 50ks I’ve run until now, I kind of lost all effort around mile 18-20 and slowed down a lot.  The big goal for today was consistency—I wanted to find a consistent effort that would let me run stronger at the end of the race than at the start.  And without major muscle pain.  I used two limiters: First, nothing should feel like I’m pushing muscle effort outside my comfort zone.  Second, heart rate should max out around 160ish, and absolutely stay below 170 (I max out at 193).  

To avoid the psychological rush to run up the start of the Dipsea trail, I started in the back, and kept a steady fast hiking pace all the way up Dipsea and Steep Ravine.  By the time we reached the top, we were surrounded by fog, which held throughout the day.  After running a few miles on trails that were new to me, I passed through the Cardiac aid station and started a steady downhill run on Coastal View/Heather Cutoff.  I love running these two trails at speed, so it took a lot of willpower to hold back the pace here, especially with all the recent speed training I’ve done.  Otherwise, this part just flew by, unlike running/hiking the trail in the uphill direction.  

I passed through the Muir Beach aid station, where I’ve never actually stopped before, and headed out on Pirates Cove.  Around here I started to really zone out, since I had really set into consistent pace by this point.  After turning inland, I power hiked for what seemed like forever up the Coastal Trail, eventually turning down Miwok for a fun run into Tenessee Valley, the halfway point.

Marincello.  I hate this trail.  I just don’t like it.  I’d rather run through West Oakland.  At night.  By myself.  It’s long, steady, and very consistent.  As much as I wanted to run to get it overwith, I just kept speed hiking it.  But at the top are some of my favorite trails in the headlands; they pass through small fog-rain microclimate tree stands, there’s always wind, the fog moves fast over the ridge, and there’s great views.  The course turned downhill along Bobcat to the Rodeo Valley aid station.  There was a quarter mile stretch where my left IT band tightened up, so I stopped at the next fence to stretch it out, letting a few people pass.

And then the course went back up the hill on the Rodeo Valley trail.  In the windy gap (I don’t know if it has a name), which is one of my favorite places to pass through in the bay area, we turned to run down to the Golden Gate Bridge.  I’ve never run down here, but we ended up at an aid station right next to where my August Golden Gate swim ended.  I ate about 10 orange slices.  More than I’ve ever had at once in a race.  Heading back out the last uphill, I speed hiked for a while and then started running, since it was the last climb.  Coming down the Coastal Trail, I started pushing the pace, and passed a couple people who had passed me earlier, during the IT band nonsense.  

Getting to the last aid station, I only had a quick drink and snack and kept going, starting to really push the pace.  In the final stretch I came close to passing someone, but as we had gotten very close to the finish, I let him take the spot in front of me.  On these long races, I’m not big on passing people within yards of the finish.  

I finished in 7:18:21, feeling decent, at 73/100.  I could have run faster at many times, but I’m not convinced it would have made my overall run any faster.  Keeping the consistent effort led to a much more enjoyable race, and gives me a better idea of how to move forward with 50ks.  After the last one, I was kind of lost on ideas of where to go, which led to the summer racing break.  The race wasn’t a PR, but it was almost 42 minutes under my best time at a comparable course (in the 6000 to 7000 feet range).  After finishing, I went straight into a lot of stretching, enjoyed the warm finish line food, chatted a bit, and headed out for a family event.  

Next up: a brutal half marathon.

(I'm posting this months later, after originally writing it shortly after the race.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

2014 JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge

The second part of a three race week.  It was an accident.  Really, it was.  I signed up for each of these races without really thinking about the others.  Fortunately, they’re very different races, so the hope is they don’t interfere with each other too much.  And it’s a training peak after a couple race-free months, so they’ve been fun so far.

Anyway, this is the short and fast road run of the week, slightly longer than a 5k, and the only race I’ve run three times now.  I started out at a comfortable pace, averaging slightly over 7 mins/mile.  Which I could not have even contemplated two months ago, so this training block and taper has paid off.  I spent most of the first mile weaving between people, since I started further back than I should have.  I kept this pace up for a mile, running my fastest mile ever.

Shortly after a mile, a breathing-related muscle cramp set it, and the rest of the race hurt.  I backed down the pace to a point where it was sustainable pain, about 8:20 mins/mile, and I stayed there until close to the end when I sped up a bit, finishing 3.35 miles in 27:14.  

The run is fun, covering the end of the SF marathon course and a loop around AT&T park, and a number of us run this as a team, since it’s registration by company team only.  Notes for next time:
* Add faster paced repeats in training, up to a mile.  Or watch heart rate closer; it snuck way up without my noticing, since I had trained/tapered well.
* The new pair of paradigms is great for running at speed, unlike other high-padded shoes I have.  I picked these up to avoid impact on a sore spot that I’m letting recover from the speed training for a while.
* 5kish runs are fun.  

Next up: a trail 50k on Saturday.

