Saturday, May 17, 2014

Wildcat Half Marathon

I wasn’t originally planning to run this race, but it was on my radar as one to do in time.  When I decided to make a dry run at the half ironman distance last weekend, but spread out over three days, it was the perfect fit.  I’ve also been sketching out how to train through the rest of the year, and I want to mix in more half marathon distance runs on hills to work on speed without being much concerned about endurance over many hours.

Having run here before, I knew about what to expect.  Long, steepish hills, some short but crazy steep hills on the San Pablo ridge, and a couple nice flat sections that would be good for pushing speed.  I mixed running and walking on the uphills, mostly paying attention to muscle stiffness, I didn’t want to beat anything up too much, since I had a 50+ mile ride planned for the next day.  I ended up keeping approximate pace with a couple people who also ran the last two trail races I ran—Chabot and Diablo.  A couple highlights that were new to me:  the Havey Canyon trail is a lot of fun, even dropping into a rocky creek bed for a moment.  And the whole park was bright green, quite unlike the foggy brown day I had when running here in January.  I didn’t take many photos, since I just wanted to push myself without many distractions.
I didn't much feel like taking photos this time.

I finished in 2:36:24, right on my time goal.  89/187 overall and 9/16 in the m30-34 age group, both higher among finishers than last fall’s trail half marathons.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

5, 4: Rest Week and an Endurance Push

Monday April 28.  1200 yard swim.  After feeling quite stiff all day, and additionally tired in the legs and back, I contemplated bailing on this workout.  But an easy swim always seems to help with leg mobility after a race, so I went out anyway.  Slowly speeding up through alternating freestyle and breast stroke 200's, I went through a number of more intense stretches that are easier to do in the pool.  Intuition was right.  I felt much less stiff, but still tired, after finishing.  As far as road marathon recoveries go, this is the easiest one so far.  Trail marathons and 50ks are easier, since they have less repetitive motion, and it's the repetition that gets me.

Tuesday April 29.  10.0 mile trainer ride.  And a massage.  And some yoga.  And some mwod.  And some rolling.  Back on the bicycle, but initially to get moving and work out stiffness.  I kept a very easy pace while reading, and I noticed lots of random muscle tingles come and go.  After the ride, my legs felt very tired, but much less stiff.  Enough to push myself through a handful of flexibility-motivated yoga poses that I wouldn't have been able to do earlier.  I like the second recovery days the most--I can't really tell what's a transient thing vs. something I need to focus on, body-wise, until getting myself moving again.

Wednesday April 30.  3.1 mile run.  An unexpectedly quick jaunt around the Huckleberry loop.  My legs have been feeling unbalanced and out of whack, and I've found getting an easy run in as soon as I can after a race helps get things back to normal.  But I felt better than expected and ran decently fast.

Friday May 2.  200 yard swim and 6.3 mile run.  Both workouts were unexpectedly fast.  Being a deliberate recovery week, I make a point to not let any workout feel like it's taxing my body, but I also make a point to let go of most of the training plan and have fun.  It felt right to move fast today, and I feel much better for it, both physically and energy wise.  The swim was a number of fast 50's mixed in with longer sets in an up-and-down distance ladder.  The run was the Huckleberry/Sibley route.  I made a point to run it at a fun fast pace until finishing the Round Top climb, and I set a couple Strava segment pr's on the way. I picked up a pair of Lone Peaks this week too, and I took them out to break them in.  First impression is that they're great for everything but taking steep downhills fast--my feed slide forward too much inside the shoe in this case.  But that might go away as I adjust the laces and break them in.

Saturday May 3.  26.5 miles/2:17 kiting.  First time out for the season, a late start.  MC has kept me wary of water time where phones don't go.  It was quite windy in Alameda, low 20s, I was overpowered a bit on the 11.  The beginning and end were sloppy (long warm up to start, tired at the end).  The middle hour was great.  Longer jumps than last season, something psychological has shifted.

