Sunday, May 22, 2011

Big Run Fun

This will certainly amuse the big mileage runners out there, but I had a huge week when I logged 56 miles last week.  Add to that the "long" run in Chicago last Saturday and I had a total of over 69 miles logged during an 8-day period in which I ran five times. Include the 8K+ feet of climbing and ascending, and you have what I deem a quality ultra week.

Last weekend I completed two runs of over 13 miles, giving me an "ultra" weekend. Then, yesterday, I was able to travel to LBL to run on the Canal Loop. I covered 27 miles in 3:29 with a little over 3000 feet of up/down.  It was warmer and certainly more muggy than I wanted it to be, which slowed me near the end, but I finished what I started while testing some gear I hope to use this summer (more in a blog I'm writing). It was a good day of suffering that should help prepare me mentally and physically for the immense vertical changes of the San Juan Solstice 50 in four weeks.

Of note is the fact that this felt like my first run on the Canal Loop. Sure, I've run the loop about a dozen times before, but all of those runs came during the winter months. That means no canopy of foliage and only brown leaves and fallen trees for understory. The dense May foliage gave the trail a new look. It also blocked most of the views of the two lakes that had only recently retreated from the the flood stage reached because of the recent onslaught of rain. The result was some slightly muddy low areas and an occasional dead fish smell. Overall, I gladly welcomed the color and the sun block.

The results of this week show me that I possess greater climbing ability than I did last year before the Silver Rush - despite the fact that I have purposefully kept my weight quite high.  One of the goals I established for this ultra summer was to go into it capable of running 16-18 miles at a sub-6 pace on low altitude roads.  This was accomplished by the consistent pace work that started in March.  The plan calls for adding climbing abilities to that speed. The late March NC trip and the 48 recent Stru climbs indicate that I am climbing well - for me. So far, so good.

I must add that the constant changing of my athletic goals - from runner to ultra runner to duathlete to 14er - has kept my legs and mind fresh over the last several years. I am really looking forward to experiencing the San Juans this summer as a runner, cyclist, and climber.  I am also looking forward to spending some time in the Leadville area, which has been a summer home for me over the last five years.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Two Contrasting Runs

One of the most repeated words in my training lexicon is specificity. When the training plan relies on minimal mileage, it is wise to make certain that each one of those miles serves a purpose. Looking at my log last night I had to chuckle at the similarities and differences in the two runs I had completed. I wondered whether anyone other than myself would see the specific goal I am training for reflected in the log.

Saturday morning in Chicago was a bit beyond blustery. Fast-moving dark clouds let a few sun rays pass through when not spitting rain indiscriminately. The NNE wind was merciless as it thrusted and gusted from 40-50 mph. My chosen course closely resembled the last-minute lake front course of the Chicago Monster of last October. I ran north from Grant park along the Lakeshore Trail to a point almost a mile north of Lincoln Park.

The run can be described in several ways. It was a seven mile sand blasting of my legs. It was like running behind a jet engine. It was insanity. It was fun!

Before leaving Grant Park a guy eased ahead of me.  He looked at my chest - and I at his.  He had a number on. I picked up my pace a little and yelled at him through the wind "What is the race distance?"  "5K," he yelled back. I eased off and was eventually passed by a five other racers.  They turned twice and made their way south at the north end of the park. Lucky bastards!

This was the kind of run where pace meant nothing.  I checked the HR a few times due to my stress and strain against the wind.  The HR was fine. The pace was not, so I made the decision to keep my planned distance and live with running for a longer period of time.  You are training for a pair of high altitude 50 miles races!!

It was north of Castaways that my legs began to feel as if they were being sanded with sixty grit. Merry travelers going south began to stare at me - at my legs.  I looked down and saw what looked like raw meet. I wanted to eat my Espresso gel at about six miles, but I didn't want to have a sand chaser.

At one point I laughed at a couple of triathletes who eased ahead of me on their $5K bikes. They were tucked in tightly while stomping on their smallest gears. They were weaving back and forth much more than I was. It was the Lakeshore Insane Asylum. Until I got a bright idea. Another triathlete passed me on a Cervelo P3.  Nice ride! He was barely moving faster than my near eight minute pace, so I surged and started drafting off of him. He was lower than my torso, but he and his ride deflected much of the sand that would have become embedded in my thighs. I stayed on his wheel for almost a mile. He noticed and shook his head. I laughed and told him to kindly keep his head up.

As soon as I made a U-turn the "Fasten Seatbelt" light came on while I accelerated. I could hear again. Bikes going south, even the cruisers, were booming through the sound barrier. I found myself among a couple of hundred participants in a half marathon. Too funny - they soon had to turn back into that wind!

