Thursday, June 26, 2008

Finding our way

Last year after moving into our new house in Ketchum a friend told me,

"You know, from your house you could probably run out your back yeard and all the way to Galena Lodge and barely touch pavement."

I thought, hmmmm....

Galena Lodge is a glorious place about 25 road miles north of Ketchum, ID that is world famous for it's Nordic Ski Trails and extraordinary food. In addition, the Lodge itself is about as homey as a place gets and just thinking about it makes me feel all warm inside.

So, when I learned last night of the Western States cancellation, I thought this would be the perfect time to try this run. I was tapered, not planning to go to work, and the weather report was perfect. A quick look at the map and I had a 60 mile out-and back leaving from my backyard, climbing about 3000 ft (with ups and downs along the way) to Galena Lodge, all on a delightful Rocky Mountain day.

Well, I had a blast and now I am, just like that, ready to begin my taper for Vermont.

I ran the 30 miles up to the lodge in 4:40 and did the return trip in 4:20. I ate a huge basket of salty, seasoned fries at the lodge and washed them down with three ice cold Pepsis. I saw exactly zero people on the trail and enjoyed every minute of the 9 hours on the trail.

Did it replace the joy and the mystique of Western States? No way! But, today's run did remind me that there are many reasons for spending hours on the trails running through the mountains and sometimes joy comes when you least expect it.

Now, I'm off on a fishing weekend with my kids!


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Vermont 100!

I remember this feeling from when I was 8 and Santa left me coal in my stocking. It hurt for a while but in the end I learned my lesson. Mother Nature always wins!

Sometimes, we all need to move on.

I must say the decision of the WSER Board must have been extremely difficult. I, for one, support their decision 100% and am already looking forward to the 2009 race.

So, who do you pick to win Vermont! There will be some rested folks there!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Western States on the horizon...

Well, it's Tuesday morning before the race and I think I am ready to roll. After five months of my highest training volume ever I now feel rested and even a bit antsy. I am fine tuning my body during this last week with short daily runs and long spells in the sauna. As everybody knows, this year's race is shaping up to be outstanding with strong men's and women's fields, a great masters' race, and a weather forecast for above-average, hot Western States temperatures. In short, it has all the makings of a classic!

I, for one, am keenly interested in what role experience will play in the race this year. Obviously, some of the fastest runners in the field are those who have not run Western States before. However, some of the most consistent and steady runners in the field are those Western States veterans who come back year after year to get it done. As the race unfolds it will be interesting to see how experience impacts performance. From my perspective, no matter how we've done in other races, how hard we prepare and how intensely we train, performance under pressure in the midst of intense competition in this arena is ultimately how we are measured. This well-known quotation from Theodore Roosevelt rings true in this context:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Finally, I must say that Western States race day is the one day per year that, at least for the past five years, I have looked forward to more than any other. In the midst of the planning and the packing, the preparing and the prognosticating, I always try to savor the simple beauty of the day. How often, in this life, can we spend a full day totally absorbed in ourselves in a beautiful place doing what we love most? For me, that is what I love best about Western States and, I always will.

With that, I'll see you in Squaw!


Saturday, June 14, 2008

MonkeyBoy Camp Summary

I am back in Idaho after a great four-day camp on the Western States Course. After 44 miles on Tuesday and 48 miles on Wednesday I decided to take it easy on Thursday and Friday and just get in some heat training with casual 10 milers both days. All in all, it was a great camp and I am thrilled to be slipping into taper mode as I write.

In summary, the camp was outstanding! The first day I ran pretty hard down to the river so that I was a tired for the return trip. After pushing the pace up to Green Gate (21 mins) I knew I needed to revover on the trip to ALT and was pretty much running tired the rest of the day. At dinner that night I knew I was depleted.

Then, Robinson to The River on Wednesday was just epic! After the climb up to Little Bald Mountain (almost no snow!) the long, steady downhill to the Swinging Bridge was excellent. The trail down to Miller's Defeat is in really great shape and the run into Last Chance is nice as well. We decided to take it easy down to Swinging Bridge and then cruised up to Devil's Thumb. By this time it was starting to get warm and we were getting what we came for.

The run from the Deadwood pump down to El Dorado went quickly and the climb up to Michigan was solid although we were surprised by the clearcut near the top amking it hotter than normal. We were psyched to see Carol Hewitt at her house and we decided to take it easy through Volcano to save sa little something in the tank for Cal Street.

We dropped about 25 bucks at the Foresthill store on Pringles, Beef Jerky and Soda before beginning the final stretch to the River. In 90 degree temperatures, it was perfect:
:29 to Cal 1, :49 to Cal 2, 23 to Cal 3 and then :49 to The River for a clean 2:30. The walk up to the car, on the other hand, was brutal.

Reflecting back on this year's training cycle I think I am ready to go. I feel like I am close to 2005 shape and in a bit better shape than last year but being a few years older will certainly have some kind of impact. Nonetheless, this is what many of us live for and I can't wait to get to the dance. The Trail is calling and I am on my way.

Hapy Father's Day everybody!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Day 2 - Robinson to The River

48 Miles. 8:00. A little warmer than yesterday. MonkeyBoy and I ran every step together. Jeff joined us after Cal 3. I did have a bit of trouble with blood in my urine due to severe hydration left over from yesterday. I guess 94 miles in a 35 hour period in 90 degree temps can do that to you. I'm fine now but will probably take it easy tomorrow.