2014 Malibu Triathlon

It was my second go at this course, the first having been my first tri.  Unlike last time, where I was hyper-focused on everything, I was rather zoned out as I got everything ready and and waited for the race, otherwise chatting with three others I knew who were doing the race as a relay.  A famous person sang the national anthem, but I’m so far removed from modern pop culture that I really don’t know what she does.  But she sang really well!  There was also a crazy heat wave, but Malibu in the morning was decently cool.

I started in the fourth wave, and the breaking waves were a bit bigger than last year.  Getting out to the first buoy took a while, but I picked up a good pace when the course turned parallel to the beach.  Coming in was a bit of a slog; there was a pretty strong rip current behind each wave that broke.  I don’t recall much of T1, except getting cheered on my the relay team we had in the race.

The bike was fun, and probably my favorite part this time around.  I kept a good pace, faster than last year, and really enjoyed the hills, despite it being a hot day.  I didn’t get surprised by any of the notorious speed bumps this time.  In T2, I found my running shoes to be soaked—the person next to me had hung his wetsuit over them.  

This run is a beach path out-and-back run.  The strong bike pace really knocked my run pace down, as everything felt tight and immobile, but I had a decent speed increase as I continued through the course.  By this time it was apparently hot.  But after running through a Hawai’ian lava field, hot has been redefined to the point that I didn’t really notice, other than the need to hydrate rather often.

I finished in 2:11:09, about 6 minutes slower than last time, which was pretty much due to the current/breaks during the swim.  Bike time was down about 4 minutes, and run time was slightly up, by less than a minute.  The swim was 8 minutes over last year.  Since the change in swim conditions was out of anyone’s control, I’m happy with that overall.  This was also the first tri I did without stepping up distance—it was fun just zoning out and doing the race, with nothing hurting after the fact.

Notes for next time:
* Leave shoes upside down or covered in transition to account for rogue wetsuits (or other wet stuff) that ends up where it doesn’t belong.  
* Add brick runs right after bike speed intervals.  I’ve been doing them after longer, slower rides, but the much faster pace in this ride, compared to the training bricks, really hit the run pace hard this time.  
* Moving the cleats back on my bike shoes completely cleaned up the heel pain I had on the run at Hawai'i.

Other data for my own future reference:
Swim: 23:43 (15:37 last year)
T1 4:42 (5:10 last year)
Bike 1:02:37 (1:06:41 last year)
T2 3:18 (1:56 last year)
Run 36:46 (36:01 last year)
85/175 age group (96/165 last year)

Trail Hog Half Marathon

This wasn't a well-planned-for race.  PL wanted to run another 5k, and there wasn't another that fit into our schedule until November.  This tipped me over the fence toward finishing Brazen's Ultra Half  Series, so we both signed up (for different distances).

For the first time in over a year, I went into this knowing it was hard, but without looking much at the course map or elevation profile or even where the aid stations were or how many.  Since I didn't have mental landmarks about what would happen, it became much more a pacing exercise.  Especially since this was a finish-it-comforatbly race while tapering back overall for a few closely spaced, but very different, races that I want to peak at in mid Sept.  And since my left quads/hamstrings and right foot were tight going in, and one goal was to work this out instead of worsening it.

After driving up through fog to Joseph Grant park, it was pleasantly sunny, and would get quite warm.  I started comfortably, but it would turn out to be too fast for hills.  I'm just finishing a speed-focused training block on roads, which made it easier to run uphill and increased my speed downhill a lot.  But hill strength is behind now, and I had to slow down a lot in the second half to keep heel pain under control (usually a sign up calf strength on hills being behind speed capability for me).  But the run was fun, I had a few conversations on the way, but didn't sprint to the finish as I typically do.  This race wasn't about speed so much as seeing where I stood on hills, which will be the focus of the next few months of training.   

I finished in 2:44:53, fifteen minutes off my expected time, 5/9 in my age group and 121/178.  PL finished her 5k, and wants to run a 10k next.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Golden Gate Swim #2

There was a high marine layer, and we couldn't see the tops of the towers, which made for a great kind of mystical swim.  Wind at the bridge was 10 knots, and there was low, but steady wind throughout the bay, which is atypical for 6AM.  There were a number of repeat swimmers from last time I did this, calling this one either the redemption swim or the revenge swim.  A freighter delayed our start last time around, causing the tide to shift early in the swim, which required us to be repositioned repeatedly.  This time went better.

After riding Hyperfish out and waiting briefly for a container ship, we jumped just west of the south tower.  The chop caught me off guard, and I didn't fall into a good breathing pattern for a while.  After swimming over a large wake and a momentary break with the kayak escort to catch my breath, I experimented with breathing in different patterns for a while and finally found a pattern that worked with the chop.  By this time, I had fallen behind the group I was in (three swimmers and a kayak).  I picked up the pace quite a bit halfway through, about the time we crossed under the bridge, and I caught back up to the group and hung out at the front until we came to finish.  The chop died down and the current shifted to an ebb as we passed the north tower, and the water eventually became nearly flat as we approached the rocks that marked the stopping point.

