Saturday, April 19, 2014

G & T 35 And Heat

G & T 35 and Heat

Yesterday, as I was running up G & T for my 35th time in a row, I continued to think about my recent race performance at Cedro Peak. It was warm yesterday, and spring was in the air in the high mountains, with the snowpack finally starting to consolidate. If it keeps up like this, I will be able to run the entire thing without snowshoes in a week or two, as the snow was hard enough early in the morning to go just in my running shoes. I was thinking over my winter training, and how the heat really got to me at Cedro and helped push my stomach into the no-go zone. All winter I have conditioned myself to be comfortable at 14,000' in just three tech shirts and a nylon running jacket/wind breaker. My tolerance for cold has improved dramatically since the beginning of the season, and people seem a bit shocked when I encounter them up high in my running gear and they are in full winter clothing - pants, winter gloves, insulated coat, goretex this and that, etc. If they were in my setup, I'm sure they would be freezing, but since I've been doing it all winter, my body has become adapted to such extremes. However, what was clear at Cedro is that I am NOT adapted to heat at all. Running around North Table this morning this was hit home as I was hot and sweating much more then I should have been given my effort levels. But because it was above 60 degrees, it felt really hot to me. I may be adapted to cold, but I need to adapt fast now to heat if I am to have any success this summer. So, to the sauna it is. There is a fair bit of evidence that using a sauna for heat training can help the body adapt for running in hot weather (see here and here), and some of the studies that I have read indicate that adaptations can begin to occur after two weeks of regular heat training. We will see, but I've had problems with heat and overheating during races a couple times now, so I'm hoping that this helps with that.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cedro Peak 45 Race 2014

Cedro Peak 45 Race 2014

On Saturday I ran my first 45+ mile race. Located just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico in the rocky and dusty southern Sandia Mountains, the Cedro Peak 45 race looked like a good option for an early season attempt at the ~50 mile distance. Having never run a race of this distance, I didn't have a lot to go on, but I felt confident that I could manage and was excited to give it a try. Tara and I headed down Friday early, stopping in Las Vegas to do some bouldering to break up the drive. There is a little known bouldering spot just outside of town that hosts problems between V3 and V10+, and it was nice to check the zone out after about 4 years of not climbing there. Although I didn't manage to send Fugazi again (V10), I did send a few of the easier V3-V7 problems in the cave. A couple of holds have broken since the last time we were there, making for new variations to try and tackle. After a good 2 hour session we continued on down to Albuquerque for packet pickup and to get ready for the race the next day.

Cedro Peak 45 is basically a lollipop course, with a long out-and-back to the top of Cedro Peak, followed by a loop that takes you back to the top of Cedro Peak before returning on the out-and-back section. The course continues to change each year a bit (this was the 3rd year of the race) and so there was no overall course map to study. I didn't really feel nervous about the race, most likely because I didn't know what to expect.

At 6:00 am we took off from the start in the dark, just as the sun was coming up. You need your headlamp for about the first 30 minutes of the race before it becomes light enough to see all of the rocks and twists and turns in the course. The course drops, then rolls along over very rocky (mostly baseball sized cobbles and stones) and sandy trails through pinon and pine forests as it makes it way to the first aid station (Juan Thomas). During the night part of the course had been sabotaged, so the lead pack ran around for about 15 minutes back and forth looking for markers until finally someone came along who had run it last year who could direct us on the right trail. I didn't really mind, but it did bunch us up all again until we spread out a bit later. I decided to not use any drops, and went with one handheld and food in a Nathan HPL vest. I felt good, but didn't quite have the pep in the legs I was hoping for, probably because of my earlier double G & T. After the first aid station, I was pretty much alone for most of the first section, just cruising along up and down rocky and sandy washes, small hills, and through the twisting pinon and pine forest towards Cedro Peak. I worked on fueling consistently and drinking plenty of water, and I felt fairly good as the temperatures began to climb into the 70s.

This continued for most of the first 30 miles of the race, and although I started to slow a bit, mentally I was solid and happy to be out in some new mountains. Then things went south. There is a big climb up a trail called "Powerline", which is really just a scramble up the side of the peak following the powerline. I was still good, and halfway up the climb there were some guys handing out Popsicles, which at the time I though was awesome. I took one and continued up. As I climbed and finished my Popsicle, I started to get fairly hot as it was around 80 degrees in the sun, and about 2 minutes after everything in my stomach decided to come up. About 20 feet from the top of the climb, sweating like a beast I was hands on knees puking up a ton of liquid. That lasted for about a minute or so, and then I felt OK so continued on. However, I could now no longer put anything in my mouth, and when I did, I would instantly retch. I struggled for about 4 miles up the long climb to the top of the peak and down to the Cedro aid station, where I had to stop and take a seat, hoping that I could get my stomach back on track. I sat there drinking ginger-ale, taking some Tums, and just hoping things would get better. Nothing seemed to work, and I really didn't know what to do - I didn't want to DNF my first ~50miler and didn't really feel anything else was wrong, I just couldn't get or keep anything down. After about 20-30 minutes, I re-motivated, telling myself it was 7 miles to the next aid station, then 5 miles to the finish. I had some energy again, and ran the first 4 miles of the next section, until the next long climb, where once again I got really hot and retched. I would continue to retch up water about 3 more times as I SLOWLY moved along the trail, weaving, seeing spots, and feeling extremely lightheaded. I didn't hit a "wall", but since I had not been able to take in any calories for about 15 miles and 3 hours or so, I was in a weird state of total exhaustion. Finally, I made it to the final aid station, where I again had to sit and wait for about 15 minutes to come around. After downing about 1 liter of Coke and Ginger-ale, I felt good enough to take off. I was able to run once again, and started to make up some time on the people who had passed my while I was retching in the previous section. I ran in to the finish and crossed the line feeling actually fairly good in a time of 10:26:07, which was still good enough for 20th place.