Good mountain training? Well, it was designed to weaken my legs before the Sunday run. The fierce wind made it more challenging than expected, but I was OK with that. Day one goal accomplished.

Sunday's run was quite different. I strapped on the La Sportiva Crosslites and made my way to Stru Hill. I was thirteen minutes into the run when I began to run repeats on the hill. Twenty-four round trips on that hill gave me just over 2K vertical feet of climbing in eleven miles of running. That is 2K up and 2K down in just over eleven miles. I thought about completing thirty climbs, but I ran them faster than I ever have run a long set, so I quit after two dozen. This run indicated that I am well ahead of the fitness I had five weeks before the Silver Rush last summer. Day two goal accomplished.

Two extremely different runs that combined for great ultra preparation. Both runs were almost entirely off asphalt, since I ran on the gravel beside the Lakeshore Trail. A flat, but brutally windy run was followed by a run without flat sections. The average HR for the two, while higher than I would average for a hard 50 miler, was slightly higher than the highest HR I will achieve in a 50-mile event. I can't wait until next wedkend!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Easy Street

Shortly after sunrise this morning I found myself going up and down Stru Hill. This yo-yo running has become a regular and invaluable part of my training over the last several years when I am preparing to push my Indiana body in the high Rockies of Colorado.

The recent record rains have left the old farm road deeply rutted and covered with abundant obstacles. Perfect! If you are not familiar with Stru Hill, then I should mention that it is almost a quarter mile in length and climbs about 90 feet as it snakes through a very pleasant forest. It is what I have within reach to help me prepare for the CO climbs. I run up and down it as many as thirty times during a run while achieving 1K-2.5K of climbing and descending.

This morning I ran for the first time since the Mini, logging 10 round trips in under 33 minutes on Stru giving me almost 900 ft vertical ascending and descending. The climbing legs were surprisingly strong considering my recent activities. My splits indicated that I am in significantly better climbing condition than I was last year at this time. That's good, because the SJS50 involves more than 12,800 feet of climbing, which is far greater than the 7400 feet of climbing in the SR50.

Of course, any mountain runner will tell that the descents are what destroy your quads. That is why I try to descend quickly in training. When I want to concentrate on steeper descents, I move to the back side of Stru Hill because it has the same altitude change in half of the distance. It is a real quad buster as the repetitions add up.

Those repetitions this morning, combined with my recent reading of several SJS50 race reports, had me longing for sustained climbs offering open vistas. When I realized that I had started to get negative about my training conditions, I made myself start singing Marley tunes. It must have worked, because I finished feeling quite chipper.

A short time later I found myself watching this video. My life is SO simple compared to the athletes in the video. It was just what I needed to spark a can-do attitude as I embark on the most difficult and repetitious phase of my mountain training. Stru Hill is, quite literally, Easy Street.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hammerfest 1

How do you follow a half marathon?  Extra sleep? Check.  Massage? Check. Plenty of slow movement to limit muscle lock up? Check.  Bicycle time trial? Check.

Several weeks ago I entered the Southern Indiana Triathlon Team's May edition of the monthly Hammerfest time trial series.  Then, about a week later, I acquired a bib for the Indy Mini.  I had a decision to make. And I made the one that made the most sense to me. I chose to race both events - provided that I did not get injured running the Mini.  Well, if you are following this blog you know about my Mini experience. Now for a short tale of a 12-mile bicycle time trial called the Hammerfest that took place about 58 hours after I finished the Mini.

Details.  The Hammerfest took place in a tiny burg called Hatfield, IN, which is about 15 miles east of Newburgh, IN.  Due to flooding, the 12-mile course was rerouted for this first month.  We rode an out and back course with seven turns on pancake flat roads that ranged from smooth asphalt to wrinkled and patched chip and seal.  It was a course sufficient enough to produce fast speeds if the legs were able and the mind willing enough.

I was scheduled to start near the end of the starting order at 6:32 pm.  Due to appearances at a faculty meeting and a track practice after school, I arrived at the Panera on Evansville's east side with little time to spare.  In fact, I would not have stopped at all accept that I was famished.  Well, not really famished, but I certainly was hungry having eaten only one meal on the day.  I knew my body was going to rebel against a hard ride anyway, so I wasn't going to give it another reason to quit by racing on an empty stomach.

So, I inhaled half of my bowl of black bean soup before standing up to rush out with the mocha as soon as the young lady had prepared it.  I was in and out in 6 minutes. Or so I thought.  A man sitting next to me asked me to help him install his new Norton Antivirus on his laptop.  Go ahead and laugh! I did! The poor guy had no way of knowing about my neanderthal computer abilities.  Why and how I was able to read the instructions and tell him how to do it, I do not know.  I laughed and shook my head thinking about the Geico caveman commercials. But the four minutes that took would turn out to be crucial.