Part of what I love about this swim is that it's hard, unpredictable, and just feels epic.  Swimming under the bridge far surpasses running across it, which I've done a couple times in the SF Marathon.  Despite the rough start, I was less only 2 mins off my expected pace (42 min/mile, I was expecting 40, not being a race), finishing in 53 mins, including the two times I stopped for a minute.  Fellow swimmer C noted that "you can't train for this," which has crossed my mind a few times as I think about ways to handle the chop better.  I think I'll just need to keep doing this swim.

I also did this about 29 hours after getting home from Siggraph, also with a 5k run pacing PL the day before. Things learned: 1) Add unilateral breathing in to training swims to make it feel more natural.  All my form training worked against me here.  2) Swimming across the Golden Gate is hard.  3)  Slow down a lot at the start until finding a rhythm in chop like this.  4) Swimming across the Golden Gate is hard.  5) The week-off-of-swimming-altogether taper worked well again; I ended up swimming faster than I thought I had, even without feeling like I was pushing the pace hard.   6) Swimming across the Golden Gate is hard.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reservoir Dogs 35k

Last race for the summer!  Some time during the long slog that was Rodeo Valley, I decided to take a couple month break from races.  But this would be a good one, on fairly remote trails I’ve wanted to run for a while.  

Photo by ITR volunteer
Starting at the San Pablo boat launch, the course follows single track south and the east, making a counter-clockwise loop of Briones Reservoir.  I ran the first few miles at a good pace, but started hiking the uphills at the first big climb, since I had a tight tendon in one foot that was irritating me.  That turned out to be a good call for later in the race, as I was really able to pick up the pace the last five or so miles.

The south side of the reservoir is mostly wooded single track, with very few people out who were not in the race.  Heading north, it follows a fire road on the eastern shore before heading uphill onto a ridge, where everything got very hot.  Reaching the ridge, I stopped for a stretch break before taking an easy pace until the long downhill started.  This part of the course feels like a more secluded version of Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, running along a ridge that lets you see half the east bay.  I’ll have to come back and run the loop part of this course in the winter/spring to see it in the rainy season.  

Once making it to the downhill, I really picked up the pace and passed quite a few people during the last five miles, forcing myself to relax and run through the irritated foot muscle.  Ironically, this helped loosen it up, and by the end of the race, it wasn’t bothering me.  I sprinted most of the last half mile, finishing tired and beat, which is the best way to finish.  It’s freeing knowing that I don’t need to race, or even plan to run a long run, for a while, since it gave me no reason to hold anything back the last part of the course.

Photo by ITR volunteer

I finished in 4:13:22, 53 out of 79.  Slower relative to the overall group of runners than usual, but a half hour faster than my prior 35k.  Another highlight, I had none of the calf stiffness that’s annoyed me for the last few months; regular massage, heat therapy, and strength training seems to be working.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

22, 21: Digging In

Monday July 7.  12.5 mile ride and 2050 yard swim.  Another ride on Grizzly Peak/Skyline.  I took this at a faster effort than usual, since I haven't timed a road ride in quite a while.  I'm finally riding drops consistently on downhills.  20x fast 50s in the swim, a repeat of last week.  It felt slower, but was actually faster.  I suppose that's good.

Tuesday July 8.  15.2 mile trainer ride and 4.5 mile run.  The ride was 3 4-minute intervals.  The run was 8x 30 paces.  I ran it on Grizzly Peak, taking each interval on a slight uphill.

Wednesday July 9.  5.4 mile run and 3450 yard swim.  Since I'm planning to race less, I'm looking for new places to run and ride for the summer, instead of repeating a lot of the same routes.  This was planned to compulsively connect a few disconnected portions of my Strava running heat map.  Yeah, it's compulsive, but it's a fun way to find places I don't think of to run/ride.  I started at Inspiration Point and ran the EBMUD Inspiration Trail down to San Pablo Reservoir.  It turned out to be an awesome trail; a coyote jumped away after I startled it, and two large groups of wild turkeys were running the trail.  Legs were sore from Tuesday's intervals, so it was really slow going, and the big uphills were mostly hiking.  After getting back I made a quick loop over to the Seaview Trail, followed by a short sprint on the paved trail.  Most of my summer running plan includes a speed session, a "longer" mid-week run (90 minutes or so), and a brick.  The plan I'm following has the longer run the day after the intervals, but I didn't get what I wanted out of this in terms of effort, so I'm going to separate those instead.  I'm trying to rejigger things to get rid of slower workouts to keep everything at higher intensity until fall.  The swim focused on 3x500.    

Thursday July 10.  2000 yard swim.  10x100, focus on speed.  Tired again after the first few, like last week.

Friday July 11.  30.7 miles biking at 1800 yards swimming.  I woke up early this morning with a really tired core/back, and I went back to bed.  Yeah I woke up this morning, and I went right back to bed.  Then I finally went out for my ride to work, and I cut 10 miles off the distance to make up for it.  Part of the ride was on roads I haven't been on, down Claremont, out on Russell, and then some extra riding on the bay trail.  Later, 1800 yards, focusing on form and stroke count, which was a nice break after two weeks of mostly speed-focused swim workouts.  I immediately followed this by the ride home, which I lengthened to make up for the shorter ride in the morning.  Back on the bay trail, which is nice for road speed training, and around the UC Berkeley campus and up Tunnel.  