Obviously, this was not the race or performance I was hoping for. But I learned three critical lessons. I was on pace for a much faster time, but when the heat got to me and the corn syrup bomb of the Popsicle hit my stomach, my race was over. I've been running in winter conditions, and this was the first time I've run in shorts and a t-shirt, let alone high 70s and low 80s. I can adjust to heat, but not that fast. I think heat training via a sauna over the winter is essential, and something that I will be looking to incorporate on a regular basis as this is now the second race where the heat has caused issues for me. The second lesson is to not take in fuel that you are not used to. Although the Popsicle seemed like a good idea, I think the combination of a bunch of straight corn syrup (as opposed to my alternation of maltodextrin and solids) and heat caused my stomach to turn. Once it turned, it was gone for the entire race. The third, and perhaps most important lesson I learned was the power of Coke. I've read about how people can run the final 20 miles of a race on Coke alone, but I never really believed it. Well, it is true. Despite not being able to even put anything else to my lips without hurling, I could down a TON of Coke and it would sit pretty, giving me almost instant fuel. I filled up my water bottle with Coke and drank it all the way to the finish. Instead of wasting 45 minutes trying to get my stomach back, I should have just slammed Coke, filled my bottle with Coke, and I could have kept moving.

Overall, the race was great. Despite the early confusion about course markings (there were other issues with the markings later in the race, and some people cut the course), the race was well run, the volunteers were really amazing, and the course itself both tough and beautiful. Now that I've got one under the belt, I'm really eager to try another because I know I can improve my time by a lot. These first races are always tough, especially when you don't perform up to your abilities, but if it had been smooth sailing, I would not have learned some valuable lessons. Now to figure out what the next race will be....

Monday, April 7, 2014

G & T 33 And 34

G & T 33 and 34

Been a busy couple days trying to work a bunch, cram two runs of Grays and Torreys into the schedule, and taper for Cedro Peak all at the same time. This is when the G & T challenge proves to not be the smartest idea. Cedro is on Saturday, and I work all day Tue-Thurs, so my only hope for keeping the challenge going was to do back to (almost) back climbs. On Friday's run the storm the night before dropped around 10" of new snow (according to Loveland, who is now at 400+ for the year - yeah, it is a big snow year), making for a slow, grueling slog fest of a run. To top it off, it was windy - of course! Today's outing was no better, with a nice blizzard arriving early in the morning and continuing throughout the climb. I'm guessing there was a fresh 6-8" by the time I made the round trip. Now I have four days to taper for my first 45 mile race. Sweet!

It's April 7th and I'm pretty sick of snow right now. Looking back at my logs, the snow didn't become a factor until Nov. 25th, at which point my time gained an hour. That was #15, and I have now completed #34, meaning that I have done G & T more in full winter-snow conditions then not. I am so ready for summer and for it to stop snowing!

Thursday, April 3, 2014



Some photos from Apex yesterday morning. This is near my place, so it is a regular loop of mine.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The M5 Challenge

The M5 Challenge

I decided to do some laps on Mt. Morrison this morning, with no real set goal in terms of the number of laps, just with the idea of getting in some solid vert. The south ridge trail up Mt. Morrison is brutally short - 1.8 miles with 2,000' of gain. It's pretty much straight up and then straight down. As I started, I began to try and come up with some sort of goal, and when I was running the numbers in my head, I realized that 5 laps pretty much equals 10,000' of gain and 20 miles (I tagged on an extra ~2 miles to get to an even 20 by running up the road a bit between each lap). I thought that was pretty cool: 5, 10, 20. So I settled on 5 laps. It was a great morning, although windy on the ridge, but with no one else on the mountain, I just put my head down and got to work. One my fifth lap Jeff V. showed up, which was great, as I was getting tired and he re-motivated me (and blasted past me on the climb up). However, after that fifth lap I gave up and decided it would be better to go get lunch then try and do another lap - plus I was attracted to the numbers. Seems like the M5 Challenge could be a cool annual event - until someone decides to do a M10 Challenge!