Monday, July 30, 2012

Week in Review - Taper

Week in Review - Taper

Started to taper this week for the upcoming Mt. Werner Classic 50K. This will be my third ultra race, and fifth race ever, so I am really looking forward to it. I've tried to ease up a bunch, and I don't see myself putting in more then 20 miles this week prior to Saturday's race.

Sunday: 26 miles and 5,900'
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 6K and 500'
Wednesday: 9.1 miles and 1,770'
Thursday: 12K and 1,600'
Friday: 12K and 1,600'
Saturday: 9.1 miles and 1,770'
Sunday: Rest

Total: ~62 miles and ~13,100'

Overall felt great after last Sunday's long loop run, but eased into the week as I knew I needed to rest and rebuild. The rest of the week I did easy stuff, but tried to really pick up the pace on each run. I knocked a little time off of both the 12K loop and the 9.1 mile out-and-back, which felt good. Hope everything comes together for Saturday!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

North Inlet - Divide - Tonahutu Loop in RMNP

North Inlet - Divide - Tonahutu Loop

Today I ran the classic Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) loop: the North Inlet to the Divide to Tonahutu Creek and around. The loop is also called the Continental Divide Loop Trail, as it spends a fair bit of time on the Divide between the North Inlet basin and the Tonahutu basin. I did the loop from the North Inlet trailhead, going up the North Inlet trail first. This trail is really runnable, as it gently climbs up the valley past meadows, small waterfalls, and thick forest. After 7 miles you hit a junction, where you take a left and go for another 5.8 miles to the top of Flattop Mountain (12,324'). This section of the trail is really nice, as it climbs up into the upper North Inlet basin, then eventually drops you onto the Divide just below Otis Peak (12,486'). You can easily tag Otis Peak, and then keep going north along the Divide either on the well maintained trail or on the actual Divide if you want to tag Hallet Peak (12,713'), then Flattop, then Notchtop Mountain (12,129') before finally descending across Big Horn Flats and into the Tonahutu basin. Since I was running for time, I only tagged Flattop. Once you are in the Tonahutu basin, it is a nice 12 miles back down to your car at the North Inlet trail. I saw lots of wildlife, including 3 moose, several elk, marmots, osprey, pikas, ptarmigan, and tourists! Actually, I was mildly surprised by how little people I ran into, since it was a Sunday in RMNP in July. I ran into one backpacking group climbing up Hallet Creek to the Divide, several parties on the Divide itself, and then about 4 parties around Big Meadows on Tonahutu Creek. Really, a quiet day in the mountains. The loop comes in at 26 miles with 5,963' of gain and 5,963' of loss. A big day in the mountains for sure, but a real classic loop mountain run if there ever was one. I did it in 5 hours and 37 minutes today, with stops for photos and to empty the shoes.

 There are a million of these little ponds on the way up the North Inlet
 Andrews Peak on the climb up
 Some elk grazing on the way up.
 Looking back down the North Inlet
 Otis Peak in the background - running along the Divide
 The notch of Notchtop Mountain - the Mummy Range is in the background
 The Divide with Longs in the background
 Looking north towards the Tonahutu basin and Sprague Mountain
 Starting to drop down into the Tonahutu basin with the Never Summer in the background
Big Meadows looking north.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Vasquez Pass via Vasquez Creek

Vasquez Pass via Vasquez Creek

Ran up Vasquez Creek to Vasquez Pass today. The Vasquez Creek trail is a nice, mellow two-track that slowly climbs up the long Vasquez Creek basin to the head of Vasquez Peak from the north. A few people hike the trail to the first major river crossing, but from there the trail sees very little traffic. In fact, most of the trail after the Wilderness boundary is non-existent. Vasquez Pass is the original way people got over the Divide and into the Fraser Valley from Idaho Springs/Empire before the "discovery" of Berthod Pass in 1861 by Edward Berthoud, so running this route brings a little history in. From the pass, it is quite easy to tag Stanley Peak, Vasquez Peak, or to drop over the other side and down to the Henderson Mine area. The route is ~14 miles with 3,000' of gain and 3,000' of loss. Because the entire last bit of the "trail" is non-existent, you have to take some time traversing the final basin to the actual pass. It took me 2 hours and 43 minutes today at a casual pace.