Robinson to Dusty Corners: 1:17
Dusty Corners to Last Chance: :39
Last Chance to Swinging Bridge: :23
Swinging Bridge to Devil's Thumb : :32
Devil's Thumb to El Dorado: :40
El Dorado to Michigan Bluff: :44
Michigan Bluff to Foresthill: 1:06
Foresthill to Cal 1: :29
Cal 1 to Cal 2: :49
Cal 2 to Cal 3: :23
Cal 3 to The River: :49

We will try to post more details once the chafing dries out and my urine is clear.

AJW and Monkeyboy

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Day 1 - Placer HS to The River and back

44 Miles in 7:28. 3:25 out and 4:03 back. Temps in the mid-80's. The Course is in excellent shape. On the run I hit or exceeded all of my projected splits on return trip. MonkeyBoy joined just after Hwy 49.

River to Green Gate - :21
Green Gate to ALT - :55
ALT to Brown's - :44
Brown's to Hwy 49 - :43
Hwy 49 to No Hands - :32
No Hands to Placer HS - :33

All in all a good first day. Slight change of plan for tomorrow: Robinson to The River starting late enough to take advantage of the heat.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Graduation Day

One of the great joys of being a school principal is Graduation Day. This annual event every June always inspires me and fills me with hope for the future. This afternoon, on a glorious day here in the Northern Rockies, I was honored and privileged to present High School Diplomas to 32 graduates from The Community School in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Of course, for me as an ultramarathon runner, Graduation Day also marks the beginning of my summer racing season. While these days it's not quite like it was 15 years ago when I had the summer completely off from work, the daily stress and strain of daily life is greatly reduced as our faculty and students take time to re-charge the batteries and I have the chance to do the same.

For me, that battery re-charging will take place this coming week. Following work tomorrow (I have about 100 loose ends to tie up between 7AM and 1PM), a golf game with my 10 year old and a baseball game with my 8 year old I will hop in the car and head to Auburn for my annual 4 day, post-graduation day training camp. Best news of all, MonkeyBoy will be joining me!

At this point the plan looks like this:

Day 1 - Tuesday, June 10 - Placer High School to The River and Back (44 Miles) This run will start shortly after noon with the hope of maximizing heat exposure. If all goes as planned the run will be finished in time for a quick trip to In-and-Out Burger (the world's best recovery food!) and a couple of cold Sierra Nevadas before bed.

Day 2 - Wednesday, June 11 - Michigan Bluff to Devil's Thumb and then back to the River (41 Miles) - Assuming I can work out the car shuttles, this should be a killer workout. Hopefully, if it's hot, this will give me a sense of race day conditions as I'll try to get the timing such that I hit Michigan Bluff on the return trip shortly after 2:00 PM. This would be roughly in line with my race day timing (Hal got to Michigan at 1:48 last year)

Day 3 - Thursday, June 12 - Michigan Bluff to Last Chance and back (24 miles) - This will be a shorter day as I need to get to San Francisco by 6:00 PM for a meeting. It'll be good to push the pace through the canyons after Tuesday and Wednesday and get a good idea of these splits on tired legs.

Day 4 - Friday, June 13 - TBA

I am hopeful that this Camp will do several things:

1. Provide heat training. Aside from a couple hours in the sauna and a couple warm weekends this spring I am not heat trained.
2. Refresh my muscle memory for the race. I know the course well but it still helps to get out there. The Course always has a way of teaching you a thing or two.
3. Make final adjustments on my splits. I think I am in decent shape but this Camp will bear all. I'd like to be in the hunt for that Masters' record but there are a few other guys in the race thinking the same thing. By Friday night I should have a sense of what is real and what is fantasy.
4. Provide some distance between my job and the rest of my life. This is probably the most important reason for this camp. Not only do I need it physically, but emotionally and psychologically as well. It's been a rough year for me at work and I need to let go a bit this week. There is no better place for me to do this than on the Western States Course.

I have finished three weeks of Mark Allen-esque "Push Phase" Training. 110 miles, 124 miles, and 141 miles over the past three weeks. That, combined with 30 miles yesterday and 10 today will hopefully set me up to get over the hump in the next five days. I have always wanted to try this method so we'll see how it all comes together.

I will try to post reports after each of the runs this week for those who care.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

500 Miles

I just added up my May mileage and was surprised to see I had 508 miles for the month. The last time I did a 500 mile month was May, 2005. It has certainly been a while but it feels good, nonetheless. I get sore walking up stairs, my feet hurt every morning when I get out of bed, and I can't seem to get enough to eat, ever. In short, it's that familiar feeling a month before Western States

So, going into the last two weeks of hard training for Western States, I think I am on target. One more track workout on Thursday will give me an indication of footspeed and then it will come down to a few more hard days in the mountains and a good rest.

This weekend was a decent indicator of where I am. I did a 28 miler on rolling terrain in 4 hours yesterday and then a 35 miler today with over 7k of climbing in 5:45. I still need to do a bit of last-minute quad seasoning on the course as well as some more heat training but with 26 days to go until the Big Dance I think I'll be fine in that department. All in all, I'm happy to be getting in to the home stretch and I do think there's something to be said for that long-term muscle memory.

Happy June!