Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekly Recap Feb. 13-19 - Canal Loop Test Run

Sunday 2-13
10 - 1:10:11  Intended to go nice and easy for this one, but that only lasted a half mile.  It was then that I started climbing the Stru Hill.  This hill will become my life-line for the CO climbs.  The front side climbs 86 feet in just under a quarter mile while the back side makes the same climb in just over an eighth of a mile.  Hey, its all I've got! Up and down and up and down and . . .

After several round trips I found my way to more level ground where I started running 6:3x pace in a brutal wind.  That felt good for several miles, but I stopped at 10 miles because I was beginning to tighten up.  It was a good run for sure!  Sunshine, blue sky, and only moderately muddy trails that were completely void of deer. Yeah, it was another pleasant run!

Tuesday 2-15
6 - 35:13  Another great day of pace work.  I must relate that I am a little surprised about how good the legs are feeling while I am increasing the mileage so quickly.  Of course, I have to work really hard on those legs between runs.  Maybe that is part of getting old.  I don't mind.  In fact, I like the challenge of trying to maintain my limited ability for as long as possible. 

The pace work portion of this run was just like last week - 4.5 miles in 25:11.  It was slightly faster at a slightly lower HR, but that was likely due to the fact that the significantly warmer (48 F) temperature allowed me to wear shorts.  What a fun run.  This is definitely my favorite type of run - all alone and pushing the pace.  I would be totally crushed should I ever be incapable a running hard enough to get the HR up there. Thirty years ago I saw myself as a life-long runner.  Hopefully, I will still be running for another thirty years.

Thursday 2-17
7 - 49:02  Wow!  Another warm (52 F) morning.  This sunrise run came easily at the moderate pace I am running as I ramp up the distance.  Because I have bounced back and forth between short/fast running and ultra running, I have also been forced to adjust my average training pace.  The 7-7:15 pace I am using for most of my running right now is less intense than what I am accustomed to and, therefore, quite relaxing.  These low-effort runs through interesting and varied terrain before the masses of people move in are quite therapeutic.

I haven't yet decided if I feel much different or any better than I would after my normal 19-minute 3-mile Thursday run. Slow and easy running is relaxing, but fast and intense running is spiritual.  I guess any type of running will make me have a better day!  The therapy will be complete when I get back on the bike.

Saturday 2-19  (Pictures coming when I get time.)
27 - 3:33:46  Finally!  I made it down to Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky to run on the Canal Loop  Trail.  Two other planned trips this year had to be cancelled because snow and/or ice that fell heavily and then proceeded to melt quickly in warm air.

The trail and weather conditions were near perfect today.  There were a few boggy spots, but the trail was mostly damp and soft.  Though a light rain greeted me at the trail head, I felt only a few drops before the precipitation moved on to the southeast.  I light wind was refreshing in the 50 F air.

This was my fourth trip to run on the Canal Loop.  I learned of and began to train on the circuit during the winter of 2008.  On two occasions I ran the LBL Trail Run Marathon route by running two circuits of the 11.3-mile single track plus  enough to reach the marathon distance.  Then, in March of 2008 I was one of a about 200 crazed pain seekers who refused to back down when a quick blizzard blew through the area, dropping 6-14 inches of snow, within a couple of hours of the 6 am start.  Even the trip down there was challenging.  I cursed the unplowed Kentucky Interstate before I passed one, then two, overturned salt/plow trucks.  My little Matrix AWD found it relatively easy going.

The LBL Trail Runs consist of 4 concurrently run races in which the competitors run on an asphalt road for 1.6 miles from the tiny town of Grand Rivers to the north end of the Canal Loop Trail before running the circuit 1-4 times for distances of 14 Mi, 26.2 Mi, 60K, or 50 Mi.  Runners are allowed to add or subtract loops during the race and still be counted among the finishers for the distance they run.