New beach!
Sunday May 4.  3.9 mile hike and 17.8 mil ride.  We took MC for a hike.  For some reason, I put a 5k goal in the back of my mind, to help PL with getting back to normalcy, and we ended up being out for much more than the typical 20 minutes.  I then went out for a 10 mile ride and went way over when I decided to make the Grizzly Peak climb and head out to Inspiration Point.  For some reason I can't fathom, I turned up South Park drive on the way back.  That was hard.  But worth it.  I haven't been down there on my bike, since the closed gate through the winter, along with its reputation, was enough to make me ride around it.  Oh yeah, and my abs hurt like crazy today.  Kiting involves much more dynamic core work than typical home or gym workouts, which are more strength focused. I should probably change that, since jumping always leaves me sore.

Monday May 5.  10.1 mile trainer ride.  Short intervals at max effort.  Max effort on cycling is muscle bound more than aerobically bound.

Tuesday May 6.  1400 yard swim and 7.2 mile run.  The swim was hardish--my upper body was all sore and tired from kiting on Saturday.  The run was intended to be easy hill time, but I ended up taking some flat sections and downhills much faster than intended.  And I just kept going.  I did succeed in forcing myself to walk uphills, with a couple intended exceptions.  I'm learning a lot about what not to do before a race this year.  This weekend's half marathon is the middle of a three part endurance weekend.  I signed up for it since it's close to home and the training distance I wanted, but I also want to use it to test speed on a shorter race, something I've been itching to do after running a number of longer races.

Thursday May 8.  5.7 mile run.  A slow tapering run in Redwood, taking the French/Chown/Stream loop.  I've never run on the Chown trail.  For as many times as I've run in Redwood, it's usually been on the same few routes.  I added 30 seconds of strides every half mile.

Friday May 9.  2200 yard swim.  This weekend is an endurance weekend, covering approximately a half ironman distance over three days, starting with the swim.   The goal is to get the longest ride before Hawaii in, along with the swim and run distance.

Saturday May 10.  13.1 mile run, Wildcat Half Marathon.  I ran a strong effort, but kept pace down at any point it felt like I was hitting strength limits.  More elsewhere.

Sunday May 11.  51.3 mile ride.  I went out for a ride around Mt.  Diablo.  Starting in Alamo, I rode up through Walnut Creek and out to Clayton.  The ride over Lime Ridge was deceptively long, in comparison to an elevation chart I had looked at when planning this.  I was rather tired after Saturday's run, which made this ride much harder than it needed to be.  But it's the last long and hard effort weekend, and I expected it, so I worked with it.  Heading down Marsh Creek Rd, I started to get really tired and took a stretch break about 16 miles in.  Traffic here was unnerving--fast and on a road with negligible shoulder.  I was planning to add a short out and back before turning onto Morgan Territory Rd, but the traffic changed my mind.

Somewhere on Morgan Territory Rd.

Morgan Territory Rd  was not only hard,  but much harder than I expected.  Especially on tired legs and after four hours of sleep.  Hard seemed to be the theme for this ride.  It's a one lane road for about 10 miles, first heading up through the Marsh Creek valley.  Everything here was quiet and peaceful.  And hard.  The road got steeper as it went.  The road crossed the Diablo 50k route, and has the same feeling of isolation, tranquility, and outright windiness.

Done climbing,
Passing the ridge top, the ride downhill was very steep.  Very steep and very long.  And it was very windy.  Enough so that I stopped and walked the bike down through one pass, where the gusts were strong enough to push me off balance a bit while walking.  Good call, for reasons I'd find out later.

Waves in the grass.
The ride downhill passed through a number of ranches/houses/farms and ends up at Manning Rd, which is pretty much the middle of nowhere.  And it was still very windy and very gusty, so I took the ride slow.  A half mile up Highland Rd, I came across a group of three other cyclists, one of whom was on the ground, holding an iced shoulder in pain.  A sudden wind gust had knocked him down while riding.  On a flat stretch of road.  Good call on walking parts of that downhill...

Middle of Nowhere.
I waited until the paramedics arrived and had things under control, and I zig-zagged up through Danville and past this creepy fancy country club place called Blackhawk.  Where you have to have transponders on your car to get in, or something.  It looked like something Von Hammersplanck Industries would put together.  Reading up it later, one of the Motley Crüe lives somewhere inside.

Passing mile 40, I just wanted to be done.  Everything was tired.  Perfect endurance training.  I skipped out on the last 4ish miles, since I was certain that the pre-fatigue, difficulty of the route, crazy wind gusts, and extra time from riding slow made this significantly harder than the Highway 19/270 route I'm training for.