Saturday July 12.  13.6 mile ride and 4.2 mile run.  Trying a new riding loop that includes the Tunnel Rd climb, connecting from Montclair to Tunnel through Temescal Park.  Quads were really tired/stiff after the long climb, and I pushed speed on the run.  This left me beat up.

Sunday July 13.  2:12/27.7 miles kiting.  Third to the Coyote launch and back.  Feeling only moderately tired/sore compared to the last kiting run, I had some fun with speed runs and jumping at the end, quitting when I got sloppy.

Monday July 14.  Triple day #1.  12.4 mile ride, 4.2 mile run, 2000 yard swim.  This is a front-loaded week because of scheduling and the need to take a few days easier.  The ride was sunny, what's becoming my usual morning out-and-back on Grizzly Peak/Skyline.  The run was 12x15" all-out intervals.  They're starting to hurt less after the fact, and I'm consistently getting below a 5:30 pace on these now.  The swim was 10x100 at a moderate/strong pace.  Swimming feels tired/plateued.  Good thing it's an easier week overall.

Tuesday July 15.  Triple day #2.  45 mins weight training,  2300 yards swimming, 13.5 miles cycling on the trainer.  Weights felt good, and swimming was focused on a half hour straight through at a moderate effort.  Cycling was 5x3 minute intervals.  With legs getting frequently tired when riding on hills, I reconfigured my garmin to show cadence to start working on targeting 90.  I kept this through the ride and geared to maintain it.  It was much easier to get my heart rate up.  This combination of workouts did beat me up quite a bit, which I expected, but there's three off/easy days planned next.

Wednesday July 16.  Off.  Well needed.  Tired/stiff from two hard days.

Thursday July 17.  2000 yards swimming, moderate effort.  The focus was a steady pace through 10x100.  I dropped the long run planned for the morning, which I expected to do, to get extra recovery time in.

Friday July 18.  A couple miles of hiking with PL, MC, and EB, who's visiting.  We hiked around a couple batteries in the southern part of the headlands, and then went to Muir woods, taking the valley trails and a small loop on the Bootjack/Camp Eastwood trails.

Saturday July 19.  13 mile ride and 3.3 mile run.  A near repeat of last weekend's brick workout.  A ride down to Mountain, up Tunnel, an out-and-back-on Grizzly Peak, and back on skyline.  Followed by a run down the Shepherd Canyon Railroad Trail and back.  I geared down this time to focus on cadence on the ride, and had about the same overall time, with much less leg fatigue.  The run was also more cadence focused than speed focused.  After last week's mid-week close-to-crash, I'm going to back off the pace on non-speed workouts to focus on form.  I picked up the pace on the last part of the run, and finished this feeling much better than after last last week's brick.

Sunday July 20.  2:38/29.7 miles kiting.  The bay is covered in a marine layer, so off to Sherman Island.  It's the first time this season, which wasn't planned, just a quirk of scheduling.  It was blowing 21-29, so I took out the 9m, and left line extensions on, given the wide range.  I had a bit of a sketchy launch in which the kite powered up rather quickly into a gust, and I was less than a second away from punching out to ditch it.  Better kite damage than me damage.  But the gust backed off quickly and I got it under control.  Hitting the water, I was either well overpowered or about to stall for the first half hour, until I got upwind of the river bend.  I made a long steady upwind cruise past M6, and turned around for a fast downwinder.  These are fun, since they you play with the board a lot.  I worked on toeside a bit and then hung out around M10 jumping for almost an hour.  I had a couple high jumps with spectacular wipeouts, and a handful of jumps to the right, my weak side.  I'm realizing that to port I'm mostly working on landing safely, and could probably jump much higher if I wanted to.  The couple high jumps were enough to scare me just a little, which is something I'm aiming for on a consistent basis now, to make sure I'm not staying too much inside my comfort zone, where I learn less.  I got tired of jumping, and finished by riding another upwinder/downwinder.

This was weeks 2 and 3 of the slightly-broken-up 10 week summer training plan.  In hindsight, I'm pushing too hard on some of these; I'm going to back off the effort a bit on non-speed workouts.  I'm also considering adjusting the gearing on my bike to make climbing more efficient; I can't always hit a decent cadence on climbs, which is doing a fair amount of muscle beat-up.  I'm using this an excuse to read up on how all these bicycle parts work.  It was fun not caring for almost a year.  But I did realize that I have, for the most part, pretty decent components on my bike.