It would be an outright lie to say that I did not attempt to speed all the way through Newburgh.  I tried!  But the cars in front of me would have none of it.  They formed a perfect three-car wedge across the highway. Grrrrr! Luckily for me, those same cars continued through the construction zone east of town - and most of the way to Hatfield.

I pulled off of the road in Hatfield about fifty meters from the start/finish line.  My watch said that I had less than four minutes to get to the line.  Both Kristy and Faith were in the back of the RAV with only their front wheels removed.  I chose Kristy, the '09 Kestrel Airfoil Pro, simply because she did not have a tool bag under the seat. I wonder now if Faith, equipped with Hed 3's, would have been faster on the flat course under the influence of 5-10 mph SSW winds.

While running to the start area I told Jeff, an old running friend and the guy in charge, that I did not want them to wait for me or to have me go out of line.  Then I moved quickly to shed my pants and don my aero helmet and race number (which was quickly pinned to my back by an expert pinner who drew not a single drop of blood!).  Then I hopped on Kristy and road a short loop of a couple hundred meters.

When I returned to the line Jeff told me that I would be started as soon as the next rider finished.

Once rolling, I was surprised at how peppy my legs felt.  I clicked off the first mile in 2:10 - hey, I'm a runner, so that is how I think.  Everything was working well as I shifted through the first couple of turns and hit miles in the 2:1x's.  I knew I had a tailwind, so I surmised that I would suffer greatly on the return as the wind and fatigue from the Mini would surely unite and rise up against me in the closing miles.

At about 1.5 miles I steered Kristy across a steel grid bridge surface. Oops! Tires danced and slid side to side while the rims gently bottomed out several times. Oops!  In my rush I did not even think of inflating my tires.  Since the bikes had been in the RAV for hours on a hot day, I had lowered the pressure that morning. The front had maybe 50 psi and the back less, maybe 40 psi.  Dang!

As the miles passed I caught up to a few of the riders in front of me. One of those riders was a 12-year-old boy who was showing some great form and grit near the turn-around.

The wind did attack me, but it was minimal. And the fatigue did set in, challenging my form and making me want to stomp on the pedals, but I resisted. A couple of the splits hit the upper 2:2x's and I got really mad. I'm certain many cyclists know what I mean when I say the fire was burning in my thighs and arse. Luckily, it was burning hotter in my mind.

The dancing tires on the bridge did not surprise me on the return. A minute later I made the last right-hand turn into an arrow-straight mile long stretch of road to the finish. I ignored the building pain, clinched the aero bars tightly, and started concentrating on smooth powerful pedaling as I steered Kristy toward the finish line. The last mile was as fast as my first - 2:10.

The total time for the 12-mile ride was 27:39 for a 26 mph average. Though it was not a stellar time, I am more than happy with it since I have ridden less than two dozen times since the thug attack of last August. I am more than satisfied with my overall fitness and extremely happy with my ability to fend off pain. I will have to ignore much worse pain in the upcoming months.

This was a well-run, low-key event that can be described as fun. It was also, for me anyway, therapeutic.

I am thankful to be able to ride at all, let alone fast. When I consider the lingering nerve damage from the attack las August and having recently had more skin cancer removed from my body, I am taking nothing for granted. I also do not want to sit idle while my life passes by. And I want to GO FAST whenever I can!!

The Hammer I won and the award I gave myself!

Throughout the ride this Paul Thorn song played in my head , , ,

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Indy Mini Report

Thirty-five thousand is a large number, especially when it is the number of people standing behind the start line of a race.  Until Saturday I had never participated in America's largest half marathon.  With my training already devoted to the two CO fifty milers, I knew that I was not properly prepared for a strong effort in a half marathon, so I decided to treat it as a training run and hold to an honest and even pace.  And that was what I did, most of the time.  What fun!

Race day weather was near perfect; cool, light winds, and cloud cover.  A low pressure system was moving in and it was a bit humid. (Rain fell for about ten minutes 90 minutes after the start.)

I entered Corral A and took a position about forty feet back from the start line. Gene Mesker, a running friend for thirty years, appeared beside me just before the start. We wished each other well as the announcer led the crowd in a NASA-like countdown to the start.

During the first mile I found myself talking to Sarah, another running friend.  A major goal for the day was to make certain I did not go out too hard. A first mile of 5:57 was slower than I anticipated, but I smiled at the fact that my pace goal for the day was to average 5:57-6:00 per mile.  No time lost or gained on the first mile.