 Looking at the pass from about half way
 From the top looking south
 Looking back down the Vasquez Creek valley to Winter Park

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Update and Waterlogged

Update and Waterlogged

Been getting out on the local trails this week, focusing on bringing up my basic cruzing speed by running "fast" 10K loops. It is really fun to fly through the forest at a good clip with the trees passing by in an almost blurred wall, lungs pushing hard, and the mind focused on moving fast. Really, a very different running experience then a long day in the mountains!

On another note, there has been a fair bit of talk on the internet about Dr. Noaks new book Waterlogged. I have not had the chance to read the book yet, but there have been several good articles and reviews, as well as an interview podcast on the book and topic that I thought I would pass along. Noaks hinted at his ideas in his now classic The Lore of Running, which as he summarizes in Waterlogged are basically:
  • Drink only to thirst, not on a time schedule.
  • Drinking does not prevent heat illness.
  • Ingesting salt is unnecessary in ultras and trail races.
  • Urine frequency or color has nothing to do with hydration or kidney function.
For me, these general guidelines seem to be smart, and to work. On my last long run on Sunday, I only drank 54oz of water over the course of the 5+ hours and that was plenty. However, as people have been pointing out via comments, some people need much more water and salt. I don't think Noaks is telling these people not to listen to their body and to drink less water, but rather to keep doing what works for them. Listen to your body, not a stop watch or mile marker. Everyone is different, every race is different, and the unique combination of circumstances present during a race or ultra requires one to listen to their body. The other thing that we need to remember is that most - if not all - scientific experiments are performed in a controlled environment. I've never been to a race or run a mountain trail that was controlled in any sense of the word. So, as Noaks emphasizes, drink to thirst, not a time schedule.

So here is a roundup of the reviews, articles, and podcasts on the book:

  • By far the best and most comprehensive is the article by Joe Uhan on iRunFar. Really well done, with clear explanations. The comments are also very informative.
  • The next good review comes from the Jill Will Run blog. Again, a nice presentation with some photos of highlighted pages from the book.
  • The Outside Blog has an excellent review and partial interview with Noaks on the subject that is very informative.
  • Finally, Ben Green Fitness has a review and podcast that you can download with an interview with Dr. Noaks on the book.
As all of these reviews and interviews indicate, a lot of our assumptions about endurance running, hydration, and performance are based on either faulty data or at least data that is now outdated. Science is catching up, but because of the nature of trail running, ultra running, and just going out for long days in the mountains, I don't think we will ever be able to arrive at any hard and fast rules. If there is any rule, it is simply to listen to your body and to figure out what works best for you. If you run with folks, enter a lot of races, or just read blogs on the internet, you will find that people are doing amazing things - sometimes with lots of water and sometimes with little water. From what I can tell, the only thing in common across the board is that a top performance happens when one listens closely to their body and the signals it is giving them.

Finally, here is a video of Dr. Noaks giving a Ted talk in South Africa that is also informative.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Video Flyover of North Fork 50K

Video Flyover of North Fork 50K

I'm a big believer in getting as much beta as possible for races and long trail runs. This is especially true for a race or ultra that you have never run (either the entire course or just part of the trails). For me, knowing how the course "travels on the ground" really helps to break up the race into manageable sections so that when you start to get tired, your mind can stay strong. I made a video flyover for the Mt. Werner 50K classic that is coming up here on August 4, and it really gave me a better insight into the course. Simply looking at the elevation profile and the course via a topo map is important, but combined with the flyover I've got a much better idea of just what is in store for race day. So, on this note, I went back and made a flyover video of the North Fork 50K race. I think the flyovers give a good idea of the lay of the land, and since the course will be the same next year (I'm assuming), it will hopefully help people who might want to run the race but are not sure on the course.

