Friday, February 3, 2012

Fun Meets Serious Fun

During the last two months I have had a lot of fun running and riding with very little structure. I cruised along slowly most of the time, but cranked up the pace when I felt like it. My legs have felt great at both sports. And my back, well, it returned to normal only to bring its wrath upon me again last weekend. The problem is not as bad as it was in the Fall and I do not plan to allow it get any worse. Enough whining.

Helping out at the Hardrock 100 last July renewed my interest in completing a 100 mile event. There must be some reverse psychology at work along the lines of misery lover company. So, I entered the Western States lottery. Then, out of curiosity, I watched the lottery on my laptop while also watching a basketball game on TV. The excitement displayed by those runners fortunate enough to get drawn was enough to instill in me even more desire to complete a 100 mile event. This form of self-inflicted pain and suffering is, apparently, a most desirable commodity.

An internet search made me aware of events all over the country. Eventually, I settled on the Bighorn 100 in northern Wyoming. The BH100 course is an out and back between Dayton, WY and a point high in the Bighorn National Forest. With altitudes ranging from about 4,200 ft to 9,300 ft, the BH100 involves about 17,500 feet of ascending and 18,000 feet of descending. The altitudes are far lower than any other mountain race in which I've competed, but race reports reveal a muddy, rocky, and uneven course that cannot be taken lightly. I am really excited about both the event and the preparation for the event.

The preparation has already begun. I am going BIG on my miles :) OK, they are big miles for me. The key to the preparation will be long trail runs. My favorite! I've already made a few trips to Land Between the Lakes. I also recently "discovered" the Indian Celina or Two Lakes loop. Though I've known about the Indian Celina Challenge for several years, I did not run in the event or even run on the course until a couple of weeks ago. What a blast!

I had heard about how brutal the Challenge course was, so I took it easy, using the Polar RCX5 to make certain to keep my average heart rate in check. With more than 3,400 feet of vertical over about 13 miles, this loop is a veritable roller coaster. Crossing a few dozen small streams that feed into the lakes adds to the lure of the Two Lakes trail. I did find myself excitedly smiling after getting soaked while crossing the two almost knee deep, twenty foot wide creeks in the tenth mile. Did I mention that the temperature that morning was 30F? I added a 14-minute out/back onto the end to help thaw my feet and to allow me to reach my goal of a two hour run (2:01). Again, what a blast! I plan to go back there several times this spring, but I won't race in the Challenge because it takes place a week before the BH100.

It would be remiss of me to not share a wildlife experience I had along the Two Lakes trail. At one point, as I descended along a steep and winding section of trail, I suddenly heard and felt a chorus of booms. Leaves flew into the air all around me. I ducked and put my arms over my head as if that might somehow protect me from an unknown attacker. Without realizing it at the time, I didn't break stride. Peering under my forearms I could see forty or fifty turkeys launching into flight in all directions. The surrounding forest was silent after those initial wing flaps, so my footfalls (and heartbeats) were the only sounds I heard as I ran along watching the disappearance of the largest rafter of turkeys I'd ever encountered.

The spooked rafter reminded me of another fowl uprising that took place in 1996 in the Smokies. My sons and I were hiking on a gorgeous June morning when five-year-old Brandon decided to use some of his boundless energy playing hide and seek. He hid behind several trailside trees and jumped out with a "BOO" when (unsuspecting?) three-year-old Tyler and I walked by. It was when Brandon decided to hide behind a huge rotting and hollow tree stump that the game took a turn for the worse. As soon as he ducked behind the stump a shotgun-like blast occurred. Brandon came racing back onto the trail. With his arms raised above his head he began to run around Ty and I in tight circles as he screamed "Get it off! Get it off!" The "it" was a grouse (think wild chicken) that had exploded from its nest beside the stump. It was long gone. Honestly, holding back the laughter was quite difficult. Though many a grouse had already tested my heart and my bladder, that one caused a maniacal reaction that I could see second hand. And it was as funny as I had always imagined it to be.

Beyond the reestablishment of the long trail run in my training, the only other iota of structured activity has been the development of a new set of test run courses. Because I have long believed that changes can stimulate and facilitate growth, I decided that a new set of test courses would help me reach my 2012 fitness and race goals. The three I settled on range from short and flat to long and hilly. I will study heart rate data from runs on these courses to monitor and adjust my training.

A glance over to the list of 2012 events at right will reveal some of the events I have entered at this time. My goals for the year are quite diverse, ranging from that BH100 to other trail runs like LBL to half marathons to duathlons, so I expect an interesting training year as I try to find a balanced approach. It is difficult to complete really long runs and fast runs and fast biking in a single training cycle. Then again, the difficulty will add to the freshness and motivation.

One specific and personal goal I have for 2012 is to find my cycling legs again. The nerve injury I sustained in August 2010 kept me from the bike for about a year, so I managed only 1,100 cycling miles last year. Time off of the bike made me miss cycling and certainly caused my performances to be subpar. So, hopefully, I will have enough energy and good enough health to train for a 100-mile run and log enough cycling miles to GO FAST!


Enough writing, I have got to get out and train! ST

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