Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Overlook Endurance Runs 50k

Aka Ann Trason’s race.  This one was fun.  Point-to-point, an area I’ve never run, and on iconic trails. It wasn’t an A race, but it was on my list to run for over a year.  Foresthill to Auburn, on a fair amount of the Western States course, and with great weather.  The two long downhills in the first section were a lot of fun, and a great place to test running improvements, since I haven’t run a strong ultra since March, nor have I run that long of a downhill stretch before.  And it was a new California landscape to explore, one I’m sure I’ll go back to.  The river crossing, near mile 19, was a comforting break from a harder effort race, with a well known volunteer seeing people off on their crossing.  Legs were tired and near done on the last long climb, a mix of running and fast walking.  Along the way, it was interesting seeing places I've heard about too many times.

6:15:06 finish, a 50k PR by 11 minutes, on a course with comparable elevation gain, but this time with almost no flat pavement to open up on (Chabot, with some paved trails, was the prior PR).  But other than getting physically tired at the end, it feels like 50k’s have really come together this year, and it’s now a matter of improving in them with more endurance strength on hills.  68/149 overall, and an hour under ultrasignup's predictive models.

First sun after a foggy start.

Foresthill Bridge

Things that went well:
* All the hard running/hiking in the Sierras in late summer/early fall is paying off well in terms of uphill running strength and uphill walking speed (faster than some people who were running).  Heart rate was rather low too, likely helped a lot by runs at altitude. 
* I consciously drank a lot more than I thought/felt I needed after the first couple hours, which was probably the right amount in the end.  Switching electrolyte drinks and mixing in water also worked really well.
* Mixing running/walking uphill based on terrain and heart rate mostly kept pace/effort in check, especially when people around me kept running uphill, many of whom I would see slow down later in the day.

Things that didn’t:
* Muscle fatigue in the last couple miles, all uphill.  A pacing side effect, but also something I opted to take the risk on, since it was the end of the course.  I’m considering focusing on hill endurance for the next while, given an upcoming 50 miler and a consideration to increase distance next year.   
* There’s something tight in my left quad and outer hamstring that I wasn’t aware of, which became a limiter in the last five miles.  I’ve been focusing mobility/massage work on the right side for the last few months, since that hip is tighter.
* Mildly tight soleus muscles.  Ok, that's an ongoing thing, so there's not much to complain about, but I can't think of anything else. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Granite Chief and PCT Trails from Squaw to Tinker's Knob and Anderson Peak

Finishing the South Shore Open Water Swim, I had the remainder of the day to explore more in the Tahoe area mountains, and I went out to complete the rest of the Squaw-to-Donner route.  Up the Granite Chief trail, then north on the PCT to Anderson Peak, where I had stopped when I covered the northern half.   It was very windy from Tinker Knob to Anderson Peak; I decided to jog/hike this easier-terrain stretch because there were some crazy gusts coming from the west, and well, there was also this very long drop just a few feet to the right.  Not the time to get caught off guard and go down.  I finished 18.5 miles, feeling much better than after my last few long mountain runs.  

Climbing the Granite Chief trail

Squaw Valley

Grant Chief trail looking east.

PCT, looking west.

Looking north toward the destination peaks, Mt Anderson, Tinker Knob, and Peak 8761.

Looking south from Tinker Knob

Peak 8761

Peak 8761.  Again.  It's just a cool spot.

Tinker Knob.

Anderson Peak from Tinker Knob.  Castle Peak in the distance.  It was crazy gusty up here.

Start of the American "River"

Looking east on the Painted Rock trail.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tahoe South Shore 2.4 Mile Swim

So the Half Ironman swim wasn't anywhere near as challenging as I expected, although I doubt many others who did it would agree.  I just trained really well for it and the conditions were easier than most open water swims I've done.  Three days later I swam a 4500 in the pool, the longest swim I've done since last year, to see how things felt, and then I went looking for a 2.4 mile open water swim to end the season.  And I found one--right back in Tahoe.  

As part of the Lake Tahoe Marathon weekend (which has a crazy variety of events that one could do),  the South Shore Open Water Swim had a variety of distances, including the 2.4 mile as the longest.  It was low key enough to be fun and without pressure, but hard enough to bring out a group of fairly strong swimmers (who had, on average, well over ironman participant paces).  

We started at around 8:30, swimming out from shore, and then turning north for a long leg into Nevada.  The lake was calm, clear, and the bottom was in sight.  It still strikes me how different Tahoe is, compared to swimming in the bay, where we can see just about nothing.  Watching the bottom as I swam north, it just disappeared, turning into a deep bright blue split with sunrise caustics.  I didn't notice it at first and was quite startled to see the depth just open up.

Turning back, we came back over shallower water, and the wind picked up, making the last five minutes or so quite choppy.  Later swimmers took on a lot more chop.  I finished in 1:21:06, near the faster end of what I expected.  The fastest swimmer was just over an hour, and I was 10/17 in this distance.  Mild calf cramping was the only thing off, but that's not surprising, since I wasn't really training for this distance.    