North Fork 50K Flyover from Peter Jones on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Three Pass Mega Loop - Devils Thumb Pass, Arapaho Pass, Caribou Pass

Three Pass Mega Loop - Devils Thumb Pass, Arapaho Pass, Caribou Pass

Today I ran a classic loop run in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. There are several classic loops runs in the wilderness, including the High Lonesome, the Buchanan Pass to Pawnee Pass, and some loops involving the traverse from Audubon to either Pawnee or all the way to Navajo and then down. However, today I did the loop run over Devils Thumb Pass, along the Divide, down on the Devils Thumb trail and past Jasper Lake, then back up and over the Diamond Lake Cut-Off trail and the hidden ridge, down to Diamond Lake and then the 4th of July and Arapaho Pass Trail, up to Arapaho Pass, then up some more and over to Caribou Pass, then back down to Meadow Creek Reservoir, then back along the lower High Lonesome to the Devils Thumb trailhead. The loop is a classic alpine trail run, with over 23+ miles of single track all above 10,000 feet (not a single jeep road on this run). I didn't encounter a single party until I was over near Diamond Lake, then a couple parties on the Arapaho Pass trail until again I was alone for the remainder of the run. I've done all of the other loops runs in the Wilderness, and I would have to think that this loop, along with the full loop along the Divide ridge from Navajo to Audubon are the best and most classic. The Buchanan Pass to Pawnee Pass is also classic, but travels on slightly more popular trails. All and all, an excellent way to spend some time in the high alpine. The total miles are just over 23+, with over 6,400' gain and 6,400' loss. It took me 5 hours and 42 minutes, and I was going at a very casual pace today.

 Tons of flowers along the way...
 Looking down from the small summit between Devils Thumb Pass and the actual trail. Jasper is the small lake in the distance. You have to climb up and over the ridge above Jasper.
 Looking back at Devils Thumb Pass
 The hidden basin/ridge between the Jasper/Devils Thumb basin and the 4th of July basin

 On the way to Caribou Pass looking back at Arapaho Pass. N. and S. Arapaho in the distance.
 The ridge between Navajo and Apache Peaks - a classic traverse I've done many times
 Caribou Pass in the distance, with Meadow Creek Reservoir just peaking around the corner.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ptarmigan Peak and Bottle Peak

Ptarmigan Peak and Bottle Peak

Ran up Ptarmigan Peak and Bottle Peak this morning via the old secret trail. I really like this run, as it sees very little traffic and provides for some spectacular views. Although it is only around ~13 miles (and 3,633 elevation gain), it took me 2:55 today. Running just Bottle Peak only takes me ~2:10, but adding in Ptarmigan requires another 45 minutes of speed hiking and off-trail running.

 The Gore Range from Ptarmigan Peak
 Byers and Bills
 Bottle Pass - No trails here...
Looking at Ptarmigan from Bottle

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Video Flyover of Mt. Werner Classic 50K

Video Flyover Of Mt. Werner Classic 50K

Ran a quick recovery lap this morning after Sunday's longish run. I've been reading about Bruce Fordyce and his training regime during his domination of the classic Comrades Marathon. He was a big believer in doing less, as well as doing speed work to bring up one's cruising pace during ultras. During Bruce's peak training weeks, he did a lot of two-a-days (I used to do these when training for the 14er record in '95), as well as only really two long runs (a medium-long run in the middle of the week of around 24km and a long run on the weekend of around 42-64km). All of his two-a-days are short runs, at around 8km, which were either time trials, interval sessions, or hills. Now, I'm not running like Bruce, but the reason he did a lot of these shorter, faster runs was to boost his normal pace, so that in an ultra he could keep this pace up over the entire course, as opposed to going out faster and losing time at each split thereafter. This allowed him to dominate most of the races he entered. On Sunday I tried to keep an even pace over the course of the three splits, and today I did a quick recovery run at 10K to again work on my cruising pace. It felt good, and my cruising pace on the recovery lap loop has picked up, as I did it in :55 today.