I keep telling myself that I'll stop keeping my training log here, since strava tracks everything too.  But the two-week cycle of writing/editing these makes me notice medium size (few week) trends (and mistakes) more.   So I'll keep it going.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Double Dipsea

An article I read about the Dipsea trail race a few years ago was a big inspiration to start trail running.  It has a kind of insane pseudo-lottery registration, which is too complicated for my patience, so I had either the double or quad dipsea somewhere in the back of my mind as a race to eventually do.  After covering most of the trail back in January, I started occasionally looking into it, finding no updates, but then signed up once Brazen announced they were taking it on.  It wasn't timed well for a good speed run, but I'm a sucker for a lot of climbing.

I really like Stinson Beach as a race staging area, since there's a breakfast/coffee stand that opens early and very cold water to wade in after finishing.  It's a handicap race, and I had none, so I had fun cheering on the oldest starters, some of whom started an hour before me.

Once starting, I took a sustainable pace out, switching between running and hiking to keep my heart rate steady.  It worked well, and I had my fastest climb up to Cardiac Hill, with no muscle stiffness, unlike the prior week at Rodeo Valley.  The run downhill to Muir woods was slower than I'd like, stability was still low.  The climb back up to Panoramic Highway was also a good, steady-paced climb.  The Mill Valley stairs were new to me, but scenic and fun.  

Turning around, I had to climb them.  I just counted and kept going at a steady, sustainable pace without stopping.  Reaching the top, I could tell I'd feel them for the rest of the race, as everything tightened up in my legs.  Despite this, I was able to jog a fair amount of uphill for the rest of the course, which I didn't expect, but downhills were even slower.  Patiently toughing it out, I eventually finished in 3:43:09.  Not very fast, but I had no clue what to expect with the volume of stairs on this course.  Splits were 1:40:10 and 2:02:59--the stair effect.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Rodeo Valley 50k

I don’t know why I signed up for a 50k two weeks after my first half ironman.  Ok, I know why I did, but I didn’t make the mental connection that it was only two weeks later.  The Hawaii 70.3 was a mental release at the end of a long period of training, and this was after that, so I didn’t think about it much ahead of time.  Anyway, I wanted to run a 50k in June, and it’s been a while since I ran some of these trails, so I was in.

…for about the slowest plod of a race I’ve ever done.  I could list lots of reasons, but nothing felt great going into it, and I knew I’d just be going in to get the distance, enjoy the course, and finish.  DL was running this too, but with much different intentions.  At the start, I held back, slowly running the first long hill.  Then I realized that while my hamstrings were burning, they were moving fine, albeit slowly.  But my calves hurt.  I didn’t expect that, since I haven’t pushed them hard in a while.  I switched to mixing up running and hiking the uphills, until the trail got up into the scenic parts with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, and the bay.  Intending to pick up speed, nothing moved like it should.  It felt like running in molasses.  But I had fun with it and kept going.  Marincello was a long downhill on this route, which is much nicer than the long uphill I’ve always taken on it.  

Passing the Tennessee Valley aid station, I was on trails that were new to me, taking Miwok and the Coastal trail out to the coast.  The view opened up and was amazing.  This stretch of coast is one of the reasons I wanted to do this run.  Since I was way behind on time, relative to where I wanted to be, I started putzing around a bit and taking photos.  The next climb out of Pirate's Cove was steep and took a bit out of me.  Passing the aid station again, I started the next long climb, again switching running and walking until I hit the top, where the course stays fairly flat for a while.  Again, I couldn’t take this at any speed, since nothing wanted to move as fast as it should, so I just kept going.  New to me on ITR’s take on the course, we went through a number of old batteries, a tunnel, and past ruined shelters, none of which I’ve seen before.  I took the downhill to Rodeo Beach at a decent clip, and DL lapped me coming into the last aid station (which I was expecting, knowing his speed).

Yeah, that's racing pace.

Heading back out and past the start/finish area, I turned on my iPod, since I was just speed hiking the uphills at this point, and needed something to pass the time.  I kept approximate pace with three others for the remainder of the course, which passes back through most of the first loop.  The second loop was all about just getting the course done, and my speed dropped precipitously.  It certainly met the endurance training goal that motivated signing up for it, since I finished seconds over eight hours on a course that should have taken me about 6:30.  But I had fun.  

Somewhere along the way, I got tired of this, and made a decision to take a two month racing break for most of the summer.  I had a couple more races scheduled, which I finished.  Unless I change my mind dramatically, I’m going to skip out on racing and focus on speed and strength until fall, when I’ll pick up the distance again to train for a 50 miler.  I also made a mental note to start treating 50ks more like races now, since I think I understand more of what my body goes through over the course of the distance now.  I’m planning to do two or three in the fall as part of the 50 miler training.   

Sunday, July 06, 2014

24, 23: New training focus

Monday June 23.  5.9 mile run.  Small Emeryville Peninsula to Berkeley Pier and back.  Intending to take most of this fast, I backed off after a mile or so to focus on loosening up what was still stiff from Dipsea.  I eventually settled on half mile efforts at a slightly faster speed.

Tuesday June 24.  11.6 mile ride.  Skyline/Grizzly Peak.  Lots of turkeys on the road.

