Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eugene and Seattle

Work brought me to Eugene and Seattle over this past weekend. So, with a bit of spare time at hand, I was able to fit in two great runs in these two trailrunning hotbeds.

On Saturday I arrived in Eugene in time for a picnic lunch on the bleachers at Hayward Field. It had been years since I'd been there and that special vibe is still there. Something about that place just makes me smile.

Then, it was on to Craig's house from which the small group of Jeff, Nate and Tom, along Craig and myself, would embark on a 20ish mile run. We began our trip getting through the neighborhoods of Eugene and on to one of their famous bark chip paths. Forget gravel in this running crazed town, nothing but bark chips will do. Running on them is like getting a massage.

Anyway, Craig led us to the trailhead for the Ridgeline Trail, perhaps the most famous trail in Eugene after Pre's Trail, and we ran a great 10 mile out on back talking all the way. Jeff and Craig are peaking for Javelina so they were in cruise control mode. I am in chill-out mode so I struggled to maintain my pace. Plus, the bastards kept asking me questions about this and that in a ploy to keep me talking and to make me tired. It worked.

Anyway, after that out and back we made our way back to the bark chips for another couple miles before hitting the Amazon Loop. This is the perfectly groomed, one-mile bark chip trail that some of Eugene's finest runners call home. Fortunately, none of the mutant boys were out there on this day but Jeff and Craig thought it would be a good idea after 2 and a half hours running to blow out some carbon with two fast miles before the three mile trip back to Craig's house. What they didn't tell me was that we were doing two consecutive miles and not 2x1 mile which is what thought. So when we got to the end of the first circuit I pushed the pace and stopped my watch at 5:45. When Jeff got there five seconds later he says, "AJW, we're doing 2!" Craig came by a few seconds later and didn't even look at me. So, I tried to kick it in on that second one and managed a 5:50. Crap! Was it a setup? I think so. Nonetheless, it was nice to get the legs turning over again and as we jogged gently back to Craig's house we reveled in the wonder of a sweet run. A few hours later a bunch of great running people were there (including MonkeyBoy) and we had an awesome time, um, doing stuff. It was great to catch up with all my old running friends.

Sunday took me to Seattle and on a tip from Justin Angle I found my way to Cougar Mountain Park. This forested oasis in the middle of Bellevue is where Justin along with Scott, Ulli, Phil, Greg, Brian and countless other fast Seattleites train. I did not run into any of them on my three hour run out there but that place is about as good as it gets. The trails are smooth and soft. The climbs and descents are fun and grindy. And, it's the kind of place where you can just head out and get lost. I did that a couple times and loved every minute of it.

So, all in all, a great weekend of out-of-town running. Back in Ketchum we're enjoying an incredible Indian Summer. In fact, I just returned from a 15 miler at 4 in the afternoon and I ran the entire thing in shorts and a sleeveless. I know those days are ending soon but it's nice while it lasts. In fact, it kinda makes me think I should do one more race this year. Hmmmm....

Friday, October 24, 2008

An appeal from the mountains

OK, I admit it, I am trying to prepare for the arrival of the snow and the closing of all of the sweet singletrack around here. Now I know that nobody out there really feels too sorry for me living here in Sun Valley but it is tough for a trail runner to get through the winter when April rolls around and there's still three feet of snow in my yard.

So, this quick post is an appeal to those of you who live in warmer, year-round, dirt places. Any chance any would-be race organizers from year-round dirt places might be interested in organizing an event or two to take place, say, on the Sunday of MLK weekend or the Sunday of President's weekend? This would allow those of us from the snow bound mountains to pack the family into the car on Saturday, drive to the dirt, run on Sunday, and then drive back on Monday.

Think about it. A few enterprising race directors out there could boost their fields this way! And, selfishly, it would get me on dirt once in January and once in February. Every little bit helps!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Mental Side of Running 100's: Thoughts on Paved Sections

As anyone who has read this blog knows I tend to enjoy the mental aspect of running 100 miles. There is something about going beyond 100K in a single run that tests the mental fortitude of just about every ultrarunner I know.

On a recent run I was thinking about some of my favorite 100 mile races and the brief, but significant, impact of short paved sections in these races. In Angeles Crest, Wasatch, and Western States there are short, but impactful, paved sections that can wear on the mind of the runner and turn a good day bad in a hurry. What follows are some thoughts on these three sections in these three excellent 100 mile races:

The Sulfur Springs Road at Angeles Crest: This long, steady uphill takes the runner to the Mount Hillyer Aid Station at Mile 49 of the race. Winding up a steady grade for a bit over two miles the Sulfur Springs Road is almost always hot, dry, and nasty. The key to this section is, for me, to try to run every step, to zigzag across the road trying to catch every section of shade, and to keep cool by pouring water over my head throughout the climb. The runner who can run most or all of this road will certainly make time on the competition.

Millcreek Canyon Road at Wasatch: This 3 mile section of road leads from Elbow Fork at the bottom of Bearass Pass to the 61 Mile Aid Station at Upper Big Water. Usually, by this point in the race the temperatures have cooled and the shady, winding road feels deceptively pleasant. However, the car and bike traffic moving up and down the road combined with the relentlessly uphill nature of this section can wear on even the most experienced runner in ways that are tough to combat. Knowing that one of the most beautiful sections of the course awaits after Mile 61 tends to motivate me to get this section done as quickly as possible. It's easy to walk this but if you want to make time you need to run more than walk.

Bath Road at Western States: At Mile 60.6 in Western States the runner emerges out of the heat of Volcano Canyon and is greeted by the pavement and monotony of Bath Road. The 1.6 mile stretch from the bottom of the road to the Foresthill Aid Station runs uphill for just over 1 mile before gently descending to the school at Mile 62. Bath Road, while shorter than Millcreek and Sulfur Springs, can sap a runners energy and dampen the runner's will to push hard. The uphill grade is steady but runnable. Failure to run assertively on the climb up this road will certainly result in a loss of time. Knowing that a nice, long downhill awaits after Foresthill is often motivation enough for me to hammer this section and get it behind me.

I am sure that there are other sections (paved and otherwise) that are "focusbusters" in some of the big 100 mile races out there. However, these three tough and unfriendly sections should not be taken lightly and preparation holds the key for success in getting through these mentally draining sections.

I hope everyone is enjoying a nice fall of trail running and enjoying a few more weeks on the dirt before the snow and rain arrives.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fall running

I am really enjoying running this fall. Since recovering from Wasatch and getting the school year rolling my legs have felt good and the running here in Idaho has been outstanding. It's also been a great time to experiment with some new shoes.

I must admit that I have been intrigued by minimalist footwear lately. Inspired by Anton and Kyle I have been curious about how my body would hold up using some of the lightweight shoes on the market these days.

Having run Wasatch in the Inov-8 295's I was wondering if I could survive even lighter shoes and still have support and traction. Over the past few weeks, since I haven't been training for anything, I have been running in the Inov-8 230's. They are really light! I have worried a bit about injuries from rocks and stuff but, for the most part, they have been fun to run in and they are holding up well. I am wondering what other people have experienced with some of the new lightweight shoes? In particular, I am curious about the following:

Are you more likely to get injured in superlight shoes?
Do the minimalists out there go through shoes more quickly because they're so light?
Do you switch brands and models more often with lightweight shoes than with "regular" shoes?
What's the longest run you've done in a shoe that's say, 8 ounces or less?
What's the best lightweight shoe on the market today?

OK, I know that last question is a bit unfair but I am curious. With so many new lightweight shoes out there it is difficult to keep them all straight.

I hope you're all enjoying a great fall running season.