The Mt. Werner Classic 50K is coming up in 3 weeks, and since this is the first time it will be run, I made a Google Earth flyover video of the race course. I was looking to see about all of the ups and downs, to get some beta on the course layout. Looks to be a great, if not tough race. Totally different then the two other 50Ks I've run, with a long stretch on the out-and-back between aid 3 and 5, and one massive climb at the beginning (and of course, descent on the way back). I've got similar video flyovers for the North Fork and Sageburner which should be done soon. Check the video out and let me know what you think.

Mt. Werner Classic 50K from Peter Jones on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Long Run - 3 Laps of Tunnel Hill

Long Run - 3 Laps of Tunnel Hill

Today was the first of 3 long or semi-long runs planned prior to the upcoming 50K at Steamboat. I'm still in recovery from last Saturday's race, so I did a short long run of 21 miles. With all of the rain all of a sudden, I figured it was better to do my long run in the valley as opposed to try and bag some peaks and possibly get rained on. Sometimes for training you have to sacrifice the adventure to focus on certain goals. So, I did three laps of the Tunnel Hill loop. My goal was to see if I could maintain the same pace on lap three that I set on lap one. I also wanted to try out a new fuel drink mix that I've made to see how it would taste and if it would deliver the energy I was hoping. On both fronts, today was a success. I did the first lap in 1:05, the second lap in exactly 1:05 again, and the third lap in 1:07. The new drink seemed to help, as it has 500 calories in 21oz, which I can just sip on during the 3 hours, as opposed to trying to eat something that will slow me down. After the last race, and despite my improvement in time, I still believe I can get faster and cut off more time so I am looking at how I can do that. So far, I have identified the following:
  • get faster on the downhills
  • be able to fuel, but not have to slow to a walk to consume that fuel
  • maintain a consistent pace throughout the race (don't go out fast and slow down at the end)
If I can work on these three areas, I think I can improve my time by around 30 minutes, which would put me right around 5:10 for a trail 50K, which is a decent time for my first year of racing and training. So, today's long run was a success, as my new fuel drink seemed to work, my pace stayed consistent for all three laps, and my downhill speed was not slow, but not fast (each lap had ~1,770' of gain).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Deadhorse Climb and Exercise Induced Dehydration

Deadhorse Climb and Exercise Induced Dehydration

One of the things I've noticed in my short racing experience so far is how fast people run the downhills. Since I've never raced prior to this summer, I have developed a tendency to run in the mountains and simply enjoy the views, unconcerned about my time or pace. However, this spring/summer I've tried to really begin training and working on different techniques in order to prepare for racing. One area that I need to work on are my downhills - not because they blow my quads our, but because I tend to sit back and sorta coast more then actively run and push as I'm descending. This works for fun mountain runs, but in races this strategy has resulted in significant time loss. So today I ran the Deadhorse Climb, which is a nice 9.1 mile out and back with 1,770' of up and another 1,770' of down. Not only did I push on the ups, but I really tried to go fast on the downhill and to keep that pace going for the entire 4.5 miles of downhill. It took me 1:26 minutes today. This will require some more work, but my goal is to be able to push the pace on the entire 8.5 miles of downhill at the Steamboat 50K in 3 weeks.