Wednesday June 25.  13 mile trainer ride and 4.4 mile run.  The 5 x 3 minute trainer intervals.  The run was more of a slow jog and hike in Redwood, out on the French Trail and back on the Stream Trail.

Thursday June 26.  3750 yards swimming, centered on a 1000 yard strong effort.

Friday June 27.  24.7 mile ride and 2.4 mile run.  Waking up early, I rode up to Inspiration Point, then down through Orinda, Moraga, Canyon, and back.  I'm moving my long rides to Friday's for a while to free up weekend time.  The run was centered on 4 20 second all-out intervals, the first interval set of the plan I'm following for the summer.  They increase in count/duration for 10 weeks, with the goal of improving running speed at 10k distances.

Saturday June 28.  2100 yard swim.  An unusual Saturday pool swim.  15 100's.  I bailed on a morning bike ride to get extra rest.

Sunday June 29.  2 or 2 1/2 hours kitesurfing.  I launched from Third Ave and rode up into the Coyote Point launch, the furthest I've ever ridden upwind in the peninsula.  Mostly just riding and working on board skills, since I was generally tired.

Monday June 30.  4.2 mile run in Redwood Regional Park.  I ran my original regular loop through the park, taking it at speed.  Since I haven't run this route in a long time, I watched my heart rate on the uphill, as I didn't want to beat myself up this week.  I sprinted up a steep part of the climb and speed-hiked the rest of the uphill, since my heart rate stayed high after the sprint.  And the goats are out for the summer.

Tuesday July 1.  10.3 mile ride and 2050 yard swim.  The usual Skyline/Grizzly Peak out and back, with the densest fog I've seen up here.  The swim was 20 fast 50's.

Wednesday July 2.  6.2 mile run and 3550 yard swim.  I took out a new pair of road shoes for a lunch run up to University Ave and back, doing pre-race strides every half mile.  The Torins have started to get annoying on faster (interval) workouts, since the padding movement makes me feel like my feet are sliding, and also causes heat built-up inside the shoe.  I picked up a pair of One^2s, and I was really happy with them for running at speed on roads.  I'll probably switch between both for road runs.  The main set of the swim was 3x500 at race pace; I swam it a little faster than my recent race pace.

Thursday July 3.  2000 yard swim.  The main set was 10x100 at speed.  This faster swimming has felt  good after the long endurance-focused push leading up to Hawai'i.

Friday July 4.  11.5 mile ride and 3.4 mile walk.  The usual easy out/back on Skyline/Grizzly Peak, focusing on riding the drops.  I've very quickly gotten comfortable with them, after ignoring them until now.  Later, a fireworks walk on the Emeryville peninsula.

Saturday July 5.  ITR Reservoir Dogs 35k.  More elsewhere.

This starts a 10 week training effort that focuses on speed and strength.  I'm backing off on running volume a lot to get a lot of shorter, faster runs in, but will slowly ramp it up to get back into longer races later in the fall.   The second week dropped the harder run/bike parts of the plan as a short taper for the race.  It's also my last race until fall, since I feel like having too many fun races is now motivating me to avoid some better speed/strength workouts.  And I want more weekend free time for the summer.

26, 25: Two Fun Races

Monday June 9.  2600 yard swim.  This starts a couple weeks of fun, but harder workouts, to get ready for the next training focus, which will be strength and speed for the summer.  I pulled a workout off of the internet and swam at a fairly quick pace.

Tuesday June 10.  5 mile run.  Around huckleberry and sibley, getting hill time in.  

Wednesday June 11.  2200 yard swim, form focused, but at strong effort.  I added some tri-targeted weight training too, another part of the plan for the summer.

Thursday June 12.  Rest.  The weight training is having a surprisingly big effect on leg flexibility, so everything's out except stretching and light swimming until Saturday.

Friday June 13.  1200 yard swim.  Just moving, stretching legs a lot.

Saturday June 14.  50k run.  Rodeo Valley.  More elsewhere, but a warm, sunny, very long and slow run on very stiff/tight/weak legs.

Sunday June 15.  Rest.

Monday June 16.  2750 yard swim.  Lots of pulling in a workout I pulled off the internet.  

Tuesday June 17.  Rest.  Putting the bike and kiteboard back together.

Wednesday June 18.  10.9 mile ride and 1000 yard swim.  First ride after picking up the bike, heading out on Skyline/Grizzly Peak.  5x200 free at speed.

Thursday June 19.  2.4 mile run.  Huckleberry Loop at a decent pace, running all uphills.  First run after taking a break from running for most of the week.

Friday June 20.  1000 yard swim.  200 free, 200 breast, 200 free, 200 breast, 200 free.  Just moving and loosening up legs for Saturday.

Saturday June 21.  13.7 mile run.  Double Dipsea, much better than Rodeo Valley, but still physically tired in a number of places.  A fun warm day though, it was my first time covering the full trail.  