Oh, and here's the Diablo wind readings while I was out (7-12 AM):

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Big Sur Marathon

I’ve been wanting to run this race for a couple years, since shortly after finishing my first marathon.  It was a hard one.  Pavement.  Hills.  Runnable hills, as opposed to hikable-only hills, which I’m more used to.  But they had more aid stations per mile than the entire Diablo 50k course.  This would also be the second part of a two-weekends at >= marathon distance personal challenge.  

Driving the Course on Saturday.
We made a family trip of the weekend, staying in Monterey, driving the coast, and exploring Fisherman’s Wharf and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Bringing MC along, there wasn’t much sleep to be had.  I woke up at 2 on Sunday to catch the 4AM bus to the start in Big Sur.  With the sun not up yet, it was cold.  But they served pre-race coffee!  The crowds were packed in until we lined up on Highway 1.  

As far as races go, this had a great balance between the energy of road races and the peacefulness of outdoor running.  And compared to many trail races, it had a feeling of epicness, similar to Diablo, since the hills were long, the views were expansive, and the environment quite dynamic.  

The course starts downhill, so I started faster for his distance (~8:30 per mile).  I kept that pace for a long time, as the race passed through redwoods and open expanses and past Point Sur.  The weather was great, not too windy and sunny.  Everyone tells me most years are not.

Mile 10 starts the long, steady two mile climb.  I expected this one to slow me down, and it did.  But it was runnable, so I paced myself on heart rate.  At the top, my hamstrings were burning, the long runnable hill caught up with me, since I’m usually on much steeper hills.  I picked up the pace again heading downhill, and you could hear the well-known piano player through most of this valley.

Somewhere near the bottom I backed off on pace and started periodic walking breaks, since the long climb had left a lot of tight muscles.  I also crossed paths with one of PL’s doctors, Dr. T, whom I had met the day before when we all crossed paths in a coffee shop near the expo, and we ended up keeping pace with each other on and off until the finish.  The rest of the course was steady going, along the coast and eventually inland through the Carmel highlands.  I took a couple-minute stretch break at mile 20 that helped a lot with reducing muscle pain through the last six miles.  Dr. T and I crossed the finish just about together; it was great to have a pacing partner, since we probably both pushed each other in terms of speed.  

I finished in 4:29:18, hitting my first goal of a new marathon PR (previously 5:11) and a second goal of beating 4:30, all while taking enough time to enjoy the run.  Unlike most races, I left pretty quickly, since we had afternoon plans too.  I didn't take as many photos as I'd expected to, likely since I've gotten so much coastal running time in this year.  And I wanted to run this race faster.

Overall, this race went well.  I didn’t quite know what to expect with the long slow hill, and it did hit me pretty well.  I’ve recovered faster from this race than the other two road marathons I’ve done too.  I also liked the double challenge of a hard 50k and a hard road marathon on back-to-back weekends.  For the first ten miles, I picked the pace up for short periods every couple minutes; this did a lot to keep me moving faster for a longer period of time, since I think a lot of the muscle stiffness I get in road races comes from the repetitive movement.  Mixing this up kept everything feeling more flexible.  This race also has me convinced that I could break 4:00 now on an easier course.  I don’t run road marathons that often (hence the big time decrease), and I don’t have any more planned right now, so I don’t know if that’ll happen soon.  But I’ll likely come back to this race; it has an amazing vibe, is challenging, and takes place in a beautiful environment.  

Diablo 50k

One of my goals for the spring was finishing a hard 50k.  My original plans had one lined up in March, to separate it from the Big Sur marathon, but family plans intervened.  After running a training run on Mt Diablo a couple months ago, I made up for it with Brazen and Save Mt Diablo’s Diablo Trails Challenge.  As a constraint, I decided not to run it too fast, since putting two long races on back to back weekends is a new endurance challenge for myself.  And a big part of running this race was to cover a lot of ground on land I’ve never been on, so I wanted to enjoy it.  

It’s a point-to-point course, starting in Round Valley Regional Park.  We took a shuttle that left before sunrise from the finish to get there.  After a slightly late start, the course followed a slight uphill grade through Round Valley.  Somewhere in here, I decided to slow down even more than planned, since my feet were complaining after only a couple miles, and before the real climbing began.  

