Just a quick story to better familiarize my fellow flatlanders with the concept of high altitude mountain running. This morning I drove almost to the Printer Boy aid station again. This time I stopped at the bottom of the knob where Printer Boy is located. Why? Well, because that is where the SR 50 course crosses the road after it leaves the aid station. This is one of the steeper climbs on the course, so I decided to take an easy stroll up it. And that is what I did - kind of.
I strapped on a couple of 10 oz handhelds and proceded up the trail. This section of the trail has now been marked with streamers. I followed those streamers to the top of the knob where I popped back out on the road at Printer Boy. The GPS read 1.00 mile just before I hit the road. Interesting. More interesting was the fact that the trail had ascended 340 ft. Put another way, that means this climb was like 4 1/3 Stru hills strung together. The similar grade was all these two hills had in common.
First of all, the SR trail has much more challenging footing. It is a myriad of loose rocks, embedded boulders, and winding deep erosion ditches.
Secondly, the SR climb (mile 37) is at almost 11,000 ft. That means there is less than two-thirds the oxygen available there for fueling the muscles. That also means that I did not and could not run the SR hill at anywhere near the pace I run Stru. I ran Stru at or under 7 minute pace 229 times leading up to this trip. I crested the SR knob in 10:28. Oh, I was "taking it easy" and felt in control, but my HR went from 65% in the opening minutes to 84% in the final three minutes. Eighty-four percent is a 5:40 pace in Evansville! I cannot wait to see how that mile turns out during the race.
The descent wasn't much better. The challenges of choosing a path and staying on my feet were significant enough to slow this descent to 7:18. Oh, I could have gone faster and probably will go a little faster in the race, but today I was conserving the quads. Still, a 7:18 downhill mile! The blur of decision making made it seem a lot faster.
I am certain that the top mountain runners will destroy me on this section. My only wishes are to stay upright on the outbound descent and to have enough strength to actually run back up it after several hours of running.
By the way, at the bottom of the hill the SR 50 course crosses the road and makes an even greater ascent while climbing to the upper flanks of Ball Mountain. This should be a Hurt Fest. Can't wait to take it on.