The next four miles were a different story.  By holding to the crowd around me, I went through several 5:4x miles to cover the first five in 29:17.  It was then, after five miles and with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway dominating the horizon, that I decided to slow down to my goal pace.  From that point on I ran each mile between 5:55 and 6:04.

The 6:04 was the result of my poor feeding abilities.  I ate an Espresso Gel just before an aid station during the seventh mile.  It was pathetic!  I broke stride while taking the gel, while grabbing the water, and while drinking the water.  The group of runners I had been running with were suddenly about thirty feet ahead of me.  The 5:55 8th mile was a result of my frustration.  Interestingly enough, the other two miles over 6 minutes occurred when I took aid. I better work on that!

After going through 10 miles in 59:15, I easily held onto the 6 minute pace until as I finished in 1:17:59 by my watch and a rounded up 1:18 by chip time - which shouldn't matter at all, but it does. (Why is that?) I should have sprinted harder near the humorous ending!

It was as I approached the finish line of the Victory Mile that the announcer, standing on the roadway, leaned in and congratulated a guy sitting on his couch at home.  I smiled and put my arms up as I kept the 6 minute pace. And, while I was doing this, two people came sprinting past me! A woman passed me on the left and a man on the right. The announcer became excited and asked if the guy on the couch could respond.    They both admitted a few minutes later that they were going for each other and, more importantly, that 1:18 mark. (Why do we do that?)

I burst into a sprint that was blocked when they veered toward each other.  I redirected left and dug a little deeper, passing both of them within meters of the finish line.  If I had been paying attention to the clock I would have picked it up earlier, making that final sprint and the 1:18 mark nonexistent.  Oh, well.  It was fun to engage that seldom seen gear.

My friend, Jeremy, and 24 other members of his extended family, including his 86-year-old grandmother, Gertrude, competed in the 5K and Mini that day. They were interviewed by an Indy Star reporter whose piece was in today's paper. Jeremy won the family race and set a PR by finishing in 1:22:37.  It was a fine day for the Aydt family.

Something I found most exciting about the Mini was the fact that I encountered so many friends in the huge crowd. Before the day was finished I had met up with more than two dozen old friends that I came to know through running and multisport.  Friendships always brighten a day!

The post-race party was awesome.  Bands played on two stages.  A few dozen tents of varying sizes were set up for businesses and organizations.  I came across a Purdue tent where I logged my race information and collected a tasty real fruit popsicle. Then I found Bob Kennedy's Running Co./Bluemile tent where I had a fantastic meal that included a some veggie burgers and great tasting beer.  I am usually not a big fan of beer after hard efforts, but I have to admit that I went back for seconds and thirds.

I really have come to like the half marathon distance.  This was my sixth half marathon in the last seven months.  It was another memorable experience that included a first-class race and continuation of many long-standing friendships. And it was a confidence building day for me as I look 6 weeks forward to the SJS50.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rolling Along

It's been far too long between posts.  Things are going well for me lately.  The training has gone along quite well, despite Mother Nature's repeated attempts to flood my world.  My life has been busy and full as I have been wearing many hats, including those of track coach, robotics sponsor, and help session host while trying to fit in the training.

There have been no trips or races of note since the JD Oak Barrel Half last month.  My athletic endeavors have been limited to squeezing in all of my intended runs and half of my rides between rain storms.  That record month of rain put a damper on my cycling comeback.  That's OK.  I don't have any scheduled goals regarding pedaling until the end of the summer, and even that one is iffy.  My main goals for 2011 are still the pair of 50 milers I'll run in Colorado.

Reviewing my training log this morning I came to the conclusion that my training has gone well in the last month.  I am not super fit, but I have begun to build a solid running foundation for this summer.  Each week has seen me finish 100-140 minute runs at about 7-minute pace on hilly courses.  Each week has also included some solid pace work in running shoes and on the bike.  Again, the cycling is far from race worthy, but I am starting to push the pedals hard after only 15 rides since my forced six-month layoff.

What is next?  I will test my fitness on Saturday by throwing down a training run over the half marathon distance.  It should be interesting and I will certainly post about it on Sunday.  Then I will travel to Chicago to move Brandon home on May 13.  While there I intend to rise with the sun on the 14th and put in a long run on the lake shore pathway.  If life goes well, I will be able to log some long trail miles on the 15th. Then, hopefully, I will return to NC at the end of May to log some mountain miles in preparation for the San Juan Solstice 50 Miler.

Big runs with big vertical are coming.  I've got to get ready.  Meanwhile, this half marathon addiction is nearing a critical point.