Photo by Brazen.

So experiment number two in pre-long-race weeks didn’t work (a short hard effort earlier in the week).  I keep researching this for better ideas, but I think I’ve hit a point where my speed gains haven’t kept up at all with my endurance.  The short hard effort earlier in the week hadn’t worked itself out.  But it was a good week to experiment, since I didn’t want to beat myself up too much in this race, and it kept me from pushing too hard.

Taking an early hill easy.  Photo by Brazen.  
The course crossed into Los Vaqueros Watershed, and started a long climb that went up into the Morgan Territory hills.  Near the top of this climb, my legs were really tired, and I backed off my pace even more to let things loosen up for a while.  After making it to the first aid station, at 8 miles, things really opened up on the ridge lines of Morgan Territory, and I managed to pick up the pace quite a bit.  I still felt like I was running slow, but I ran most of the uphills over the next 7 miles and hit decent downhill paces as well.  The views here were amazing.  

Los Vaqueros Reservoir from the first climb. 

After dropping into a valley, the course followed a short out-and-back section to the second aid station, which everyone seemed to think was really over mile 16.  Heading back out, the course switched to single track in the woods with a lot of poison oak, and it went back uphill.  Somewhere in here is where all the early leg stiffness came back, and I stopped for a stretch break near the top.  The run back down hill was also quite the pounding.  After this I backed off more and started walking anything that wasn’t mildly downhill, since I really didn’t want to go home in pain.  I’ve done that when running a new distance or difficulty too many times; it’s not worth it.  

The next climb brought the course into the sandy fire trails that really remind me of Diablo, on the southwest hills.  At the third aid station, and I think the first that overlapped with the shorter courses, a volunteer asked me how much climbing was on the course, and her jaw dropped a bit at the answer.  After fishing two 50ks, I really appreciate how helpful the volunteers are later in the run when they enthusiastically refill hydration packs and make sure you’re ok.  

Now on the other side of the mountain.

Somewhere here I zoned out, counting miles until the last aid station.  The course here was single track through long grass and wildflowers.  Runners were sitting a lot at the last aid station, which I didn’t even contemplate.  I like to keep that as a finishing reward.  The end of the course dropped into a valley that returned us to Castle Rock.  After letting a few people pass me on the descent into the valley, I picked up the pace the last couple miles.  Finally, I picked up the pace to 6:30/7:00 per mile near the end, passing 3 or 4 people who had been close in speed to me.  In hide sight, I should have done so sooner, since I felt better running faster on the flattish ground.

I know this was about mile 20 something.  I know the was an enthusiastic uphill run that I staged solely for the photographer hanging out there.  

I finished in 8:09, far from my best trail race effort, but that wasn’t the goal on this one.  Checking the distribution of times, it’s actually a relative improvement over my first 50k, which surprised me.

After running a year of monthly half marathons, mostly on trails (2013), I realized it took 6 or 7 races before I felt like I understood how to run the distance and also that many races for my body to adapt to tackling it comfortably enough to start pushing speed well.  As my second 50k, I feel like I’m pretty early in learning to understand this distance, but learning a lot.  Chabot was about the psychology of continuing and making it through pain points.  This was more about strategizing when to back off speed and when to pick it up to keep my body from taking too much of a beating so I could keep going.  I don’t think I understand that well yet for long distances, since I feel like I was very conservative in terms of engaging with discomfort.   

Lessons learned, some of which only apply to me:  Really really back off the pace in the week leading up to one of these.  Calf endurance over multiple days is really lagging behind everything else and I need to keep that in mind, maybe as my weakest point right now.  Taking extra salt, deliberately more than I thought I needed, at aid stations was a great idea; I only needed to mildly replenish electrolytes later at home.  Slow hand has awesome bbq.  More sunscreen.  Run faster more of the last few miles; it feels better than running slower.  Don't forget your drop bag.  :-)  

Overall, this might be my favorite trail race so far with its epic views, difficulty, point to point course, variety of environments, and great organization.  I should run it again, with a better (i.e. any) plan .  Despite the slow and difficult day, finishing this has me excited for and planning more carefully for my next 50k, which will likely be in June.   