I'm posting this late, like most recent entries.  This was the calm before summer training gets started.  Both races were fun races, and I was tired and/or sore going into each, but happy to experience the courses/races.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Ironman 70.3 Hawai'i (Honu)

Finally here, tho has been the main focus of training since last fall.  It's amazing to think about how much effort, both physical and mental, went into the training, especially with having a baby along the way.  A year ago I didn't own a road bike, I had just recently started open water swimming, and I had finished a well-interrupted golden gate swim.  I had signed up for a triathlon to try it out (Malibu), but was far from finishing one.

Then PL and I vacationed in Hawaii, staying in a small town in North Kohala, and we discovered a couple notable triathlons were here.  I knew nothing about them until finding a sign at the harbor in Kailua-Kona marking the world championship start.  Researching it later, the Honu 70.3 caught my attention as something that would be a challenge to finish, but quite doable.  I was ready in terms of swimming and running, but cycling had a long way to go.  Again, I still didn't own a bike.  It turned out a few friends were doing this too, so I was in.

Then we found out we had a baby on the way, so I had no clue what would happen.  But these kinds of life challenges are fun, and keep me really engaged.  A few key months of training would be really disrupted, especially for cycling, since it's easier to fit impromptu swims and runs into my schedule.  

MC came along, and all went well, so we made our first family vacation out of it.  After  a few days of exploring south-western big island, race logistics took over everything.  Bike pickup, small bike upgrades to handle the distance, paperwork, more paperwork, race bags, briefings, etc.  

Saturday dawned early; I slept four solid hours, much more than I expected.  Juggling baby care and learning how to travel with a baby had me completely not-nervous about the race, but it was time to start.

The second wave was all age-group men, in a mass start from the water, at Hapuna Beach.  I expected chaos, and had positioned myself somewhere in the middle, but found the packed swim to be fairly easy to deal with.  Swimming over sand and coral reefs in unbelievably clear water, I had mostly cleared my head of the race effort itself and let my thoughts wonder.  These moments in races are my favorite, when you're not even thinking and just going, knowing what to do subconsciously.  
Hapuna Beach, a couple days before.

The swim finished, I was at 43:53, slightly faster than I expected.  I had some chafing on my shoulders, unexpectedly.  I washed the salt off, packed on sunscreen and vaseline to protected the chafed shoulders, and got through T1 fairly easily.

T1 prep the day before.

The bike portion would be hardest, I just don't have the experience and technical skills to either ride through gusty wind well or take downhills at full speed, so I set out to just finish it.  The start of the ride was an out and back on the Queen Kaahumanu highway to Mauna Lani.  This was all through vast lava fields on long slow subtle hills, with enough wind to keep me holding back speed in favor of stability.  The course continued north through Kawaihae, where the cross-island wind died off, and the mostly uphill route to Hawi begins.  

Riding to Hawi, I kept a steady, but conservative pace.  The route is gorgeous; it was driving this road a year ago that made me want to finish this course. Getting further north, the Alenuihaha channel winds picked up, as a long steady uphill to the turnaround begins.  This was the long part.  I would say hard, but it wasn't really, since I just kept my effort steady.  And I knew that a mostly downhill reward was coming.  

We turned around as we got into Hawi, to head back to Mauna Lani.  The first downhill was a welcome relief, and the remaining hills in North Kohala all went well.  Getting past Kawaihae, the heat from the lava fields started to come into play, and I picked up my fluid intake significantly.  My left foot was feeling sore near the ball, which has happened before.  Since I had a number of miles left, I adjusted form a number of times before realizing that I stretch one heel down too far.  Concentrating on this for the rest of the ride, it let up and didn't bother me the rest of the race.  I passed a group of enthusiastically cheering friends as I wrapped up the ride and headed into T2.  The ride was 4:08:43, comfortably under my just-get-it-done goal.

Getting through T2 was a relief; I had just finished my longest ride and was getting started on a sport I understand better.  The run course passes through a golf course and along roads through the lava fields of the resort.  The first few miles went well, I kept up a pace better than my best half marathon.  Then two things happened: the heat got me and hamstring tightness from the ride set in.  I could have pushed through the hamstring tightness, but not the heat.  I backed off the pace a lot, using timed walking breaks, stretch short breaks, along with many cups of ice and cold sponges from the copious amount of aid stations to keep the heat and muscle tightness in check.  Never have I taken advantage of so many aid stations in such a short run.  But even with the slow-for-me pace, I spent the entire run passing people, one phychological benefit of being a much more experienced runner than cyclist.  

After mile 12, I started keeping pace with a local in his 60's who was doing this race for his third time.  He missed a year due to cancer, but he was back out and finishing it again.  After talking a while, and hearing his turn-by-turn take on the last part of the course, he told me to go ahead.  I was enjoying the conversation, but took off, since I wanted to finish strong after the generally slow run.  I finished the run in 2:37:19, with an overall time of 7:45:26.  Right about where I thought I would be, but with a faster cycling time and slower run than I expected.  Friends and family were at the finish cheering us all in, and they hand-made leis for us while we were out on the course for the day!  A quick shower, some food, and family time followed.  A key highlight was collectively cheering in RR as he finished.  

Awesome photo by AN.