In 2008 I ran the 60K.  The first loop involved running through snow that varied from 4 inches deep up to about 16 inches deep, depending on how it had drifted in the short but hearty blizzard.  The snow had been packed down a bit by a weighted sled that had been pulled by a man named Bob Hall.  I met Bob today as I began my run.  What a kind and helpful man!  He told me that he is training for the super tough Barkley 100 run in April.  Good luck with that brutal course, Bob!

The second loop of the 2008 run was run in a narrow, sunken path that was formed by several hundred pounding feet.  I thought it resembled a bob sled run.  Though that little path was a bit slippery, it provided the best footing of the day.  Underneath all of that snow was significantly warmer earth which melted the packed snow before I began the third loop.  The result was a mud slurry that froze on running shoes that were in the 20 F air.  Yes, my feet were painfully cold when I reached the finish back in Grand Rivers. (2nd place/5:26)  That was my second ultra and it was certainly a memorable journey.

Today's run was a repeat of my two previous training runs in LBL.  I ran the marathon distance to test my endurance.  My legs passed the test, but my back did not.  I have been suffering from sciatic pinching for about a month and that became noticeable just before I finished the second loop.  That problem has existed since an accident in 1998.  I simply failed to to what needed to be done to stop the pinching during the last several days.  Now I will deal with a tight right hamstring for awhile.

The single track is a high-use trail that is open to hikers and mountain bikers.  Some runners have trouble with bikers.  I only pick bones with the few rude ones.  Hell, I AM a biker.  Well, I will be again soon!  There were a couple dozen bikers out there today and many of them were struggling with (walking) the steep climbs on the Kentucky Lake side.  Though Bob Hall was the only runner I saw while I was running, there were a few who were starting out just after I had finished.

What a fun run!  I love that trail.  It rolls gently up and down and back and forth on the Lake Barkley side and then weaves wildly back and forth and way up and way down on the Kentucky Lake side.  There are about 1160 vertical feet of climbing per loop.  I climbed more than 2500 feet during my run of 2+ loops today.

The first loop passed quickly and surprisingly easily in 1:31.  I was taking it easy because I intend to run a race (LBL or Tom King Half) in just three weeks.  After a quick pit stop at the RAV to get some calories and fluid, I covered the second lap in 1:33.  I was actually about a minute ahead of the first lap pace for much of the second lap, but I slowed near the end due to the tightness in my back.  Any running with the tight back causes hamstring pain, but pushing the pace creates long-lasting damage to that hamstring. (Does that sound like a voice of experience?)  I hung from a tree branch to stretch the back at the end of the second loop and was then able to run the 4+ remaining miles at a higher pace than I had run all day.

The LBL Canal Loop provides a good test of trail running endurance.  While today's result shows that my old legs are not yet in the shape they need to be in for successful 50 mile mountain runs, that result allowed me to gain quite a bit of confidence.  It is now a few hours after the run and my legs feel like I ran a solid 12 or 13 miles on rolling roads.  The way I bounded up the stairs when I returned home was not indicative of a 27 mile effort at sub-8 pace on a tough trail.

Training on the Canal Loop also allows my mind and lower legs to make the adjustment needed to transition into smooth and efficient trail running.  The trail and its countless root and rock features are still buried under a layer of leaves, so an attentive mind is required to pick the best path.  That attention will also help make the soles of the shoes, and not the palms of the hands, the contact points between me and Earth.  During the second loop I passed a group of bikers who were walking their bikes up one of the steep climbs I heard one of them say, "Damn, he's passing us again.  That guy must be Superman!"  I chuckled, tapped the tat on my hip, and waved without looking back as I thought about guys like Krupicka and Roes who ARE supermen.  Then, within seconds of passing them and rounding a curve, I caught a toe and went down onto my palms.  It was my only snag of the day and it was positioned at just the right time to keep me humble.

Now I must decide which race I will run on March 12.  It appears that I will be sufficiently content with my abilities at either distance.

Life is truly good when there are trails out there to run on!

Weekly Total: 50 Miles (6:08:12)

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