7, 6: Two Running Races

Monday April 14.  3000 yards swimming.  All freestyle, in 100, 200, 400, 800, 800, 400, 200, 100 sets.  Part one of two long endurance swims this week, as I haven't been swimming in over two weeks.

Wednesday April 16.  9.1 mile run.  Over lunch I ran out to the Emeryville marina and then out on the Bay Bridge paths, but not quite to the bridge itself.  Two miles were at tempo pace, the rest were decently fast, as a final effort to get ready for the second of the two races (Big Sur) in the next two weeks.

Thursday April 17.  3000 yards swimming and 9 miles trainer ride.  All freestyle again, with a mile+ set in the middle.  Mile time was about 33:45; I needed to gauge speed for some potential summer swims.  200, 400, 1800, 400, 200.  The trainer ride was an easy effort to loosen up a bit.

Saturday April 19.  31.7 mile run.  Diablo trails 50k.  More to say elsewhere.  This was an easy to moderate effort, sine I wanted to just finish a hard (7000+ elevation in my mind) 50k this spring.  I wanted to run it faster, but it was bad timing with not quite enough rest.  And I was planning for the next weekend to be a speed focus.

Sunday April 20.  2.5 mile run.  Slow pace, hiking uphills, around the Huckleberry loop, just loosening up.

Monday April 21.  1200 yard swim.  Easy pace, still loosening up.  Lots of quick yoga bits and stretching this week.

Tuesday April 22.  5.6 mile run.  I went out for a moderate/easy paced Huckleberry/Sibley run, making the loop around Round Top.  This was about mobilizing tight spots.

Wednesday April 23.  2500 yard swim.  Brisk pace.

Thursday April 24.  4.1 mile run.  Easy out and back on the West Ridge trail in Redwood.  Picked up the pace for brief bits every half mile.

Friday April 25.  1200 yard swim.  Easy pace, just moving.

Sunday April 27.  26.2 mile run.  Big Sur Marathon!  New marathon PR of 4:29.  More elsewhere.

I'm less verbose this time around.  With the focus on the races, every workout has had a pretty specific focus, so there's been less exploring or meditative thinking.  And prepping for travel and so on has been giving me less time to write.  I liked the double challenge of the two marathon+ races on back to back weekends, especially going for a fast pace on the second weekend.  Apparently a number of people did this with Diablo and Big Sur.  I wore the Diablo 50k shirt at Big Sur, and a volunteer mentioned she had seen a number of the 50k shirts.

The focus on the runs also let cycling slide for a couple weeks.  Next up is an easy recovery week, and a ramp up into a final cycling-focused push.

9, 8: Back to Exploring

Tuesday April 1.  5.9 mile run.  A scheduled recovery week, and the first run after being fully distracted for the weekend.  It was raining heavy, cold, and windy in Sibley.  An interesting observation is how much managing my sleep schedule to get in workouts and wake up early enough for races has helped with adapting to MC's arrival.

Wednesday April 2.  6.7 mile run and 7 mile trainer ride.  Almost the same route as the day before, but I reversed a loop to get a long technical downhill run.  After climbing fast on Tuesday, I ran fast downhills.  It was sunny now, and muddy.  I added a half hour on the trainer.

Thursday April 3. 8.4 mile run.  I ran the French Trail/Stream Trail loop in Redwood, hitting downhills fast again.  Not explicitly for training purposes today, but just for fun.  The French trail is still one of my favorite runs.  Cushioned shoes = good for fast downhills.

Friday April 4.  3.3 mile run and 11.6 mile trainer ride.  Huckleberry loop and a little extra after a light storm.  I tried the five fingers on a run for the first time, since this was to be a slow run with uphill walking.  I found a few more weak spots; it might be good to start using these once in a while to work on that.  And in the steaming post-raininess of it all, a bee stung me.  Very weird.   Later on I rode the trainer for a bit, focusing on pedal form.  I felt surprisingly well worked out after this, despite both workouts being on the easy side.