Of all the races I've done, this is the only one I've seriously trained and seriously tapered for, even with backing off on intended training plans to welcome a new baby into our lives.  Everything worked, and nothing was really sore after; just muscle stiffness, shoulder chafing, and sunburn.  Everyone's friends and family provided amazing support, getting us moved around and fed and cheering us on.  The numerous volunteers were amazingly helpful; I had been at registration for only a few minutes before a volunteer was telling me what it meant to him to have everyone here at this race.  

Finishing this race has given me a lot to reflect on--in some ways it was as much a mental challenge to logically plan a new level of training and my first race with significant travel while learning how to wrangle a newborn, as it was a physical challenge.  The race itself was amazing, a time to move and to reflect and to take everything in.  

Thing learned:
Really hot run = back off pace from beginning.
More uphill east ridge trail or diablo runs in the afternoon at home to better handle the heat.
Tailwind worked awesome.  I need a better way to refill running bottle with it.
More sunscreen.  Carry some during the bike and run.
I need a better swim top.  Maintaining a consistently strong stroke increases chafing.
Sunscreen in both transitions 
Pick up pace on brick runs, and move them to roads.  Hamstring tightness was a frustrating hit on the run.
Move cleats on bike shoes back to balance out form.
Work on downhill speed and handling in wind on the bike

Sunday, June 22, 2014

1, 27: Hawai'i

Sunday May 25.  9.3 mile run.  Feeling like crap after a taper week and a rush to pack and traveling, I went out for a moderately strong 9 miles along Ali'i Dr. It was raining at the start, and stopped and got dark as I went along.  My pace was much slower than it felt, since I never checked it, which might be a good thing.  My right foot and leg felt annoyed after about 5 miles, so I slowed down a lot in the second half.  Lots of stretching and massage followed.

Monday May 26.  25 minute swim.  We went to Hapuna Beach, in part because I wanted to check it out, and in part because PL got excited about it on her own.  I swam up and down the beach a couple times, mostly playing around just outside the breakers, but also deliberately pushing speed a few times. Swimming outside the breakers is fun, but also throws you enough loops to get you psychologically better organized.  I needed that, since I haven't swam in open water since last fall, i.e. before a lot of technique work over the fall and winter.  

Tuesday May 27.  No explicit workout, but a fair amount of hiking and walking and carrying the baby.  I had planned a short run, but decided to delay it a day and cut out another later in the week based on how things felt.  I've felt/done best at running races when only getting one midweek run in, so it seems best to stick to that for now.  We explored around South Point and Punalu'u.  Watching cliff divers at the former.   It looked like a hell of a lot of fun, but it's more than I'm psychologically willing to do, at least right now, and not knowing the currents.  Lower legs have been feeling both tired and sore.  Researching this, it's apparently normal in a taper.  I've also felt really carb crashy the last couple nights, so I upped the calorie intake via snacks for a couple days, and I'm now up late feeling antsy and starting to prep for Saturday.  I lost too much weight too quickly a couple weeks back, so I've been wary of underrating.

Wednesday May 28.  3.3 mile run.  Just to stay feeling fresh, I ran a multi-out-and-back route to check out the ins and outs of Keauhou Bay.  Including a little trail, as well as a little shallow water running at high tide, and a bunch of small hills.  The sun was setting too.  I mostly kept an easy pace, but mixed in some strides.

Friday May 30.  6.4 mile ride.  Picking up the bike and moving it from the Fairmont Orchid at Mauna Lani to Hapuna Beach, along with RN and FS.  Windy!  I had hoped to get a longer ride in Thursday or Friday, but baby logistics still win over workouts, especially with the amount of time involved in getting ready for this race.

Saturday May 31.  Ironman 70.3 Hawai'i.  Awesome race, it's hard to believe it's finished.   More to say elsewhere.

Tuesday June 3.  3.4 mile run.  Just jogging for a bit on Maui to warm up after the half ironman.  It's hot.  Watching a kiter on an 18m in no wind for a bit.  I used to do that, now I pick and choose the better wind days to get better balance among different sports and baby time.

Wednesday June 4.  2:20 kiting.  I went out at Kanaha on the 9m.  I'm finding a nice groove with these 26 mile kiting runs, using a half hour for a warmup, an hour to play around, and an hour to just push myself when I'm tired.  That last hour gets the addictive part of of the sport under control, and seems to be when I improve board handling skills, since I'm most likely to wipe out then.  Today's focus turned out to be jumping and carving turns.  I landed a couple jump turns successfully, which I don't think I've done yet.

Friday June 6.  2:13 kiting.  Back at kanaha, again on the 9.  A little windier today.  A little sore in the abs from Wednesday, so I played around with board skills and kiting flying skills more than anything else.  I came really close to a very large sea turtle at one point, I turned upwind of it, and passed by only a few feet away.  Saw it again another time.  There was a 4.2 earthquake of Moloka'i while I was out, PL felt it.  

Saturday June 7.  3.6 mile run.  Easyish pace out of the Maui cottage.  It was hot and windy.