Trail Monster Running

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

First Week of 2012

2012 is off to a good start for me so I thought it might be a good time to get back in to writing about my running. Things have been going well for quite a while now, but I got out of the habit of writing and have found it difficult to get back into it. Looking back at 2011 I wish I had documented my training better, in hopes that I might be able to repeat certain aspects of it and improve upon others. 2011 was the first year that I documented all of my running, although I did little more that just save the data recorded by my Garmin.

Even though I don't have complete data from any of my previous 12 years of running I'm fairly certain that 2011 was my highest mileage year at 2,122.5 miles. I spent a little more than 402 hours running, which works out to an average of 5.8 miles per day at an 11:23 pace. I guess singletrack, snowshoe and ultra running makes me slow, not surprising really. I only ran 272 miles on road, the other 1851 miles were on trail and I didn't set foot on a treadmill once.

Back to 2012, the first full week of the new year included PRs at both a road 10k as well as a trail 50k. I have to admit that I didn't see either of these coming. I don't do much road running, and even when I do it's not particularly fast and, like most of my training, is pretty unstructured. The Hangover Classic 10k in Salisbury, MA is a race that Emma and I do every year, mostly so we can join the crowd jumping into the ocean immediately after the run. This is the only 10k I have run in the past 4 years and my times have been all over the place depending on obvious factors like training, and then other factors like how late I stayed up on New Year's Eve and how much I had to drink. This year's pre-race alco-loading included moderate quantities of champagne, wine, beer and whiskey, and a bed time around 1:00 AM. Luckily the race didn't start until 11:30 AM so I was still able to get a reasonable amount of sleep. The course is totally flat, but features quite a few tight turns which I actually like a lot. All the single-track trail running I do seems to translate well to making tight turns on the road without losing speed. The temperature was warm for January and perfect for a short race, sunny and high 40's. I didn't look at my watch at all during the race so I really didn't know how I was doing until I approached the finish line and could see 39:xx on the clock. I've never broken 41 minutes in a 10k so I was psyched to cross the line in 39:46. I'm not sure that I've run a 6:23 pace for even one mile of my training on 2011 so I don't know how the hell I managed to do it for 10k. Must be a short course.

Since I had run 19 miles the day before the 10k I took Monday off, I definitely needed a rest day. Tuesday was the regular TMR Tuesday Night Run at Pratt's Brook in Yarmouth. 5.35 miles at a 9:14 pace which felt pretty brisk for that (icy) terrain (in the dark). I blame Nathan for pushing the pace.

Wednesday was another day off, knowing that I'd be running 50k (hopefully) at the GAC Fat Ass on Saturday I wanted to be well rested going in. Thursday morning I took the dogs with me to meet up with Mindy for some exploration on Tryon Mountain, a little bump to the north of Bradbury Mt. We spent close to 2 hours wandering around, getting lost and then found. Although we only covered a little more that 6 miles it was a lot of fun and a nice easy pace to keep things loose.

I'm not sure what got into me on Friday, but I decided to do some hill repeats on the roads. We received close to 2" of snow over night, and I feared that the trails would be treacherously icy, and not that the roads were much better but I figured that running up and down a cul-de-sac in my neighborhood was pretty safe. Seven times up and down seemed like enough, and hopefully not too much to hinder me on Saturday.

For some reason I was on the fence about doing the GAC Fat Ass 50k this year, I guess in part because I hadn't done much long running since the Stone Cat 50 miler in November. The month of November was intentionally my lowest mileage month of the year at 125 miles. I wasn't happy with my performance at Stone Cat and knew that I needed some significant rest time before I got back into training. Even though I was considering the 50k on January 7th and I had a steady month of running throughout December, I didn't have many significant long runs. Only three long runs between 18 and 20 miles, and an average weekly mileage in the high 40's. I felt strong and consistent, but not really what I would consider to be fully trained for a 50k race. The good thing about a Fat Ass 50k is that it's not a race, and with the multi-loop format it's easy to stop early if things aren't going well.

When I eventually decided that I was definitely going to take part I still wasn't convinced that I'd be able to finish the full distance. My goal was to run consistently, and slightly faster than a relaxed pace, but certainly not pushing it. I had pushed the pace early at Stone Cat and paid the price by slowing down quite severely.