Saturday April 5.  3.3 mile run.  After sleeping 2 1/2 hours, I was somehow unable to sleep during  the day.  Maybe all the years in grad school with paper deadlines left a long term ability to just go with it when sleep goes out the window.  Legs and ankles were a little sore from using the five fingers without any real recovery (aka sleep), but I went out anyway, at least for catching up on mental sanity.  I had a ride in my training schedule, but the slow run was enough.

Sunday April 6.  10.2 mile run.  Speed day!  I've been getting antsy for one, since I've slowed down on most of my runs to get more comfortable with the change in milage (moving from 25 to 35 a week) and shoe type.  And I haven't run a race at full effort since Steep Ravine in January.  I took off on the East Ridge trail in Redwood, going at what would be 10k race pace, if I had been racing with no taper.  I dug out my EBMUD permit and finally made use of it, taking the side trail down through Canyon and into Moraga.  It's a great quiet trail with some fun gradual climbs; I'll have to make more use of it.  I took the last four miles easy, since they were easy-long-run endurance miles.   This wrapped up a 38+ mile running week., which might be the longest since the holidays.  My current target is to get to 40 by May and drop back until fall.

Monday April 7.  3.7 mile run/hike and 10.2 mile trainer ride.  Active recovery run and trainer time.  The run was in and around Huckleberry and Sibley, scoping out a good part of the climb to use for interval training.  I nudged the recovery pace a little faster than it's been by alternating walking and jogging on the easier climbs; I've been walking all the climbs on recovery runs lately.  Trainer time was a slow speed increase while catching up  on some email and reading.

Tuesday April 8.  13.1 mile ride and 7.3 mile run brick.  Moderate pace, finally getting a ride outside after only using the trainer for a couple weeks.  I'm noticing a significantly more steady cadence.  I varied speed a lot on the run, through Huckleberry/Sibley.

Weds April 9.  Rest day.  I rearranged half the house and the garage.

Thursday April 10.  6.8 mile run.  I went out for hill intervals on a quiet fire road corner of Huckleberry/Sibley.  10x tenth of a mile, with about 100 feet of climbing per interval.  I then made a portion of the climb up round top, and my legs were fully spent.  Great workout.

Friday April 11.  3.4 mile walk.  Very tired and sore in places from the hill intervals.  So I walked to safeway instead of getting a run in.  I don't think there would be any run I could do on this day that would be worth doing in terms of fitness gains or personal enjoyment.

Saturday April 12.  29.3 miles riding, 0.4 mile uphill walk.  Taking a car in for work, I added a 2 hour long ride to get back home in a roundabout way, which went very slow.  Legs are still very tired after the hill intervals.  I later rode back down to pick it up.  And being lazy, because of tired legs, I drove my bike to the top of the hill the second time and later walked back up to pick up the other car.  I had a short run planned, but I bailed on it.  I'm rambling.

Near San Pablo Reservoir

Sunday April 13.  14.7 mile run.  I had contemplated on bailing on this weekend's long run with two race weekends coming up.  It wouldn't have much benefit, training-wise.  But the first upcoming race is a just-finish-it race, and I needed the time outside.  Everyone at home went to sleep in the afternoon, so I went out to explore the King's Canyon Loop trail in the EBMUD lands near the San Leandro Reservoir.

I started at Skyline Gate, heading down the East Ridge trail and dropping to the Valle Vista staging area.  From here, I started out on the loop in a clockwise direction.  The climb out of the valley up to the ridge gets very steep in places, and it has great views of this part of the east bay.  It's fun looking back over multiple ridges to see where I started, far off in the distance.  Dropping down on the south side of the loop, the trail comes out onto the reservoir, following it back north along the shoreline.  This part passes into and out of a lot of gulches, going up and down hill quite a bit.  It was very quiet, and I passed no one along here.  I still astounds me that there's such quiet and empty land right next to all the urban development in the bay area.  I wrapped up by heading back over to Redwood, and walked the last mile chatting with a co-worker with whom I randomly crossed paths.

Upper San Leandro Reservoir

Mario Von Hammersplanck lives here.

Rocky Ridge in the Distance?

After we're adapting to MC's arrival, I'm venturing further from home again.  It's great to be exploring new trails once again, since I haven't in a while.  I'd like to make a really long loop through the lower EMBUD trails that connect down to Las Trampas and Chabot at some point; it might be a good day long run for later in the summer when I need to kick up training distance again.