Dehydration is a big concern for runners, and especially ultra or trail runners. Getting caught out in the mountains dehydrated is not something you want to experience. But how much does being dehydrated impact one's running performance? A new study looked at just this question, and came away with an interesting answer: if you lose greater then 2% of your bodyweight to water dehydration, then it is likely that your performance will suffer. Anything less and most likely it will not impact your race performance. So, drinking enough fluids is of primary concern during any race or run, but you will not really notice any performance impacts until you have lost at least 2% of your bodyweight, if not more (this study indicated possibly up to 4% or greater). How much liquids one needs to drink to prevent this type of water loss depends on numerous factors: individual perspiration levels, ambient temperature and humidity, pre-race/run hydration, fitness level of the runner, and so forth. Other then being tested in a lab, I don't think you can create a formula that will work for everyone. Rather, what this study implies is that making sure you drink enough fluids during a run/race is important, but even more important is to realize that unless you become severely dehydrated (the human body starts to shut down at around 5% dehydration of bodyweight), you will not experience a significant impact on your actual performance. So, drink, drink, and drink, and then don't stress too much about it - more then likely you will be fine and the worry and stress could have a bigger impact on your race then the actual dehydration.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tunnel Hill Loop Again and Marathon Runner Participation Numbers

Tunnel Hill Loop Again and Marathon Runner Participation Numbers

First run after the North Fork race on Saturday. Did the Tunnel Hill loop, which is quickly turning into one of my favorites for a faster run. Legs felt good, and the sore feet I experienced during the race have pretty much gone away. Time to work on my mistakes so that hopefully Steamboat will be a good performance.

Yesterday I posted a quick note on how speed work can help endurance running. Later that night I read Ian Torrence's post on iRunFar that came to the same conclusion, but with a clearer presentation. I think working the Tunnel Hill loop into my speed work will be good; right now the loop hovers at 1 hour, so pushing on this loop to get it consistently under an hour will force me to work on speed, as well as going quick on two climbs and two descents.

On another note, a new study that looked at mortality among marathon runners from 2000-2009 has some interesting numbers on overall participation in marathons. First the overall number of people participating in marathons has increased from 299,018 in 2000 to 473,354 in 2009. That is a doubling in the sport's numbers, which if you add in the incredible explosion in ultrarunning as well, bodes good for the sport down the road. Secondly, despite the increase in participation, the average overall marathon finishing time has remained unchanged from 2000 to 2009 (4:34:47 vs 4:35:28; P = .85). I don't think this is holding true for ultrarunning, as it seems lately lots of course records are being broken, but it does give a hint to what one must run to be "above average."

Monday, July 2, 2012

Speed for Endurance

The 10-20-30 Training Concept - Speed For Endurance

I'm an endurance runner, or a trail runner. I am not a speed runner. I like to go out on the trails - with no watch - and just cruz around until I feel tired. I might have an objective in terms of getting to the top of a peak, or hitting a pass, or something, but I rarely do any systematic speed workout. This year, as part of my training and racing - which has been a very new, and exciting endeavor - I've tried to do what I consider stamina runs or tempo runs at around the 10K distance once a week. This is really me hitting a fun ~10K loop that is relatively flat and where I work on going fast the entire time. The loop I do is about 7.2 miles and I try and do it in under 1 hour (at 9,000 feet). A previous study I noted discussed how the incorporation of resistance sessions in one's running and training could improve overall recovery and skeletal muscles from damage. There are a lot of types of resistance sessions one can incorporate into their running, but for me it has been my 10K fast loop and hills. Now another study has just come out that also lends some support to incorporating speed training into one's overall endurance training plan.

The study, entitled The 10-20-30 training concept improves performance and health profile in moderately trained runners looked at whether incorporating interval training with short 10-s near-maximal bouts could improve running performance and health of endurance runners. The authors found that yes, bringing in some speed workouts into your training can improve running performance and health. What is even more interesting is that by bringing in speed workouts, the runners increased their VO2max despite cutting back heavily on their weekly miles. As endurance runners, we are often concerned with the number of miles we get in per week, or prior to a race, but as this study shows, we could benefit from a bit of speed work while also cutting back on miles for that particular workout session. If you travel a lot, this information is particularly informative, as I've found myself in many a rural town for my work where the only running option was the local streets. Since I hate pavement, I've always had a really hard time trying to get in any kind of training that I could feel good about (since I was unwilling to put in miles running loops around some random town on pavement). However, next time I'm traveling I will not worry so much about the miles, but instead will think of my traveling runs as my speed workouts. According to the study, I should not lose any fitness, and in fact could even increase my VO2max and running performance by just doing some fast intervals on the local ball field. So, a little speed for a boost in endurance running.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

North Fork 50K

North Fork 50K

Yesterday was the 4th running of the North Fork 50K/50M race in Pine, Colorado, and boy what a great race it is. This was my 4th race ever, and my 3rd race in the past 30 days, so I was more focused on improving my time and performance from the Sageburner 50K. To that end, the race was a great success.