Things that went well:

  • I kept a consistent effort, and nothing got very tired.
  • Concentrating on form on the way back was useful, it's easy to get tired and sloppy with this here.
  • No cold shock.  The warm up and ongoing acclimation really help with this.
Things to improve:
  • I could have pushed harder, I'd need more experience to understand pacing at this distance.
  • Losing sight of the bottom caught me off guard psychologically, but it was awesome.
  • Sighting coming back was sloppy.  Sunrise.
Interesting observations:
  • The lake goes from shallow to deep quite dramatically.  And it's very deep.  Check out some of the bathymetry images online.
  • The water, even though it's not at all warm, was a lot warmer than the beach sand at the start.
  • There's all kinds of scattered random junk on the bottom of the lake.  Humans.
Also of note, this was the first timed open water timed swim I've done.  I went in just to cover the distance, but adding the competitive element, especially outside of a triathlon, certainly changed how I went about the swim.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Shirley Lake Climb to the Top of Squaw

After registering for the Lake Tahoe half ironman, I took off up a side trail in Squaw to climb to the top.  It's kind of hard to find and to follow, and not really at all runnable, but the Shirely Lake trail has some great views of the valley.  At times it's a trail, other times, it's just crossing a steep giant slab of granite, and at other times it takes some scrambling up through rocks.  It does kind of dead-end into a fire road that leads to the top of Squaw, where there's trails headed all over the place.  

Many of the peaks up here have volcanic caps that have had more erosion around the sides, including Squaw peak itself.  It's an interesting transition region from the volcanic peaks headed north toward Donner pass and the highly granite region just to the south. 

Taking the tram down--I was planing to race in a couple days.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Ironman 70.3 Lake Tahoe

This was, psychologically, my biggest race for the year.  Ironman Lake Tahoe has a bit of notoriety, having had a near freezing first year with their highest Ironman DNF rate to date, and a cancelation due to smoke last year.  The first was held just as I did my first triathlon (Malibu 2013), and the concept of Tahoe scared me.  After finishing my first 70.3 at Hawaii, and the announcement of a 70.3 at Tahoe last year, I knew I’d be in for this year.  

Overnight, a bear raided T1, picking out race snacks from transition bags.  Yes, really.

We bussed in together, both 70.3 and full distance athletes.  The full started two hours earlier, giving us plenty of time to spectate the full swim, which is something to watch.  After watching the lead swimmers at Vineman, it really struck me how quiet and the front of the swim pack is, and this race was the same.  

It was in the high 50s when we started, with cold water close to shore that quickly warmed up as we headed out.  After hearing most people talking about how cold it would be, I was surprised by how cold it wasn’t; SF bay certainly does a good job at cold acclimation.  I did start with a slightly faster breathing pace to account for the altitude, but after warming up for the first 5 or so minutes, I fell into my normal swim pace and it didn’t have much more effect.  The water was clear blue, and gorgeous, as we could see the large rocks of the sierra on the bottom, along with the intermittent almost-glowing green abandoned swim cap.  Finishing the swim, T1 had a tent, and unlike my last half, I took the time to change into a cycling jersey to avoid the excess sun.  

The bike was fun, fast, and hard.  Well, the hard part, better known as Brockway Summit, was not the fast part, and it’s probably the hardest hill I’ve ridden up.  Not because of the elevation gain, but because of the sustained grade, which felt harder than climbing Diablo.  The rest of the ride, which went from King’s Beach, up 89, through Truckee, and down 267, before looping back to Squaw, was also gorgeous, and a lot of fun.  I definitely trained well for this, coming in on a consistent effort with nothing hurting.

I started the run under-hydrated in warm weather, and never quite made up for it, but I ran the first half faster than expected, suffering the altitude more than anything else.  The hydration issue would have affected me on a longer run, but this was only 13 miles.  Realizing I was way under a PR time, I slowed my pace through the second loop of the run to take everything in and enjoy the course, finishing in 6:59:36.  

A great race, sorry to see it’s going to be discontinued, but that was expected given how it’s gone.  I questioned whether this year would happen up until a few days before the race, given the wildfire situation in California.  It’s a gorgeous and hard enough course, that if it had lasted another year, I would have gone back for my first full.

Things done well
* The bike went really well, about 25 minutes faster than last year, on a harder course.  
* The swim went well too, about 7 minutes faster.  
* No muscle strain/fatigue on the bike/run transition; I was more limited by altitude.  
* Changing shirts and avoiding tri tops makes longer races much more enjoyable. 

Things learned
* I didn’t hydrate enough on the bike.  Possibly because of the elevation, possibly because of staying dry due to speed.  I’ll have to watch this more deliberately if I do a full distance race.
* Running at elevation was the hardest part, even though running’s been the bulk of my altitude training this year. 
* Brockway summit is hard.

Some cool drone footage:

Bike, twice across the bottom. 
Run, 2x.