With temperatures at the start in the upper 30's and predicted to reach 50 there was a huge group of runners, well over 100. There was a big contingent of Trail Monsters in attendance this year, but everyone had different plans/goals so I wasn't sure if I'd end up running with anyone.  This was the first year that I've seen this event without snow cover, and conditions were ideal for allowing good times. Our group stuck together fairly well for the first mile or so before breaking up a bit and I settled in with Jim and then caught up to Jamie. We finished the first lap together in 53 minutes, Jim and Jamie waited while I hit the restroom. We set off on lap 2 together but first Jamie, then Jim pulled off the trail for bio-breaks and by mile 10 I was running alone. But not for long, when I finished the second lap I was in time to meet up with Nate who had been just a bit ahead of me but stopped at the aid station, so we set off together.

The one aspect of my Stone Cat approach that I chose to carry forward was to run with as much food and drink as I could reasonably carry to balance efficient running without needing to stop at the aid station for breaks. This strategy seemed to be working pretty well for me, although in hind sight I think I would have benefited from eating and drinking more of what I had with me.

Lap 3 turned out to be the fastest of the day for both Nate and I, and when we finished he took a few minutes at the aid station while I kept cruising. I figured that I had enough water in my pack to get me through another 10k lap. My pace was looking pretty good at this point, fairly consistent and on track for a good finish time, but I knew that I still had over 12 miles to go and I was starting to feel the miles already under my belt. At this point I felt pretty confident that I could complete the full 50k distance, and I just hoped that I could keep myself from crashing. My energy level was good but there was a lot of tightness in my right side from my glutes through my hamstring and into my calf. This has been on ongoing issue for me over the past two years and I began to realize that the race at the beginning of the week, and perhaps the previous days hill repeats were causing the issue to flare up again.

Luckily that tightness didn't cause much of a slow down on lap 4, and after a quick stop just to add a little more water to my bladder I was off to finish this 50k. I had run all of lap 4 alone, apart from passing a few folks and I was sure that lap 5 would be even more lonely. This was part of my downfall at Stone Cat, after a summer and fall of running with Emma and so many of my Trail Monster friends I found that I lacked the ability to really push myself when I was alone in the later stages of a long run. I let myself mentally quit at Stone Cat, but I was determined not to let that happen today.

My legs were getting tired and the tightness on the right side was getting worse. I felt like I had to work a lot harder just to maintain the pace I had been doing. I felt like I was slowing down, but it was hard to tell. My watch read 3:30 at the end of the fourth lap, so I set myself a goal of running this last lap in under an hour so I could break 4:30 for the full distance. It seemed reasonable but based on how much I've seen myself slow down in the past I knew that breaking an hour was somewhat optimistic.

Even though I didn't have anyone to run with there were still a lot of people out on the course and I frequently found someone to chase down. I picked off a few runners who were ahead of me and started lapping runners who were on their 4th lap. This helped keep me motivated and distract me from the growing discomfort in my legs. With about 1.5 miles to go all the (little) hills and technical terrain (not that there was much of that) were out of the way and I attempted to pick the pace up. I think the reality is that I began to slow down at a slower rate, which is kind of like getting faster.

I didn't check my watch until I was almost at the end, and I was so relieved to see that I was going to beat 4:30. It's not like I had that goal for a very long time (exactly 1 lap) but it was part of my larger goal to run with consistency. I crossed the line in 4:25 which was good enough for a new 50k PR on trails.

Finished 13 out of 80 who completed the full 50k distance. RESULTS

Lap 1: 55 minutes (53 minutes plus a 2 minute bio-break at the end of the lap)
Lap 2: 51 minutes
Lap 3: 50 minutes
Lap 4: 53 minutes (52 minutes plus a 1 minute stop to refill bladder)
Lap 5: 55 minutes

That's about as close to consistency as I can get, granted, it's not a 50 miler but I feel like it's a step in the right direction. And two PR's in one week is a heck of a way to start the year.


Nathan said...

Great effort Ian. Amazing consistency.
I ran more like your Stonecat 50. Just slowed down from laps 3 to 5.

mindy said...

YAY! Hope you keep up the blog entries in 2012, I always enjoy them. Excellent consistency and fantastic work on the 50K!!

Yak Hunter said...

Glad you're back writing and what a great start to the year. Hope its a great one.

fretless said...

so glad you are writing again - this blog has been a favorite of mine for a while. congrats on the amazing 50k.

Sparkplug said...

Nice job with the 50k, Ian! And happy to see you back with a blog entry too!

pathfinder said...

It seems the rest did you wonders...great job,

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