The North Fork 50 is a beautiful ultra that alternates between pine forests, lush creeks, and old forest fire burnout zones as it goes up and down and up and down in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. The day started off fairly cool at around 65 degrees, but quickly heated up to close to 90 degrees. After a quick sprint on the flats, the race hits the first climb up Buck Gulch. This climb is not too bad, but my legs were not feeling as snappy as I was hoping, so I sat just outside of the leader pack. Taking a left onto Skipper, you hit a nice downhill to rolling section and the first aid station. I don't think anyone stops here on the way out, and we all blew past it towards the Gashouse trail. Following a very subtle climb until the real Gashouse, the race up to here is all in the shade, with only the last quarter section of Gashouse exposed to the increasing heat and sun of the day. A quick top-off of the water bottle and onto the next climb of Tramway, again in a nice thick shaded creek valley as you climb up to the Colorado Trail. My legs were feeling good, and I was trying to remember all of my lessons from the Sageburner on drinking and eating. I was still just a bit behind the leader pack. The Colorado Trail section is again all in the shade, with more down then up as it winds around and eventually drops you at aid station 3. From here, you hit your first major burnout section (other then the short bit on Gashouse), as you run down Shinglemill and then Morrison Creek. This section was hot, and the trail was very dusty. Along this section I noticed my first mistake - wearing my new Brooks shoes. The mistake was not that the shoes were new and I was going to get blisters (never did), but rather that the Brooks are closer to a minimalist shoe (in some regards), and the balls of my feet started to get tender (my previous shoes were adidas, but since they discontinued them, I had to get these). This would prove to be my biggest time loser, as the longer I ran the race, the more tender the souls of my feet became, until it was hard to even run/shuffle on any of the downhills. At aid station 4 you head up Baldy, the first half of which is still in a burnout zone and your heat level is rapidly increasing. Lots of people were dropping here or falling behind. Finally, after some climbing Baldy goes into the shade and things pick up. A quick jaunt over to aid station 5 and you start the descent on Miller Gulch, again in full exposure. Hang a left, up Homestead, which is partially in the shade, hit aid station 6, and then it is all downhill to the finish. I ran the race in 5.47:37. Not the best time, but a vast improvement over Sageburner, and this race course felt much harder with longer ascents and descents.

After the massive bonk on Sageburner, I've been working on my fuel and hydration. I think I have most of it down, although I tried to eat a Powerbar Harvest bar after aid station 4 and that was really hard. It was dry, too sweet, and the crisp rice puffs were just not palatable. I'll switch that out for some more goos or something next time. However, my biggest mistake was with the shoes, as I was in 10 place until around aid station 5 at which point I had to really slow down because my feet were so tender. If I had been in that model longer (or a similar more minimalist model) my feet would have the muscles necessary for that kind of shoe and I know I could have at least saved 15 to 20 minutes as my quads were fine. But with each step it felt like I was running on bruised feet, and that really impacted my time. Another lesson learned.

The North Fork 50 is a great race. The director and volunteers were awesome (especially the dude who dumped the water on me at aid station 4), and the after race BBQ is great (tons of food, beer, sodas, etc.). The course is beautiful, and there is a fair amount of shade. It was hot, and that really impacted a lot of people, but it is June/July in the foothills of Colorado, so unless it rains that day, it will always be hot. The course felt harder as I said then the Sageburner course, as the hills are much, much longer. All in all, a great day, and a nice improvement from my first ultra. I'm really excited for Steamboat to see if I can finally get my sh*t together and put in a good showing at a ultra.